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Campus News

Feasibility of New Master’s Programs in CAS Studied;
Planning Grants Awarded by Council of Graduate Schools

by Greta Petry

As the University at Albany looks to the future to address the changing needs of the work force, it is considering developing new master’s degree programs to meet those needs.

The University recently received notice that it has been awarded three planning grants from the Council of Graduate Schools and the Ford Foundation to look into the feasibility of proposing master’s degree programs in:

  • women, civil society leadership, and public policy;
  • health communication; and
  • economics, with a specialization in forecasting.

Also being considered, but not part of these grants, is a separate plan to develop a master’s degree program in industrial and organizational psychology.

Joan Wick-Pelletier said: “As dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, I have supervised the development of a strategic plan in which the creation of professional master’s degree programs has become a
priority. Thus, these proposals are entirely consistent with the directions identified in our plans for the future, and I am very pleased that some of their development will be supported by planning grants.”

Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy Dean Frank Thompson said: “The proposed collaboration between the center for Women in Government & Civil Society and the Department of Women’s Studies in the development of the new professional master’s program will both leverage existing resources across University schools and strengthen the University’s contributions to serving local and regional work force needs. This is an endeavor to which Rockefeller College, and specifically our Department of Public Administration and Policy, has been committed for many decades.” U.S. News & World Report ranks Rockefeller College among the top five percent of public affairs programs nationwide.

According to Department of Women’s Studies Chair Marjorie Pryse: “This planning grant approval is very good news for the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society and the Department of Women’s Studies. Judith Saidel [executive director of the center and a faculty member of the Department of Public Administration and Policy] and I are project co-directors on the planning grant.”

Faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences and Rockefeller College will work together to increase the number of graduates prepared to bring diverse perspectives to bear on professional nonprofit and government work. Since one in three Capital Region residents works for a nonprofit organization or in a government job, new opportunities for graduate preparation for professional public service work will meet significant local and regional work force needs.

This calendar year, Pryse and Saidel will meet with faculty and department chairs from other units to assess student interest. They will create and work with a public service advisory group, inviting individuals involved in local and state government, social services, and other nonprofit agencies, as well as in prominent public sector women’s and community advocacy groups, to consult about the integration of internship, field-placement and mentoring opportunities from the beginning of the planning process.

“If we determine that the interest and resources are in place to propose such a new master’s program, and that the respective deans both continue to be supportive, we will then write a proposal to send through University governance,” Pryse said.

Commenting on the objectives of the planning grant for a professional master’s degree in health communication, Department of Communication Chair Teresa Harrison said: “Our goal is to serve a most vital need of the health care industry by preparing students to handle its rigorous demands while improving the quality of performance in health care organizations. Further, the development of this proposal complements a significant research focus on health communication in our department.”

The Department of Communication’s multidisciplinary planning and design team includes faculty from the School of Public Health.

SPH Associate Dean Nancy Persily said: “The School of Public Health is thrilled that the Department of Communication has received this grant. We look forward to an active partnership.”

With part of the funding, the team will work with the CEOs of major area health care institutions, including St. Peter’s Hospital, Ellis Hospital, and Albany Medical Center, to assemble focus groups of employees to identify the skills and knowledge needed by professionals entering health communication jobs. This assessment will explore how a professional master’s program in health communication should intersect with work force needs. Initially, the team will look at four job areas: management and administration; service-oriented positions like admissions registrar; public information officer and related job titles; and education, in-service training, and human resources jobs.

Department of Economics Chair Betty Daniel noted the project involving a proposed concentration in forecasting within the existing master’s degree program in economics is “very new. We just began thinking about it last fall. The target audience is people who want jobs in business or government dealing with economic forecasting. A large number of agencies have this kind of need.”

A committee to focus on developing the forecasting concentration includes Daniel and faculty members Kajal Lahiri, Terry Kinal, and Thad Mirer. Lahiri, an internationally recognized forecasting expert, has agreed to lead the department’s effort to plan for an updated
program. He said: “Things are falling into place very well. This proposed program will be unique. One of our goals will be to organize internships at various state and federal agencies, on Wall Street, and at other organizations. These internships will be the key to the success of the program. I am optimistic about a successful outcome.”

According to the planning grant proposal, “Economic forecasting is a rapidly developing field with wide applicability in business and the public sector. Businesses need forecasts for sales, earnings, stock prices, etc.; governments at the state and federal levels need projections for revenues, unemployment, expenditures, welfare rolls, traffic, and the like for planning and budgetary purposes. Many of our non-academic Ph.D. placements have been in forecasting jobs because there is such a demand for forecasting. A Ph.D. is not necessary for most of these forecasting jobs. We believe that we can train professionals to use state-of-the-art forecasting techniques in a professional MA program.”

In a letter to the Council of Graduate Schools regarding the three planning grant applications last fall, Interim Vice President for Research Jeryl L. Mumpower wrote, “I am confident that the vision captured by these initiatives will address regional and national professional trends, and serve to strengthen the University’s response to the educational and economic work force needs in the state, region, and nation.”

According to Department of Psychology Chair Edelgard Wulfert, “Albany is a particularly attractive site for an industrial and organizational master’s program because there has been an increasing demand for such programs in the Northeast and only a handful of offerings. As our department is already known for its doctoral program in industrial and organizational psychology, we can provide resources and an existing structure to develop a top-notch master’s program that will make us very attractive to students.”

She noted that many companies are looking to hire full-time industrial and organizational psychologists, or employ consulting firms to help their companies adapt to rapidly changing work environments. As employment opportunities for master’s-level industrial and organizational psychologists have increased, so have applications to graduate programs.

As Mumpower pointed out in his letter to the Council of Graduate Schools, “The University at Albany has rich expertise in developing professional master’s programs. We offer master’s-level professional degrees in the fields of business administration, education, fine arts, information science, library science, public health, public administration, regional planning, and social welfare, among others. In recent years, we have developed highly successful professional science master’s programs in forensics biology and environmental health and toxicology. Next year, we plan to introduce a new professional master’s program in applied chemistry.”