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Masters program considered

Friday, November 30, 2007  
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By Ryan Holly

Oklahoma Christian University faculty members are debating a potential Masters of Science in Engineering program.

An MSE degree would consist of a 30-credit-hour program covering courses on engineering, business and computer science.

The engineering department began forming this degree in 2006.

According to the document Proposal to Establish a Master of Science in Engineering (MSE) Degree at Oklahoma Christian University, the projected start date of Oklahoma Christian’s newest masters program is 2008.

Faculty members will vote after Thanksgiving on whether or not to add the new degree program.

“We started discussing it the fall of 2006 when I came here. We brought it to the graduate council here at OC, and they looked at our proposal. This council asked us to bring our proposal before an external group,” Associate Dean of the College of Professional Studies Robert Mitchell said. “We had the head of the Mechanical Engineering Department of University of Arkansas, and a faculty member from Kansas University, and a faculty member from Missouri Rollins University come in and they say it’s a go.”

Despite the engineering department’s optimism, faculty members in other departments are concerned this may not be the best time to introduce this program.

“It gets hard to have the icing on the cake when you don’t have the cake. I think we need to strengthen our undergrad program before we go add more graduate programs. It is not that it is not a good program. It might just not be the right time for this institution to adopt it,” Department of Communication Chair Larry Jurney said.

Many people feel the program should take advantage of the program’s current momentum

“There is a ton of momentum behind this master’s program, and we are trying to get it going. I think now would be the most opportune time. We haven’t even put together a marketing plan for it, but there are many people who already know about it,” senior Marshall Warren said. “We have so much momentum behind the program that it would be disheartening to lose that momentum and then pick it back up later. I know that five graduating seniors are planning on staying, and I’m one of them.”

Apprehension of the impending MSE program is rooted in the possible costs.

The department of engineering is confident that the costs of this program will be minimum.

“The biggest resistance on campus has to do with finances and resources. There are questions like ‘Do we understand what we’re getting in to?’ and ‘What if we build this thing and nobody comes?’ and ‘If we do this then how are we going to be able to start other very important things?’ The way I see it is exactly the opposite,” Mitchell said. “Since there will be such a high demand in this local region – say at Tinker Air Force Base – they will pay for their people to get a master’s, and they will pay our tuition.”

Although many engineering programs are expensive, some argue that the Oklahoma Christian MSE program will be an exception.

“There are many engineering programs that have a high cost. These programs are instituted by what is known as research universities. We wouldn’t be one of those research universities so we wouldn’t need all the money that people might think we would need,” Warren said.

The department of engineering is devising a strategy to provide a suitable amount of professors for its students.

“We have a game plan where we will have some full-time graduate students here, and they can actually help with some of the things we are doing here by teaching some of the lower level courses so that we can add some new courses without adding any faculty,” Mitchell said. “The issue of having enough faculty is a chief concern of people who are not close to what we are doing. They’re very much afraid that what we are doing will cost the university and therefore would hurt other programs.”

The monetary debate seems to stem from the university’s former financial troubles.

“Years ago when the college was in financial trouble, they cut professors rather than programs so we held on to engineering even though it was a high maintenance program. Our choice to keep the engineering program was probably the right one, but now as things are looking a little bit better, we should focus on paying back these departments that lost their professors and giving us what we need so that students all over the university can benefit instead of those in only one program,” David Lowry, dean of the college of arts and sciences said.

Current economic concerns may shrink if the program succeeds and is supported by charitable alumni.

“I contend that not adding the masters program is financial folly.  Looking back at the donations that have been made to OC, we see that very many OC engineering alumni become quite successful, but maintain their charitable ethic and give away some of their newfound wealth, OC being one of the beneficiaries,” senior Stephen Swanson said.  “A masters program is an investment in our students which, so far, has been an investment by the school with an incredible return.”


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