Southern partners in degree programs

Jessica MacIntosh

As a result of the move to university status, Missouri Southern has partnered with other universities for joint master’s degree programs.

“There was a provision there that allowed the University to enter into a collaborative agreement with other universities to offer graduate-level programs,” said University President Julio León.

As of now, Southern has joint master’s degree agreements with four universities.

Dr. Richard McCallum, vice president for academic affairs, said the first relationship was established with Northwest Missouri State University with programs in early childhood education and instructional technology.

“We had our first graduates back in May in that program,” he said, “and we have a new group that has started. That program is going very well.”

NWMSU President Dean Hubbard said the master’s degree is a terrific program.

“I’m really pleased with it,” he said.

Hubbard said the relationship for the joint master’s degree program started after the change from a college to a university.

“Dr. León gave me a call and asked if I was interested,” Hubbard said.

In the relationship with Missouri State University with the master of arts in teaching program, McCallum said they have the first group that started a year ago this summer.

“They are now already in their fifth semester of classes,” he said.

McCallum said this past summer they started a second group who are in its second semester of classes.

“Between the first cohort and the second cohort I believe we have 26 students that are pursuing a master of arts in teaching,” he said.

The third relationship with the University of Missouri-Kansas City for a joint master’s degree in nursing and dental hygiene was signed Nov. 22, 2005, McCallum said.

“Those programs have been approved by the Missouri Department for Higher Education and they are being reviewed by the Higher Learning Commission right now,” he said.

McCallum said they are hoping to offer courses in the spring or summer semesters of 2007.

“We are hoping for a Higher Learning Commission approval with the idea that we would begin those courses after we have received approval,” he said.

On Feb. 17, the University signed a memorandum with Southeast Missouri State University for a joint master’s degree in criminal justice.

“We’re in the final stages of getting approval from the Missouri Department of Higher Education,” McCallum said.

McCallum said they are hoping to get approval this fall.

“Then we can submit the papers to the Higher Learning Commission to be part of the November review cycle for their consideration,” he said.

SEMO President Kenneth Dobbins said the partnership is an outstanding opportunity and it provides access to students at a reasonable cost.

“We are pleased to have a joint degree with Missouri Southern,” Dobbins said.

Although the University has relationships with four universities, McCallum said they are trying to develop another relationship with the University of Missouri-St. Louis for a joint master’s degree in history.

“We’re very early in the conversation,” he said.

McCallum said a memorandum of understanding must be developed between the two universities.

“If the University of Missouri and Missouri Southern both agree on the memorandum, we could potentially have a signing ceremony later this fall or early in the spring semester,” he said.

In developing a relationship for a joint master’s degree program, McCallum said officials from both universities must sign a memorandum.

“Once that’s done, there is a request that goes over to the state and it is reviewed by the Department of Higher Education,” he said. “If they endorse the request, then it goes to Higher Learning Commission for North Central Accreditation.”

McCallum said once that is endorsed, the University is able to start offering classes.

“Once the classes begin, we share teaching responsibilities,” he said. “We try to split the teaching assignments about 50-50 between Missouri Southern and the partner institution.”

At graduation, the students receive diplomas that have seals of both universities, McCallum said.

“It’s truly a collaborative joint degree,” he said.

When the students take courses, they are in the classroom, participating in classes at Southern through instructional television or completing them online.

“In some cases, for example, MSU, they are actually sending their faculty over here to teach in our classrooms here on campus,” McCallum said.

For the application process, McCallum said they use a system synchronized with the partner university.

“What we have tried to do in all the relationships is adopt their application process and then follow their application/admissions procedures,” he said. “For each of the different partnerships, what we’ve been able to do is we have individuals here on campus who are prepared to help students with questions and are prepared to help them with the application process.”

McCallum thinks the opportunities the programs are providing are important to the students.

“We are developing programs that respond to educational needs and so what we are trying to develop relationships where degrees are being offered in areas where we have documented educational needs,” he said. “In many cases it is making an opportunity available to them that they otherwise might not have unless they were willing to travel some distance in order to do it.”

León said the joint master’s degree is a good idea for Southern and the state.

“They are important to us to a great extent,” he said. “They answer the needs of some students who otherwise would have to go other places to get a master’s degree.”

McCallum said the program development is based on educational needs.

“Part of the developmental process requires us to do a needs analysis of potential students in the area,” he said.

McCallum said the universities they partner with are a combination of two areas: the partner university has an accredited program and the curriculum has been established.

“They are willing to develop the partnership with us in a collaborative way,” he said.

McCallum said they are considering several ideas for more joint master’s degree programs.

“There is the possibility under the relationship that we have with Northwest to look at some additional master’s degrees in teacher education and perhaps a master’s degree in computer science,” he said. “I think it remains to be seen whether those ideas develop but they are potential for the future.”