Monday, December 23, 2019

Susan Koch: Resolving to pursue a graduate credential

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on December 21, 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.

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.”

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.”

“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.”

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.