[UTA Magazine]


Collaboration for education
Agreement between UTA and community colleges aims to bridge state's technology gap


Paul Williams' two-year associate's degree in information technology seemed major when he graduated from Dallas County Community College a few years ago, and his employer certainly liked the dean's list status of Williams' 3.8 academic average.

"I've done well enough," Williams said of his $44,000-a-year job. "But now I realize that I'm a good student and that a four-year degree would provide all kinds of additional opportunities—both personal growth and economic—for me and my family."

"Basically, this involves seamless transitions from high school to community colleges to the University, with connections to the workplace through seminars and internships."
-Interdisciplinary Studies Director Cubie Ward

Trouble was, when Williams looked into transferring his community college transcript two years ago, much of his technical courses wouldn't be accepted. That would translate to an extra year of work as a full-time student, more as a part-time student. He didn't enroll.

Such "transfer barriers," enrollment officials say, have stopped many potentially excellent students from continuing their academic careers.

But Williams plans to start classes at UTA this fall.
Why? Because a new collaboration with area community colleges will allow many students, like Williams, to transfer up to 24 hours of technical credit in areas such as information technologies, health and business.

Participating schools are Tarrant County College, Dallas County Community College, Collin County Community College, Weatherford College and Navarro College, and more appear eager to sign on.

"We would like any community college within, say, 125 miles of the UTA campus to eventually be part of the consortium," said Cubie Ward, the University's interdisciplinary studies director and co-manager of the consortium program. "It has opened up possibilities for students all across the region."

Most of the students transferring technical course credits will work toward a customized interdisciplinary degree. "What we're discovering in talking to business after business in this region is that in addition to the technical skills these students possess, they need other abilities," Dr. Ward said. "These companies tell us that those students need to have some business training, understand spreadsheets, profit and loss, be able to communicate and have solid graphics and Internet skills.

"The interdisciplinary degree will give these students the two, three or four good skills that go with their technical background, and that will make them extremely promotable."

Interest in the four-year program has been fueled, Dr. Ward said, by the reality that so many newly created jobs tend to be dominated by technical fields intersecting with a variety of other requirements—the classic interdisciplinary mold. "We're talking areas of high demand in the work force," he said, citing fields like radiology, sonography, Web page design, computer networking and programming languages.

Ultimately, Dr. Ward sees the consortium implementing what he calls a "growth without barriers, Texas two-step" program. "Basically, this involves seamless transitions from high schools to community colleges to the University, with connections to the workplace through seminars and internships. Although the impact on UTA's enrollment will likely be significant, the bigger picture is that it is exactly programs like this that will reduce the state's technology gap, which is a clearly stated goal of the (Texas Higher Education) Coordinating Board."

More information about the program is available by calling Dr. Ward, Allen Repko or Larry Standlee at 817-272-2338 or by checking the University Web site, www2.uta.edu/ints/.


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