WSU graduate program to expand

Undergraduate students thinking about pursuing a master’s degree might not need to look any further than Weber State University. WSU has 11 different master’s programs, with a new one recently proposed in respiratory therapy.

In comparison to some other universities in the state, WSU might seem to some like it is not measuring up. According to Mark Stevenson, the Master of Business Administration enrollment director and chair of the Graduate Council, competition between schools is not a concern.

“It just gives us more opportunities to develop programs that focus on what we can do best,” Stevenson said.

It is also easier to approve a program if creating that program doesn’t create redundancy throughout the state, Stevenson said. Utah State University and the University of Utah, for example, are research-based schools with large graduate schools. They have many master’s and Ph.D. programs and, according to Stevenson, it wouldn’t make sense to have so many of those same programs at WSU as well.

“What you find is that, in the system of higher education in Utah, Weber State has done very well in starting master-level programs that serve a particular under-served niche that these big research schools don’t serve,” he said.

Some of the oldest master’s programs at WSU include the Master of Accounting and Master of Education. According to Stevenson, the Master of Accounting program has been available for 25 years. Since 2000, the number of master’s programs has more than doubled. The most recently added program is the Master of Taxation.

Although he doesn’t foresee the addition of any Ph.D. program in WSU’s future, Stevenson said, new programs might become necessary, at which point he thinks WSU will work toward filling that need. A proposal for a Master of Respiratory Therapy program is currently in the works, but the process of approval of a new program is lengthy.

“There are a number of levels of approval,” Stevenson said. “They need to know if you have the resources, sufficient faculty and so on.”

The Graduate Council has approved the proposal, but it must still be approved by the curriculum committee, the full faculty senate, the WSU Board of Trustees and then the Utah State Board of Regents. Paul Eberle, the chair of the respiratory therapy department, will present it to the curriculum committee this Thursday.

There are currently only seven graduate programs in respiratory therapy in the country, and none west of Texas.

“The demand for this is off the radar,” Eberle said. “This is a life-support profession, and if we are advocating for minimum criteria, we are doing the public a great disservice.”

In response to the growing prevalence of the graduate programs at WSU, the student senate has passed a measure that will add a senate seat for a graduate program senator. The seat was officially created a few weeks ago.

“The student senate is the officially recognized body from the administration to represent students,” said Brady Harris, the legislative vice president for the WSU Student Association. “Not having a graduate student senator was a big void.”

The process to create the senate seat was also a lengthy one. The process began last year by changing the bylaws of the student senate constitution to allow graduate students to run for the position. Then the student body voted on the proposal during elections. After that, the senate had to collect 150 graduate student signatures. The senate then voted on it, and a week or two ago, WSUSA President Andrew Gardiner signed a declaration to the student body announcing the seat. The senate seat for graduate senator is currently open for graduate students to apply.

“The issues that graduate students have are so different from issues that other students have,” Harris said. “I think the graduate program has taken some big leaps in the past few years, and I’m excited that adding this senate seat is going to be a part of that.”

WSU offers master’s degrees in accounting, English, business administration, education, health administration, professional communication, athletic training, criminal justice, nursing, radiologic science and taxation.