Re-imagining what graduate education means to a 21st-century workforce

Re-imagining what graduate education means to a 21st-century workforce

As the marketplace changes and the workforce becomes increasingly competitive, more and more people are discovering a bachelor's degree is no longer enough—an advanced degree is necessary for moving ahead in their current career, or switching fields altogether.

For many of these individuals, though, a traditional master's degree program is not the best fit as it requires full-time enrollment and is often crafted as a stepping stone to a career in research or academia. To meet this rising demand, the College, like increasing numbers of colleges and universities, is offering a new type of graduate degree: the professional master's degree, featuring applied studies and a flexible curriculum.

"We partner with other colleges on campus to tailor degrees to the needs of the students," says Bob Stine, associate dean and director of degree and credit programs. "And we continue to offer more online, evening, blended, and weekend classes to help students work around busy schedules."

The degrees include the Master of Professional Studies in Arts and Cultural LeadershipIntegrated Behavioral HealthHorticulture, and the Master of Biological Science (MBS). The latter two had existed as traditional master's programs in their respective colleges, but were moved to the College of Continuing Education and redesigned as professional master's programs in 2010.

"Their previous home colleges didn't want to do their students a disservice by trying to make them fit into a more traditional graduate program, says Stine. "The individuals in these degrees are primarily adults looking for a more flexible, interdisciplinary program that fits their careers—and their schedules."

Tom Michaels, faculty director for the horticulture master's degree, agrees. "Most of our current students have a job or other vocational or family commitment, and are looking for career entry, change, or advancement. CCE is a great home for this program because of its extensive experience with [adult] students. We're thrilled to tap into their experience. In addition, we're better able to increase the number of flexible courses, such as online courses and hybrid courses with major online components."

Professional master's degrees through the College also serve an important role in the University's mission of outreach. Says Brad Fruen, research faculty member in the College of Biological Sciences and adviser for the MBS program, "Students learn from professors doing cutting-edge research, and then take that back to their employers. It's a connection, a network that is building bridges between faculty and their labs and local industry."

Concludes Stine, "The College's professional degrees are individualized, interdisciplinary, and career-focused. They're meeting the needs of both adult learners, and employers and organizations--and the state as a whole. It's exciting to be able to open these doors to students."

Student Voice: Hoa Le, Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH)

Hoa Le, Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH)

After earning a graduate certificate in Addiction Studies from the College, Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor (LADC) Hoa Le knew he wanted to take the next step in his academic career—and in his professional one, as well.

"I enjoyed my studies [at CCE] so much, I applied to the Master of Professional Studies Program in Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH). I knew that the addiction studies certificate would aid me in getting a license for a specific job in a specific field. I decided to continue in the IBH program because a majority of my clients with chemical addiction issues also have co-occurring mental health disorder(s). Completing the IBH program would allow me to work with my clients on their mental health issues—as well as help with my career marketability."

Le works with clients with co-occurring disorders in a clinical setting, and plans to continue working as a counselor while finishing his master's degree and eventually open his own private practice.

"I think people discover they are almost a whole new person when they finish the program. I've learned as much about myself in this program as I have about others. [I feel like now I can] make my education work for me, not the other way around."

Innovation Highlight: Minnesota Center for Mental Health
Program Affiliation: Integrated Behavioral Health

Julie Rohovit, Director of IBH Master's program

Following receipt of a nearly $1 million grant from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the College of Continuing Education's Integrated Behavioral Health (IBH) Program is partnering with the School of Social Work and the Department of Psychiatry to establish the Minnesota Center for Mental Health (MCMH).

Designed to help Minnesota's mental health practitioners serve their clients in the most effective way, the Center's goals are training clinicians in holistic, integrated care, using evidence-informed services and fostering mental wellness for all citizens of Minnesota.

Julie Rohovit, Ph.D., is the director of the College's IBH master's program and the principal investigator for the grant. Says Rohovit, "We are excited for the opportunity to serve as a resource for providers and people living with complex mental health and substance use issues."

Due in large part to its focus on adult learners, professional graduate programs, and applied, interdisciplinary degrees, the College is an ideal co-sponsor for the MCMH, Rohovit says. "The center bridges science with practice to promote a culture of lifelong learning and the continual renewal of clinical skills within Minnesota's diverse behavioral health workforce.

"The need for co-occurring clinical services has always existed. Our mission is to help service providers meet that reality by providing them with the training, tools, and resources necessary to build and sustain excellence in the delivery of broad-based mental health services."

Student Voice: Dan Halsey,
Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture

Dan Halsey, Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture

When Dan Halsey moved from a successful career as a food photographer to one focused on designing sustainable food systems for homesteads, he decided he needed a degree to match. He finished his bachelor's degree in CCE and went on to the Master of Professional Studies in Horticulture program, where his focus is on design, plant, and polyculture systems, and harvest extension of annual crops. "All this is under the umbrella of permaculture—absolute stewardship of the land," he says.

Continues Halsey, "A graduate program [like this one] gives me the higher science background to support and develop better practices for our temperate climate. The credentials help, too. I have a reputation based on solid information."

Halsey puts his education to work designing and installing community gardens; creating master plans for broad-acre property owners, farmers, and commercial sites; and traveling the country teaching what he's learned as a designer.

Alumni Voice: Erin Satterwhite, Master of Biological Science

Erin Satterwhite always knew she wanted to be at the forefront of scientific discovery. "I have a passion for doing new things. It's the romance of science. I love having the identity of scientist and innovator."

After earning a B.S. in biochemistry, Satterwhite did an internship in Germany that involved research on bacterial biofilms. After that, she accepted a job in the 3M corporate research labs working on novel antimicrobial/antifouling materials. "[Working at 3M] has been amazing," she says. "I've been able to collaborate with people from all over the world."

And, with her employer's encouragement, she was able to attend school part time to earn her master's degree. While finishing her MBS, she took a management position in the company's Infection Prevention Division to do early stage product development.

Satterwhite (who graduated in 2011) now manages a staff of seven, "working on technologies to serve the acute care market with products to prevent cross-contamination. It's a $1.5 billion business that is relying on this front-end innovation team to grow. [I work with] people who think about addressing challenges in a scientific way, who are problem solvers. They also need to think about what we're doing in the context of developing intellectual property and medical products. It's very exciting. We're on the cutting edge."

Faculty Spotlight: Chris Honda, Master of Biological Science

Chris Honda

Neuroscience professor Christopher Honda devotes his research to better understanding pain—specifically, he looks at electrical activity in neurons in order to try and understand the sensory experience of pain. In addition to his role in neuroscience, he has been involved as a faculty member for the Master of Biological Science (MBS). "When I first learned about professional master's degrees several years back, I was instantly a fan. I liked this idea of a program that meets the goals of people who are already in the workforce and want to get deeper or broader training."

Honda became involved with the MBS program in particular when one of the technicians in his lab enrolled, and he served as her faculty adviser. "Her [capstone] project helped develop a new experimental direction in my laboratory which I'm still using today. And she has gone on to work in private industry in a supervisory position—and I think her graduate degree helped her get a position that combined the research training she earned in my laboratory, along with the leadership skills she acquired."

Honda, who has been involved with MBS since before its move to CCE, feels like the program's new home is a good fit. "CCE has many programs that use an interdisciplinary, individualized approach to looking at issues. Plus, they have flexibility built into these degrees in terms of scheduling and course options. There's a real agreement to let students cross boundaries and work across colleges and units. And all of this is done with academic rigor. It's amazing, the types of programs and courses of study some of these students are coming up with. I'm really impressed with the breadth and ingenuity of these areas of focus.

"I became a fan immediately," he concludes. "And I remain a fan of the programming to this day."