Graduate programs on the horizon

By Jasmine Driggs

Virginia Wesleyan College is taking steps toward offering continuing education options by announcing the creation and institution of graduate programs which are scheduled to be available by fall 2016.

“We are pushing to have it [the program] by fall 2016, but it depends on SACS (the regional accreditation group). They have to approve all substantive changes to the college,” Chair of the Business Department Dr. Paul Ewell said.

The college is hoping to offer a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) graduate program and a Masters of Arts in Education (MAEd) in secondary education program which will be offered for business and education candidates. The MBA program will be taught completely online.

“This is what graduate students want nowadays,” Ewell said.

The MAEd program will be taught in a classroom setting.

According to Dr. Malcolm Lively, director of teacher education, the proposed MBA and MAEd programs will be presented to the college at the same time and well as presented to SACS at the same time.

Approval for the MAEd program will go to the board at VWC for approval, then to the state. From the state, it will go to the Virginia Department of Education for approval and the final approval will come from the Virginia Board of Education.

The new MAEd curriculum will only require an extra year of schooling for education candidates. Lively said it will be a four-plus-one program or a five-year program. This program is the initial licensure track for teachers. It is the first license that one receives as a teacher.

“This program will give our students an extra year in school that results in them having the degree and will give them a leg up on being hired and being hired with a higher paying salary,” Lively said.

This degree will be primarily for Virginia Wesleyan Students, but does not preclude students from other colleges from coming here as long as they meet the endorsement requirements.

Some students who are interested in graduate school said they are excited about the programs coming to the college and believe that they will offer great opportunities.

“I have already decided to go back up north for my graduate program. However, if I was from around here and knew I wanted to stay and teach here, I would definitely apply here because I know all the professors involved in the education program are fantastic at what they do,” Tiffani Gregory, junior elementary education major, said.

O’Rourke said the MBA graduate program would be roughly an 18-month program.

According to Dr. Ewell, the target audience for this program is comprised of current Virginia Wesleyan College students as well as students from other places. Ewell said many of VWC’s business students expressed interest in staying at VWC for their continuing education.

Lively said the college has been thinking about these programs for a long time and the direction to start the proposal came from the board and the president of the college.

“We are excited about this because it allows us to have a more creative and innovative program. We have been receiving input from stakeholders from partner schools and outside public elementary school systems,” Lively said.

If these programs are successful, the college is planning to expand the types of degrees offered.

“We have certainly thought about other programs. We are moving prudently. We are doing now what we have the resources to do. It is a walk before you run concept,” O’Rourke said.

Dean O’Rourke also said the business department’s faculty is qualified to teach online and to teach the courses required for the program. He said it is important to bring a program to the college that will help education students complete their requirements because it has been hard for them to complete it within four years.

The funding for the graduate programs is not yet determined.

“I think the short answer is, we are working on that,” O’Rourke said.

Gregory recognizes the fact these programs are not geared toward everyone, but said she feels it is a great first step for the college.

“I am sure that students in other majors will feel left out, but this is a step in the right direction. I am sure if these programs start out on the right foot and do well for the school, they will think about widening their horizons and adding more programs to their graduate programs,” Gregory said.

Students said they have mixed feelings about the programs being strictly online. Victory said he would prefer the program offer some classes on site because the graduate school setting would be a different environment, and one he would have to adjust to.

Gregory said a lot of graduate students work while taking graduate courses and many may not have the time to sit in a classroom setting to take the required classes.

“I think having the program online will bring more to the college, more students, exposure, and benefits,” Gregory said.