NACOGDOCHES, Texas — Changes in curriculum recently approved by the Stephen F. Austin State University Board of Regents reflect society’s continuing reliance on data and technology.
A new Bachelor of Science in data analytics approved Tuesday is a partnership between the computer science, economics, and mathematics and statistics departments.
“There is a widely recognized and strong need for data analytics professionals in government, industry and education in the United States,” said Dr. Deborah Dunn, professor and interim chair of the Department of Computer Science. “Companies increasingly have access to more data, and this fact is creating opportunities for workers with a particular set of skills.”
Data analytics is the process of extracting meaningful information from data stored by companies and using it to make informed decisions, Dunn explained. The data analytics program will provide a fundamental background in data analytics, including programming, algorithms, database technologies, data analytics techniques and statistical analysis. It also will offer substantial information on economics, forecasting and predictive modeling.
SFA’s Department of Computer Science, home to the only master’s degree program in cybersecurity in Texas, prepares students for careers in areas such as software development, database design and data analysis.
Three new certificate programs also were approved and reflect areas of societal concern and span multiple disciplines. In the School of Human Sciences, a new aging studies program will begin in fall 2018. Two programs added in the Department of Languages, Cultures and Communication include translation and interpretation, and risk and crisis communication.
Some academic programs are being consolidated to better meet the needs and interests of SFA students. Three programs have been converted into concentration areas for the Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. Programs include poultry science, agricultural engineering technology and agricultural development production.
“Agriculture is a healthy degree program at SFA, and it is an important industry in the East Texas area,” said Dr. Mary Nelle Brunson, associate provost and vice president for academic affairs.
SFA is in the heart of millions of acres of forest and offers the only doctoral degree program in forestry in Texas. In an effort to better address student needs, the one-year Texas residency requirement has been eliminated to allow students opportunities to conduct research nationwide. Additionally, forest management will now be offered as a concentration for the Bachelor of Science in Forestry, rather than as a separate major.
Regents ratified a $2 million plan to reconstruct Clark Boulevard and expand facility parking to make additional room for visitors to SFA’s new Ed and Gwen Cole STEM Building. The cost of the plan, which includes additional completion of the building’s fourth floor, is within the approved project budget of $46.4 million. The building is scheduled to open this summer and will house the Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy, the Department of Computer Science, a planetarium with a 52-foot dome, and makerspaces, which are learning laboratories that allow students to collaborate and create prototypes or other manufactured works.
“This is not the finish line; this is a beginning. We will empower the next generation of STEM professionals to lead and serve in a changing world,” said Dr. Kim Childs, dean of the College of Sciences and Mathematics, in her report to the board. “We are creating a pathway for students that is purposeful and practical as they move forward into their careers.”
Regents approved renaming areas in the McGee Business Building, which houses the Rusche College of Business. An area on the third floor is expected to be named the Naymola Innovation Hub in honor of Walter E. “Loddie” Naymola, a 1978 alumnus. The fourth floor lobby, which offers economics and finance students a professional meeting environment, will be named in honor of Michael J. Hopkins, a 1970 graduate.
Construction approved for SFA Athletics included renovating a storage area in the Johnson Coliseum basement to create a strength-and-conditioning room for the men’s and women’s basketball programs. Regents approved a budget of $725,000, which includes renovation and equipment costs. In the future, commencement materials previously stored in the basement will be located off campus; therefore, the board approved purchasing a covered box truck for use in transporting the items to and from campus and for other university purposes.
Regents approved a fixed-rate tuition of $226 per semester credit hour for students who enter SFA as first-time, full-time college students in fall 2018 and choose to enter into a fixed-rate program. As required by the Texas Education Code, the fixed rate will not increase for any eligible student for 12 consecutive semesters after the date of the student’s initial enrollment at any public or private higher education institution.
During the Tuesday meeting, the board acknowledged the receipt of an audit services report and approved:
a summer budget of about $3.5 million for fiscal year 2017-18, which covers two regular summer semesters and a mini-semester
renewal of the $50-per-credit-hour tuition rate for dual-credit students enrolling in any academic semester, including summer
ratifying $21,935 in additional grant awards allocable to fiscal year 2018
policy revisions, curriculum changes and minutes from the January and March meetings
and a marketing budget for 2018-19.
The board heard updates from SFA’s Center for Career Professional Development regarding the positive impact of its new job-posting system, Handshake, which connects students with potential employers. Richards Carlberg also delivered a report regarding the university’s 2018-19 marketing campaign, which will feature refreshed creative materials, airport signage, billboards and a strong digital media presence.
The Board of Regents also heard reports from Dr. Hans Williams, dean of the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture; the Faculty Senate; Student Government Association; and the university president.