Public Affairs

California State University Leads National Effort to Expand Professional Science Master's Program

Sloan Foundation Grant and National Association of System Heads to help universities develop graduate degrees

(February 4, 2011) - To prepare graduate students to work immediately and effectively in critical science and technology industries, a national group of higher education leaders, with help from the California State University, is advancing professional science master's programs – or PSMs – in university systems across the country, as well as in Canada and Mexico. PSMs combine science curricula with coursework in business, management, policy, law or communications. They also include an internship with a corporate or public entity.

With a $125,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the National Association of System Heads (NASH) will help more public multi-campus university systems develop and sustain PSM programs to address job shortages in high-skilled, high-technology realms, such as biotechnology and clean-energy development.

The CSU, which offers 22 PSM degrees at 17 of its 23 campuses, will provide administrative and technical support and guidance, coordinated by Elizabeth Ambos, assistant vice chancellor for research initiatives and partnerships.

Expanding on previous research and outreach, the new effort will identify program startup funding, create "tool kits" for system leaders looking to build PSMs, and share entrepreneurial models. It will also help develop geographic-information systems analyses to highlight areas where economic and demographic factors indicate a need for a PSM.

According to CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed and president of the NASH executive committee, "The rise of PSM programs is one of higher education’s most important innovations of the 21st century. Working closely with industry, PSMs help ensure that graduates are highly trained in the latest technological tools and understand how to apply their knowledge in the professional setting. By developing a creative, intelligent and collaborative workforce, they are critical to America’s competitive strength in the global economy."

The CSU, which has roughly 60,000 undergraduates and 9,000 graduate students enrolled in science and technology disciplines, in 2007 embarked on an aggressive program to increase the number and breadth of its PSM programs, supported by $1.365 million in grant funding from the Sloan Foundation.

In 2010, the National Science Foundation awarded the CSU $2.1 million to help support PSM programs—in bioscience and environmental resources engineering—involving six CSU campuses.

National PSM advocates Sheila Tobias and Donald Langenberg will lead NASH's outreach to higher education systems. Tobias authored the 1995 book Rethinking Science as a Career, which laid out the case for a professional science master's. Langenberg is chancellor emeritus of the University System of Maryland and a past-president of NASH.

According to Michael Teitelbaum, program director at the Sloan Foundation , "In partnership with NASH and the CSU, Sheila Tobias and Don Langenberg have successfully fostered the vigorous growth of Professional Science Master's programs at system, state, and regional levels across the country. We hope that this collaborative effort will continue during the next several years and that the number of formally recognized PSM programs—now up to 230 at 106 institutions nationwide—will continue to grow robustly."

Drawing upon an analysis of business locations, patent filings and relevant educational programs, the partnership looks to advance the development of PSMs in Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin.

NASH Executive Director Jane Wellman said, "Our country must develop models of cost-effective, student-and employer-centered education to meet future needs for a highly educated citizenry, economic development and job creation.

"The PSM approach does all of these things," she said. "The programs combine the development of advanced interdisciplinary scientific and business knowledge with the skills to apply that knowledge in a great variety of career circumstances. They educate people for tomorrow's economy, as well as for today's."

The outreach and groundwork align well with NASH's vision, Wellman said.

The 52 university-system leaders in NASH have broad perspectives on educational programs needed in their regions because they engage continually with their own multiple universities, other academic systems, government officials and political leaders, the business sector, and the larger scientific community. They also lead higher education institutions well-equipped to help individuals develop the job skills needed in emerging fields

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About the California State University
The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 412,000 students year round and 43,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 90,000 annually. The CSU is renowned for the quality of its teaching and for the job-ready graduates it produces. A recent economic report found that the CSU supports more than 150,000 jobs statewide, annually. The engine driving job creation is more than $17 billion in economic activity that directly results from CSU-related spending that generates $5.43 for every dollar the state invests. The mission of the CSU is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California.

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