Virginia Union University Relaunches their Physics Department
By Eileen Smith, M.Ed.,
Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Today’s colleges and universities face unprecedented budget cuts and retention concerns, forcing them to find ways to make up the difference. The result? An increasing number of institutions are cutting majors that once comprised core disciplines.
Our friends at Virginia Union University (VUU) are trying a different tack. A few weeks ago, while at the Council of Independent Colleges’ (CIC) 2017 Presidents Institute, I had the pleasure of dining with VUU’s outgoing President, Dr. Claude Perkins; his wife Cheryl; and Scott Jaschik, Editor in Chief of Inside Higher Ed. While discussing “trends on campus,” Dr. Perkins mentioned that VUU is bucking national trend and bringing back the Physics department and accompanying Physics major. As schools make the move to more lucrative majors, such as Computer Science, VUU is finding innovation in tradition.
“Physics is the basis of all sciences,” explained Virginia Union Physics professor Shaheen Islam. “That’s why so many departments do service courses for chemistry majors, or teach physics for math or biology.” Professor Islam was awarded a $100,000 National Science Foundation grant, which, coupled with $700,000 in funds from the university, will enable the physics department to reopen.
According to an Inside Higher Ed report, the nation’s “number of physics majors has actually doubled in the last 15 years, but the net number of departments has declined slightly.” This number counters the presupposition that the number of physics majors has been dwindling, as would-be physics students forego this field for a more lucrative, marketable degree.
“Offering hard science courses, majors, and requirements is an indispensable part of the liberal arts core,” said American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) president, Michael Poliakoff. “Like the space race of the 1960s, at this moment in history, American higher education can ill afford to shortchange students of opportunities in rigorous [science, technology, engineering and math] disciplines such as physics, college-level mathematics, and other courses that train students in the empirical methods of science.”
I couldn’t agree more.