NCU Deans Discuss
New Program Launches
Keeping students who are in a class size of one engaged may seem a bit challenging. For NCU Deans, however, the secret is simple: Offer students compelling programs and specializations that are specifically targeted to their interests. With course starts every week, the NCU Schools make it a practice to consistently introduce new in-demand offerings. NCU’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and School of Business and Technology Management - the latest Schools to develop new degree programs - launched four collectively in December 2016.
“The one-to-one learning model actually works to our advantage,” explained Dr. Peter Bemski, Dean of the School of Business and Technology Management (SBTM), which added a Master of Science in Accounting, and a Master of Science and PhD in Technology and Innovation Management (TIM). “If our class size was 25, we wouldn’t be able to offer the variety of programs and specializations. What we gain is that the students can study exactly what they’re interested in.”
“The more students become excited about what they’re learning, about their interactions with their faculty, with the curriculum, and with the profession itself, the more engaged they become,” added Dr. James Billings, Dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SSBS). The new Master of Science in Forensic Psychology, in the School’s Department of Psychology, was one of the most highly sought degrees, which SSBS had not been offering.
Both Deans agree that one of the most appealing aspects of their new programs is the opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience. The forensic psychology program will be the first in the Department of Psychology to offer an internship, while the TIM programs will require students to master applied skills.
“A course at the end of the program allows students to go out and gain practical experience in forensic psychology and receive academic credit,” said Billings. “We think that will be of great value to them and will improve their ability to seek out job opportunities after graduation.”
“Technology isn’t something you can just talk about or write about, you actually have to do it. The assignments in these courses, I think, are very 21st century.”
—Dr. Peter Bemski, Dean of SBTM
Bemski describes the new SBTM programs as some of the most innovative programs NCU has ever rolled out. The TIM programs may sound like they are focused on business management, but it’s important to distinguish that they are actually about the management of technology.
“TIM attracts a different kind of student,” he explained. “Technology isn’t something you can just talk about or write about, you actually have to do it. The assignments in these courses, I think, are very 21st century.”
With so many different topic areas and emerging career opportunities, how do the Deans decide which programs are most relevant? Both explain that they work with a team of professionals including outside consulting firms, industry leaders and their own faculty, all of whom are experts in their fields.
“We consulted with faculty members who have specializations in a particular area, and asked them to help develop curriculum,” said Bemski. “Dr. David Moore, who was our Director of Assessment and is now chair of 10 new degrees, worked very closely with instructional designers to build the courses.”
Billings also relies heavily on the faculty’s expertise, and adds that consultants and the School’s Program Advisory Committee (PAC), provide valued input. “We received a comprehensive list of ideas from the PAC and identified the forensic psychology degree as one of the top choices at the master’s level,” he said. “An outside firm helps develop a sophisticated marketing analysis of current needs and interests in the field, and we discuss those results with the PAC. It goes back and forth a bit, but we really need to have quantifiable data to justify that our decisions are in the best interest of the University, and more importantly, the students. We aren’t going to roll out degrees for which there are no jobs.”
While keeping students motivated through interesting content is a primary focus, the Deans and their faculty engage them in other ways as well. It’s all about creativity.
Bemski has started an online e-book club for SBTM, and more than 40 students have joined. “Last month we met to discuss our second book, You Are a Brand, which is about the importance of having personal branding, both professionally and personally,” he said. “We also have networking groups such as the Women’s Business Organization, resume writing workshops and other events, and a continued focus on teaching by engagement.”
“We’ve invested a lot of time and energy in creating a more engaging experience for our students with faculty. We encourage them to reach out to, and be flexible with students, and to have synchronous interactions with them.”
—Dr. James Billings, Dean of SSBS
Many of the engagement initiatives in SSBS are centered around the faculty. “We’ve invested a lot of time and energy in creating a more engaging experience for our students with faculty,” Billings said. “We encourage them to reach out to, and be flexible with students, and to have synchronous interactions with them.”
While NCU looks for additional ways to keep students motivated, it’s important that students take ownership of their own involvement. “When a student reciprocates, it creates a much richer experience for them,” Billings said. “I would encourage students who are really excited about a subject to reach out to the faculty, and have additional conversations and discussions that go above and beyond just that activity or that assignment.”
“The students we get are motivated, self-starters who really gravitate toward the one-to-one environment,” added Bemski. “Even though they may not want to be bothered by large classes, they want to be part of our Northcentral University community, and we need to make sure they have every opportunity to do that.”
*For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed programs, and other important information, please visit our website at www.ncu.edu/program-disclosures.