Summary: April 15 open forum, professionally oriented master's

Patrick S. Osmer — May 05, 2011

Pat Osmer

I was pleased by the turnout and discussion that we had during the open forum on professionally oriented master's programs on Friday, April 15. Over 60 faculty members were there, presenting 35 graduate programs, 15 colleges, and administration.

What I want to do here is to summarize what was covered and to use this as a starting point for our next steps. We're planning several informal workshops where faculty who are interested in exploring the possibilities in more detail can come together and get some pragmatic advice from us in the Graduate School and other programs that already have such programs in place.


Provost Joe Alutto spoke at the beginning of the meeting and helped set the stage for the rest of the discussion. Here are some of the key points that Joe made:


  • Ohio State is interested in growing in the area of professionally oriented master's programs. Ohio State lags other like-institutions in such development.
  • Professionally oriented master's programs are developed in response to state and market needs as well as faculty interests, and are useful in demonstrating how Ohio State supports state and business needs. These  programs must match demonstrated needs in the market, and faculty must be involved in conversations with those consituencies in  developing offerings. To be effective, these programs must demonstrate, via market data, that there is a need.
  • These programs are more complicated than simply putting together a curriculum based on faculty interests. Modes and times of content delivery need to match the constituent's needs. Also, students undertaking these programs expect a level of support (including placement attention) to which some units may be unaccustomed.
  • These programs generate net revenue for the units offering the programs. Exactly how that net revenue comes back to the unit needs to be worked out with the appropriate college dean, and the provost would be happy to assist in those conversations.

Joe also responded to questions about who would teach in these programs, faculty metrics, and the issue of on-line courses/degrees and fees.

  • Who teaches these courses in such programs needs to be determined within the overall portfolio of department responsibilities. Clinical faculty can be deployed in such programs. It should be recognized that net revenues generated would be available to enhance support for research activities in a department.
  • Fees for Ohio State's on-line academic offerings are being examined, and decisions will soon be made on changes affecting such programs.

Finally, Joe said that he would be happy to meet with faculty individually or in groups to talk about programs that they are interested in developing.

Craig Davis, professor in environment and natural resources, spoke about his graduate program's experience with the Master of Environment and Natural Resources.The MENR was designed to give people with skills in other areas the additional skills they need to work in areas connected with the environment. The MENR is very flexible, advising intensive, and "the students love it."

Craig said that they thought that the MENR would attract state employees with the Department of Resources. Only two of the current cohort of 18 fit that profile; the rest came nearly equally from Ohio State degree programs,  from across the state, and from outside the state.

In response to questions, Craig said that they have not hired new faculty and that they are using the traditional tuition model.

Steve Mangum, senior associate dean, poke about the professionally oriented master's programs in the Fisher College of Business: Master of Accounting, Master of Business Administration, Master of Business Logistics Engineering, Master of Business Operational Excellence, Master of Labor and Human Resources, and Specialized Master's in Business. Some of these programs, he said, are designed for students coming right out of undergraduate degree programs; others are for mid-career professionals.

He talked about the reasons why Fisher College of Business pursued these opportunities. Without access to many research dollars, these programs are the "life blood" of Fisher's operations and are a key part of the applied nature of business schools. These programs are focused on teaching and are significant part of Fisher's outreach to the business community.

Steve described the following "lessons learned:"

  • Market research is a must (which is more than the market research 101 expected in the RACGS process)
  • Strong understanding of industry needs
  • These programs are "high-touch" and "high-involvement" programs. Students who pursue these degrees are used to the amenities of the typical business environment.
  • Significant investment is needed in career management support
  • Constant monitoring of the program and student progress is important
  • It's critical that the faculty teaching in the program have real, practical experience

Steve also talked about the professional skills that are a major hallmark of professionally oriented master's programs. In the FCB programs, the following professional skills are emphasized: negotiations, crucial conversations, professional presentations, organizational behavior and survival (ie, care and feeding of the persons below and above), personal branding, and leadership.

In the question and answer period, Steve said that all of these programs have varying levels of differential tuitions. Some stakeholders will invest in the set-up of these programs if they are focused on meeting their needs.

Finally, programs at Ohio State are partnering with each other to produce attractive dual degree master's programs. Many of these are with existing FCB and John Glenn School of Public Policy.

Next steps

Over the next two weeks, we will host two small, working sessions for graduate faculty who are interested in developing a professionally oriented master's program. These sessions will give faculty an opportunity to discuss their ideas with an eye toward developing a proposal. Associate Dean Elliot Slotnick will facilitate these sessions. Please join us for one of the two sessions on Friday, May 13, 9:30-10:30 a.m. OR Monday, May 16, 3:30-4:30 p.m., 226 University Hall. Please register.


Patrick S. Osmer is vice provost for graduate studies and dean of the Graduate School at Ohio State. He is also currently serving as chair of the board of directors for the Council of Graduate Schools. Osmer was chair of the Ohio State astronomy department from 1993-2006.


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