New Offerings Give Students BIGGER Opportunities

Three new majors in Chinese, health studies, and neurosciences help expand the University’s global reach, increase the number of interdisciplinary programs, and respond to today’s marketplace.

Health Studies

While some colleges and universities offer a health studies major that combines two or three disciplines, such as health policy and business, URI’s new health major brings together 28 departments across all eight colleges and the expertise of 130 faculty members.

This fall, the health studies major will begin to prepare a generation of students to succeed in non-clinical health careers.

“This is a prototype for developing interdisciplinary programs on campus,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald H. DeHayes. “The Health Studies major offers an exciting new way for students to learn varied perspectives on health and prepare for careers that will make a difference in people’s lives. ”

Health care is one of the fastest growing industries nationally and globally, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that certain professions, such as health educator, epidemiologist, and health administrator, will grow even faster. The Bureau reported that health care will generate 3.2 million new jobs between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry.

Mandarin Chinese

Students can now earn a B.A. in Chinese to give them the language and cultural skills to compete. URI encourages students to combine a second major with Chinese, a combination that propels graduates of the program to even broader international career opportunities.

The popularity of Chinese has skyrocketed. In the fall of 2004, thanks to student and faculty demand, URI offered its first classes in Mandarin. Thirty students enrolled. By the fall of 2010, 150 students had enrolled.

About 23 percent of students taking Chinese are enrolled in URI’s International Engineering Program (URI educates more bilingual engineers than any other university in the country). The program leads students simultaneously to two degrees: a B.S. in engineering and a B.A. in German, French, Spanish, or Chinese.

About 33 percent of the students taking Chinese are enrolled in the International Business Program. Modeled after the International Engineering Program, the business program provides the opportunity to earn simultaneous degrees: a B.S. in business administration with a major in one of the seven business disciplines and a B.A. in German, Spanish, French, or Chinese.

In both programs, students travel abroad, taking language, culture, and engineering or business courses in the host language. In the second semester they intern abroad with a leading firm.

The remaining 44 percent studying Chinese come from a variety of disciplines.


URI has joined the quest to understand the brain by launching graduate programs in the neurosciences. A new interdisciplinary neurosciences program offers M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in the neurosciences with the goal of educating scientists and professors who can contribute to private and public sector research.

The potential growth in the development of the $10 billion-a-year neuro-device industry is expected to increase 22 percent annually.

“We have built a network of 15 departments at URI in which people are focusing on the neurosciences. We have many talented researchers in more than eight different disciplines working in this field,” said Graduate School Dean Nasser Zawia.

The program will produce researchers able to focus on some of the most debilitating brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.