By Curt Yeomans
Clayton State University is the second university in the nation, and the first in the Southeast, to establish a master's degree program in archival studies, an official with a national archivist group said Thursday.
The University System of Georgia's Board of Regents voted earlier this week to grant Clayton State approval to establish the new graduate-level program, which will begin in August. It is the university's seventh graduate-level program.
Its establishment at Clayton State comes only 10 months after San Jose State University, in California, started the first graduate degree in the U.S. devoted solely to archival studies, according to Solveig De Sutter, director of education for the Chicago-based Society of American Archivists.
"Typically schools offer a certificate program, or they have a degree program something like MLIS [Master of Library and Information Science], or history, and then it includes a concentration in archival studies," De Sutter said. "So, to have a pure master's program in archival studies is really exciting."
Clayton State University Spokesman John Shiffert said officials at the university were pleased to be able to add another master's program, but they are also excited about the opportunity to venture into largely uncharted territory with the program.
"It will be the only program of its type in Georgia," Shiffert said. "It's very exciting to get Board of Regents approval for this."
Shiffert, and officials at the Georgia Archives and National Archives at Atlanta, both of which sit near Clayton State's Morrow campus, said the program is just the latest step in a long history of the three institutions' work together.
"Morrow, Ga., is the only place in the nation where there is a national archives and a state archives located in the same place," Shiffert said.
National Archives at Atlanta Regional Director Jim McSweeney said the archives has worked with university officials on the school's annual Constitution Week celebration for the past three years, by providing copies of historical documents that are put on display at the school.
The university has also hired a history professor, Randy Gooden, who has an office in the Georgia Archives and participates in its Circuit Rider program, Shiffert said. The Circuit Rider program is designed to help local governments and historical societies across the state understand and organize historical documents through seminars and workshops.
McSweeney and David Carmichael, director of the Georgia Archives, said their respective facilities also employ Clayton State students who help with research and archiving of materials.
According to a copy of the executive summary presented to the Board of Regents on Clayton State's archival studies degree, the 45-semester-hour program will focus on archival studies theory and methodology, as well as practice in the administrative, legal, economic, historical, managerial and information studies areas.
Course topics will include traditional and digital preservation, introduction to electronic records, archives and technology, and materials arrangement and description of archival documents, according to the executive summary.
"Think about how many changes can take place over 500 years of hardware and software upgrades," Carmichael said. "Keeping it [a document] alive for that many years is going to take a lot of work, so we are going to need people who have learned how to do this, and have done research on how we can keep it alive for that many years."
After a student has taken all of his or her required courses, the pupil will have to either write a thesis paper, or conduct a directed research project, according to information presented to the regents.
Shiffert said the administration of the program, such as admissions, will be overseen by Clayton State's School of Graduate Studies, but the program's more detailed work, such as the offering of courses, will be handled by the university's College of Information and Mathematical Sciences.
Clayton State officials anticipate as many as 25 students will be enrolled annually in the program during its first three years, according to the executive summary for the program.
Shiffert said university Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Sharon Hoffman has applied for, and received, nearly $600,000 in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education to help fund the program. Shiffert said Hoffman was unavailable for comment Thursday.
Carmichael, and McSweeney, said their institutions will help Clayton State implement the program by providing adjunct professors and guest speakers. "We'll use our contacts among archivists to help them find the most qualified people for them to hire as professors," Carmichael said.
McSweeney said students in the archival studies program will be invited to participate in programs on archival research offered by the National Archives. They will also have full access to the materials housed by the local National Archives facility, he said.
"We have thousands, upon thousands of stories in the documents that are in our collection, and they are just waiting to be discovered and told by students and faculty members," McSweeney said.
According to the Society of American Archivists' web site, which includes a list of schools that offer some opportunity to study the field of archival studies, there are four schools in the Southeast which offer certificate programs or broader degrees where a student can choose a concentration in the field.
"Archives are embedded in these programs, but they are not predominant in them like they are in a master's degree in archival studies," De Sutter said.
In other Clayton State-related actions, the Board of Regents also gave university officials permission to establish a satellite site in Rockdale County to offer the Master of Business Administration degree. Regents also voted to approve the creation of a track in the existing Master of Science in Nursing degree for people who are already registered nurses, and to allow the university to begin offering the Bachelor of Business Administration, with a major in general business, at Clayton State's satellite campus in Peachtree City.