Creative degree programs

UofSC Creativity

Music, engineering and global studies programs emphasize flexible thinking, skills

When Alyssa Moreau applied and auditioned for music programs, most universities told her she had to choose between studying performance or focusing on another facet of the music industry.

The University of South Carolina told her she could do both.

Now a freshman at Carolina, the saxophone player from Greensboro, North Carolina, is part of a new degree program in the School of Music that allows her to expand her major of music performance with a concentration in music technology.

It’s one of several new degree programs the university offers that illustrate new, creative curricula by adding innovation, an entrepreneurial approach or other types of value to traditional degrees.

Along with the music students, a new master’s program in technology innovation and entrepreneurship brings together expertise from the College of Engineering and Computing and the Moore School of Business, while the Global Studies undergraduate degree prepares students for careers with an understanding of urgent global issues.

Broadening the sounds of music

Undergraduate students in the School of Music can now earn a bachelor of music in performance degree with one of three new specializations — chamber music, music entrepreneurship and music technology.

Tina Stallard, the music school’s associate dean and director of undergraduate studies, says the new degree programs are in line with the school’s values — which include giving students additional tools they need for successful careers and focusing on the importance of community engagement.

“We are looking at ways that we have degrees that speak to our values, but also are important to students and, frankly, to parents. How is this degree going to be marketable to me or to my child? Not only are they getting a high-quality education in performance, they’re getting an extra edge with these 12 hours of concentrated focus,” Stallard says.

Those 12 hours allow students to work with excellent chamber musicians and talented faculty in areas such as music recording and entrepreneurship. Some will add creative aspects to innovative recitals, perhaps through an original composition or an experiment in lighting. They will be encouraged to address the audience at recitals, as a way of engaging in a personal manner. Others will focus on ways to better market themselves, including creating electronic press kits with high-quality audio and visual recordings.

“Many of our faculty are very excited because they themselves are entrepreneurial and innovative,” Stallard says. “Many of my colleagues are doing these sorts of things with their students already, encouraging them to develop diverse skills and to think more about engaging with the community. But to have something that is more prescriptive in place that they can follow is really good.”

Stallard says prospective students have expressed interest in the new degree program, with students at college fairs particularly interested in the focus on chamber music, something typically reserved for graduate students.

"We are going to be a leader in this field. The School of Music is forging a path already with some of our initiatives and this is another where we are continuing to establish ourselves as leaders for building 21st century musicians,” she says.

For freshman Moreau, who has been playing the saxophone since the fifth grade, the program allowed her to combine her interest in performing with skills she hopes to gain in recording and mixing music in the studio.

“The other schools were making me choose between performing and the music industry. I couldn’t choose between the two right now. Here, it’s really nice to get both of them,” Moreau says. “You get more of a well-rounded experience with music, yet you get to continue playing and focusing on an instrument.”

Filling the technology, innovation gap

Surveys from industry leaders about new hires adapting to the workplace reveal a common concern: Engineering and other STEM students arrive at the workplace prepared in the science and technical fields, but they often don’t understand what it means to commercialize a product. Meanwhile, business students are well versed in what it takes to introduce a new product to the market, but they often don’t grasp the technology necessary to create it.

“So, there was this gap,” says Ehsan Jabbarzadeh, associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering and director of entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering and Computing.

To help fill in that gap, Carolina has created a master’s degree in technology innovation and entrepreneurial engineering that is a collaboration between the College of Engineering and Computing and the Darla Moore School of Business. Faculty from both schools teach and mentor students in the one-year graduate program that prepares students with the skills needed to assess whether a concept is both technically viable and potentially profitable. It takes students through the entrepreneurship and start-up process, with an understanding of technology development, marketplace customer discovery and commercialization.

“What CEOs are talking about, the new generation of the workforce have to be problem solvers, but they also have to understand what it takes to communicate with customers. At the end of the day, every company has a product somebody’s buying. And that knowledge should be engrained in our education,” Jabbarzadeh says.

Jabbarzadeh said the new degree program emerged from discussions that began about two years ago to find avenues to combine the two disciplines. The program takes students through the full process of commercializing a product — from prototyping to creating and launching a new venture to customer delivery. Course offerings include technology feasibility analysis, entrepreneurial finance, launching new ventures and engineering prototyping.

The program culminates in a summer innovation emersion module in the form of an internship, a workshop or a new start-up.

The first cohort of 10 students, who started this fall, features a mix of new graduates and others already in the workforce, including GE and Boeing employees. Classes are offered late in the day so working students can participate. An additional 14 additional students will join the master’s program this spring.

“We don’t claim to create entrepreneurs. I tell the students you don’t leave this program as a Bill Gates,” he says. “What you learn are the tool kits that you have to know to launch a product. Whether you’re a start-up, a large company or small company, the same tool kits are handy.”

He said students who are already in the workforce say they wish they had learned these lessons earlier, believing it would have allowed them to better customize their career plans. Recent college grads say they are covering topics they had never thought about before enrolling in the program.

Jabbarzadeh says for a program such as this to be successful, deans and faculty must be accommodating and pro-collaboration. 

“In each college, you need to have passionate people who want to collaborate,” he says. “Things happen when you combine passion and collaboration. Impossible things become possible.”

A global reach

Nick Mitchell started at the South Carolina Honors College in 2016 as a biology major, but soon realized medicine or biology research wasn’t the right career path for him. Instead, he knew he wanted to work on water issues, so he switched his major to geological sciences.

Then he learned of a new major — global studies, a flexible degree program in the College of Arts and Sciences that allows students to focus on one of five areas: global cultures, global health, global conflict and security, global sustainability and development, and leadership in the global economy.

For Mitchell, a junior from the Charlotte area who hopes to join the Peace Corps or attend graduate school to work on water and sustainability issues in Latin America, it seemed like the perfect choice. The South Carolina Honors College student is now a double major in geology and global studies, with a concentration in sustainable development. He is on his way to becoming fluent in Spanish, since global studies requires majors to take 300-level language classes.

“Global studies was attractive because it has a considerable amount of personal choice with respect to the path you take in the major,” he says. “With global studies, you can pick and choose classes as long as they relate to the theme and world region you are studying. Which means I’ve been able to take a lot of interesting classes that apply to me.”

What CEOs are talking about, the new generation of the workforce have to be problem solvers, but they also have to understand what it takes to communicate with customers.

Ehsan Jabbarzadeh, associate professor of chemical and biomedical engineering and director of entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering and Computing

Since being introduced at Carolina in 2016, the global studies major has become the fastest-growing undergraduate major on campus. There are 158 students majoring in global studies, and almost as many different combinations of coursework.

“The reason why the program is so popular is because other global studies programs are not as flexible and not as interdisciplinary,” says Agnes Mueller, a distinguished professor of humanities and director of the global studies program.

The degree prepares students for careers where an understanding of urgent global issues, and where an ability to work with people from a variety of cultures is indispensable. For example, those focusing on conflict and security often follow a career path working as diplomats or employed by the Department of State, while the leadership in the global economy concentration is intriguing to students who want a career in international business with a broader and more flexible degree.

Students can combine any of those tracts with seven world regions or can pick a specific country. The major requires students to complete a 300-level language course, meaning they are fluent in reading, writing and speaking a language other than English.

“No two students have the same program of study, basically. They all have differences depending on the particular theme and language and world region,” Mueller says.

Mueller says global studies students take classes in schools and departments all over campus, including courses in political science, international tourism, religious studies, anthropology, the Arnold School of Public Health and the Moore School of Business. Also, many students have double majors — adding areas such as foreign language, political science or English to their global studies degree.

“They’ll have interesting transcripts,” she says. “It’s truly an interdisciplinary degree — but with a purpose.”

As for what she tells parents who ask about career options for global studies majors, Mueller says the job market is as open and varied as the major. Students can find jobs as diplomats or working for the government or NGOs, while others may work on environmental issues in foreign countries or with international businesses.

“The business concentration is the most obvious. A lot of businesses like to hire people with a wide array of skillsets. They don’t just want someone who can read a spreadsheet. They want someone who knows how read a spreadsheet and has studied a language seriously and has international experience. So it’s an attractive package.”

Share this Story! Let friends in your social network know what you are reading about