Eastern Michigan aggressively responding to needs of students and the changing job market, President James Smith tells Lansing legislators

President sketches broad effort at Eastern by highlighting new academic programs during annual testimony before House appropriations subcommittee

EMU Student Center and fountain

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University President James Smith highlighted EMU’s long history as an institution of opportunity that has continually evolved to meet the changing needs of students, singling out a variety of indicative programs during his annual testimony before Lansing lawmakers Thursday (Feb. 14, 2019).

President Smith spoke to the Michigan House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education and Community Colleges, which each year hears from the presidents of the state’s 15 public universities.

President James M. Smith headshot
President James Smith

Distinct programs that seek to fulfill needs of today's economy

Eastern is focused on developing programs in high-demand areas that propel students into rewarding careers, Smith said. Among the examples he cited:

• The Physician Assistant master’s, launched in May 2014, a highly selective program that offers outstanding training opportunities with EMU’s partner, St. Joseph Mercy Health System. Graduates often earn more than $100,000 per year.

• EMU’s bachelor’s degree in nursing is also highly selective and growing, despite the challenges of finding trained faculty and clinical training opportunities. To help unclog that pipeline, EMU partners with nearby Washtenaw Community College. Students can take courses at both WCC and Eastern, earn as associate’s degree from WCC and then their bachelors from Eastern.

• The long-established Construction Management program, which is particularly important as Michigan confronts a growing demand and dwindling supply of construction professionals.

 • Similarly, the undergraduate Aviation program is meeting a chronic shortage of flight professionals. Students learn about aerodynamics, advanced aircraft systems and flight operations.

• Eastern’s new master’s program in Finance is training students in the high-demand areas of financial modeling, data analytics and statistical analysis.

• Eastern’s strong focus on STEM programs is epitomized by the new undergraduate program in Neuroscience, which blends chemistry, biology and psychology in training students for a variety of high-wage professions. Enrollment has grown 400 percent in three years, President Smith noted.

President Smith noted that the state need more well-trained engineers, which is why Eastern recently launched new programs in Mechanical Engineering and Computer and Electrical Engineering and is renovating Sill Hall, home of the College of Technology.

He rounded out the academic picture by touching on the University’s new master’s degree in Cyber Security, which also offers courses online or in a hybrid model.

 “Cyber defense is vital to everything we do today, and (the new program) complements our undergraduate cyber security program … which has a job placement rate of nearly 100 percent,” President Smith said.

Many working adults in southeast Michigan have credits, but no degree

Eastern is also reaching out to adult learners, an example of which is the recently launched Eagle Engage Corps program. The program welcomes back students who earned credits at EMU, but withdrew before graduating due to financial problems. These students re-enroll and their debt is forgiven as they complete community service.

President Smith offered a surprising statistic: There are nearly 700,000 working adults in southeast Michigan alone who have some college credits but no degree. “These folks require flexible learning options and they desire real-world skills,” he said.

 The President also noted his personal goal of increasing international student enrollment, as demonstrated by his bridge-building trips to China and the University’s #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign.

“Such partnerships provide a mutual benefit to the students coming to the United States as well as to the campuses they attend,” he said.

In summing up such efforts, President Smith said that the key is responding to today’s shifting needs and trends.

“Eastern Michigan offers such distinct programs and many others because the demands of Michigan students are changing rapidly while the number of high school graduates in Michigan and neighboring states has declined and will continue to do so,” he said.

President Smith’s complete testimony can be found on the Presidential Communications page.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 19,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

February 14, 2019

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom