UAFS to Offer New Degrees, Certificates this Fall

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith has received approval from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer four new degrees and certificates this fall to address the employment needs of the greater Fort Smith region.


UAFS will offer new bachelor’s degree programs in geoscience and electrical engineering technology, in addition to an associate degree in engineering and a certificate of proficiency and technical certificate in early childhood education.  


Bachelor of Science in Geoscience


The Bachelor of Science in Geosciences was created in response to a national shortage of employees working in the field, a need that is also felt locally, according to Dr. Dave Mayo, associate professor of geoscience.  


“Prior to this program, there were only three bachelor’s degree programs in geology in the state. And after we talked to some employers in the geoscience profession, we realized we could provide qualified employees to get jobs in the geosciences, both locally and statewide,” Mayo said.


To gauge the interest of local employers for an undergraduate geoscience program at UAFS, Mayo and colleagues interviewed representatives from local companies that would employ graduates of the program, including oil and gas companies, geological surveys and local school districts. All the employers responded a bachelor’s degree would be sufficient for employment. The companies surveyed collectively employ 112 geoscientists and expect to hire 20 to 30 more geoscientists in the next two to five years.


Course requirements for the new B.S. in Geoscience include foundational math, chemistry, physics, a broad core of geology courses that include an intensive summer field camp, and upper-level electives.  Course credit will be available for undergraduate research and internships with private industry and government agencies.


Mayo added that UAFS offers a popular general education course in earth science that has already spurred interest in the bachelor’s program.


For more information about the program, contact Mayo at 479-788-7646 or


Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology


The Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering Technology was created partly as an option for students earning the Associate of Applied Science in Electronics Technology to continue their education, but it also addresses the growing need for a developer program more specialized in applied engineering technology at the baccalaureate level, according to Dr. Leroy Cox, associate dean in the College of Applied Science and Technology.  


“This program will appeal to non-traditional students who already have jobs and are wanting to advance their career in the engineering field, but it also offers a baccalaureate program for traditional students wanting to specialize in electrical engineering,” Cox said.


While most engineering programs focus on the theoretical aspects of the field, Cox said this program will utilize a more hands-on approach.


“Engineering, traditionally, is concerned with theory and design, but not so much with application,” Cox said. “This program will be very hands-on, allowing students to immediately apply newly-acquired knowledge. Students will complete laboratory experiments and projects that will allow them to solve complex electronics problems.”


The curriculum will include courses in circuitry, electromagnetics and electronic system design, as well as classes in project management and finance. The program will culminate in a senior capstone course that tasks students to design a device or system to achieve a task.


“I see graduates of this program performing as technicians and in any major capacity where electricity is concerned,” Cox said. “Ultimately, the skillset taught by this program translates to plenty of industries, most notably engineering, automotive, robotics and even telecommunications.”


For more information about the program, contact Cox at 479-788-7768 or


Associate of Science in Engineering


The Associate of Science in Engineering offers students a flexible, two-year degree option to decide which field of engineering they would like to pursue, according to Dr. Jim Belcher, associate professor and department head of physics.


“For some, it will be a degree they can earn to transition into the engineering program we have here in partnership with the University of Arkansas,” Belcher said. “But it doesn’t just limit them to programs at the U of A – they could also go into our new electrical engineering technology degree program, or go out and enter the workforce. It’s a good stepping stone program for them to key them into a specific area that they find interesting.”


The programs will offer introductory engineering courses in design, physics, electrical and mechanical engineering, computer science, and mathematics to provide the key skills needed for success.  


Belcher added that the program would also improve the university’s retention and graduation rates by giving the option for an early credential transitioning to a bachelor’s degree.


For more information about the program, contact Belcher at 479-788-7968 or


Certificates in Early Childhood Education


The certificate of proficiency and technical certificate in early childhood education offer professionals working in the childcare field an additional credential that serves as an “indicator of quality,” according to Shelli Henehan, associate professor and coordinator of assessment for the School of Education at UAFS.


The 13-hour certificate of proficiency and the 26-hour technical certificate will meet the paraprofessional qualification requirements set by the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE), according to Henehan. Furthermore, both options meet the requirements for an early childhood practitioner to be on the intermediate level of the Arkansas Early Childhood Professional Development System. 


In the certificate of proficiency program, students will receive a “good working knowledge” of child development for children ages birth through five and learn theories behind early childhood education and how to write “developmentally appropriate” lesson plans. The technical certificate takes the learning a step further, teaching students of the program how to teach mathematics, science and language to early childhood students.


“The certificate of proficiency is an introduction into why we plan learning opportunities for even the youngest learner, and the technical certificate gets them more deeply into the content areas,” Henehan said.


“It all goes back to the children. Loving the children is the first step, but you need to possess knowledge of best practices as well,” Henehan continued. “That’s why we’re offering these certificates, so our candidates will be highly qualified to take care of these children and the next generation.”


The School of Education at UAFS also offers a pre-kindergarten level endorsement for teachers to add to their K-6 teacher licensure. Additionally, the school offers free, non-credit trainings in pre-kindergarten topics.


For more information about the certificates, endorsement or free trainings, contact Henehan at 479-788-7965 or


Article by John Post, Director of Public Information
Date Posted: 
Thursday, July 14, 2016
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