GVSU Has New Advanced Degrees

December 8, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Valley State University is adding three advanced-degree programs to its curriculum, and one will be the school’s first-ever doctoral degree.

English, school counseling and physical therapy are the programs being expanded.

The GVSU School of Health Professions will begin offering coursework next September for a doctorate in physical therapy. A change in professional requirements is the reason for the advanced program.

The university has been offering a master’s of science in physical therapy, a program with three years of pre-professional study and three more years in professional coursework.

But the American Physical Therapy Association wants every therapist to have a clinical doctorate by 2020. Until recently, the APTA felt a master’s degree was sufficient.

“We’re seeing more and more complex patients and because of that, people need to have more knowledge,” said Jane Toot, director of GVSU’s School of Health Professions, concerning why the APTA changed the requirements.

The doctorate will add another year of study to the program. Students will earn a four-year baccalaureate degree, but still spend three years gaining the professional requirements.

“We re-did that three-year program. We totally revamped it, but we kept it at three years. That is a profile that you see in almost all of the schools,” said Toot.

Curriculum changes include more courses in pharmacology and differential diagnosis, a shifting of the research component a bit more toward evidence-based practice, and clinical internships will run a semester longer.

The North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement has yet to accredit the program. GVSU made its presentation before that agency recently and anticipates that the North Central review panel will give the university the go-ahead next month.

“We have every reason to believe that it will go through,” said Toot.

In addition, the school must go before The Presidents Council of State Universities of Michigan and explain the need for the program and what comprises it.

Michigan has no board of higher education, as some other states do, and the council — comprised of university presidents — has no regulatory powers but serves as an advisory board.

GVSU sent members of the council a copy of its proposed doctorate program for their review and comments. Toot said she felt confident that the meeting with the presidents council, set for this month, would go well.

“They are a very collegial group and typically they don’t give us any problems,” she said.

GVSU also has begun to teach a master’s program for those who want to work as school counselors in elementary and high schools. Michigan law doesn’t require a master’s degree for K-12 school counselors, but the profession wants it. Accreditation issues are behind the change, which is also linked to the federal motto to leave no child behind.

The program is only for those who will work in schools, rather than in private practice, and includes professional training for academic counseling, career counseling, and personal and social development.

“Those are the three national standards of the American School Counseling Association,” said Claudia Sowa Wojciakowski, director of community outreach for the GVSU School of Education, who designed the master’s program.

Wojciakowski said some of the degree’s foundation courses are being offered now, but a student who enrolls in the program next fall can expect six years of study. Four will be spent earning the undergraduate degree, while two will be served in the advanced program.

North Central approved the coursework in October. Next is the state Department of Education.

“Our next step for the program is to go to the State of Michigan to get approval to offer endorsements in teaching certificates and school-counseling licenses,” said Wojciakowski.

“Actually it’s a cutting-edge program,” she added. “It’s based on the American School Counseling Association’s national standards and comprehensive guidance counseling, which was endorsed by the Michigan Board of Education. It’s really aimed at teaching school counseling as a profession.”

The GVSU English department will begin offering a new master of art degree in English this fall. The program is aimed at high school English teachers, who must enroll in graduate-level courses to keep their certifications current.

Results of a survey conducted by the school’s department of English revealed a demand existed locally for the M.A. degree. Survey responses came from high school departments in Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties.

“The response was overwhelming,” said GVSU English professor Ben Lockerd, who will direct the new program.

“There are many teachers who want to pursue an M.A. in English but it’s just not available unless you drive to Western or Central or Michigan State,” he added.

The master’s in English will become the second liberal arts graduate program to be offered at Grand Valley.

A master of science degree in biology, which began last fall, was the first.

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