Major Advantage: Colleges and Universities
Right brain or left brain? When it comes to choosing college majors, everybody takes a side.
Illustration by Steve Salerno
Back in the 1950s, a psychobiologist named Roger Sperry discovered that humans use different sides of their brains for different tasks. The right side is visual, intuitive and simultaneous, looking first at the whole picture then the details. The left brain wants just the facts: It processes information in an analytical, orderly fashion.
The region’s colleges and universities offer a range of creative and scientific programs for local brainiacs. Here’s a sampling of selections, from the following 20 colleges and universities:
California University of Pennsylvania
Carnegie Mellon University
Community College of Allegheny County
Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP)
La Roche College
Penn State University
Point Park University
Robert Morris University
St. Vincent College
Seton Hill University
Slippery Rock University
University of Pittsburgh
Washington & Jefferson College
West Virginia University
520 N. Main St., Meadville. 814/332-3100, allegheny.edu
Right: Behavioral Health. The age-old question is the focus of an Allegheny College program in values, ethics and social action. It’s not all theory: VESA students spend one semester actually leading a service group and applying classroom ideas to real-world problems. One recent example: A student created a program at the Bethesda Children’s Home, a behavioral health center in Meadville, that uses lessons in cooking and baking to teach practical life skills to young women.
Left: Managerial Economics. At Allegheny College, economics and business are inching closer together. The managerial-economics track gives economics majors the chops to synthesize trends and theories with real-world company decisions. Students receive an introduction to finance, accounting and strategic planning, and get a chance to hear from corporate experts: One instructor is Chris Allison, former CEO of Pittsburgh’s Tollgrade Communications, who co-teaches a course on entrepreneurship.
250 University Ave., California. 888/412-0479, calu.edu
Right: Commercial Music Technology. No matter what the volume, music is booming. The commercial-music industry forecasts a 24-percent increase in tech jobs within the field in the next five years, and California University of Pennsylvania offers a commercial-music technology major for those who love their earbuds. The only such program in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, it debuts this fall, preparing grads for work as recording and broadcasting engineers, digital composers, sound mixers and more.
Left: Forensic Anthropology. Cal U’s forensic majors concentrating in anthropology go to the scene of real-life crimes after spending lab time with one of the nation’s best bone collections. They also learn how to use ground-penetrating radar and other tools to find critical evidence to help solve crimes. The four-year-old program gives hands-on experience, even at the undergrad level.
3333 Fifth Ave., Oakland. 800/333-2275, carlow.edu
Right: Art Education. Art education goes beyond finger painting to excite students about our visual surroundings. At Carlow University, undergraduates completing 36 credits in the art/art-ed major can gain certification from the Pennsylvania Department of Education as a teacher of art for grades K through 12. There’s also a market for their skills in early care and pre-school settings, as well as in museums expanding their educational outreach programs.
Left: Fraud-proof. Now more than ever, companies need forensic accounting. The accounting specialty that detects and prevents financial fraud and white-collar criminal activities commands new respect, and Carlow University’s program in the field-a bachelor-of-science degree that includes a minor in accounting-prepares grads for professional exams to become certified fraud examiners and certified forensic accountants. These credentials are recognized globally. Next stop: Interpol.
5000 Forbes Ave., Oakland. 412/268-2082, cmu.edu
Right: Vocal Performance. Armed with a degree in vocal performance from the School of Music, Carnegie Mellon University grads are conquering the New York music scene from Broadway to Lincoln Center. Alumni include baritone Liam Bonner ’03 and tenor Jeffrey Behrens ’03, who’ve sung at the Metropolitan Opera; "Ragtime" star and Tony nominee Christiane Noll ’90 and Graham Fenton ’05, who returned to Pittsburgh to sing the role of Frankie Valli in "Jersey Boys" on its recent national tour.
Left: Information Systems. More CMU students than ever are choosing its information systems program: This year, the number of applications increased 30 percent. It attracts students who want to design and implement effective solutions for organizational information and decision support. As program director Randy Weinberg explains, "We’re less about inventing leading-edge technologies and more about applying technology to meet interesting organizational and society needs." Case in point: Fooala. The online, Pittsburgh-based restaurant ordering service was founded by David Chen ’10.
Woodland Road, Shadyside. 800/837-1290, chatham.edu
Right: Interior Design. Chatham University’s interior-design program has been remodeled. Majors can now earn their bachelor’s degree in interior architecture in just three years and be prepared for jobs with architects or interior-design firms. The program is located in the university’s new Eastside Building, adjacent to the new Bakery Square complex on Penn Avenue. The LEED-certified building is less than a mile from the main Shadyside campus and gives the program’s 70 total undergraduate and graduate students better access to gallery space, computer labs, drawing rooms and a resource center of design product samples.
Left: Women’s Entrepreneurship. As befits a college for women, Chatham’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship offers undergraduates role models along with five rigorous concentrations within the department of business. Building on the university’s foundation of women’s leadership development, entrepreneurial thinking, environmental sustainability and an international focus, the curriculum has two advanced courses in leadership. Those seeking an M.B.A. can get started in their senior year through Chatham’s accelerated graduate programs.
Multiple locations. 412/237-3100, ccac.edu
Right: Culinary Arts. Even while they’re enrolled in CCAC’s culinary arts program, many students are already working in local restaurants and catering businesses. This small (20 student maximum) program gives them the hands-on experience to segue into the higher ranks. The two-year-plus program is a pipeline to kitchens run by other CCAC grads: One is chef Chef Bob Sendall ’78, the high-profile owner of All in Good Taste Productions and Sendall Chocolates, who was chosen to cook for world leaders during the G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh last fall.
Left: Nursing. CCAC’s two-year associate degree program in nursing graduates nearly 500 students each year. That puts the program with national leaders in the field; this year, CCAC was ranked second nationally for awarding associate degrees in the field. Its program enrollments in health professions and related clinical sciences are also among the country’s 10 biggest programs, according to Community College Week’s 2010 rankings. CCAC offers a total of 30 programs in the field, ranging from surgical technology to respiratory therapy.
600 Forbes Ave., downtown. 412/396-6000, duq.edu
Right: Music Therapy. As the demand for certified music therapists grows, Duquesne reports that 90 percent of its graduates (23 of them this year) find jobs in the field within six months. The program on the Bluff emphasizes composition, singing, improvisation, and music and movement. Students combine those skills with therapy for people with autism and those with visual, motor, emotional, hearing or cognitive disabilities.
Left: CSI Pittsburgh. Starting with an undergraduate program in biochemistry or biology, Duquesne students can continue in the nation’s only master’s program in forensic science and law. Many grads go directly to crime-solving posts in federal law enforcement-the FBI, CIA and Secret Service-as well as the armed forces. This program, offered in partnership with the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law, draws faculty from the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences and the School of Law.
1011 South Drive, Indiana. 724/357-2100, iup.edu
Right: Creative Work and Movement. You’ve got the talent and want to collaborate with other creatives. Since 2007, Indiana University of Pennsylvania has offered fine-arts majors a choice of a musical theater or dance track. Students enrolled in the latter perform in IUP Dance Theater, with two annual concerts plus professional residencies, and The Acorn Project, which showcases more than 20 new and student-directed works. The program offers a platform for creative work and movement: Think self-employed fitness trainers, management, community organization and teaching.
Left: Information Assurance. Securing digital data has become a big business. IUP was one of the first universities in the nation to integrate the disciplines of criminology and computer science in its Institute for Information Assurance, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as a center of excellence in the field. Dozens of students now enrolled in the track learn how to guarantee availability, integrity, authentication and confidentiality for information and information systems.
9000 Babcock Blvd., McCandless. 800/838-4572, laroche.edu
Right: Web Design. A Web presence is essential for organizations from corner coffee shops to multinational corporations. La Roche College’s minor in Web design, debuting this fall, complements its graphic design, marketing and information-technology majors and includes experience in all social-media platforms. Classes create online identities for real-life clients; recent groups to benefit from the pro bono projects include the Three Rivers Regatta and Pittsburgh 250, the city’s 2008 anniversary celebration. "There is a need for people who can combine code with design," says graphic-design professor Patrick Connolly.
Left: Eco-Studies. Sustainability is more than a major. It’s a green umbrella, covering issues in chemistry, biology, energy and environmental justice. La Roche’s new 21-credit minor in sustainable interdisciplinary studies (SIS) will integrate information to address the real-world questions of local businesses and governments."Businesses need to make better use of resources," from energy choices to building materials, says La Roche spokeswoman Pamela Wigley.
Athens, Ohio. 740/593-1000, ohio.edu
Right: Journalism. As journalism moves online, the news is that Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism continues to rank among the top journalism schools in the United States. Majors can choose nontraditional undergrad course sequences such as advertising, online journalism and public relations. Famous alumni include TODAY’s Matt Lauer; that’s why a Scripps undergrad usually lands an internship on that NBC-TV show each year.
Left: Tech Co-op. Do you love to learn and love to earn? The Russ College of Engineering and Technology’s five-year co-op program, which combines classroom courses and paid internships, has such appeal to business-minded undergrads that a quarter of all second- to fourth-year students in the Russ School of Engineering-housed in a new academic and research center in Athens-participate in the program.
University Park. 814/865-5471, psu.edu
Right: Education and Public Policy. As the influence of Teach for America, charter schools and other reform ideas spreads, the future of public education gets brighter. Penn State University’s education and public-policy major blends core courses in educational policy with foundational courses in sociology, political science, economics, business, race and class, and research methods.
Left: Engineering. Wind. Biomass. Nuclear. Natural gas. Pennsylvania’s energy resources have spurred a broader definition of energy engineering, reflected in an undergraduate degree program at Penn State. Program director Sarma Pisupati says the energy engineering curriculum, which launched in 2007, is the nation’s first to concentrate on renewable and non-renewable sources for power generation, integrating the physical sciences (chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics) with the social (economics, policy and management). The program has placed its first graduates in defense and federal government positions and will seek formal accreditation from the American Society for Engineeering Education this year.
201 Wood St., downtown. 412/392-3430, pointpark.edu
Right: Screenwriting. Pittsburgh’s growing movie-making scene has boosted local demand for tech crews. But it’s storytelling that wins hearts. That’s why Point Park University launched a screenwriting major within its Conservatory of Performing Arts in 2009. The major hones student writers’ ideas for feature films, short films, sitcoms, one-hour dramas, Web-isodes and animation.
Left: Sports Management. It’s not just athletes and actors who need good management. Increasingly, says Point Park assistant professor Steve Tanzilli, companies use sports and entertainment to build their brands (think Highmark, PNC and other local giants). "The disciplines are similar, whether you’re selling tickets to the Benedum Center or a ball game," says Tanzilli.
The downtown school’s sport, arts and entertainment management program, the first business program of its kind regionally, now enrolls 150 students.
6001 University Blvd., Moon Township. 800/762-0097, rmu.edu
Right: TV and Video. What are the odds of snagging a videographer’s job with the Pittsburgh Steelers? For Robert Morris University grad Nazari Dorosh, armed with a degree from the new TV/video concentration at the school’s department of media arts, they’re 100 percent.
Left: Actuarial Science. For actuaries, it’s all about the odds. RMU’s actuarial science major is one of only 12 colleges in the country to be designated by the Society of Actuaries as a center of excellence in the field. That gives graduates (13 this year) great odds for finding entry-level positions in insurance and human resources consulting firms, which employ actuaries to design health and retirement benefit plans.
With a curriculum carefully tied to the four basic professional exams that define an actuary’s early career, RMU also points students toward paid internships that earn them full-time jobs. The result, according to actuarial science program director Dave Hudak is the "… Placement rate is essentially 100 percent."
300 Fraser Purchase Road, Latrobe. 800/782-5549, stvincent.edu
Right: Children’s Literature. Never outgrew your Harry Potter mania? Can still recite Green Eggs and Ham? The minor program in children’s literature within the English department at St. Vincent College emphasizes reading, writing and teaching classics for the young. With courses in criticism, myth and science fiction, and child development, the program grooms students to teach, write or simply keep the kids on their laps spellbound.
Left: Bioinformatics. An avalanche of data has been generated by the human-genome project, creating a need for analysts with a combined background in biology and computational and statistical skills. Bioinformatics at St. Vincent provides both skills, along with the college’s trademark liberal-arts education.
One Seton Hill Drive, Greensburg. 724/838-4281, setonhill.edu
Right: Music Therapy. Graduates of Seton Hill’s music-therapy program work in psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, medical hospitals, nursing homes and even jails. Accredited by the American Music Therapy Association, the program gives majors access to the new Performing Arts Center, with superb acoustics and a collection of 31 Steinway pianos.
Left: Osteopathic Medicine. Becoming a doctor is stressful. Seton Hill eliminates some angst by guaranteeing admission to the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine for undergrads who successfully complete its undergrad program (either the standard four years or a three-year accelerated curriculum). The school opened a site in 2009 on Seton Hill’s Greensburg campus, one of three campuses that the med school operates; the others are in Erie and Bradenton, Fla.
1 Morrow Way, Slippery Rock. 800/SRU-9111, sru.edu
Right: Video Dance. Combining live dance and video-projection technology, Slippery Rock University’s video-dance program is one of only a handful of dance programs in the country offering instruction in the new hybrid choreography. SRU’s other specialty programs in the dance major include hip-hop and classical Indian dance, which offers students a chance to study on the Asian subcontinent.
Left: Physics. SRU’s liquid-crystals laboratory and other cutting-edge technology allow physics majors a chance to do their own cutting-edge research. For Joshua Elvey ’10, that meant an opportunity to experiment with the circuitry of Blu-Ray Disc technology.
Classmates Steven Graner and David Allen had another bright idea: build an organic light-emitting-diode (LED) light from scratch. The program launches students into prestigious graduate programs. In the past two years, SRU physics graduates have been accepted into graduate and doctoral programs at Yale, North Carolina State, Johns Hopkins, Purdue and the University of Memphis.
75 College Ave., Greenville. 800/24-THIEL, thiel.edu
Right: Youth Ministry. Youth speaks to youth. That’s why Thiel College in Greenville will launch a youth-ministry major this fall, preparing students to minister to teens and families in Christian congregations and other spiritual settings, such as summer camps. The new major combines study in theology, the Bible, ministry theory and the social sciences, along with field and mentoring experiences.
Left: Neuroscience. The relatively new discipline of neuroscience unravels the structures and functions of the nervous systems of humans and animals. It’s an unusual offering for a small liberal-arts institution, but Thiel is collaborating with Greenville’s Neuromodulation Services, UPMC and other partners in this unique major. Career and graduate school opportunities include medicine, psychiatry, neuroscience and more.
4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland. 412/624-7488, pitt.edu
Right: Homeland Security. The Boy Scout motto might be applied to a new undergraduate certificate program at the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt’s Center for National Preparedness collaborates with the College of General Studies to offer the new program: undergraduate certificate in national preparedness and homeland security, which meets the demand for advanced education in emergency management. Pitt officials say the program is of special interest to soldiers returning to campus after military service, and the university maintains a comprehensive array of veterans’ services.
Left: Nuclear Engineering. The demand for nuclear engineers is going, well, nuclear. Westinghouse Electric Corp., with corporate headquarters in a new Cranberry Township campus, is a world leader in the technology, building major facilities from southwestern Pennsylvania to India and China. Pitt’s new undergraduate certificate in the field through its Swanson School of Engineering provides a comprehensive overview of nuclear power and plant operations.
60 S. Lincoln St., Washington. 724/222-4400, washjeff.edu
Right: Study Abroad. Here’s the kicker on Washington & Jefferson College’s creative study-abroad program: The college pays your way. The Magellan Project selects students who propose compelling research projects that they will pursue abroad, allowing them to study health care in Cyprus, Holocaust history at Nazi-era concentration camps and more.
Left: Professional Preparation. Washington & Jefferson claims one of the nation’s highest per-capita rankings for producing physicians and attorneys. In fact, 228 physicians in the Pittsburgh area are W & J alumni. The school also has produced two of President Barack Obama’s six health care advisers: Richard Clark ’68, CEO of Merck Pharmaceuticals, and Tom Priselac ’73, CEO of Cedars-Sinai Health Systems.
Morgantown, W.Va. 304/293-6871, wvu.edu
Right: Landscape Architecture. Building aesthetic outdoor spaces is the task of the landscape architect. At West Virginia University, more than 160 students are enrolled in the only program in the state accredited by the American Society of Landscape Architects. In studio courses, they assist local communities to develop plans for parks, Main Street beautification and other projects.
Nina Chase ’10 will be attending Harvard’s graduate landscape-architecture program this fall; she won the national 2009 Landscape Architecture Olmsted Scholars Program, named for Frederick Law Olmstead, the designer of some of America’s greatest urban parks.
Left: Biometrics. The opening of the FBI’s National Crime Information Center in Clarksburg has created a new industry for West Virginia. Biometrics, the burgeoning field of ID-ing humans via fingerprints, iris scans, faces or voices, is used extensively in crime solving and homeland security. WVU’s biometric-identification program mixes traditional engineering with the forensic sciences. The university’s Center for Identification Technology is the only research center in the field to be funded by the National Science Foundation.
Christine H. O’Toole last wrote for Pittsburgh magazine on the McGowan Center for Regenerative Medicine. An inveterate right-brainer, she holds a degree in English literature from LaSalle University.