BANGOR — Husson University announced today that its Board of Trustees approved the creation of a new degree program for students interested in careers that specialize in the design, programming, and technology associated with virtual and augmented reality applications. Known as the Bachelor of Science in extended reality (XR), this new degree program will enroll its first class starting in the fall of 2021.

“We’ve seen an enormous amount of interest in a degree like this from high school students enrolled in our Early College Access Program (ECAP),” said Robert A. Clark, PhD, CFA, president of Husson University. “A pilot course called ‘XR 177 Augmented and Virtual Reality’ had strong enrollments. This new program puts Husson University on the leading edge of technology education.”

Research indicates that there will be significant employer demand for graduates with knowledge of extended reality. By 2026, the global market for virtual reality is expected to exceed $160 billion,[1] and this is just one component of the extended reality marketplace. Scientific American ranked spatial computing (which includes extended reality) as number four on their list of the “Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2020”[2]

Students enrolled in the new Bachelor of Science in extended reality will be working extensively in the new iEX Center. This Center will be located in the soon to be completed Harold Alfond Hall, home of Husson University’s College of Business. The iEX Center will serve as an innovation hub for the creation of interactive and immersive extended reality (XR) research and design projects. Given the current level of industry demand, the kinds of presentations developed in the Center will have practical applications for professionals working in education, entertainment, business, healthcare and a variety of other fields. A 2019 report from PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts that nearly 23.5 million jobs worldwide will be using virtual and augmented reality by 2030 for training, work meetings or to provide better customer service.[3]

“Students studying in the XR program will learn to solve real-world problems using advanced technologies,” said Marie Hansen, JD, PhD, SHRM-SCP, dean of the College of Business and New England School of Communications (NESCom). “This new degree will include augmented reality, virtual reality, three-dimensional design, spatial mapping, and spatial sound design. After graduation, they’ll be fully prepared to be hired as extended reality professionals.”

As part of this rollout, Husson University will be launching a new school to oversee the degree program. The School of Technology and Innovation in the College of Business will oversee the XR degree’s curriculum development and the capital purchases of equipment and software associated with this program. The school will also offer the already well-known Bachelor of Science in integrated technology degree. Launching at the end of the Spring 2021 semester, this new School of Technology and Innovation will join the four other schools that already comprise Husson University’s College of Business.

“There is strong evidence that industry, educational institutions, research organizations, and others will increasingly require the consultation of an extended reality professional,” said Brave Williams, the director of the iEX Center and associate professor. “We believe our students will have many exciting career opportunities that integrate three dimensional immersion and interaction into family and economic life. Our goal is to prepare professionals who will create seamless extended reality opportunities for everyone.”

“Husson University believes that we need to provide students with a high-quality education that prepares them for today’s employment opportunities along with the jobs of tomorrow – some of which haven’t even been invented yet,” said Lynne Coy-Ogan, EdD, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost. “Husson University’s hands-on, experiential learning approach is the best way to make sure our graduates are career ready on day one and for the decades to come.”

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