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WIU doctoral program to focus on river research

September 22, 2012 at 03:07 PM

McDonough County Voice

A new Ph.D. program in environmental science was approved Friday at the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees meeting.

Provost Ken Hawkinson told the board he was “excited” about the program. He also said adding the program will help give WIU a competitive edge.

“It will be unique and contribute to the sustainability of river systems in the midwest,” Hawkinson said.

Roger Viadero, director of environmental studies, described the program as a “multi-disciplinary research-based doctoral degree,” which is based around “key elements,” including WIU’s history in river-related research, key geographic location and demand from prospective students.

“We are the only state-supported university that is actually located on the river,” Viadero said, referencing WIU’s Quad Cities campus.

Hawkinson said while the program will be sustainable and the university will be able to profit from it, the doctoral program was not intended to be a “tremendous money-maker.”

“It’s main purpose is to serve our region,” he said. “And of course there will be all kinds of intangibles that come from this. The reputation of Western will be enhanced not only regionally, but nationwide.”

Susan Martinelli-Fernandez, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said meetings have been held in order to find external funding for the new program.

The Ph.D. program in environmental sciences has been in the works for about five years, Viadero said.

“They have the support,” said WIU President Jack Thomas. “We just wanted to wait until the right time to present this proposal.”

In other business, the board required little discussion before approved a proposal raising the fee for online admissions applications submitted by prospective students.

Interim Director of Admissions Andy Borst said the change increases the application fee from $25 to $30 for online applications. The increase also brings WIU more in line with other universities’ application fees.

According to Friday’s agenda, elevating the fee will affect about 2,000 applications, and the funds raised through the one-time fee ill be used to cover rising costs of undergraduate recruitment and retention.

The increase will take place immediately, Borst said. The paper application fee was unchanged and remains at $30.

Additionally, Wetzel Hall was officially removed from the university’s Auxiliary Facilities System during Friday’s meeting.

Budget Director Matt Bierman said the resolution to remove Wetzel Hall from the system is a formality, since the building was recently demolished.

“That building, by definition, is still in the Auxilary Facilities System,” Bierman said. “And it needs to come out of the system, by definition.”

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