First bachelor’s degree offered by Whatcom

By Alex Moreno

Beginning in the fall quarter of 2017, Whatcom will be offering a Bachelor of applied science (BAS) in IT Networking. The degree is the first four-year baccalaureate degree offered at Whatcom.
Janice Walker, the dean for workforce education at Whatcom, essentially oversees all programs that lead to two-year degrees and the workforce programs.

Walker said about 25 percent of students at Whatcom are in professional technical or workforce programs, training for a profession. Examples of these programs are nursing, medical assistants, paralegal studies, business administration, early childhood educators, and IT networking, Walker said.
For the creation of a bachelor degree, “the program has to be vetted in the community for a need in terms of job opening,” Walker said.
Walker said the program is directly supported and created by the workforce need. “We work with employment security data, advisory committees, industry advisory committees to ensure there are job opportunities for students graduating,” Walker said.
Corrine Sandy is the Director of computer information systems (CIS), Cyber Security (CS), and cyberwatch west (CWW). Sandy says her job entails being director for CIS and computer science programs and principle investigator for CWW, a national science foundation center for cyber security education.
There are 10 core courses that contribute to the BAS degree. The degree consists of three certificates, which are 10 credits each, so each certificate is two separate courses, Sandy said.
Sandy said, the three certificates are The Cloud-Computing Certificate of Proficiency, the Industrial Control Systems Certificate, and Mobile Technologies Certificate.
These three certificates make up six of the 10 courses that create the CIS part of the degree, except the general education, business compliance and auditing, project managements, and professional ethics, Sandy said.
Students of the “new bachelor’s degree learn about mobile and wireless technologies, web development, cloud computing and security, supply chain, and industrial control systems architecture, Walker said.
The most popular certificate will probably be the cloud-computing certificate, said Sandy.
The degree covers all aspects of networking, Sandy said.
Since the opening of the program we have seen a growing number of students coming straight out of high school for IT networking, Walker said.
For the new BAS program most new students are already studying at Whatcom, Walker said.
For acceptance to the BAS program, any Washington state student with a two-year IT degree is eligible, but most students entering will be locals from Whatcom and Skagit County, Sandy said.
Applications for the BAS program begin January of 2017, Sandy said.
Sandy said, “Many graduates will get jobs at network managers.”
The graduates would likely be working in places such as refineries, hospitals, energy sectors, and basic IT in any corporation, Sandy said.
Graduates of the IT networking programs have gone on to work for Boeing, Expedia, and many local companies, Sandy said.
Sandy said the BAS degree is a credential, which companies look for in higher-level promotions.
Walker said that the federal government helps build these two-year and four-year workforce degrees.
Walker said that to offer bachelors degrees Whatcom had to go through a “substantive change proposal to the northwest commission, that’s our accrediting body for Whatcom, to be able to offer a bachelor’s degree.”
“You have to go through a lot of different hoops in order to get the college approved for a bachelor’s degree, and now that we have done that we have paved the way to be able to offer more bachelor’s degrees,” Walker said.
For approval of a Bachelor’s degree there must be a proven need in the job market for a trained workforce.
Walker said there are “huge gaps for people with cyber security expertise.”
“The real benefit for Whatcom offering this is for students to get an affordable and local bachelor’s degree that is mapped to national security agencies standards, meaning that graduates will be able to show they have gone through a rigorous and recognized program in the industry, resulting in well-paying jobs,” Walker said.
The offering of this BAS is a big step for Whatcom’s professional technical and workforce programs, said Walker.
“It’s really an opportunity for students who otherwise would not be able to earn a degree,” Sandy said.
Walker said, “We try to plug into the community as much as we can.”
The professional technical and workforce programs are a huge part of Whatcom’s education, and it directly influences our community, Walker said.

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