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WCU Creates New Ed.D. and Specialized M.S. Degrees

At their July meeting, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors approved new programs at West Chester and seven other system universities.

West Chester's two programs are the Doctor of Education in education policy, planning, and administration and the Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling. Like new programs at the other state universities, they were developed to meet the needs of both students and the economic drivers in the state economy, showing the universities' ability to adapt to those changing workforce needs.

The Doctor of Education in education policy, planning, and administration will prepare professionals in proposing evidence-based solutions to help improve the practice of education and the lives of students in the Commonwealth. It will provide educators in a variety of educational settings the skills necessary to identify site-specific problems and develop site-specific solutions. Increasingly, educators are required to respond to emerging analytical and research demands. This terminal degree prepares education practitioners in both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies.

Coordination with outside agencies and constituents is key to the mission and success of this doctoral program so WCU is involving its resources and partnership networks. Southeastern PA school district administrators were consulted as the program was in development. They offered positive feedback to West Chester's proposal of a professional doctorate that would build on existing partnerships and in which they could collaborate in assuring the program remains relevant, responsive, rigorous and practical.

One component sets the degree program apart: Each Ed.D. candidate will conduct an action research experience study in their area of interest/concentration at an outside agency/constituent such as a partner school district, preschool partner, rehabilitation center or academic tutoring center. This element allows candidates working in a wide range of educational settings the opportunity to develop research skills that allow them to function as research practitioners, conducting applied research in their educational settings. The 54-credit program will begin in May 2016.

The Master of Science in clinical mental health counseling is a full-time, 60-credit degree program offered in a two-year cohort model. It meets all current standards for accreditation by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs as well as the educational requirements for counselor licensure in all 50 states. Students will emerge prepared for a broad range of careers in community settings, hospitals, educational institutions, Veteran's Administration treatment centers and private practice.

Program graduates will be able to obtain the National Certified Counselor credential, which soon will be available only to accredited programs, as well as the Licensed Professional Counselor credential.

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The Center for Workforce Information and Analysis identified mental health counseling and substance abuse counseling as "high priority" occupations in the Philadelphia region and statewide. In addition, the implementation of the Affordable Care Act provides greater access to mental health services, and the Veteran's Administration's decision to credential clinical mental health counselors from accredited programs will further increase demand.

The Department of Counselor Education will oversee the program and capitalize on its longtime partnerships with the area's educational and community organizations, many of which have expressed interest in collaborating with WCU to provide field placements for students.

Several WCU departments in two colleges are collaborating on delivery. Two core courses will be taught by the Department of Professional and Secondary Education and two specialty courses will be taught by the Psychology Department in the College of Arts and Sciences. The program will begin in the summer of 2016.

In addition to these programs, WCU's new Master of Science in Applied and Computational Mathematics was approved by the Board at the April meeting. The program is designed to equip graduate students with the knowledge and training necessary to excel as industrial mathematicians in government, financial institutions and private industry, and to pursue doctoral study in applied and computational mathematics or other computationally intensive fields.

In its handbook, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms the workforce need: "Employment of [master's level] mathematicians is projected to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations."

Professionals from both large and small companies helped guide the program's development; many are sustaining it by offering practica, two of which are required for degree completion. Students will be able to help solve complex mathematical problems involving real-world data as they work closely with those already employed in the field. Among the skills industry and municipal professionals identified that students will need to hone are project management experience, computational know-how, and presentation delivery.

Classes for the 36-credit degree program, which begins this fall, will be conducted in the evening.