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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

SMC launches new graduate programs

Beginning in 2015, Saint Mary’s will offer three in-demand graduate programs that will elevate students’ professional skills and earning potentials while preparing them to make a difference in the world, as the College has since 1844.

The graduate programs are a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, a Master of Science in Data Science and a Master of Science in Speech Pathology.

College president Carol Ann Mooney said Saint Mary’s consistently works to see a need and meet it, which is why the these three graduate programs are being introduced.

According to associate director of admission for graduate programs Melissa Fruscione, the College decided to introduce graduate level programs because there is a growing need locally, regionally and nationally for individuals trained in these professions. Within the market for services provided by these professionals and employers is a high demand for well-prepared data scientists, nurse practitioners and speech pathologists.

The individual programs fit perfectly with the College's mission, but these are not the first graduate programs that have been offered by Saint Mary's, Mooney said.

“We had a graduate program, a School of Sacred Theology, in the late 40’s, 50’s and into the early 60’s that gave both Master’s and Ph.D. degrees,” Mooney said. “The School of Sacred Theology was opened because there was no advance study in theology available for women at all. Not for religious sisters, not for laywomen — so we opened it and closed it when we thought it was no longer needed because more schools opened their doors to women.”

Saint Mary's also offered a Master's degree in special education and elementary education from 1965-1969, director of media relations Gwen O'Brien said.

By comparison, the three new programs will be relatively small in size and were inspired mostly by faculty, Mooney said.

“We had faculty that were interested in starting graduate programs and had the ability to do so, and the ones that we wanted to start fit really well with our mission and what we see as the needs of society,” Mooney said.

Aligning with the College's mission, each program will incorporate the best practice, innovation and opportunities for hands-on experience, based on an integration of knowledge, leadership development and attention to service within the community, Fruscione said.

For the inaugural year of the programs, Fruscione said the College anticipates enrolling small, diverse cohorts of men and women. Already, applications from all over the country, representing many colleges and universities, have been received by the College.

“Since two of the programs are primarily online (data science and nursing), the number of graduate students on campus throughout the academic year will be small. However, both male and female graduate students will have the opportunity to fully participate in the Saint Mary’s community — athletics, dining, student activities and health services,” Fruscione said. “Additionally, women in the Master of Science in Speech Pathology program, which is on campus, may apply to live at the College.

“Academically, the speech pathology graduate students will work in the Judd Leighton Speech and Language Clinic in Madeleva Hall with the undergraduate students majoring in communicative sciences and disorders.”

Mooney said the need for the Master of Science in Speech Pathology program is huge because there are not many other sufficient training programs in the country.

Additionally, the strength of the well-established undergraduate nursing program and the need for more primary care providers were two of the deciding factors in creating a program for a Doctorate of Nursing Practice, Mooney said.

“Students in the program will receive a doctoral level degree and have the ability to analyze the situation and figure out ways to improve care,” Mooney said.

Similarly, in the field of data science, few programs are math intensive while also teaching ways of how to delve into the ethics of data, Mooney said. Therefore the Master of Science in Data Science will open doors for students wishing to gain a more complete approach to the field.

Fruscione said she anticipates that Saint Mary's undergraduates will likely apply to the graduate programs.

“[Students] may even take a class or two at the graduate level while still earning their bachelor’s degrees,” Fruscione said. “This is a great opportunity for Belles to explore graduate courses and programs.”

“[Graduate programs] we believe, will enhance the education for our undergraduates, but we’re not really seeking to become, what I think of as a university, which is a research-intensive operation,” Mooney said.