State Board of Education Approves New Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemistry at MCLA


NORTH ADAMS, MA - The Massachusetts State Board of Education has approved a new major for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), which now offers a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry.

According to Monica Joslin, MCLA dean of academic affairs, over the last several years, the College saw an increased interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) majors and a growing enrollment in MCLA's chemistry minor.

MCLA previously offered the chemistry major until 1997, when it was discontinued. Since that time, chemistry was offered as a minor. According to Joslin, with the increased interest and enrollment in the chemistry minor - combined with the need for STEM professionals - MCLA made a strategic decision to develop and implement the chemistry major.

"The return of the chemistry major will serve as a link with and continue to foster the growth and support of the STEM initiatives in Berkshire County by increasing the number of students who participate in programs that support STEM careers," Joslin said. "This new major also will increase the number of qualified STEM teachers in Berkshire County and beyond.

"MCLA students who major in chemistry will be prepared to begin a career in industry, education or even public service," she continued. "The degree articulates two tracks: preparation for careers as chemists and preparation for graduate school."

The chemistry major curriculum was designed so that students who wish to major in chemistry and education can accomplish both goals in four years and be prepared for licensure through the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

According to Dr. Robert Harris, associate professor of chemistry, the major is different in the sense that MCLA will offer two tracks. 

"The entire senior year of the major is electives," he explained. "Those wanting to go onto graduate school or industry will take upper-level elective in chemistry. Those wishing to become high school teachers will use the senior year to take education courses as well and student-teach.

The job outlook for chemistry majors is good, Harris said. "Most chemists can find jobs in industry or government right after graduation. It also will prepare them for professional schools such as medical, dental, veterinary medicine or graduate school in chemistry.

The return of the chemistry major allowed the MCLA faculty and administration to look at ways to improve courses and to create new electives, which is beneficial not only to the chemistry major, but to students majoring in other areas that require chemistry courses, according to Harris. This includes biology, physics, environmental studies and athletic training. In addition, MCLA will develop a non-majors laboratory course in chemistry.

With the state implementation of the STEM pipeline initiative and creation of the Governor's STEM Council to prepare students for the STEM workforce, MCLA is the home to and serves as the lead partner for the Berkshire STEM Network and the Berkshire Compact for Education.

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