Discussion continues for master’s in history

Dr. Larry Cebula - Associate Professor of History

Dr. Larry Cebula – Associate Professor of History

Rebecca Watts

Negotiations are underway for Missouri Southern to create its first online master’s degree in the history department. The program will serve current history teachers who wish to pursue a graduate degree.

“We are delighted in this new direction our school is moving,” said Dr. Larry Cebula, associate professor of history. “We’re very happy to be a part of this.”

For three years, the history department has expressed interest to the state in order to allow Southern to offer this program.

“The professors in this department, particularly the historians, have wanted to pursue this,” Cebula said. “People are history teachers because they love history, but for a lot of Missouri teachers, the history master’s isn’t available for them.

“Because we’re in the corner of the state, any school we cooperate with is going to be a distance away, probably, so the Internet just made a lot of sense. We can reach not just students around Joplin, and students around whatever school we partner with, but students everywhere in Missouri, or the world for that matter.”

Attempts to bring this new program to Southern have not been easy. The Coordinating Board of Higher Education must approve this program. Additionally, the only way Southern could have a masters program is with conjunction with another school, which already has such a program. According to Cebula, higher education is competitive.

“It’s the legislature trying not to waste its money,” he said. “They’re trying to make sure we’re not duplicating things we have already, and other colleges don’t want the competition.”

Cebula’s contact, along with the several published professors in the history department, enabled Southern to potentially partner up with the University of St. Louis. Coincidently, USL is preparing for a new Ph.D. program. In the administrative level of discussion, Cebula is receiving the right signs.

“All of the major players have shaken hands on this, and I’m confident it will go through,” he said. “Dr. León and Dr. (Richard) McCallum (vice president for academic affairs) have been strongly behind this from the beginning, and we appreciate their support.”

Southern has received four $1 million grants in the past, and number five has been issued from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant is from a program called Mastering American History.

There are already 80 applications for the 24 positions, and the deadline isn’t for another two weeks. The program sponsors 24 teachers, with the money going toward their enrollment, books and travel.

“So in return we get three years of [the teachers’] life,” said Cebula. “But they’ll be working really hard.”

According to Cebula, the most qualified teachers from the lowest economic level will be favored.

“The people applying are the best teachers, it’s going to be very hard to choose,” he said. “The amazing response we’ve had I think shows the desire for this program. I think it’s going to be a huge program.”

The first teacher to instruct this online course will be Dr. Steven Wagner, associate professor of history, who said he’s looking forward to the experience.

“I never thought I’d have the opportunity to teach at a graduate level,” he said. “I’m very excited.”

Having taught online classes before, Wagner said this course will be a little different than others.