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UNG gets approval for East Asian studies and healthcare informatics degrees

East Asian studies
More than a decade of planning and hiring at UNG laid the groundwork for the new bachelor's degree in East Asian studies.

The University of North Georgia will soon begin offering bachelor's degrees in East Asian studies and healthcare services and informatics administration.

The University System of Georgia Board of Regents approved the new degrees at its Aug. 14 meeting.

More than a decade of strategic planning and hiring led to the degree program in East Asian studies, which will begin in spring 2019.

Students in this major will have a concentration in either Chinese, Japanese or Korean studies. Dr. Sung Shin Kim, director of East Asian studies at UNG, said the degree program will be the only one of its kind in Georgia and one of just a few in the Southeast.

Georgia State University and Kennesaw State University have Asian studies, without the coherent focus on East Asia as a region UNG will provide. The University of Georgia and Augusta University only offer a certificate in Asian studies.

While China and Japan are considered larger players economically and politically, Kim said giving the Korean concentration equal weight will help UNG's East Asian studies degree stand out.

The healthcare services and informatics administration degree seeks to bridge the gap between medical and information technology (IT) professionals, said Dr. Pamela Charney, a UNG associate professor who will be the department head for the new degree.

"Right now both sides speak entirely different languages, and that's why we have so many problems with health care information," Charney said.

The degree will be offered through a mix of in-person and online classes and will be based on UNG's Cumming Campus potentially by spring 2019.

It will meet a major workforce need, as O*Net previously indicated there would be 100,000 openings for such workers between 2014 and 2024. O*Net is an online occupation database powered by the national Department of Labor.

UNG already offers a major in Chinese language and minors in Korean and Japanese. Dr. Christopher Jespersen, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, noted the faculty for the new East Asian studies degree and most of the courses are already in place.

The major in East Asian studies will require students to study abroad during at least one summer, while being encouraged to go for a semester or year if possible.

"The experience in East Asia itself is really important," Kim said. "It's not only about the language training, but also the cultural learning they can do.”

ROTC Chinese Language Flagship, Project Global Officer (Project GO), and the Japan Foundation have all awarded grants that have bolstered UNG's language and study abroad efforts in East Asia. The Chinese Language Flagship allows students to study the language for four years at UNG, then have a capstone year abroad. Project GO is a "collaborative initiative to improve language skills, regional expertise and intercultural communication skills of future military officers."

Students are also able to apply for Benjamin A. Gilman and Freeman-ASIA scholarships to fund study abroad opportunities.

More than 100 students are signed up for UNG's Japanese classes, Kim said. A $400,000 grant in 2016 from the Japan Foundation got a Japanese studies concentration off the ground. Jespersen said that was the final piece needed to offer the bachelor's degree in East Asian studies.

Kim and her fellow colleagues in East Asian studies have been putting the word out about a bachelor's degree she said was spurred in part by student demand, as have been all of the language programs at UNG.

"East Asia is interesting and important," Kim said. "And it's a wise investment if students want to do something international in their future."

With UNG already featuring a strong international flavor, this program "is just another step in that direction," Jespersen said.

Three classes that will be central to what students take from the healthcare services and informatics administration degree will be electronic health records essentials, usability and healthcare data analytics.

"The students will see the programs doctors, nurses and other health professionals are using and work with IT professionals to address roadblocks the medical providers are experiencing when it comes to medical records," said Dr. Teresa Conner-Kerr, dean of the College of Health Sciences and Professions.

Another vital component of the program will teach students how to protect patients' health information in an era where health information has become more valuable than financial information, Charney said. She said stolen health information can be used for Medicare fraud or to access the person's health insurance.

UNG currently has certificate programs in health informatics and health care administration, which will become part of the bachelor's degree. This will allow the students pursuing the certificates to further their education.

The Regional Education and Economic Development (REED) Summit, set for Sept. 6 at the Convocation Center on UNG's Dahlonega Campus, seeks to connect prospective and current college students who want to work in the healthcare industry with the wide array of career opportunities in that field and exposing them to educational pathways and industry professionals.

Healthcare informatics
The healthcare service and informatics bachelor's degree at UNG will help bridge the gap between medical professionals' needs for electronic health records and the information technology professionals making the technology.


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