Muhlenberg’s commitment to the academic success of a diverse community is to expand beyond undergraduate education. Last Thursday, the College announced the launch of two master’s degree programs, one in organizational leadership and the other in applied analytics, which will begin next fall as part of the newly founded Muhlenberg College School of Graduate Studies. Dean of Graduate Studies Uppinder Mehan oversees the progress of these programs that will provide opportunities for career advancement and professional development to those with undergraduate degrees.
The School of Graduate Studies aims to bring flexibility to these programs so as to accommodate what Mehan calls the working professional.
“We want to address the kind of desire and hunger that’s out there in the world of the working professional to get better credentials, so that they can climb higher in the organization that they’re already in or look for different opportunities,” explained Mehan.
In light of these new graduate programs, the name of the Wescoe School of Continuing Education will be changed to Muhlenberg College School of Continuing Education. While the schools will operate similarly, they should not be confused as the same.
“When the school adds more programs, we want to be very responsive to the needs of the region, and we also want to be really responsive to the interests, desires and resources of the number of college faculty and students as well.”
“[The School of Graduate Studies] is similar to the Wescoe School in that we will be holding most of the classes in the evening, and then we have plans to perhaps have Saturday offerings as we develop more programs and see what the need is, as we will primarily be working with a smaller population of working adults,” said Mehan. “The main difference, of course, is that these are graduate programs, so anybody entering these programs needs to already have their baccalaureate, whereas our other programs typically have either helped students finish their undergraduate degree or have given people a chance to work on their undergraduate degree in the evening and part time.”
Because leadership is an inherent skill highly valued across all fields and disciplines, the master’s degree program in organizational leadership will be rather versatile by offering various concentrations and certificates in diversity, equity and inclusion, communication, etc.
“The organizational leadership master’s has a core that remains no matter what concentration you find yourself in … and so, we’re looking at providing a good deal of flexibility for our working adult population,” said Mehan.
On the other hand, the program in applied analytics is more specifically defined in terms of what classes will be taken in order to fulfill the requirements for the degree; this program does not require two years of outside work experience like the organizational leadership program.
“The masters in applied analytics is more uniform, I think, because each course builds on the previous one. There is a set pattern of the path that the student will go on from when they first enroll to when they graduate; however, we will see variation in the forms of electives coming into the program,” explained Mehan.
Beginning next semester, the School of Graduate Studies plans to be actively involved with the students and faculty of Muhlenberg’s undergraduate programs. The goal is to get students thinking about continuing their education and providing them real opportunities to do so as more programs are added in the future.
“If you’re a senior, and you’ve got room in your curriculum … you very well could take a couple of the introductory graduate courses in applied analytics,” said Mehan. “So, we’re looking for that linkage to undergrad students as well as developing several four-plus-one plans in the various appropriate undergraduate areas as well. We’re working hand-in-hand with the departments that the degrees are housed in, applied analytics being part of math and computer science. And, we’re working with the accounting, business, economics and finance departments concerning organizational leadership.”
Current undergrad students have voiced their opinions, and there seems to be a mix of feelings concerning the implementation of graduate studies programs.
“We want to address the kind of desire and hunger that’s out there in the world of the working professional to get better credentials, so that they can climb higher in the organization that they’re already in or look for different opportunities.”
“I think that Muhlenberg could benefit from adding more graduate studies programs, specifically focused on drama and music therapy, as I know that many people are psychology and theatre double majors and they have to go to graduate school to obtain the proper qualifications after their B.A. education,” said Elizabeth Witek ‘23.
Others are concerned that this new focus on continuing education will take away from the values of a liberal arts education.
Meg Rennar ‘22 explained, “A big reason why I picked Muhlenberg was because of the fact that it was an undergraduate institution, and I knew that I would have a more personalized education. I don’t really think graduate programs fall under the term ‘liberal arts education’ because the programs are so specific.”
Mehan and the School of Graduate Studies express their excitement to continue working with undergraduate departments as new programs continue to emerge.
“When the school adds more programs, we want to be very responsive to the needs of the region, and we also want to be really responsive to the interests, desires and resources of the number of college faculty and students as well. It’s important to see what kind of push there is for having further educational opportunities for our existing undergraduate body and [to] see what we can do to help make that happen. I think having that dual vision makes it really exciting to think about what else we can offer and the way we’ve structured,” Mehan emphasized.