October 2019

Minnesota Private Colleges create new offerings for students to meet emerging needs. Yes, undergraduates already have more than 160 majors and minors to consider. But there can be good reason to offer a few more.

Health communications major
Bethany Lutheran College

In the early 2000s Bethany Lutheran College started a health communications minor — now with their renewed focus on health care and the recent addition of a nursing degree, the college has added health communications as a major.

Angie Jahr, a communications professor at Bethany Lutheran for over 20 years originally brought the health communication minor to the college. “Over time the health communications minor got put on the back burner,” Jahr said. “But after nursing came to Bethany, administration approached me and ask if there was an option to bring back the program and make it a major.”

“The program works great as a complement to the nursing program,” Jahr said. “Students who end up realizing nursing isn’t for them — we have an exciting, in demand major that’s still in the health care, from a non-allied perspective. Not to mention nursing majors who are interested in communication.”

The major already has 13 students enrolled and Jahr is looking to grow the program. “We have all the faculty in place and have just begun highlighting the major,” Jahr said. “I feel good about our numbers. I’m sure as word spreads, we’ll continue to grow.”

As the health care field continues to change, Jahr thinks a major like health communications will be in high demand. “The student who went through the minor program are doing such a wide variety of things,” Jahr said. “From politics, to counselors, to working for a health system. The skills learned with this degree allow for a lot of opportunities.”

Computational data science major
Hamline University

students in Hamline's computational data science program

Hamline has been working towards a computational data science program for a number of years — recently a donor reached out to Hamline and that helped the university to solidify the major.

“Collaboration is a major design principal and focus of the curriculum,” said Andy Rundquist, associate dean of the college of liberal arts and professor of physics at Hamline. “To major in the program the student is required to take at least three courses in another discipline. We want them to have computational data science skills as well content knowledge from a different field.”

Another focus of the major is on diversity. Hamline has course requirements in diversity where students are required to complete courses that engage them in intellectual discourse and reflection about and across differences, but the computational data science major takes it a step further and integrates those requirements and curriculum into their intro level courses, Rundquist said.

Rundquist is hoping to grow the program by 10 students each the next couple of years “This program is really designed for all different types of students,” Rundquist said. “And both the major and minor work really well with other programs.”

“I think this program will become a major player as we expand the expectation of interdisciplinary studies for all of our students,” Rundquist said. “The skills learned in this program are important for a career in the 21st century.”

Mechanical engineering major
Bethel University

student in Bethel's mechanical engineering program

For the last 40 years, Bethel has had a dual-degree engineering program — a program where the students take three years of courses at Bethel and finish at another institution for two years. This program had become so popular that the physics and engineering department decided to start offering four-year engineering programs, including mechanical engineering.

“We set the program up to be like a dual-degree major but in-house,” said Brian Beecken, department chair, professor of physics and engineering at Bethel. “The first two years emphasize physics and general courses, and the last two years are mostly specific engineering courses.”

This year Bethel added almost 6,000 square feet in lab space for engineering, focusing primarily on mechanical engineering. With this growth in lab space Beecken expects to see a growth in students declaring engineering and specifically mechanical engineering majors.

“We still have the dual-degree engineering program and we think it still offers a lot to students,” Beecken said. “We do see the future of the mechanical engineering growing and exceeding the dual-degree offering.”

Check out our college finder to search for the current programs our colleges offer. Or view a grid showing the offerings.

By Tom Lancaster