ROCK SPRINGS – Applause filled the boardroom Thursday night after the Western Wyoming Community College Board of Trustees unanimously voted to seek authorization to offer a bachelor of applied science in business degree program and become a baccalaureate-granting institution.
During the 2019 legislative session, a law passed that granted Wyoming community colleges the ability to offer applied baccalaureate degrees. Since then, WWCC and other Wyoming colleges have been developing programs and looking at what it takes to meet higher standards.
Dr. Kim Dale reviewed the timeline of the process. She noted that last fall the board gave the college permission to present a bachelor of applied science in business degree program to the Wyoming Community College Commission. After WWCC representatives went before the college commission, she said they next needed board approval to submit the program to the Higher Learning Commission, which will make the final determination.
Dale called the decision an exciting moment and a historic vote for WWCC.
WWCC Dean of Academics Cliff Wittstruck noted that the process is more than just adding a degree. He called it a “game changer” that takes the college to the next level.
In addition to looking at the quality of the program, he said the HLC will review the college as a whole, including its library, financial aid, accounting and other components, to see if it’s ready to be a baccalaureate-granting institution.
Board President Regina Clark said the trustees support the efforts of the college, and added the college is ready for the next step, as is the public.
“This is going to be great for our community,” Clark said. “I think there are a lot of people ready to jump in and get their feet wet.”
MORE DEGREES COMING
In addition to granting approval to forward the applied science in business degree program to the Higher Learning Commission, the board endorsed three other degree programs to go before the Wyoming Community College Commission. WWCC is working to offer associate of science electrical engineering, associate of science natural sciences, and associate of science pre-engineering degrees.
Vice President for Student Learning Kim Farley outlined what the programs would offer.
— The associate of science degree in electrical engineering has been developed by WWCC engineering faculty Stephen Schutten and Sandy Brown. This program would prepare students who wish to transfer into bachelor’s degree programs for electrical engineering.
“They have the dream, they just don’t have the math,” Farley said.
In the past, students pursuing this degree transferred from Western without completing an associate degree because the college had no program specific to their desired field. WWCC expects the program will increase the graduation rates of engineering students at Western. It has been developed in coordination with electrical engineering faculty at the University of Wyoming with the intention of creating a 2+2 agreement, which would allow WWCC students to transfer to the electrical engineering program at UW with junior status. Under UW’s 2+2 program, students who attend two years at a community college and earn an associate’s degree can attend UW for two years and graduate with a four-year bachelor’s degree.
— Biology staff at WWCC developed the associate of science degree in natural sciences. This new program is meant to provide a comprehensive foundation in the natural and associated sciences to students who intend to pursue a bachelor’s degree in a science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM) field at a four-year institution. After getting their biology and chemistry courses in, Farley said students will enjoy built-in flexibility regarding their other science and math courses, giving them more customization.
The college noted the demand for individuals with an education in STEM-related fields is increasing across Wyoming and the United States. Students who graduate with the associate of science in natural sciences and continue their education at a four-year institution are expected to help meet this demand.
— Farley said the associate of science degree in pre-engineering was also developed by faculty Schutten and Brown. This program is meant to offer a pathway for students who want to pursue a degree in engineering in spite of the fact that they are not calculus-ready at the time they begin their first semester. Under the proposed program, WWCC students can finish the mechanical engineering (ME) specialization with one additional year. Upon completion, students would be able to transfer to the ME program at UW with junior status.
The programs all received the unanimous endorsement of the WWCC Board of Trustees.