New Animal Studies major and Entrepreneurship minor added to Eckerd College’s academic program

October 22, 2018
Student working with Goyang the orangutan

Tia Hildebrandt ’17 working with Goyang the orangutan at ZooTampa at Lowry Park

Beginning in fall 2019, Eckerd students will have a new major and minor to consider when choosing their educational paths.

The Education Program and Policy Committee approved a proposed Bachelor of Arts in Animal Studies on September 18 and a minor in entrepreneurship on October 2. Both programs were initially proposed as part of the Eckerd College Strategic Plan in 2016.

“It’s been an amazing semester here at Eckerd College,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Suzan Harrison. “In one semester, we’ve approved a new major and new minor, and that is a sign of a really creative, really vibrant, really energetic faculty. It’s just amazing to me.”

Animal studies, elsewhere known as anthrozoology, is an interdisciplinary major that draws from the natural sciences, the social sciences and the humanities to trace the history and consequences of human relationships to animals. The major will require five new courses (Intro to Animal Studies, Animal Behavior, Animal Studies Statistical Methods, Internship in Animal Studies and a Capstone Seminar) plus a minor or double major, a science course, a humanities course, an application course and two open electives.

Professor of Psychology and Animal Studies Lauren Highfill said the new major will fill a rising demand among Eckerd students. “There has been a demonstrated interest among Eckerd students for years, particularly in the case of psychology students who would like a greater opportunity to study animals than that major currently allows, and among biology, environmental studies and marine science students who would like to focus on conservation, animal rehabilitation or careers in animal-related nonprofit organizations,” Highfill explained.

Eckerd students often gravitate toward opportunities that involve animals for Service-Learning as well as on-campus research and local internships. The campus pet policy, one of the oldest and most accommodating in the country, attracts students with varying interests who find a common bond in animals.

According to faculty research, “Animal studies scholars are also interested in thinking about how nonhuman animals have shaped human thought, culture and economic production—even our very understanding of what humanity is—since our earliest origins.”

“I do think it will help to draw students to Eckerd but also appeal to students who are already interested in Eckerd for our established strengths,” Highfill added.

With the introduction of new major-specific courses, a new faculty member will follow. The professor of animal studies will direct coursework in the major courses as well as minors.

Assistant Professor of Management Jennifer Knippen teaching a group of students

Assistant Professor of Management Jennifer Knippen (standing) specializes in strategic management

Assistant Professor of Management Jennifer Knippen has been tapped to be the coordinator for the newly approved minor in entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship.

“Eckerd’s mission to create an innovative learning experience for our students and one that challenges them to ‘think outside’ is supported by an entrepreneurship minor,” Knippen explained. “A distinguishing point of our entrepreneurship minor is that it is designed to support our liberal arts majors. Our students are encouraged to develop a depth of knowledge in their major area of interest. Then they will be tasked to think critically about the entrepreneurial opportunities they identify and the ethical, environmental and societal impacts of the decisions they make in pursuit of those opportunities.”

Building on an already robust curriculum, management professors formalized the minor this fall with the approval of a six-course minor (Cultivating an Entrepreneurship Mindset, Statistical Methods: Management and Economics, Management Information Systems, Principles of Entrepreneurship, Venture Creation and one elective) to be offered in fall 2019.

Faculty anticipate that entrepreneurship minors will come from a variety of disciplines including the arts, biological sciences and social sciences—as well as from within the management major.

“It fits beautifully for art majors who want to learn how to have an independent career,” Harrison said. “It fits beautifully for students in computer science who want to learn what to do after they’ve developed an app. And it fits beautifully for our students who want to go on to medical school, who want to open up their own practices—and not just as a single doctor but managing a full practice.”

The wide-ranging applications of the entrepreneurship minor make it an exciting addition to Eckerd’s offerings, Harrison said.