Home » WKU Regents approve degree programs in neuroscience, data science

WKU Regents approve degree programs in neuroscience, data science

Emslie and Zimmer get University Distinguished Professor status

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — Western Kentucky University’s Board of Regents approved a number of new academic programs, including a Bachelor of Science in Neuroscience and a Bachelor of Science in Data Science on Friday at its first quarterly meeting of the calendar year.

The field of neuroscience, the science of nervous system and brain structure and function, has quickly become prevalent in many different science disciplines. The new neuroscience major will generate rounded scientists who can be valuable problem solvers within industry and prepares graduates to further study medicine and artificial intelligence, two of the highest-paying and rapidly expanding careers in Kentucky.

 The Bachelor of Science in Data Science will merge computer science, statistics and domain-specific knowledge to better utilize data in decision-making and problem-solving. Through a combination of theoretical coursework, hands-on projects and real-world applications, students will graduate prepared to be successful in multiple data-driven industries.

The Regents also voted to approve University Distinguished Professor status to Dr. Gordon Emslie and Dr. David Zimmer. Emslie, a Physics and Astronomy Professor who previously served as WKU’s Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, is best known for his research on solar flares, which has earned him an international reputation as a scientist who is committed to making science more accessible to broader audiences. Zimmer, an Economics Professor who currently serves as the Interim Department Chair of Economics, has gained wide recognition for his research focusing on the use of statistical copula functions to model microeconomic phenomena. The University Distinguished Professorship program is designed to recognize faculty members who have served WKU with distinction and have compiled an outstanding record of achievement in teaching, research and service.

Emslie also shared information with the Board about a joint venture between WKU faculty, staff and students and NASA to develop a smartphone app that will capture images of the April 8, 2024, solar eclipse. These images will be uploaded to a server at WKU, and the data will make the most precise determination ever of the shape of the sun, with far-reaching implications including testing theories of gravity. The app is funded by a grant from the NASA Heliophysics Innovation in Technology and Science (HITS) program.

The Regents approved the honorific naming of the Tate C. Page Terrace located in Gary Ransdell Hall. Page served as the dean of the university’s College of Education from 1965 until his retirement in 1973, and in 1988, the former building housing the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences was named in his honor. Having exceeded its useful life, that building was razed in 2021 to make way for the facility that will serve as the new home of the Gordon Ford College of Business. The Regents approved naming the terrace after Page in recognition of his outstanding career and positive effect on the College of Education and Behavioral Sciences at WKU.

Jennifer Smith, WKU’s Assistant Vice President of Government and External Relations, provided a legislative update, including information about Kentucky House Bill 630, which, if passed, would grant WKU the ability to offer up to five research doctoral degrees. The bill passed in the House unanimously this week and is currently awaiting Senate approval. WKU President Timothy C. Caboni recently testified before the Kentucky legislature to share his vision of gaining High Research Activity classification, commonly referred to as R2, from the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education. If this designation is granted, WKU would become Kentucky’s first R2 institution. “We are the only state in our region without an R2 institution,” President Caboni told the Regents. “These PhD programs will allow us to double our research expenditures and change the conversations we have with prospective students.”

In other business, the Regents:

  • Approved the suspension of the Adult Education Graduate Certificate
  • Approved the suspension of the Bachelor of Arts in Corporate and Organizational Communication in order to consolidate that degree with the Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies
  • Approved the Graduate Certificate in Marketing and Sales
  • Approved the Undergraduate Certificate in Economic Data Analytics
  • Approved the Graduate Certificate in Trauma and Resilience
  • Approved the Undergraduate Certificate in Food Service Design
  • Approved sabbatical leave for a number of faculty
  • Accepted the university’s financial report of 2023-2024 budgeted versus actual expenditures
  • Approved a number of routine personnel actions which have been approved through administrative channel and processed by Human Resources between 09/01/2023 and 12/31/2023
  • Accepted external auditor’s reports and financial statements for WKYU-TV and WKYU-FM for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023
  • Accepted external accountant’s NCAA compliance report
  • Listened to a student presentation by the Center for Financial Success
  • Heard an enrollment and retention update

The Board of Regents will next meet on April 12, 2024, to conduct committee meetings.

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