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New vaccinology minor excites Fargo-Moorhead area

Officials working through the Tri-College University program have developed a new minor in order to help students find work in health and life sciences.

A vaccinology minor is now offered at Concordia College, NDSU and MSUM and gives students in life sciences and health a chance to expand their expertise. The study of vaccinology focuses on the creation of vaccines that activate antibodies in the human body to fight illness. Those participating in the program will complete 23 credits in required and elective biology and chemistry classes.

Students in the program at MSUM have an opportunity to research, work with experts in the industry and gain valuable experience that will help them in the future.

MSUM biochemistry and biotechnology student Erin Geissler, spoke at a press conference where she gave a student’s perspective on the new program. Still deciding whether to pursue graduate school or go directly into medical school, Geissler said, “No matter what, this minor will be beneficial because it is going to teach me every part of just life and how to understand stuff.”

Edna Szymanski, president of MSUM and past chair of the Tri-College Board, said the program is the first of its kind in the nation and made possible only by collaboration between institutions.

Szymanski said that it was “Something that would have been very difficult for any of us to do individually. We have been able to do this with the joined resource of our faculties and the assistance and guidance of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation.”

With a growing health industry in the Fargo-Moorhead area and the number of students majoring in these fields increasing, officials are hoping it will further inflate the job market and help the area become one of the leaders in these fields.

“It is our goal to make Fargo-Moorhead a global destination for vaccinology research by simply plugging in our own quality graduates into a emerging regional industry,” Kevin McKinnon, president of the Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, said in a summer press release.

The GFMEDC devised the new minor after completing a study powered by the number of students enrolled in health and life sciences. The GFMEDC’s aim is to bring growth and diversity to the economy in Cass County, N.D., and Clay County, Minn., by attracting people to jobs and making it possible to retain and expand jobs in the primary sector. After conducting the study, the corporation decided that adding the vaccinology major would help to achieve its mission in the fields of health and medicine.

Faculty members from each campus serve as coordinators for the vaccinology minor and teach the curriculum set forth by the Tri-College program and experts outside the universities.

“The icing on the cake is our good friends at Sanford and the Sanford Tri-College Professorship Endowment,” Szymanski said. “This allows the faculty time to concentrate on this vaccinology program the way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”

With a $150,000 endowment, Sanford Health hopes to enhance the effects of the program by funding faculty efforts. Sanford shares the GFMEDC’s mission of stimulating the growing life science fields and recognizes the need for vaccinology experts not only in the Fargo-Moorhead area but throughout the country.

To find out more information about the vaccinology minor, students can visit the MSUM or Tri-College websites or contact Mark Wallert, MSUM’s vaccinology coordinator.

BY CHELSEA WIEG
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