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Three students lounge around on a bench and one stands talking to them at the University of Minnesota, Rochester.

Students in the new Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program will be able to take advantage of UMR's proximity to world-class health professionals and local businesses.

Rochester campus announces first undergraduate degree

Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences will offer unique, integrated curriculum

By Rick Moore

October 21, 2008

The University of Minnesota, Rochester (UMR) is continuing its trajectory of growth with the announcement of its first-ever undergraduate degree program. The Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences (BSHS) will commence with an inaugural class of up to 150 freshmen in fall 2009.

The BSHS degree will prepare students for a broad spectrum of health science-related fields, as well as admission to professional schools including medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science.

The program, which received provisional approval by the Board of Regents on October 17, will be housed in UMR's Center for Learning Innovation. And befitting of that umbrella, the faculty will be constructing the degree in an innovative manner. Rather than just teaching standard classes from their disciplines, they will be creating an interdisciplinary curriculum that connects the health sciences with math and the humanities, according to Stephen Lehmkuhle, UMR chancellor.

For example, "rather than just learning calculus, you'll be learning calculus within the context of the health sciences," Lehmkuhle says. "This is more curriculum-based, rather than course-based."

"I couldn't imagine doing this [new program] and not being located in this particular area (Rochester)," Lehmkuhle says.

Students will have the chance to explore numerous health-related disciplines and career options in the first two to three years in the core portion of the program.

"By the time they get to their third year, they'll be better informed about which career path they'd like to pursue," Lehmkuhle says. "No one will lose time making that decision. Career exploration is part of our curriculum."

They will then have different options for a capstone experience. They can either enhance their preparation for admission into a professional school, or be trained in any number of certificate programs such as respiratory care, radiation therapy, or nuclear medicine technology. Once they complete the accredited program, they will have completed the capstone requirement.

UMR at a glance

UMR is the newest campus in the University of Minnesota system. While the U has been offering higher education opportunities in Rochester since 1966, UMR was formally established as a campus in December 2006, and is located at University Square in the heart of downtown Rochester.

Lehmkuhle envisions the BSHS program as a tree, with the first years representing the trunk and the capstone experience the branches. "Basically, the branches become flexible options for students," he says.

The curriculum will also be infused with the "three R's," only in this case, they have a unique UMR slant. There will be "relevance" ("We know that students learn when things are relevant," Lehmkuhle notes); "rigor," focusing more on depth of understanding rather than breadth of coverage; and "relationships," taking advantage of UMR's proximity to world-class health professionals and local businesses.

"I couldn't imagine doing this [new program] and not being located in this particular area," Lehmkuhle says.

And there is no shortage of directions for those proverbial branches to grow into, given the expansion of the health care industry. Which is another reason why a broad-based health curriculum will suit students well.

"The challenge for us in education is to prepare students for jobs that don't [yet] exist," Lehmkuhle says.

Applications for the BSHS program will be available later this semester, but interested students can get more information by contacting the UMR Admissions office at 507-280-4621 or apply to UMR for more information.