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UB adds degree programs in exercise science, public health

University at Buffalo officials anticipate attracting as many as 850 students into three new degree programs that will be offered through the School of Public Health and Health Professions beginning this August.

The State University of New York and the state Education Department have approved bachelor's degree programs in public health and in statistics, as well as a combined bachelor's degree in exercise science and master's degree in athletic training.

University officials project the new programs will nearly double the enrollment of the School of Public Health and Health Professions within four to five years. Current enrollment in the school is about 1,100 students. The school will need to hire 20 to 30 additional faculty and staff during that time, said Jean Wactawski-Wende, dean of the school. "We're hiring five new faculty right now for the coming year," she said.

The school primarily is located on UB's South Campus in buildings shared with the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. The medical school is on schedule to move in August into a new $375 million facility downtown, opening up more room for the School of Public Health and Health Professions.

"Our growth and need for expansion can be done easily within the space the School of Medicine is vacating," said Wactawski-Wende. "We were just at the right time to consider such an expansion. The stars kind of aligned to do this."

The new public health degree is expected to draw the most interest, with a projection of 400 students.

"Public health in general has just been a growing area of interest," said Wactawski-Wende. "It's a very strong major, which provides a good foundation for many different professions."

UB has not offered an undergraduate degree in statistics in nearly two decades, but growth in the job market and heavy interest in big data and analytics convinced university officials to bring back the program. About 350 students are expected to be enrolled in the statistics program.

High demand for athletic trainers also is fueling the return of an athletic training program to UB. The university phased out a previous accredited athletic training program eight to 10 years ago. The new program allows students to receive a bachelor's degree in exercise science while also working toward certification and a master's degree in athletic training. Capacity for the athletics training program will be 100 students.

UB President Satish K. Tripathi said in 2015 that the university was looking to grow its enrollment by 2,000 students by 2020. The expansion of offerings in the School of Public Health is a key component of the planned enrollment increase.

The School of Public Health spent many months researching the market to determine what academic programs were most needed and will be in most demand before applying to SUNY and the state Education Department for permission to offer them.

"The motivation was this is a set of disciplines people are really looking for," said Wactawski-Wende.

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