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Saint Mary’s receives grant to initiate graduate program

| Thursday, January 23, 2014

Saint Mary’s College plans to institute a new graduate degree program offering a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) beginning in the fall of 2015 or 2016 due to a $1 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc.

Saint Mary’s was one of 39 institutions that received a total of $62.7 million dollars to enhance career opportunities for college graduates.

“For more than a decade … the Endowment has awarded grants to Indiana colleges and universities to pursue activities that improve the job prospects of college graduates in the state,” Lilly Endowment’s Dec. 5press release said.

The PSM website, sciencemasters.com, defined the program as “an innovative, new graduate degree designed to allow students to pursue advanced training in science or mathematics, while simultaneously developing workplace skills highly valued by employers.”

Steven Broad, assistant professor of Mathematics and Computer Science, said local Indiana partnerships are a major component of Lilly Endowment’s goals for the grant.

“This is certainly a focus for our development of the program,” Broad said. “We are working to identify a range of Indiana business, non-profit and education partners.”

Broad said this type of program is not a new topic on the College’s agenda.

“The idea of developing a PSM degree has been floating around for a couple years now, but it was only at the beginning of Fall 2012 that we landed on the idea of a program related to data analysis,” he said.

A detailed budget for the development of the program was laid out in the grant application, Broad said, which included funding for a new faculty position at Saint Mary’s.

Patricia Fleming, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said professors from the Mathematics and Computer Science department would primarily teach the courses. However, the master’s program has several substantial differences from the traditional Saint Mary’s undergraduate education.

“Most of the courses … will be offered online,” Fleming said. “This degree will be a hybrid degree, where students will come to campus at certain intervals. At this point, our planning would allow for cohorts of 15 students, but we will scale the program up given adequate demand and resources.”

Another significant distinction is the inclusion of both female and male students in the graduate program. While Fleming said Saint Mary’s is happy to make the program coed, she said the decision was not made by the College.

“When a single-gendered institution offers graduate programs, they must admit men,” Fleming said.

She said the majority of online courses and interval campus attendance combine to remove the difficulty of housing on the residential, all-women’s campus.

“If [the on-campus intervals are] primarily during the summer, we may have options on campus or locally for housing the students who pursue this degree,” Fleming said. “[H]ousing options will not present any problem for us.”

The focus of the PSM program differs from past graduate programs offered at Saint Mary’s. The PSM degree will be much more technical and professionally oriented, Fleming said.

“Saint Mary’s offered an STD — Doctorate in Sacred Theology — [and received] permission from the Higher Learning Commission to offer a graduate degree in Education, Fleming said.

According to the College’s Dec. 12 press release, the last graduate program ended in 1969. Fleming said Saint Mary’s is still able to offer graduate credit toward a graduate degree but not toward a degree itself, until establishment of the PSM program is complete.

Many aspects of the program are in development, Broad said. The Saint Mary’s press release cites projected open dates for an inaugural class in the fall of 2015 or 2016.

“Partnering with businesses, specifically Indiana businesses, was a goal of the Lilly grant,” Broad said. “We have some strong relationships and several that are developing, and of course we are identifying potential partners with the kind of data needs relevant to the program for new relationships.”

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About Tabitha Ricketts

As of this summer (2013), I hail from Clarkston, Michigan. I am a junior in the Saint Mary's College dual-degree engineering program, pursuing a degree in English Writing from Saint Mary's and Computer Science from the University of Notre Dame. I have written for the Saint Mary's News department of the Observer since my freshman year, and began working for Viewpoint last spring.

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