Over two years ago, Alverno College set out to create a new bachelor’s degree program – Alverno Accelerate, which would focus on meeting the needs of adult learners through a flexible, affordable, achievable approach to education.
“We researched what employers want and graduates need in the 21st century workforce,” says Trish Lewis, the design lead on the program.
The bachelor’s program they were developing would be entirely online with students accessing the curriculum at their own pace. This flexibility would open the program up for students with full-time jobs and family commitments. Lewis says that someone with no previous credit could still complete their degree in three years.
At the same time, across the city, Milwaukee School of Engineering was launching an innovative degree program of its own – the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. The school constructed the $34 million Diercks Computational Science Hall, home to a state-of-the-art data center with an Nvidia GPU-accelerated AI supercomputer.
“MSOE is one of the few undergraduate CS programs to focus on artificial intelligence,” says Steven Williams, chair of the CS department. “Undergraduates get to work directly on computational hardware that is not typically accessible to bachelor’s degree students.”
The CS degree prepares students for careers in growing fields like machine learning, software engineering and development and AI research.
This year, MSOE – which boasts the highest return-on-investment of all colleges and universities in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa or Minnesota that offer bachelor’s degrees – introduced another new degree: a Bachelor of Business Administration with a focus in accounting.
“Existing accounting programs in the Midwest have been in operation for decades – faculty and curriculum have been slow to adapt to technological and market changes,” says Ruth Barratt, chair of MSOE’s Rader School of Business. “Students completing the MSOE curriculum will be prepared for next-generation accounting challenges.”
Back at Alverno, the Alverno Accelerate program welcomed its first ever cohort just last September. Some students are parents, alternating between their own online classes and their children’s. Others are returning to complete their bachelor’s. And still others are simply people at a crossroads.
“What can you do with what you’ve learned? That’s a question we always ask ourselves,” says Lewis. “And I don’t just mean getting a job. How are you a good citizen, a moral agent. How are you someone who has an influence in the world?”