ASU, Columbus State to offer nexus degrees

University System of Georgia Chancellor Steve Wrigley said, “We are committed to meeting the needs of both Georgia’s work force and industry by giving students the skills they need as they grow into different careers and seek to expand their knowledge base. I applaud Albany State and Columbus State for being the first institutions to offer our newest college credential,” in reference to nexus degrees announced by the colleges. (File Photo)

ALBANY – The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved Albany State and Columbus State universities’ request Wednesday to become the first to offer the University System’s newest college education credential called a nexus degree. The new degree is additionally valuable for people who may have a job but want to acquire a new skill or who have not yet completed a college degree and want to advance.

Nexus degrees are college credentials that emphasize hands-on experiential learning, skilled knowledge and connections with industry in high-demand career fields. The degrees expand on an educational portfolio that already includes associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. They stem from work being done as part of USG’s College 2025 Initiative, which seeks to refine the delivery and accessibility of public higher education to meet 21st-century learning and career needs.

Albany State will offer two new nexus degrees, one in blockchain with machine learning and another in blockchain with data analytics. Columbus State’s new nexus degree will be in film production. Other fields under consideration for future USG programs include cybersecurity and financial technology.

Math and computer science professor Robert Owor, a self-described technology enthusiast, teaches blockchain technology at ASU and helped bring the nexus degree program to the university. Last year, computer manufacturing company IBM approached him and a few of his students to participate in an IBM Blue/Hack competition. After the team won second place, several students — including his own — were hired by IBM as blockchain developers.

“Then, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia heard about it and asked us to make a presentation,” Owor said. “For the last three months, we have been waiting for this approval.”

While Albany State and Columbus State are the first to offer nexus degrees, other USG institutions have entered the planning stages for how a nexus degree can benefit their students and communities. Each individual program created as a nexus degree must receive additional approval by the Board of Regents to ensure the integrity of the degree and the curriculum.

“We are committed to meeting the needs of both Georgia’s work force and industry by giving students the skills they need as they grow into different careers and seek to expand their knowledge base,” USG Chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “I applaud Albany State and Columbus State for being the first institutions to offer our newest college credential.”

A nexus degree is a 60 credit-hour degree, consisting of 42 credit hours of general education and 18 credit hours of coursework focusing on the skills and knowledge requirements of high-demand industries. The 18 credit-hours create an apprenticeship aspect that must include at least six credit-hours of experiential learning and at least 12 credit-hours of upper division coursework.

Curriculum for the credential is being designed in collaboration with industry experts to ensure it meets specific requirements for high-demand jobs, including those in the market now and those planned for the future.

While a nexus degree can stand on its own, it also allows USG’s 26 institutions to be creative in using the credential to expand on other educational opportunities. That includes the potential to use a nexus degree toward completion of a new kind of associate’s degree, one targeted toward a high-need technical field. It includes new options to create stackable credentials concentrated in highly specialized fields as part of a bachelor’s degree.

Final recommendations from a committee working on the College 2025 initiative were also released Wednesday, and are available online at https://www.usg.edu/college2025/.

Jada Haynes is a news reporter for the Albany Herald. Writing is one of her greatest joys. Anything from a report to a feature to a homebrew RPG campaign, she'll write it up.

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