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Originally published October 27, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified October 27, 2007 at 2:00 AM

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Notable in the Northwest

Notable in the northwest college advisers often tell students to choose a school and not worry about picking a major right off, as most...

Special to The Seattle Times

College advisers often tell students to choose a school and not worry about picking a major right off, as most students will change their minds along the way — more than once! Students are encouraged to mull whether they would best thrive in small classes or large, a religion-based environment, or perhaps at a major research university.

But what if a graduating high-school senior already feels committed to a career path and wants to make sure a college has a strong program?

Or maybe a student wants to learn in a particular way — with foreign travel, or lots of hands-on lab work, or through community service. Then it's time to dig deeper and learn which colleges excel in your subject, and how different colleges present their programs.

We offer a list of notable undergraduate programs at four-year Northwest institutions, not as a "best of" roster but more as a sampler of unique, nationally acclaimed or otherwise outstanding regional offerings. In gathering suggestions from college experts, we tried to include a variety of fields and a range of college types, from small private to large public.

The selections are listed in alphabetical order by school:

Central Washington University, Construction Management. Part of the Industrial and Engineering Technology Department, this leading program for the construction trades offers small classes, hands-on labs and a job-placement rate of nearly 100 percent. www.cwu.edu/~iet/programs/cmgt/cmgt.html

The Evergreen State College, Student Designed Pathways. All Evergreen students, including transfers, design their own major through a "learning contract" and devise interdisciplinary study plans to earn their degree. For instance, one art student created a semester themed "The Art of the Sacred," which included courses in medieval/renaissance art history, chorale and grant-writing.

www.evergreen.edu/about/curriculumoverview.htm

Heritage University, Nursing. Heritage's nursing program offers a commitment to training Spanish-speaking and bilingual nurses, as well as the Northwest's only combined Associate of Science degree and licensed practical nurse (LPN) course. The program shortens the time needed to complete prerequisites for registered nurse (RN) training, making it easier for its students — who are primarily working, first-generation collegegoers — to move up in their nursing career.

www.heritage.edu

Pacific Lutheran University, Study Away. Lots of schools have study-abroad programs, but few are as expansive as PLU's, which in January '08 will have students on every continent. More than 400 students in every major annually travel abroad, mostly to the Pacific Rim and Southern Hemisphere, often to do service-learning projects. Some 40 percent of graduates have been overseas.

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www.plu.edu/wangcenter/about-center/home.html

Seattle Pacific University, Biology at Blakely Island Field Station. Upper-division students study marine, aquatic and terrestrial ecology, as well as oceanography and astronomy, from SPU's field station in the San Juans. Research done by faculty and students includes surveys of major island habitats and the ecology of nearby lakes, marine bays and forests.

www.spu.edu/depts/biology/

Seattle University, Science and Engineering Project Center. No ivory-tower, theoretical work here — seniors have created more than 500 science projects with real-world application in the past 20 years. Students work with more than 100 business sponsors, including Microsoft, Boeing and Siemens. Projects have included building a bridge in an impoverished region of Tibet and creating a clean, renewable energy source to power the SU Student Center.

www.seattleu.edu/scieng/engpc/

University of Oregon, Sports Marketing. Named best sports-business program by Sports Illustrated in 2002, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center was established in 1994 as the first sports-marketing program located in a business college. Prepares students for management roles in the high-stakes world of professional sports.

www.warsawcenter.com/index2.htm

University of Puget Sound, International Political Economy. Learn how the whole global puzzle works in this nationally known program. Professor Mike Veseth's "Globaloney: Unraveling the Myths of Globalization" was named one of the best business books of 2005. Offers a multidisciplinary approach to the study of history, culture and modern society.

www.ups.edu/x3029.xml

University of Washington, Comparative History of Ideas. An intellectual's dream: Students ponder the interrelation of ideas and society, with the goal of sharpening critical-thinking skills and ability to see multiple points of view.

http://depts.washington.edu/chid/index.php

Whitman College, Theater. This more-than-century-old theater program puts on eight productions a year, unusual for a small private college. Numerous professional actors appear as guest artists and teachers. There's a popular student one-act play contest, and as many as 50 percent of students involved in productions aren't theater majors, a testament to the program's broad appeal on campus.

www.whitman.edu/theatre/

Washington State University, College of Veterinary Medicine. This popular program features one of the best-equipped veterinary teaching hospitals in the world and highly regarded faculty. Known for offering extensive hands-on experience with animals.

www.vetmed.wsu.edu/aboutcvm/

Western Washington University, Vehicle Research Institute. Automobile magazine has called it "very possibly the best school in the country for total car design."

Has a concentration on alternative-energy use. Western's Hybrid Vehicle Team won a $75,000 grant in April from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with their biomethane-powered vehicle. http://vri.etec.wwu.edu/

STARTUPS WORTH A LOOK

While these new programs don't have track records yet, they're worth noting as intriguing or unusual.

Western Washington University, Emergency Management. The Northwest's first bachelor's-degree program focused on emergency planning and management kicks off this fall, with slots for 25 students. Housed at Huxley College of the Environment, the program will tackle subjects from terrorist attacks to coastal erosion.

www.wwu.edu/huxley/

Washington State University, Organic Agriculture. The first organic agriculture major in the nation when it debuted last fall. Students earn a bachelor of science in agricultural and food sciences, with a major in organic agriculture systems. For aspiring organic farmers as well as students interested in related industries such as food marketing or environmental quality.

http://academics.wsu.edu/fields/study.asp?ID=ORGAG#1645

Oregon State University, Ecological engineering. Focuses on sustainable-systems design. The Biological & Engineering Department has an established graduate program in this subject but begins offering an undergraduate degree this fall.

http://bee.oregonstate.edu/ecological_engineering.htm

Seattle University, Strategic Communications. New for fall '07, this Communications Department major will cover 21st-century public-relations topics, from reputation management to brand communication. www.seattleu.edu/artsci/csc/major.asp

Sources included: Independent college counselors Lisa Buchwalter, Judith Mackenzie and Pauline Reiter; Bruce Bailey, director of college counseling at The Lakeside School; Linda Beath, associate vice president for undergraduate studies at Central Washington University; Dick Dunn, English department chair at the UW and former Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities board member; and Randy Spaulding, director of academic affairs for the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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