Higher Learning

Higher Learning

The four-year bachelor's degree is no longer your ticket to great success. Today's college students and working professionals know an advanced degree will blast your career up that proverbial ladder. Think you have to cross the bridge for a respected graduate program? Looks like you have a lot to learn.

South Jersey colleges and universities have several offerings for graduate studies. Here is an educational round-up of local programs:

Rowan University

Fifty-three-year-old Betsy Haase, of Pitman, waited nearly three decades before going back to graduate school. "The reason," says Haase, an eighth-grade communications teacher at Pitman Middle School , "is the right program hadn't been invented, until now."

Haase, who received a BA in English in 1976, is three classes away from earning a Masters of Writing Arts degree from Rowan University . "Rowan is one of the only schools in the area to offer an advanced degree in writing," says Haase, who writes poetry and stories about her childhood and relationships.

For Haase, graduate school has resulted in personal fulfillment, as she recently had one of her essays published in the magazine, Philadelphia Stories.

According to Jay Kuder, Ed.D., associate provost for research and dean of the graduate school at Rowan, the Masters of Arts in Writing degree is one of the fastest growing programs, attracting students from across the country. It is part of Rowan's effort to offer comprehensive graduate school programs in a region that is becoming more competitive.

"There are more providers in the area, and students can take classes from many colleges online," says Kuder, who notes that 50 percent of Rowan's graduate school students are enrolled in the College of Education , a testament to the school's beginning in 1923 as a college to train South Jersey teachers. "While we have not downgraded our education programs at all, we have expanded our offerings in areas such as writing, business administration and engineering to attract more students."

The MBA program, in particular, is designed to appeal to Southern New Jersey 's working professionals, while the engineering program boasts recruits from Ivy League schools across the country.

Kuder credits the school's success with its willingness to adapt to changing trends. "A recent community needs survey revealed that graduate students want to take courses later in the evening, starting at 7 or even 8 pm, so students have time to get here after work," explains Kuder. "Students also want the option of online distance learning. In September, we began offering online courses in the areas of math, business, writing and education."

Rowan University is located in Glassboro. The Graduate School is comprised of 25 master's degree programs, an educational specialist program in school psychology, a doctoral (Ed.D.) program in educational leadership and several certificate programs.

Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Linda Palmer, 40, of Folsom, wanted an MBA program that met three criteria. She wanted a school with a strong academic program that was close to home and affordable. At the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Palmer found all of the above.

"The courses are rigorous and intense, but I have learned so much that I can apply to my job," says Palmer, an assistant board secretary/accounts payable coordinator for the Mullica Township School District . "I have two more classes to take, and I'll earn my degree in May."

Palmer is a working professional who is also juggling numerous responsibilities to her family. To that end, the ability to take classes in the evening or via online distance learning became a tremendous asset.

Indeed, according to Deb Figart, Ph.D., dean of graduate studies at Stockton , 98 percent of their graduate school classes are in the evening. The school, which opened in 1981, began offering graduate programs geared toward educators, business, health, arts and science professionals in 1997.

"More employers are demanding extra credentials," says Figart. "The four-year college degree in the 21st century is fast becoming what the high school degree was in the 20th century."

The newest graduate program at Stockton reflects this trend. According to Figart, by the year 2020, physical therapists will be required to have doctorate degrees. The school recently received approval from the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education to offer a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, which replaces the Master of Physical Therapy degree.

" Stockton is also the only school in the region to offer a post-bachelor's degree certificate in paralegal studies," adds Figart. "We also have post-master's certificate programs designed for senior-level teachers who want to move on to school administration. The master of criminal justice program is starting its second year, and we recently expanded our MBA program to include hospitality management."

Graduate programs at Stockton are offered at the school's main campus in Pomona , at the Carnegie Library Center in Atlantic City and at the Southern Regional Institute in Mays Landing.

Rutgers University - Camden

Between her job as associate executive director of the Virtua Health Foundation and time with her husband and two stepsons, Diane Gravenstine, 34, of Lumberton , didn't know how to fit graduate school into an already packed schedule. Fortunately, Rutgers University allowed her to take a course before committing to their MBA program. The "test drive," as she calls it, worked. Today, she is halfway toward her degree, and has maintained a 4.0 average.

"It takes discipline and dedication, but it is worth it," says Gravenstine. "I now have solid business skills that will help in my career. It's stimulating and keeps the mind going."

In addition to its law school and a number of master's level programs, the university introduced in September graduate programs in childhood studies and computer science.

Luis Garcia, Ph.D., associate dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, explains the rationale for the new fields of study. "When it comes to computer science, there are really no competing programs in Southern New Jersey, and the Camden area has a significant information technology workforce," he says.

According to Garcia, the childhood studies degree represents the university's first-ever doctoral program at the Camden campus.

" Camden is a disadvantaged urban area with a relatively high proportion of children. It makes sense for our University to develop a program that will highlight the study of children and foster their welfare," says Garcia.

The majority of Rutgers graduate offerings are held in Camden . In an effort to reach out to working professionals, the MBA program also offers classes in Atlantic County , Mount Laurel and Voorhees.

Fairleigh Dickinson at Burlington County College

After Rita Shagnon, 31, of Riverside , earned a liberal arts degree from Burlington County College (BCC) in 2001, she dreamed of becoming a teacher. Thanks to BCC's partnership with Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU), she'll proudly display her Master of Arts degree in Teaching come spring, 2007.

"I took classes at the BCC campuses in Mount Laurel and Pemberton, which were so close to my house," says Shagnon. "Because the professors are local and teach at area schools, they are in touch with what's going on in the community."

Connecting with the local community is the philosophy behind FDU's Partnership with BCC. According to Robert Burton, Campus Coordinator, Fairleigh Dickinson University 's Community College Partnership at Burlington County College , the partnership offers courses on Saturdays and evenings. Each semester consists of two seven-and-a-half week terms, and part-time students can complete up to 18 credits per year.

Graduate offerings include the Master of Science in Nursing, the Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Arts in Education for the Certified Teacher and teacher certification programs with master's degrees.

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Date Published: Friday, December 1, 2006 (All day)
Source URL: South Jersey Magazine