Micro-credential programs are surging at UB

The short-term programs, covering everything from social justice to data science, provide students with in-demand skills

Release Date: April 1, 2022

Graham L. Hammill head shot.

Graham L. Hammill

Anne Reed head shot.

Anne Reed

“Micro-credentials are a convenient and short-term option for both traditional and non-traditional students to gain skills to become leaders in the workforce without the financial and time commitments of a traditional degree program. ”
Graham Hammill, vice provost for academic affairs and dean
University at Buffalo Graduate School

BUFFALO, N.Y. – In 2018, the University at Buffalo unveiled 10 micro-credential programs.

Since then, interest in these nimble and innovative educational programs, which provide in-demand workforce skills and a more personalized higher education experience, has exploded.

There are now 78 micro-credential programs, including everything from data science and clinical pharmacy research to quality engineering and social justice. More than 3,330 students enrolled in UB micro-credentials last fall semester.

“Micro-credentials are a convenient and short-term option for both traditional and non-traditional students to gain skills to become leaders in the workforce without the financial and time commitments of a traditional degree program,” says Graham L. Hammill, vice provost for academic affairs and dean of UB’s Graduate School, which oversees UB’s micro-credential efforts. “At UB, we will continue to expand our micro-credential offerings, meeting the demand expressed by students and employers.”

Among the UB academic units embracing micro-credentials is the School of Management, which teach “soft skills” including leadership, as well as technical skills such as data modeling.

The College of Arts and Sciences offers a micro-credential in grant writing and fundraising. As part of this program students implement a fundraising event or write and submit a grant proposal for a local nonprofit of their choosing.

The School of Social Work offers micro-credentials that support students’ professional goals. For example, students that want to work with a specific population can earn a micro-credential in child advocacy, serious illness care, aging, or veteran and military family focus.

Upcoming micro-credentials include offerings from UB’s Institute for Artificial Intelligence and Data Science, as well as the Department of Geology and the Department of Environment and Sustainability, which are working with community partners to create a micro-credential that provides K–12 educators with skills for them to teach science in a community-based fashion while creating a pipeline of local students into STEM majors at UB.

Although usually shorter than programs leading to traditional credentials, micro-credentials closely align with UB’s institutional mission.

“Our approach is largely focused on raising the academic profile of our students and recognizing student learning and achievement both in and out of the classroom,” says Anne Reed, director of micro-credentials and digital badges. “And we take pride in the fact that many of our micro-credentials can be earned with no additional costs to our students.”

Micro-credentials also offer students opportunities to engage with regional employers and industry. These include on-site learning and solving problems that companies face.

“Faculty and staff members from across the university are in regular contact with local industry, and are always assessing how we can better prepare students for the workforce,” says Reed.

UB’s Experiential Learning Network, for example, offers a micro-credential that provides opportunities for students to gain career-readiness skills through mentored projects that support their academic, personal and professional goals.

Students engage with UB faculty and staff, and non-UB affiliated groups to support their research and community outreach projects.

The non-UB affiliated organizations include community based not-for-profits, K-12 institutions, and more. Local participating entities include Lighthouse Free Medical Clinic; Fresh Fix (Buffalo-based food box delivery company); Seneca-Babcock Community Association; Integrated Systems (NYS-based IT service), City of Buffalo, and the Air Force Research Laboratory, according to UB officials.

All micro-credentials are taught by UB faculty, either online or in the classroom, and some at work and job sites in partnership with of employers.

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