SJR Column: Graduate Education, December 2019
With the first day of January just a few days away, the time-honored tradition of making a New Year’s resolution may be on the minds of SJ-R readers. For the nearly half of Americans who make a resolution each year, self-improvement- including the decision to enhance one’s educational attainment- is among the most likely commitments.
For more and more adults who have a bachelor’s degree, that commitment results in the pursuit of a graduate credential – a master’s degree, doctoral degree or, perhaps, a graduate certificate.
According to a 2018 report published by The Hamilton Project, a program at the Brookings Institution that studies education and human capital development, “Americans with higher levels of education not only have higher wages but, for the most part, also have higher wage growth.” The graduate education experience can also build new skill sets and accelerate both professional networks and personal growth.
Today, the highest percentage ever of American adults (more than a third of the adult population) has at least a bachelor’s degree and about 13.1 percent also have an advanced degree. The trend toward increasing educational attainment is evident at UIS where this year about 37% of our students are pursing graduate work in one of more than 20 areas of study.
What are the benefits of earning a graduate credential? What are the opportunities at the University of Illinois Springfield to do so? I recently had an enlightening conversation with several graduate program leaders about who pursues a graduate degree and why it can be a valuable investment.
Among the most robust graduate programs at UIS are the master’s and doctoral programs in Public Administration. According to Professor Adam Williams, who directs the MPA, the program is one of the top five such programs in the country – with applicants not only from Illinois but also from across the United States. “State and local government are our main areas of focus,” says Dr. Williams, “and we typically have about 200 students pursuing their degree either on campus or online.”
“Our location in the state capital provides unique access to a community of public affairs scholars and practitioners,” adds Williams,
“and the master’s program as well as specialized certificates in areas such as labor relations, community planning, nonprofit management, public procurement and child advocacy are especially useful for working professionals who need to gain more knowledge for efficiency and effectiveness in their current jobs and to advance in their careers.”
The doctoral program in Public Administration (DPA) is designed to meet the needs of experienced practitioners in administrative and government positions as well as in the nonprofit community. Dr. Travis Bland serves as Director of the DPA program. “We’re on a growth trajectory,” says Bland.
“Our program is mainly for mid-to-higher level professionals who are interested in social change and solving complex problems – individuals who need a higher level of analytical skills in order to be successful in their current career and move that next step down the road.”
“We are talking about, studying and analyzing issues such as poverty, unemployment, budgeting, public finance, infrastructure, and higher education,” adds Bland. “With the expertise of our faculty and with the backgrounds our students bring, it’s a really neat learning environment.”
Som Bhattacharya, Dean of the College of Business and Management, is fond of saying he came to UIS from Florida almost a year ago for two reasons. He wanted to live where he could experience all four seasons and, more importantly for this discussion, he saw a “lot of potential in the College of Business and Management.”
Building on the college’s prestigious AACSB accreditation, the Dean has worked with business college faculty this year to re-imagine current graduate programs in Business Administration, Management Information Systems and Finance as well as to develop a graduate program in Human Resource Management.
“For students coming to our MBA program with professional experience,” says Dean Bhattacharya, “we no longer require the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) – which has ceased to be a good predictor of success in MBA programs. We are also creating graduate micro-credential programs in areas like data-analytics, cyber-security and negotiations to better serve local and regional employers.”
Dr. Christie Magoulias, Chair of the UIS Educational Leadership Department, brings years of experience in K-12 schools to her current leadership role. The department offers graduate degrees in Education and Educational Leadership as well as several endorsements and certificates that enable educators to expand their credentials and enhance opportunities for career advancement.
“With current shortages of highly-qualified K-12 teachers, principals, and superintendents in Illinois,” says Magoulias, “our programs must be timely and accessible for both on-ground and online students—many of whom are working full time.”
“Educational leadership is more than administration,” she adds, “and our graduate programs enable educators (and aspiring educators) to add to their qualifications at the same time they create a new path toward leadership in the K-12 schools.”
According to research on human behavior, a New Year’s resolution (with commitment behind it) can present a real opportunity for self-improvement. With so many options available at UIS, earning a graduate credential presents a prospect for self-improvement that is a valuable investment. The UIS website is a great place to start: http://www.uis.edu/graduateeducation.
And as Lincoln said, “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other.”
Susan J. Koch is Chancellor at the University of Illinois Springfield