A different option for education majors

The past semester was one of both trials and tribulation for UAA education majors, as the University of Alaska Board of Regents decided in April to discontinue UAA’s initial licensure programs through the School of Education.

A handful of options were given to students pursuing education degrees, such as a change of major or transferring to the University of Alaska Fairbanks or University of Alaska Southeast campuses. But, these options were not appealing to all students.

The transfer to UAF or UAS is not a physical one, but will offer students the opportunity to stay in Anchorage while completing their coursework online or through distance education with the two universities.

A lesser known option, one of pursuing a degree in interdisciplinary studies, is exactly what former early childhood education major Marissa Ridgley did in order to stay on track for her graduation in the fall of 2019.

An interdisciplinary degree combines coursework from different major programs, and allows a student to customize a program to their needs. This  degree is an option for students that are looking to pursue a degree or area of study not carried by UAA.

Ridgley, like many other education majors, was caught by surprise at the loss of accreditation at the UAA School of Education. Since then, many have called for the UAA administration to be more transparent.

“I was frustrated because we all found out through the social media,” Ridgley said in an email.

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Like many others, she was given the opportunity to transfer her education degree program to either UAF or UAS, which she did not want to do.

Instead, she began to seek out a different option. A previous professor suggested to Ridgley that she switch to the pursuit of a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

Ridgley says that she is the first student from the School of Education to choose interdisciplinary studies as a route to follow for her degree transition.

During this change of majors, Ridgley was thankful for the help she received from the university.

“UAA staff was helpful in making the transition smooth,” she said.

In order to pursue a baccalaureate degree in interdisciplinary studies, the student must develop a proposal that specifies the degree, title and program content. Once the proposal is ready, the student obtains an advisory committee of at least three faculty members from the appropriate academic disciplines, and if the committee supports the proposal, the proposal will be forwarded to the appropriate dean and finally the Office of the Registrar for approval.

In a meeting held by the UA Board of Regents on May 9, an update on the UAA School of Education was given. Current numbers show that 68 UAA education students transferred to UAF and more than 20 transferred to UAS.

Some students have found the transition to be helpful in reestablishing direction for their degree programs. UAA education student, Stacey Menken, made the transition to UAS.

“I decided to investigate UAS. They were knowledgeable, polite and just on top of things,” Menken said. “The next day, I had an email for my would be advisor. She was able to hear my concerns and immediately come up with a course of action. I felt valued and taken care of. They are reaching out to me and helping me to navigate.”

For others, the transition of schools could result in changes to their degree program and the possibility of changes in required coursework. Though united under the University of Alaska, each of the three universities can have different requirements for the programs offered at their respective institutions.

In the case of Ridgley, she didn’t have to worry about a transition in schools, and decided to stay with UAA to complete her degree.

“I feel confident,” Ridgley said. “I would suggest other early childhood juniors to look in to this approach if they are close to graduating. The only stipulation is that they will not be licensed to teach.”

Ridgley will be pursuing her teaching license after graduation through the licensure programs offered by the state.

For those interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, the Office of the Registrar suggests contacting advisors in the UAA College of Arts and Sciences.