Moving forward into the 2023-2024 school year, La Sierra University will add at least ten new academic degree programs to its offerings, three of them in the sustainability arena.
This fall, La Sierra will roll out Bachelor of Science degrees in urban plant agriculture and sustainable agriculture entrepreneurship, Bachelor of Arts degrees in sustainability and society, political science, theology, and in four STEM education programs, and a Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis.
“In a post-pandemic environment, it is time for us to move our programs forward into the 21st century,” La Sierra University provost April Summitt said. “What is required of us is to revamp and re-vision our academic programs.”
The three degrees related to sustainability and urban agriculture tie in with a global sustainability and green technology market that is poised to grow from a current US$16.5 billion to reach nearly US$62 billion by 2030 at a compound annual growth rate of 20.8 percent, according to a May report from Fortune Business Insights.
Toward moving the university into the expanding sustainability field, La Sierra in 2022 began developing a sustainability park complete with an off-grid experimental geodesic dome, greenhouse, and two environmentally controlled and technologically outfitted shipping containers for Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) developed by Freight Farms urban farming company. One container arrived in 2021 for use by the university’s Enactus team to grow leafy greens and herbs utilizing hydroponics-based agriculture. Last school year, the team began using the container to provide education in sustainable agriculture and business practices for local at-risk youth. The other shipping container is used in STEM education and research and was obtained with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the university’s Title V programs.
Funding for the sustainability programs, projects, and facilities is funded in part by grants, donations, and other resources.
The park’s operations and environmental goals will also be supported by the installation in July of an off-grid solar power system that will be used to power the temperature control in the experimental geodesic dome. The US$3,000 system was jointly gifted to the university by the senior classes of 2022 and 2023.
The Sustainability Studies Program, under which the three related degree programs will be offered, was designed with a mission that correlates with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals focusing on environmental justice, critical-thinking skills, and sustainable solutions for local and global communities. Program goals include “creating graduates who are prepared to solve real-world problems in the industries of agriculture, food science, global studies, agricultural entrepreneurship, and sustainability science,” according to an academic bulletin summary.
The expansion into the environmental sustainability arena “blends so well with our mission to be stewards of the gifts God has given us while meeting the needs of employers and of students in establishing career pathways,” Summitt said.
The university will also add four Bachelor of Arts degree programs in STEM education with concentrations in biology, chemistry, physics, and health science. The programs are designed for students who seek to teach biology, life science, anatomy and physiology, environmental science, and other life science courses in grades 6-12 in California or at a Seventh-day Adventist school. The major is offered through a collaboration between the School of Education and the College of Arts and Sciences.
The new Bachelor of Arts in political science degree will be offered through the university’s department of History, Politics & Sociology. It is designed for students interested in law, government, politics, and journalism. Currently the department hosts the legal studies minor and supports the pre-law program in the College of Arts and Sciences. The creation of a fully-fledged political science degree is the culmination of years of interest and activities in the subject area that has included scholarship-based public affairs internships and the creation of individual political science majors for students who desire the course of study. Seventh-day Adventist schools that also offer stand-alone political science degrees are Union College, Oakwood University, and Andrews University.
The H.M.S. Richards Divinity School will also add a new Bachelor of Arts in theology degree to complement its current undergraduate degree offerings in religious studies and archaeology. The additional degree is intended to address the needs of students interested in pursuing a career as a Seventh-day Adventist church pastor, and, unlike the degree in religious studies, the new degree includes a complete pre-seminary track leading to pastoral qualification. The new program consists of a set of courses that is designed to meet entrance requirements for graduate or professional studies in La Sierra’s Divinity School, the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, or other seminaries or theological schools.
Meanwhile, La Sierra’s School of Education is expanding its behavior analyst offerings with a master’s degree program that is fully accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International for a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst license.
“It will be rolled out this fall and is designed to train behavioral analysts who will work with children and people with spectrum disorders, severe emotional disorders, and other behavioral disorders,” school dean Chang-ho Ji said. “We have been running a fully accredited ABA program for about six or seven years, but it was repackaged into an MA in ABA based on the new ABA standards. It is one of few face-to-face ABA programs in California.”