Update on Graduate Programs
June 10, 2008 -- The Teacher Education Program (TEP) may be the first to offer courses in Western’s new era of graduate studies.
TEP has submitted a proposal and classes could begin as early as the fall of 2009.
Western was granted authority to offer graduate degree programs in March of 2007. House Rep. Kathleen Curry originally drafted the bill, and Senator Gail Schwartz carried the bill in the Senate. Governor Ritter came to Western to sign the bill, the first bill signing he did outside the Capitol.
The newly formed Graduate Studies Council (GSC) has been meeting regularly and has approved the proposal from TEP. Allen Stork, professor of geology is the chair of the GSC. Administratively Terri Wenzlaff, associate vice president for academic affairs, has led the college’s effort in establishing and developing graduate programs.
The logistics and process of getting the graduate program underway is extensive. When a proposed program receives a positive recommendation from the GSC, it needs to then pass a review by the Curriculum Committee, the Faculty Senate, the administration, and the Board of Trustees. Then the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association needs to accredit the curriculum. John Sowell, vice president of academic affairs, describes Western’s actions to date as “very methodical and careful.”
“This has been a very productive year. The faculty has been busy developing the policies and procedures needed to administer graduate programs,” Sowell said.
Graduate programs go back far into Western’s history, all the way back to 1923. In 1988-89, one year before graduate studies at Western were discontinued, the college awarded 158 masters degrees. Currently graduate studies courses are offered at Western during the summer through the Extended Studies program, but they are “brokered” through institutions such as Adams State College. This sends money out of campus that could stay at Western.
Sowell says that the financial aspect is just one of many benefits. “This can be a professional opportunity for our faculty. It will also help us meet the educational and workforce of people in the region.” He adds, “By taking ownership of these programs we will be better able to monitor program quality and ensure the educational experience is meeting the needs of students.”
Sowell mentions that the graduate studies at Western will be, “modest in scope, and that it won’t detract from the experience of an undergraduate students, but rather compliment it. The proposed Master's of Arts in Education program would bring graduate students to campus during the summer. During the school year they would be gaining practical experience in the schools and interacting with Western's faculty from a distance through on-line courses and out-of-class interactions."
President Jay Helman notes that, “the TEP program has been the driving force for Western to once again offer graduate programs.”
The prospect of the return has been met with excitement by the community. At the bill signing ceremony in March more than three hundred people attended and offered the governor a standing ovation.
When graduate courses are finally available by Western they will continue to be offered through the college's Extended Studies program.
Story by: Luke Mehall, assistant director of public relations