Madeline Ramos and Louis Sanville made history this month when they became the University System of Georgia’s first nexus degree graduates.
Ramos and Sanville completed the 60 credit hours required to graduate from Columbus State University with nexus degrees in film production.
Columbus became the first of the system’s 26 colleges and universities to offer the nexus degree when the Board of Regents approved the new program two years ago.
The nexus is the first type of degree created in America since the associate’s degree came into being in the 1890s.
“A lot has changed in 100 years. We need to create a new degree for a new time,” said Tristan Denley, the university system’s executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.
“The days when people would come here, get some education and go off to work, those days are over. People will have 10 to a dozen careers in their lifetime. … The nexus degree brings all that together, a new kind of degree for a new time.”
The nexus degree grew out of the College 2025 program system Chancellor Steve Wrigley introduced in 2017 to better tailor course offerings to Georgia’s 21st century workforce needs.
Film production, one of the state’s fastest growing industries, fit in well with the nexus degree program’s goals. Film was among the careers then-Gov. Nathan Deal singled out when he created an initiative offering full tuition coverage to students majoring in certain fields.
“Governor Deal recognized there were careers in high demand and not enough people with qualifications to be able to be successful,” Denley said. “Many of the nexus degrees created over the last year or so have been along those lines.”
Thus far, the university system has developed eight nexus degree programs. Columbus State features three, not only film production but financial technology and cybersecurity – offered as a combined degree – and public safety.
Two nexus degrees – blockchain with machine learning, a subset of artificial intelligence, and blockchain with data analytics – are offered at Albany State University.
Georgia Gwinnett College offers a nexus degree in soundstage production, Clayton State University in nonprofit and governmental accounting and Georgia Highlands College in the logistics of financial technology.
A nexus degree requires 60 hours of coursework, the same as an associate’s degree, including 42 hours of general education and 18 hours focusing on the specific area of study. Those 18 hours are further divided into 12 hours of upper division coursework and at least six hours of experiential learning such as an internship.
“It’s a completely standalone credential,” Denley said. “There may well be a student who already has a degree. They may want to come back for that additional 18 hours because they’ve already satisfied the general education requirement. We’re certainly seeing students do that.”
Ramos, 23, a native of Texas, spent two years at other colleges before transferring to Columbus State for her final two years plus an extra semester.
“It was convenient,” she said. “One of the classes I was taking aligned with the degree program. It was kind of an add-on.”
In completing the nexus degree requirements, Ramos was able to gain hands-on experience in the camera department of a film production.
“I worked on a film set in different departments so I could figure out exactly what I liked to do,” she said. “Through that, I was able to talk to professionals [and] keep in touch.”
Ramos said she doesn’t have a job lined up yet, with the film industry being slowed by the coronavirus pandemic. But she said there are enough job prospects out there for her to want to remain here.
“I plan on staying in Georgia with the film opportunities,” she said.
Denley said Georgia is the only state in the country offering nexus degrees. But that may not be the case for long.
“When something’s new, others are watching us to see how it unfolds,” he said.