UMass, Mount Holyoke Collaborate On Dual-Degree Programs in Engineering, Public Health

AMHERST, Mass. - Through an enterprising new kind of private-public arrangement between Mount Holyoke College and UMass that begins this year, Mount Holyoke students will have the opportunity to earn dual degrees in engineering or public health for the price of a single degree.

The five-year, dual-degree program will allow Mount Holyoke students working toward a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics or one of the sciences to earn a second degree from the University. Mount Holyoke students will be able to earn a bachelor of science degree in chemical, mechanical, civil, industrial, electrical, or computer systems engineering from the University, or a master''s in biostatistics, epidemiology, or environmental health sciences through an accelerated UMass program.

The collaboration "provides students with the exceptional opportunity for a first-rate liberal arts degree and a world-class professional degree, without watering either down, and without additional expense for the student or her family," says Donal O''Shea, dean of faculty at Mount Holyoke.

"It is extremely rewarding to join in this effort with Mount Holyoke College, to draw more women into the fields of engineering and public health," says Charlena Seymour, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University. "The College''s emphasis on women in leadership roles, and the University''s ability to provide research opportunities in these fields combine to make this project a particularly promising one."

The new initiative comes amid nationwide concerns about a shortage of women in engineering. Male graduates of baccalaureate programs in engineering outnumber their female peers by a ratio of 4 to 1, according to the National Council for Research on Women (NCRW), while just 10.6 percent of all engineers in the workforce are women, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. The NCRW found that women are "grossly underutilized" as industry struggles to fill a growing number of engineering jobs; in fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the field will grow at an annual rate of 20 percent for the foreseeable future.

To College officials, who began discussing the idea 18 months ago, establishing a connection with UMass seemed "a logical step," O''Shea says. "We''re very excited about this," he adds. "It''s a new opportunity for our students. The School of Engineering at UMass is truly first-rate, and they are committed to educating women for careers in engineering. Likewise, the School of Public Health and Health Sciences is very well respected, and students who have a master''s in a public health major have many options." In particular, he said, the master''s is frequently used as an entry into medical school.

The new arrangement has benefits for all involved: Students will be able to receive an excellent and uncompromised liberal arts education while earning a science degree at a world-class research university; Students and their families will not have to endure the cost of a fifth year of college in pursuit of a second degree; The College will extend its resources as it furthers its historic role as a leader in education of women in the sciences; and The University, which has established several programs aimed at attracting women to engineering, will benefit from an expanded pool of motivated students to bring more balance to the male-female student ratio.

The two degrees will cost the student no more than a single degree. Mount Holyoke will collect four years of tuition, room, and board, and handle the tuition arrangements with UMass. Each student will be enrolled at Mount Holyoke for the first four years, but will be resident at UMass in her junior year, taking courses at the University through the Five College Exchange. In the fifth year, the student will be enrolled at UMass and will be responsible for her own room and board.

O''Shea notes that such public/private programs in higher education are rare. The Mount Holyoke-UMass effort is made possible only through the Five College consortium, which allows a student at any member school to take courses at any of the four other member schools. O''Shea says the program will be more widely publicized beginning in the 2002-03 school year and will be made available to interested first-year students beginning this fall.

For more information, contact Kathleen Rubin, assistant dean for the UMass College of Engineering, at 413/545-4757. Please note: Mount Holyoke College is issuing a parallel release on this collaboration.