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After months of preparation, Western launched several new program options in 2019.

Exploring Western’s new major and degree options

Sage Kiernan-Sherrow  |  News Editor

This year, many new majors and minors — as well as degree options — have been added to Western’s official catalog, and future additional options are underway. Three additions in particular have opened up new pathways for student success: a master’s in Organizational Leadership, an Applied Baccalaureate in Liberal Sciences and the new major of English Studies. The following will offer descriptions about each program and detail the benefits related to obtaining a degree through these new options. 


M.A. in Organizational Leadership


As an interdisciplinary program unaffiliated with any one academic department featuring instructors from a variety of related fields, obtaining a master’s in Organizational Leadership would benefit “anyone who wants to enhance their leadership skills and be prepared to effectively lead in any type of setting,” as stated by psychology professor David Foster. Continuing, he said that the program “is designed to help people build the behavior, cognitive and social competence necessary to be an effective leader,” developing qualities sought after by human resources.

After first developing the organizational leadership minor with fellow professors Nick Baccus, of communication studies and Paul Disney of business, the three collaborated to design the master’s degree program which co-adhered with President Rex Fuller’s plan to “expand WOU’s graduate offerings by developing programs that would be appealing for people living in Salem,” said Foster. While taking courses based at the WOU:Salem campus targeted towards working adults, students have the ability to gain Operational Leadership and Executive Leadership certificates, furthering their workforce qualifications. 

“(Businesses) need programs like ours to help their people develop the competencies they need to be effective leaders,” said Foster. For more information about this program, students can follow the link to the graduate program’s page through Western’s webpage. 


Applied Baccalaureate in Liberal Sciences


Also offered at Western’s Salem campus, the Applied Baccalaureate in Liberal Sciences degree was created to provide further education to adults who have already acquired an Associate of Applied Science degree. It’s designed to give working adults the advantages of a four-year degree without them having to repeat coursework, letting them build upon their previous education. Students will “complete foundations courses, dive into the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences, explore interests, and tie it all together in small seminars with fellow students,” stated a video published by wouTV titled “WOU:Salem: What’s Next.” The video also describes the program as essentially an “upside-down degree,”  giving students who have already mastered specific trades the ability to take broader educational classes. 


English Studies Major 


Nine years in the making, the English studies major features a core of linguistics, literature and writing classes and offers students a way to virtually design their own program, while limiting the amount of credits needed to graduate. 

“We saw a pattern … that the average English major was graduating with 211 credits. That’s a lot … we were really creating barriers for our students” stated Katherine Schmidt, an English professor and the director of the Writing Center at Western. 

The English Studies program is now made of mostly classes counting as upper division credits and has gotten rid of the two-year language requirement consisting of 24 credits. The program also boasts a common core curriculum of 41 credits, allowing for students to take more electives specific to their interests. 

“Instead of being a mile wide and an inch deep, we’re encouraging students to go a mile deep and an inch wide … to do what (they) love and to spend most of (their) time doing that,” said Schmidt, providing an example of a student writing historical fiction taking history classes relevant to their craft. Although, of course, students still have to justify the course’s complementary connection to the program. 

In the future, the program is planning on reinstating a publishing class, and providing a Professional Writing Certificate, which will launch next year. The Professional Writing Certificate is 20 credits and is targeted towards “people who already have their degrees,” stated Schmidt. 

“Students have shown a desire to specialize in professional writing and we want to give that opportunity to them,” said Schmidt, citing the full grant-writing class offered Winter Term as evidence. 

Classes for the certificate will be based at WOU:Salem, and is “complementary to an Organizational Leadership degree,” said Schmidt.


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