University News

Poll: Students approve of grad school expansions

By
Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, April 26, 2012
This article is part of the series Spring 2012 Student Poll

Roughly 70 percent of students approve of the University’s expansion of the medical and graduate schools, the development of executive master’s programs and the creation of a school of public health, according to a Herald poll conducted last month. Around 38 percent of students strongly approve of these changes and almost 35 percent somewhat approve. 

Around one-tenth of students somewhat disapprove, around 3 percent strongly disapprove, 10 percent of students said they have no opinion and about 3 percent of students said they were not familiar enough to answer the question, according to poll results. 

Students approve of these changes because there is a “positive element associated with bringing Brown prestige to a new audience,” said Associate Provost and Professor of Engineering Rod Beresford P’13, who was integral in gaining faculty approval for the new executive master’s program. The faculty endorsed the program at April’s faculty meeting, and it will go up for Corporation approval in May. 

Expanding these programs enhances the mission of Brown and falls in step with the university aspect of Brown’s university-college model, Beresford said. Instituting an executive master’s program will create a promising opportunity for the University to address the evolution of the nation’s health care, he said.

“This small innovative program seems a natural for Brown, (bringing) a new and flexible mode of learning into play with potential gain for us all,” wrote Stephen Foley, associate professor of English and comparative literature and acting chair of the English department, in an email to The Herald.

The University sees a demand for this new kind of education and aims to develop several other similar programs to address the needs of mid-career professionals, Beresford said, adding that the University may add up to five or six new similar executive programs. 

Though he doesn’t know much about this program, Frank Rinaldi ’12 said he is “generally wary of anything that takes away from what makes Brown unique.” Such expansion negatively impacts undergraduate teaching and “takes away from other opportunities” for undergraduates, he said. Such expansion also has the possibility to reduce student interaction with professors. These relationships should not be sacrificed to compete with programs at peer institutions, he said. 

The University takes pride in the fact that students are taught by their professors, Kendra Cornejo ’15 said, adding that she does not like that executive master’s students would not participate in a physical classroom experience.

But expansion of graduate programs has expanded opportunities for undergraduates, said Terrie Wetle, associate dean of medicine for public health and public policy. “We have worked very hard … to be sure that we’ve also expanded opportunities for undergraduates,” she said of the expanded public health program.

Since 2008, the program in public health has increased the number of courses in which undergraduates can enroll by 50 percent ­- from 41 to 61 courses – Wetle said, adding that almost 1,000 undergraduates have enrolled in the program’s courses.

“Keeping the college strong does not conflict (with) judicious shifts in structure or the considered redistribution of resources as the shape of knowledge and learning changes,” Foley wrote.

Pitting undergraduate experience against graduate expansion “is just the wrong characterization of the issue,” Wetle said. The program in public health is looking to become an accredited school, an expansion that is “stepping up to a reputational goal” of the program, she said. This move would bring in a higher caliber of students and faculty and increase chances for government funding for research, she added. 

“You don’t have to choose one or the other,” said Mark Wu ’12, noting that the choice between graduate and undergraduate education need not be mutually exclusive.

Bringing additional points of view with new graduate programs does not necessarily detract from the undergraduate experience, said Catalina Ramirez Hernandez ’12. 

Students should be in the classroom, said Akash Shah ’12, suggesting that professionals who want to participate in programs like the executive master’s program – which is proposed to provide around 70 percent of learning online – should take time off for further education.

“The world is changing, and Brown is adjusting accordingly,” Sarah Brandon ’13 said. Having more graduate students does not infringe on undergraduate opportunities and “Brown as it is does a good job of keeping a college focus.”

Methodology

Written questionnaires were administered to 1,530 undergraduates March 12-14 in the lobby of J. Walter Wilson and the Stephen Robert ’62 Campus Center during the day and the Sciences Library at night. The poll has a 2.2 percent margin of error with 95 percent confidence. 

Find results of previous polls at thebdh.org/poll.