Norwich makes some major changes © June 27, 2007 Norwich University Office of Communications

Deciding what to major in at Norwich just became a little more difficult. Beginning in the fall, the University will add a few more offerings for students, including degree programs in Engineering Management and Spanish as well as a new minor in Chinese language.

According to Vice President for Academic Affairs Bjong Wolf Yeigh, the newly created Engineering Management program “is all about interfacing academics and practice.” A combination of business and engineering courses, the major resonates with the earliest mission of the University, Yeigh said. “Alden Partridge founded the school in 1819 with a focus on experiential learning, and this major fits in with that mission.”

There aren't a lot of programs out there, but there is a tremendous demand for engineering management graduates. Basically, there is a 100-percent employment rate, and those jobs are paying $50,000 to $60,000 a year.

—Prof. Michael Puddicombe

The experiential learning component of the new major is accomplished in an internship that engineering management students will participate in after their junior year. The internship, said Prof. Michael Puddicombe, provides students an opportunity to learn real-world skills in the field that can later be applied to their senior year studies.

To go along with that experience, students will take most of the same core classes as business and engineering majors. Although Yeigh acknowledged that it is “a very rigorous course schedule with very little flexibility in electives,” he insists that the program has been tailored to meet industry demands and the highest academic standards.

“We really listened to the needs of the construction and engineering industries,” Yeigh said. “Our goal in creating this program was to fulfill their needs and balance them with academics.”

Although it is a relatively new career path, engineering management is a field in which graduates of similar programs are easily finding employment, Puddicombe said.

“There are not a lot of programs out there, but there is a tremendous demand for engineering management graduates,” he said. “Basically, there is a 100-percent employment rate, and those jobs are paying $50,000 to $60,000 a year.”

The idea of incorporating more interdisciplinary majors into university offerings is a trend that’s taking shape around the nation. Recognizing that tomorrow’s workforce requires a broader range of skills was a major driving force behind Norwich’s decision to create the Engineering Management program. And according to Yeigh, the University will be exploring similar offerings in upcoming years.

“This brings our curriculum into the 21st century,” he said, “and we are looking at other interdisciplinary majors for the future.”

While investigating interdisciplinary majors is a priority for Norwich, the University hasn’t held back on creating some other new programs that follow the more traditional approach to higher education. In this vein come the recently re-established Spanish major and a new Chinese minor program, both of which, Yeigh said, round out the University’s language department and move Norwich closer to President Richard Schneider’s goal to further internationalize the campus.

Stewart Robertson, professor of Spanish and the chair of the Department of Languages agreed, saying that the new major and minor go a long way towards internationalizing the campus. He noted that many foreign language students become more directly involved in foreign cultures through language study, and this often leads to participation in study abroad programs as well.

“We used to have a major in Spanish,“ said Robertson, “but in 1992, the University decided to downsize and it was turned into a minor.” However, due to recent growth in the program — currently there are more than 200 students enrolled in Spanish courses — the department thought it was time to restore the program’s major status. As of June, ten students have declared Spanish their major.

Slated for approval by the University’s administration in late summer, the Chinese minor is already drawing significant student interest as well. During April registration, twelve students registered for classes and the department members anticipate another ten to fifteen incoming students will enroll.

Although Chinese is not in the course catalog of many colleges, it is a growing area of study in the United States. At Norwich, the impetus to create the minor came from the ROTC units.

“They came to us in early 2007 and said that the Department of Defense was looking to provide money to schools that had programs in the strategic languages of Chinese and Arabic,” Robertson said. “We decided that Chinese was the better of the two. There are over one billion Chinese people and there is a growing economic market between China and the rest of the world. The ROTC units are also encouraging their four-year scholarship winners to take Chinese because the services see knowledge of the language as important to their officers.”

Once the decision was made to offer the program, the department began creating the curriculum for the minor. Shortly thereafter and earlier this year, Norwich hired it’s first professor of Chinese, Dr. Xiaoping Song.

Norwich’s Chinese program, just like the University’s other language programs, incorporates an entry level course that is worth 6 credits and meets five days a week — something difficult to find at other universities.

“We are one of the only schools in the nation that offers this,” Robertson said. “Our students tell us they wouldn’t have been as successful in the language without that everyday contact.”

By offering its students new and innovative choices for their programs of study, Norwich is living up to its mission to serve as a learning community that is American in character yet global in perspective.

“These programs,” Yeigh said, “put us in a better position to help the future of all of our students.”