Miami Hamilton grad becomes first to earn this four-year degree

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Miami University Hamilton's compact campus reveals open space and river nearby

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Saige Sparks is walking away from the Miami University Hamilton campus with a diploma and her status forever secure as the school’s first earner of a four-year biology degree.

Not bad for a 22-year-old who is also a pioneer of sorts for the Miami regional campus, which in recent years has greatly expanded its two-year associate degree programs to include four-year undergraduate diplomas.

Recent Miami University graduate Saige Sparks made history when she was handed her diploma. Sparks is the first recipient of a four-year undergraduate degree in applied biology granted by Miami University Hamilton regional campus. Miami’s regional campuses have been expanding their four-year degree offerings in recent years. (Provided Photo/Journal-News)

“It’s kind of cool,” said Sparks just graduated with her applied biology degree.

“All my professors were excited for me,” said Sparks, who lives in Oxford by took her classes at Miami’s Hamilton campus. “I found out last fall I had a chance to be the first to graduate with a four-year applied biology degree.

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She hopes to get a job at the Cincinnati Zoo. Her love the environmental sciences started early, she said.

“When I was young I always watched Animal Planet (TV channel) rather than cartoons,” said Sparks.

One of her professors said she is fine example of an increasingly growing part of the student enrollment at Miami’s regional campuses.

“As the first graduate in applied biology at Miami University, Saige symbolizes the future of undergraduate education, having completed a program that combines solid academic preparation in biology with tools needed to immediately join the workforce,” said Professor of Biology David Berg.

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“Previously, students were required to relocate to the Miami Oxford campus to earn degrees in biology and other science disciplines. Our students can now complete the Bachelor of Science degree in applied biology entirely on the regional campuses,” said Berg, adding students can also “pursue their passions for biology while gaining additional tools and professional certifications that are highly sought by employers.”

Miami University also has a regional campus in Middletown and a learning center in West Chester Township.

All of Miami’s other campuses are thriving as their academic degree offerings expand, said school officials.

“In the last 10 years Miami University Regionals have grown from three bachelor’s degrees to now offering 19 bachelor’s degrees,” said Ellen Paxton, senior regional director of communications.

She said “the increased number of bachelor’s degrees allows students greater opportunity to stay in Hamilton, Middletown and the Butler County area after they graduate, and they meet and exceed local workforce needs.”

“This growth has been a direct response to student, business and community needs. Student feedback for years has indicated they want to come to Miami Regionals to earn a bachelor’s degree they can complete without transferring to other universities. Students like the smaller classes and our student-centered faculty,” said Paxton.

Sparks echoed those impressions.

“Classes are smaller and cheaper and that’s a big win,” she said.

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