Zane State offers first ever bachelor’s degree

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By Christine Holmes, News Director

For the first time in the educational institution’s 50 year history, Zane State College is offering a bachelor’s degree program.

Students currently studying electrical engineering technology or those in the field with a qualified associate degree can now transition into a bachelor program in Applied Science in Electrical Engineering Technology (BSET).

“They’ll be able to finish this bachelor’s degree in two years or less,” said President of Zane State College Chad Brown. “We also offer the bachelor’s degree courses at our same tuition rate.”

The program is the direct result of market demand for workers trained to problem solve in a technologically advanced electrical field.

Brown said conversations began in March 2018 between American Electric Power and Zane State College regarding workforce challenges.

“What they’ve really described is a huge void related to the workforce being ready to go out and service, as well as troubleshoot, as well as even installing new equipment in those facilities given the smart grid technology,” said Brown.

Before the major could be offered to students, Zane State College had to present its case before the Ohio Department of Higher Education in order to establish the need for such courses.

During that hearing, several industry representatives testified on behalf of the proposed program, with 20 additional letters of support penned by various energy-related companies submitted.

More than 40 applications were submitted and just nine were approved between seven higher education institutions.

In addition to testimony on behalf of proposed programs, competitors opposing applications had the opportunity to explain why the need was already met through existing programs.

“Actually, we were the only proposal that the university system didn’t have some kind of comments about. All the other ones, they gave testimony why they shouldn’t be allowed to do it or why they’re already meeting the need,” said Brown. “Everybody agreed this is a need that’s not being met. Ultimately, this is truly a first of its kind program not only in the state of Ohio but in the United States.”

Brown described the program as a hybrid that marries the management of electric transmission with communication systems.

“It’s really a skill set that crosses multiple industries, so we’re really excited to be offering it,” said Brown. “I think it builds on what we do in the future.”

Those who graduate from the BSET program will be eligible for the following careers:

  • Protection and control technologist
  • Station electrician
  • Meter electrician
  • Protection and control technician
  • Generation dispatcher
  • Transmission dispatcher
  • Distribution dispatcher
  • Scheduler
  • Construction manager
  • Telecommunications technician
  • SCADA technician
  • Transmission and distribution planner service representative
  • Principal designer
  • Instrument and control technician

The program is led by Jim Davis, who helped design the courses and has been a professor at Zane State for 35 years.

New to the faculty is Colleen Konsavage, a former AEP employee with a master’s degree in nuclear engineering.

Further encouraging students to apply to the program, Brown noted Zane State College’s graduation rate that is significantly higher than competing schools.

According to Brown, 54 percent of students graduate from Zane State, which is three times higher than the state average graduation rate of 17 percent.

To Brown, that level of success is a mission of his for the college.

“It has been my primary objective since I was here as president. Even when I was here as provost, it was one thing that we focused a lot on,” said Brown. “Once I sat in this seat, I told the campus our goal is to have a laser-like focus on student success and graduation. And I think it’s just a part of who we are and what we do.”

Brown said if the college doesn’t do everything it can to help a student be successful, then it has done a disservice to that person.

“So whether it’s the graduation rate, whether it’s this four-year baccalaureate degree, we want to be, at Zane State College, a contributor to the community, a catalyst for economic development, and ultimately that comes by students first,” said Brown. “We can never forget who our customers are and what we’re trying to achieve.”

To Brown, selling education comes with more responsibility than the typical business selling a product.

“We’re selling them an opportunity to transform themselves and change their lives,” said Brown. “And because it’s an expensive prospect, and because there’s debt that most of them take on, there’s significant risk with that, and I think we have a different level of obligation than if we were just selling them a car or selling them some other product.”