As a grade schooler, Lexi Dailey loved solving problems from her mother’s college algebra textbook. But she wasn’t sure how to translate her passion into a career.
Enter Alverno’s new dual-degree partnership with the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, which will allow students like Dailey to complete a major in Mathematics at Alverno plus a Computer Science major at UWM in five years.
“This program helps me immensely because it shaves two years off of my schooling and allows me to graduate with two bachelor’s degrees from two respected colleges,” Dailey says.
It is one of several new dual-degree programs that Alverno has rolled out this past year. Alverno also offers a 3+4 program that pairs a new Pharmaceutical Sciences major with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Concordia University Wisconsin or a similar 3+3 program with the Medical College of Wisconsin. And this fall, Alverno will launch a 3+2 program that combines Alverno’s Environmental Science major or new Integrated Natural Science major with a master’s degree in Freshwater Sciences and Technology from UWM.
“Students are excited because they have a wider variety of opportunities that connect them directly with their career goals,” says Angela Frey, STEM chair for Alverno’s Natural Science, Math and Technology Division.
Partnership programs expand opportunities for students who still want a small school environment like Alverno, where students form close relationships with their peers and faculty and take an active role in their learning.
“One of the big reasons for a dual degree is to help students who are academically prepared and motivated in the STEM fields to have more options,” explains Jenny Johanson, program director for Environmental Science. “They can go to a small women’s college for their bachelor’s degree and get a head start on their graduate degree.”
Breaking down barriers
The biggest benefits for students are the time and cost savings from earning two degrees in a shorter period of time. The graduate degree partnerships allow students to “double dip” credits, saving on a year of tuition.
“The more we can break down barriers, the more likely women are to pursue a graduate degree,” Johanson says.
Partnership programs can make the graduate school application process less stressful. For instance, Pharmaceutical Science students who meet requirements are guaranteed an interview at Concordia and a spot in the class at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
But the path isn’t so well-defined that a student can’t change her mind along the way. “We’ve built in safety nets so we can count those credits toward other degree programs if a student discovers a different area of study. A student is less likely to lose any time or tuition money if she changes her mind,” Frey says.
More women in STEM
In 2016, women made up 42 percent of full-time workers in life, physical and social science occupations, and just 25 percent of full-time workers in computer and mathematical jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Alverno is committed to increasing the numbers of women in STEM. “Our goal is to empower women in any way that we can, and making sure that women can pursue any interest is vitally important,” says Lois Kailhofer, professor and chair of Mathematics and Computing. “Alverno provides an environment that helps women find their voice.”
Dailey, who was already a Math major, was leaning toward teaching until she heard about the new partnership with UWM’s Computer Science program. Now she’s excited to set an example for other young women. “I feel very empowered to be a female going into STEM,” she says.