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Ph.D. in Physics, upgrade of Ph.D. in Business Administration, and of Master of Science in Nursing, approved for UTRGV, announces Rep. Canales - Titans of the Texas Legislature

Featured, from left: Julián Álvarez, III, Commissioner Representing Labor, Texas Workforce Commission, and Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, on Friday, January 31, 2020.

Photograph Courtesy REP. CANALES FACEBOOK

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Ph.D. in Physics, upgrade of Ph.D. in Business Administration, and of Master of Science in Nursing, approved for UTRGV, announces Rep. Canales

By DAVID A. DÍAZ
[email protected]

A new Ph.D. degree – along with an upgrade of the Ph.D. degree in Business Administration and of the Master of Science degree in Nursing – recently was approved for the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley by the UT System Board of Regents, Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, announced on Wednesday, September 30, 2020.

In a related matter, as of Tuesday, September 1, 2020, UTRGV was approved to offer a new Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurityto teach students about a range of topics, such as information assurance, network, and computer security, digital forensics, and operating systems security. 

“With almost 33,000 students enrolled throughout UTRGV’s campuses throughout the Valley, I will continue to do whatever it takes in the Texas Legislature to bring more educational programs to this amazing public institution of higher education,” said Canales. “The main campus, with the largest student enrollment, faculty, and staff among all of the UTRGV sites in the Valley, and the first two years of the UTRGV medical school are both anchored in Edinburg in House District 40.”

The actions affecting the Ph.D. in Physics, and the upgrades to Ph.D. in Business Administration, and Master of Science in Nursing took place during the UT System Board of Regents meeting held on Wednesday, August 19, 2020, and Thursday, August 20, 2020, in Austin.

Guy Bailey, President, UTRGV, prepared the agenda items for the Valleywide campus system, with the support of James B. Milliken, Chancellor of the UT System.

The agenda packet for the UT System Board of Regents provides details about the Ph.D. in Physics, and the upgrades to the Ph.D. in Business Administration, and Master of Science in Nursing:

Approval to establish a Doctor of Philosophy in Physics degree program

(A Ph.D, which is the abbreviation for Doctor of Philosophy, is the highest university degree that is conferred after a course of study by universities in most countries. Physics focuses on the nature and properties of energy and matter, covering topics like mechanics, heat, light, radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and more, preparing graduates for physics degree jobs in fields like science, engineering, healthcare, education, and more.)

Recommendation

The Chancellor concurs in the recommendation of the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the institutional president that authorization, pursuant to Regent’s Rules and Regulations, Rule 40307, related to academic program approval standards, be granted to establish a Doctor of Philosophy in Physics degree program at UT Rio Grande Valley, and submit the proposal to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for review and appropriate action.

Program Description

UT Rio Grande Valley proposes to develop a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in the Physics degree program. The Ph.D. in Physics will be designed to provide opportunities for students to obtain a broad background in classical and modern physics, and to develop research-based solutions in the areas of gravitational wave astronomy, optical and radio astronomy, optical physics, nanophysics and materials physics, condensed matter physics, high-energy physics, biophysics, and biomedical physics. 

As a Hispanic-Serving Institution with a student population that is approximately 90% Hispanic, UT Rio Grande Valley’s proposed program will contribute to the diversification of the scientific workforce by preparing students from underrepresented groups, most notably Hispanic students from South Texas, for a variety of careers in scientific institutions, industry, federal agencies, and higher education.

The curriculum is comprised of 72 semester credit hours (SCH), including 21 SCH of required coursework, 12 SCH of prescribed and free electives, nine SCH of advanced doctoral coursework, and 15 SCH of graduate and doctoral research. Students will complete a comprehensive examination after completing 21 SCH of core courses and a candidacy examination after completion of all coursework. All students are required to present and defend a dissertation.

Need and Student Demand

Multiple sources demonstrate robust current and future growth in job openings for graduates with a Ph.D. in Physics. American Institute of Physics (AIP) data showed an increase of 33% in tenure and tenure-track physics faculty positions between 2012 and 2016. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an employment growth rate of 14% from 2016 to 2026, faster than average for all occupations. However, the number of graduates from physics doctoral programs has remained flat.

During the period between 2014-2019, the number of graduates from physics doctoral programs in Texas was approximately one-third of the number of physics faculty job openings at Texas institutions of higher education. Further, AIP data show that only 49 percent of graduates enter the academic sector. The remainder fills positions in the private sector, government agencies, and other sectors of the economy.

Students in the Rio Grande Valley have demonstrated significant interest in pursuing a Ph.D. in Physics, with many leaving the state to pursue their doctoral studies elsewhere. Recent data show students leaving UT Rio Grande Valley’s M.S. in Physics program early to enter doctoral programs out of state. The majority of these students would have remained enrolled at UT Rio Grande Valley if they had access to a Ph.D. program locally. The Department of Physics’ unique expertise in gravitational-wave physics and the success of the institution’s Center for Gravitational Wave Astronomy in securing more than $40 million in federal grants to support research over the last fifteen years draw students to the region and the program, as does the Center for Advanced Radio Astronomy. No program in Texas offers the same compound
approach to gravitational wave physics and astronomy, a prime focus of research in the field for the next several decades.

Enrollment projections for the proposed Ph.D. in Physics program estimate an average class size of eight students which is in line with other programs in Texas. Attrition rates are not expected to exceed one student per year. The program expects to graduate ten students at the end of five years.

Program Quality

The program at start-up is projected to have nine core faculty and five support faculty. New faculty are not required to implement the program. Core faculty members were selected based on their strength in research/scholarly activity, external funding, publications and patents, and their experience with supervising doctoral students. Core faculty actively pursue grant funding to support research. In the last decade, faculty have earned almost $20 million in funding from federal agencies.

Discussion and appropriate action regarding proposed changes to admission criteria for the Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration degree program

(Business administration is the administration of a business. It includes all aspects of overseeing and supervising business operations. From the point of view of management and leadership, it also covers fields that include accounting, finance, project management, and marketing.)

Recommendation

The Chancellor concurs in the recommendation of the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the institutional president that the UT System Board of Regents approves changes to the criteria for admission to the Doctor of Philosophy in Business Administration degree program at UT Rio Grande Valley as described below.

Background Information

UT Rio Grande Valley requests approval to make changes to the leveling courses a student may need to take to be fully admitted into the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Business Administration degree program.

Students entering the Ph.D. in Business Administration degree program are required to have a business administration foundation. The foundation may be achieved by holding an MBA degree, an MS degree in a business field, or a selection of coursework designed to provide the foundation. During the first year of the doctoral program or subject to the advice of the student’s program advisor for other time limits, students lacking the necessary foundation knowledge must complete specific courses in management, marketing, finance, information systems, and accounting.

Discussion and appropriate action regarding proposed changes to admission criteria for the MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner degree program

(A Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) is an advanced-level postgraduate degree for registered nurses and is considered an entry-level degree for nurse educators and managers. The degree also may prepare a nurse to seek a career as a nurse administrator, health policy expert, or clinical nurse leader.)

Recommendation

The Chancellor concurs in the recommendation of the Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the institutional president that the U. T. System Board of Regents approve changes to the criteria for admission to the MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner degree program at UT Rio Grande Valley.

Background Information

UT Rio Grande Valley requests approval to add specialized exams scores to the admission criteria for the MSN in Family Nurse Practitioner degree program. 

Applicants whose undergraduate coursework is older than three years will have to demonstrate competency by scoring 900 or higher on the three Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) Specialty Competency Exams: Advanced Health Assessment Exam; Advanced Pharmacotherapeutics Exam; and Advanced Pathophysiology Exam

HESI provides exams and other study materials to help prepare student nurses for the professional licensure exam.

Nursing programs often use HESI in admissions or during the course of study to help predict the student’s likelihood of success on tests such as the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The HESI exams are used nationally due to their reliability and validity in predicting student success, including several peer and aspirational institutions.

UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS RIO GRANDE VALLEY AUTHORIZED TO OFFER BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN CYBERSECURITY

 As of Tuesday, September 1, 2020, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley was approved to offer a new Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurityto teach students about a range of topics, such as information assurance, network, and computer security, digital forensics, and operating systems security. 

The program has been approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and is pending final approval from the US Department of Education. Once approved, students will be eligible for federal financial aid. Students are encouraged to contact their academic advisor for more details.

Students in the 120-hour program will study the security aspects of computing and cyberspace, which is central to the rapidly expanding security concerns in an ever-changing technological world. The program requires 50 advanced hours of instruction for core, technical electives, and support courses.

The program, organized under the UTRGV Department of Computer Science, will integrate the technical topics of intrusion detection and incident response, distributed and cloud computing security, and wireless and mobile security.

Students also will learn about how to secure cyber devices, the principles of science, engineering, and mathematics, and how this field of study has a profound impact on societal confidence.

Dr. Mahmoud Quweider, professor of Computer Science and Associate Dean of the UTRGV Department of Computer Science, said the new degree plan leverages the social, business, and risk analysis aspects of courses offered by other disciplines.

“This innovative degree is a collaborative interdisciplinary degree which follows a holistic approach that integrates technical, legal, business and policy skills by using existing computer science courses – but with support courses from Business, Information Security and Criminal Justice,” Quweider said.

“The Cybersecurity program prepares students for a career in cybersecurity as a computer and information technology professional,” he said.

The program will be available in person, with face-to-face, in-class formatting through educational technology such as the Learning Management System (LMS) and Interactive TV (ITV) to accommodate students from all UTRGV distributed campuses.

Quweider said there are plans in the future to make this program available online as the program grows.

Dr. Janna Arney, Deputy President, and Interim Provost said the development of this program is further proof of UTRGV’s commitment to expanding educational opportunities for the Rio Grande Valley.

“In the past, we lost some of our best and brightest students from this region because they were forced to go outside the Valley to find a program they were interested in,” she said. “We don’t want that to be the case anymore. We want to offer new and popular programs right here in the Valley, so our students no longer have to leave home.” 

According to Quweider, the demand for jobs within cybersecurity specialties are on the rise, making this program a necessary and timely addition to the Computer Science fields of study.

“Job titles for technical cybersecurity professionals include information security analyst, cybersecurity engineer, network engineer/architect, vulnerability analyst/penetration tester, and software developer/engineer,” he said. “These are technical positions in high demand in public and private sectors, with great paying salaries and benefits.”

Quweider said the need for these kinds of professionals are especially important to the workforce in the Rio Grande Valley, as the cybersecurity field alone has a projected growth rate of more than 12 percent from 2018 to 2028. The program is designed to help fill the staggering need for local, state, and national cybersecurity professionals.

“We believe that this program will bring national recognition to UTRGV as a leading institution in cybersecurity education and research, especially that we aim to become a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense and an ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology) accredited program over the coming years,” Quweider said. “Our students should enjoy a much sought-after jobs, especially in the government sector, where the median annual wage is $98,000.”  

For more information on the program, visit the UTRGV Department of Computer Science’s webpage here. For advising or more specific inquiries, students are encouraged to contact Quweider via email: [email protected].

About UTRGV

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.

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Amanda Taylor contributed to this article. For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (TitansoftheTexasLegislature.com).

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