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Proposed executive master's program would diversify revenue streams

Faculty members are either undecided or in support of a proposal to implement an executive master's program in public health by fall 2012, according to multiple faculty members. They will vote on the proposal at the April 3 faculty meeting, said Peter Shank, chair of the Faculty Executive Committee and professor of medical science.

The program up for vote looks to teach mid-career professionals about the changing United States health care system, uniting both current faculty members and professionals from the health care field.

Faculty members have voiced no strong objections to the program, though the potential for debate at the meeting is difficult to forecast, Shank said.

Despite the lack of strong challenges to the program, it has been discussed vigorously among faculty members, said Provost Mark Schlissel P'15. In the year since the program was first proposed, the administration has listened to faculty debate the issue in a number of different venues, he said, adding that most faculty members are concerned the program may present distractions from the regular responsibilities of teaching.

"It is important that the quality of the program be up to the standards of Brown," Schlissel said. "The quality and caliber of students must be just as high."

Joan Richards, professor of history, who served on the graduate council that discussed the program, called it "a leap into the dark for Brown." She added that the experimental nature of the program will decide the future of this and other possible master's programs.

Because the program is an experiment, the University will establish a group to review the program after three years, Richards said, adding that even if the program is approved by faculty it is not a "done deal."

Richards described the program as an effort to reach a group of professionals out there who may be searching for this kind of program.

The proposed executive master's program is "a great way to complement what's already going on at Brown," said Thomas Doeppner, associate professor of computer science who served on the committee that first investigated the master's programs.

Despite this, Doeppner said the program will only work if it is a first-rate program. "We don't want to tarnish the Brown name," he said.

As a leader in his department, Doeppner said he has not heard any strong objections to the proposed program from computer science faculty members. Based on the consensus following previous faculty forums on the issue, Doeppner said he does not think the vote on the program in April "will be that hotly contested."

"Change is always hard," said Barrett Hazeltine, professor emeritus of engineering. This program will not take away from the current undergraduate education, but will "open new directions and areas," he said.

The university-college model - a cornerstone of the University's mission statement - is supposed to include professors who teach both undergraduate and graduate students, Hazeltine said. "I think it's a good idea," he said of the program. "This is an area of intellectual work that is interesting and attractive to many students."

Other institutions such as Harvard have top-notch programs similar to the proposed executive master's program, said Harold Roth, professor of religious studies. "I think it has the potential to bring new revenue streams into Brown," he said. It is important to diversify revenue sources from time to time, but new revenue streams must be complemented by high academic standards, he added. The program "looks promising," Roth said, though he is suspending full judgment until he hears all the facts in the faculty meeting in April.

"My view is, 'Let's try it,'" wrote James Baird, professor emeritus of chemistry, in an email to The Herald. The program would help recruit graduate students "in a better way and be aimed at a different cohort" than existing programs target, he wrote. Students in Ph.D. programs are paid to participate in their programs, while master's students pay the University and benefit from academic services, he wrote.



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