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Student Demand Creates New Degree Programs

Stack of diplomas for the new degree programs

Since its inception, the OU College of Liberal Studies has been a leader in adult education while remaining true to its mission of providing a quality, interdisciplinary education. As time passes and educational demands shift, the college rises to meet the needs of the adult students it was designed to serve.

Looking ahead, CLS Associate Dean Martha Banz is dedicated to preserving the innovative spirit that has guided the college during its first 50 years.

“As we move into the next 50 years and beyond, staying on target with our ongoing commitment to the value of interdisciplinarity blended with practical application will be a priority,” Banz said. “This will allow CLS to find and pursue ‘niche’ programs where specialized education can build upon a strong interdisciplinary foundation.”

With this in mind, the College of Liberal Studies is pursing approval for and hopes to soon offer three new degree plans – a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies, a Bachelor of Arts in LifeSpan Care and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice.

Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Studies

The College of Liberal Studies has a long history of providing educational opportunities to military personnel. In collaboration with the Department of Defense, it became apparent that there was a need for an online, nontraditional program tailored for military personnel, emphasizing the development of cultural competencies to support their endeavors in diverse world regions. Thus, the idea for a cultural studies degree was born.

“It has been much observed that we live in a global community where events in one country or region dramatically affect other areas of the world,” said Dean James Pappas. “This recognition has generated increasing interest in educational programs that attempt to explore and understand the world’s various cultures.

“The new world cultural studies program will increase students’ ability to interact more effectively across cultures – a skill that will make them a top commodity in today’s global community.”

For members of the military, adapting to customs and mastering effective communication with others from various cultural backgrounds has become paramount. Also equally important is an understanding of how the United States and its policies are perceived internationally. As the Global War on Terrorism has demonstrated over the last decade, it is incumbent for military personnel in these locales to be sensitive to cultural nuances and norms.

“The new world cultural studies program will increase students’ ability to interact more effectively across cultures – a skill that will make them a top commodity in today’s global community.”

CLS Undergraduate Program Director Frank Rodriquez said during the early development phase of the BACS, it was noted that there are already many international studies programs in higher education.

“However, the military officials with whom we spoke were insistent on a very functional and applied degree program – one that would be especially helpful to those who were deployed or about to be deployed,” Rodriquez said. “Also, currently within the state of Oklahoma, no institution offers a totally online world cultural studies degree program.”

CLS’ cultural studies degree, which will hopefully begin offering classes this fall, will initially offer a Chinese track that will include a conversational language component and courses in Chinese military history and political systems. Eventually, other tracks will be offered in Russian, Arabic and Latin American studies.

The BACS includes a core component of 30 hours of world cultural studies courses. Students will take 12 hours of track-specific courses and three hours in a functional language class. The total hours for degree completion are 120.

Rodriquez said the degree curriculum is designed to increase the critical thinking capacity of students and graduates.

“The interdisciplinary curriculum is consistent with the history and philosophy of the OU College of Liberal Studies,” he said. “Completing the B.A. in Cultural Studies will increase the ability of graduates to approach and resolve cultural problems from multiple disciplinary perspectives.”

While the BACS is a solid fit with military personnel, it will also benefit employees with public and private organizations engaged in international enterprises and relationships.

Family photo to illustrate new Lifespan Care degree programBachelor of Arts in LifeSpan Care

This degree was also born out of emerging societal needs. With an aging U.S. population and a growing emphasis on proactively caring for a person’s well-being throughout their lifetime, the need for specialists in this area only continues to grow.

Like the tracks offered in the cultural studies degree, the lifespan care program will offer tracks concentrating on early childhood, adolescent and geriatric care.

The details of this degree are still being ironed out, but the college hopes to begin offering courses in spring 2013.

Master of Science in Criminal Justice

With the incredible success of the college’s Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, many students began inquiring when CLS would offer a master’s degree in the field.

“Our students who finished their criminal justice undergrad degrees were clamoring for a graduate degree in the area,” said Julie Raadschelders, coordinator of graduate programs. “We started formally discussing the idea of offering a criminal justice master’s degree about two years ago. We are excited to begin offering some classes this spring in hopes that program approvals will be granted soon so that a full slate of offerings can be quickly implemented.”

Since initial discussions, demand for the program has only grown, and it was apparent that there is a ready audience for a criminal justice master’s program.

Blending academic theory and applicable skills, the Master of Science in Criminal Justice degree is aimed primarily toward individuals already working in corrections, law enforcement and the legal field.

Some courses will focus on interacting with special populations whose backgrounds may present unique circumstances, such as gangs, women and the mentally ill. During the degree planning stages, input was sought from professors of sociology and law as well as professionals working in the criminal justice realm. The total hours for degree completion are 33, like the other master’s degrees offered by CLS.

“The degree curriculum is interdisciplinary in nature, designed to increase the critical thinking capacity of students and graduates, which is consistent with the history and philosophy of the OU College of Liberal Studies,” Raadschelders said. “The Master of Criminal Justice will work toward creating a new generation of leaders who can improve performance and guide developments in the field of criminal justice.”

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The College of Liberal Studies is a fully accredited academic unit of the University of Oklahoma, offering 100% online, hybrid and onsite bachelor's and master's degrees for working adults and non-traditional students.

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