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CSU graduate studies program exceeding expectations

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Three years ago, Clayton State University's ambitions of having graduate-degree programs only existed on paper when the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved the Master's of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) degree.

It was the university's first graduate degree, and the first 18 students enrolled in the program during the 2006-07 school year. A year later, master's degrees in business administration, health care administration, and nursing were added, and Clayton State's School of Graduate Studies was established.

Three years since the first master's-level program, the university now has 154 graduate students in four degree programs. The Board of Regents also recently approved the creation of two master's degrees in teaching, one for English, and another for mathematics.

"They [the programs] have exceeded our expectations, so far, in terms of the quality of students we've attracted and the growth of the programs," said Tom Eaves, associate provost and head of the School of Graduate Studies. "We knew it [graduate studies at Clayton State] would grow rapidly, but we did not expect it to grow this fast.

"We'll begin to slow down at some point, though, because you can't grow like that forever," Eaves added. However, the signs indicate growth in Clayton State's graduate programs is not slowing down. Not yet, at least. Proposals for three more graduate-degree programs are currently being put together. They should be ready for presentation to the regents within the next year and a half, said Eaves.

One proposal for a master's degree in psychology is almost ready to go to the regents for approval. A degree in archival studies, which would be the first of its kind in the Southeast, is about six months away from being presented for approval. Eaves declined to discuss the specifics about the third degree -- including what field would be covered by the program.

If all three degrees are approved, Clayton State would have nine graduate programs when the 2010-11 school year begins. University officials hope the graduate students will make up 10 percent (roughly 600 pupils) of Clayton State's overall student population by 2011.

The university has also set up a strict rule for graduate admissions. A prospective student must earn a minimum score of a 950 on the Graduate Records Examination (GRE), where the maximum score is a 1600. Clayton State's School of Graduate Studies will hold an informational Open House for the four existing master's programs on Tuesday, Nov. 11, from 5:30 p.m., to 7 p.m., in room 201 of the Harry S. Downs Center for Continuing Education, which is on the university's Morrow campus.

Here is a look at how each program is doing, so far:

Master's of Arts in Liberal Studies

The oldest of Clayton State's graduate programs will see its first students graduate during this school year, but the program is "booming," according to Wendy Burns-Ardolino, the director of the MALS program. There are currently 25 students in the program, which is undergoing continuous developing. There is room to accommodate as many as 60 students at any given time. "We just added some more history classes, and we're in the process of adding a political science emphasis," said Burns-Ardolino. "We're adding new curriculum at a rapid pace."

Master's of Business Administration

Since it was introduced last year, Clayton State's MBA program has caught on like wildfire with residents of the Southern Crescent. Students participate in the program in cohorts of roughly 25 pupils. The cohorts are offered at Clayton State's Morrow and Peachtree City campuses.

However, officials knew from the outset the MBA program was going to be popular. There are already 92 MBA students, taking classes in four different cohorts.

"For the first cohort, we were just hoping 25 people would be interested," said Michael Deis, the director of the MBA program. "Well, we ended up having 78 people apply. Of those 78, 42 were accepted and 35 enrolled in the program. Of those original 35, 31 are still with cohort 1 and the other 4 moved back to cohort 2."

Deis said the program is popular because it is designed to work around the schedules of working professionals. "The courses meet every other Saturday, which we find is the best time for most people, especially working professionals, to attend classes," he said. About 30 MBA students are expected to graduate from the university in May 2009, said Deis.

Master's of Science in Nursing

The Master's of Science in Nursing (MSN) program has more than doubled in size in its second year of existence. The MSN program is a hybrid program, which combines online course work with three traditional, in-person class meetings per semester.

It began with seven students in the fall of 2007, and now has 16. About three students could graduate with MSN degrees next summer, said Katherine Willock, the director of the MSN program. Willock was hired over the summer to lead the program. She comes from Purdue University, where she was the director of that school's graduate program in nursing. Willock's duty is to develop the program and facilitate its growth, she said. Her goal right now is to get the program to meet its full potential. The next big step for the MSN program is to obtain accreditation from the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), which will send a review team to the university on Nov. 5-7, to evaluate the program.

Master's of Health Administration

The Master's of Health Administration (MHA) program also began in August 2007, and has already doubled in size. It began with 14 students last year, and there are now 28, with another four students admitted for the spring semester. It is also the most extensive program, and the longest to complete, according to Eaves. MHA students have to take 45 semester hours, including six hours of thesis work, to graduate from the program. It takes at least three years to complete the MHA program, Eaves said. The program prepares students to work in short-term, or long-term health care management.

The goal of university officials is to have about 30 students enrolled in the program at any given time. "I was a little disappointed that we got out to a slower start with this program, but I've been very pleased with the growth we've seen from the summer to the fall," said Eaves.

Eaves does not expect the MHA program to have any students who are ready for graduation before 2010. He also said the program is about two years away from being ready for university officials to apply for any regional, national or international accreditation because more faculty and staff need to be hired.