|MSU Texas explores doctoral programs, expands field of minors|
The educational needs of MSU students and graduates are constantly changing as the economy and society evolves, requiring monitoring and adjusting to meet demand. So Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs James Johnston took great pride in presenting the plan for not one but two inaugural doctoral programs at the quarterly meeting at the MSU Texas Board of Regents meeting May 9.
The doctoral programs are part of the expansion to respond to professional changes and student interest, also adding five new academic minors to the university’s degree programs in expanding career fields of education and musical theater.
Doctoral programs in radiologic sciences and educational leadership would be the first for MSU Texas as the university is currently authorized by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) and SACSCOC to offer baccalaureate and master’s level degrees only.
“With radiological science we wrote the first discipline specific master’s in the United States,” Johnston said. “We have a long history with advanced education in that field and a large alumni base. They were asking, ‘When are you going to write the first doctorate?’ No doctorate in radiologic science exists currently, we would be the first in radiologic sciences, discipline specific.”
The university selected the two programs from the three recommended by the Strategic Planning Committee because of the natural synergy and crossover in the beginning foundation courses such as organizational management and statistics and research.
“We don’t need two separate courses, all the students in those programs can take 18 hours together,” said Johnston. “Faculty in radiologic sciences and educational leadership can cooperate on teaching those courses so that we’re not duplicating efforts. This allows us to do all of this on existing resources with no added faculty over the first two years.”
A PLAN IN PLACE
There’s still a “long road” ahead, Johnston said, if the programs receive approval from the Board of Regents in August. The next step would be to submit applications to the THECB and The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Johnston believes the doctoral programs could start as soon as Spring 2021 if approved.
While the program in radiologic sciences would be the first of its kind, the program in educational leadership would be the first in the region, Johnston said. “The faculty have put a lot of work into this process. These are significant documents and proposals from both colleges.”
Johnston said he is “extremely conservative” in projecting 10 students in each program in the beginning. “We don’t want to overestimate or overpromise, but when you talk to our alumni we could end up with a waiting list,” he said.
The educational leadership program is a way to help professionals in this area and the schools districts in this area to develop home-grown leaders. “For our high schools and all public school teachers, there are not doctorate opportunities. This gives them leadership role opportunities and an investment in growing our own,” Johnston said. “If we’re not producing them then all the school districts necessarily have to go to other parts of the state to find qualified people for those leadership positions.”
NEW MINORS ON MENU
A listening ear to an industry need also has Johnston excited about four new minors through the Gordon T. and Ellen West College of Education. They are early childhood studies; educational design and learning management; instructional design technology and assessment; and teaching and learning. These will be offered for Fall 2019.
No one wants students to take classes just to fill a full-time workload, Johnston said. The goal is a more prepared student for her/his chosen profession. “We see a lot of push from the state to reduce the ‘wasted courses’ as they call them or excess hours,” Johnston said. He added that students are able to put two interests together, for example a Health Sciences student might want to teach or another in early childhood might want to run their own business. “These concentrations and minors add marketability to the student and appeal to a certain area of interest in the marketplace,” Johnston said.
Another signature minor discussed at the meeting Thursday was making musical theatre available through the Lamar D. Fain College of Fine Arts. “In public schools the arts are being squeezed out in certain areas with declining resources and teachers need to be more broadly trained,” Johnston said. The minor may also appeal to a student who has very specific area of specialization in mind such as a business major wanting to work in theater industry.
Overall, the university’s academic plan is about helping the students achieve goals, Johnston said. “When we ask students what they want to do with a particular degree, these signature minors are intended to help with whatever answer they give as they pursue that path.”
OPTIONS GIVE ONE AN EDGE
The Provost at MSU Texas since 2017 only has to look at himself, as options and a broad base were key to his success.
“I was originally trained as a radiographer but there were a lot of things built into my degrees which gave me those foundational skills that I rely on every day,” Johnston said. “It builds some of the critical thinking, problem solving, higher education and areas of emphasis that I can use now. That’s what minors and signature minors are intended for, to give that special edge to our graduates and enhanced skills through formal instruction.”