New Master of Arts in Applied Liberal Studies recruiting students for fall
March 6, 2017Tweet
With recent approval to offer a Master of Arts in Applied Liberal Studies (MAALS), Binghamton University is focused on recruiting its first cohort of 25 new graduate students to begin in the fall.
The three-semester master’s program is geared toward individuals with a liberal arts undergraduate degree, though others could also benefit, said Beau Brammer, the program’s administrative director. “It answers the question of ‘What am I supposed to do with my degree?’”
“The MAALS program is intended to take a student with a Binghamton University undergraduate degree who has a great deal of knowledge, skills and ability to think, and add to that an advanced level, finishing graduate program to prepare them to be successful in any number of professional careers,” said Susan Strehle, dean of the Graduate School where the program will be housed. Once the program is fully established, it will look beyond the Binghamton campus for students.
This is the first graduate program in the nation delivering applied liberal studies for traditional students at the graduate level, said Strehle. There are Master of Liberal Studies programs that let lifelong learners study what they missed the first time they attended college, but what makes Binghamton’s program unique, she said, is that “we didn’t find any other program that takes exceptional undergraduates and prepares them for a range of professional positions.”
“This is rethinking liberal arts education at the graduate level for the 21st century and developing new avenues for these students,” Brammer said.
The program comprises three semesters of work plus a summer session; students will take six courses and complete two internships and a capstone experience.
“We’ve designed the curriculum in response to national surveys of what employers want, Strehle said. “What they want is exactly what our curriculum provides.”
The six courses, with Strehle’s brief explanation, are:
• Advanced Communication: “The ability to present, speak, write and do analysis of various kinds.”
• Research Methods: “How to use research, either qualitative or quantitative. Students will learn how to recognize if a source is appropriate, how to find things, how to take a supervisor’s general notion of what s/he wants to know and dive deep to figure it out.”
• Professional practices: “Teamwork and leadership are on that top ten list of what employers want; how they work with others, how they work with sometimes problematic coworkers, and how they lead.”
• Information Technology for Professionals: “Students today are far more computer savvy, but they don’t necessarily know how to use the computer to do some of the work for them, to set up a database to collect information or write simple programs that can move things forward for a project.”
• Navigating Cultural Differences: “If you are transferred to Singapore to set up a program, what do you need to know? This course helps students land anyplace in the world and get to know people, recognize what they don’t know and make it work.”
• Financial Practices: “How to put together a rough budget for a project, how to read a budget and understand it, what to know about finance to make sense of decisions and how to cost something out.”
The first internship – during the summer between the first and second years of the program – would most likely be on campus or in the Binghamton area, unless an individual student has a ready opportunity elsewhere.
“We could place them on campus and show them the pace of a really overwhelmed communications department where they have to write under pressure and interview people,” Strehle said. “This would provide help for campus offices and also vet these students, while sharpening their skills. Then they’ll do a second internship elsewhere, get great letters of recommendation, and get interesting professional jobs. That will be our best selling point.
“What we aim for is high-quality placements that will prepare the student to enter the job market with credentials, experience and recommendations that will really make a difference,” Strehle said. “One year in six classes, a summer internship and another in fall puts a student on the job market in January, a year and a half in without too much student debt and the ability to get a job that is a jump up from what they could have with a bachelor’s degree. There are so many advantages to this.”
The capstone will bring together the curricular components, said Brammer. “What do you gain? What have you learned? How are you applying it and preparing yourself for the professional world when you’re done? The capstone is when you integrate it all and bring it together. There will be a written component and students will also present to the cohort, helping everyone learn from each other and expand their skills.
William McCarthy, from the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development, is the talent acquisition associate for the program, charged with helping students connect with internship opportunities. “The second internship could be in New York City or anywhere, depending on a student’s individual needs and interests,” he said. “My goal is to reach out and connect them with alumni as well as with local, regional and state employers to identify internship sites.”
“We’ll also assist students with their resumes and help them apply for internships,” McCarthy added. “The Fleishman Center and I will work hand-in-hand with students to connect them with internships as well as long-term jobs. We’ll work to fit their individual needs and personalize the internship experience.”
Strehle said interest in the program goes beyond liberal arts students. In the process of developing the program, a survey of 5,000 Binghamton University junior and senior students revealed that students in psychology and integrative neuroscience were as concerned about developing professional skills beyond their disciplinary knowledge as students in the humanities and social sciences. “A psychology degree, for example, will tell you things that help you understand your world; but seniors sometimes realize that clinical psychology isn’t for them, so, like English major graduates with a lot of knowledge and skills, these students don’t know what they want to do next. Biology graduates often do a gap year and this program would give them knowledge and skills beyond what they received in their undergraduate careers.”
“I think this is likely to be a valuable program for many recent graduates and that Binghamton is our first audience,” Strehle said. “This program is focused on a set of advanced skills that employers want and students feel they don’t have. This program can take our great Harpur undergraduate majors and open doors for them.”