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Fast-track degrees boost careers, intellectual growth


Simon Ouderkirk and Allan Rysin are among a small but growing number of Binghamton students completing bachelor’s and master’s degrees in just five years.

Students in these “fast-track” or “combined-degree” programs are often seeking a special edge in the job market or on applications to other graduate programs, said Nancy Stamp, dean of the Graduate School.

That’s Rysin’s story. Others, like Ouderkirk, are simply satisfying their intellectual curiosity in a deeper way than they could as undergraduates.

“It gives them the polish they get from a graduate degree in terms of teamwork skills and critical-thinking skills,” Stamp said. “Plus, they already have a social network, so they don’t have to worry about things they’d have to deal with at a new campus. It puts them in the next level of intellectual environment.”

Students can combine a variety of undergraduate majors with a Master of Business Administration from the School of Management. Others have done a master’s degree in the same field as their undergraduate major.

Stamp said the fast-track option holds special appeal for Binghamton undergraduates who arrive with credits from Advanced Placement courses. “They’re already fast-tracking,” she said. “The ones who know what they want to do career-wise are well positioned to take advantage of this.”

Rysin, 22, of Brooklyn, applied to the MBA program as a junior majoring in computer science. But he knew he wanted to do the fast-track program as soon as he heard about it as a freshman, he said.

“I don’t want to be a programmer for the rest of my life,” Rysin said. “I wanted to understand how business works. I didn’t want to limit myself to the technology side.”

The MBA program has helped him hone his teamwork and leadership skills, he said. He’s job hunting now, and hoping to land a position as a technology consultant with one of the Big Four accounting firms.

“The MBA gives you a lot of interaction with other people, a lot of confidence in how you work with others,” Rysin said, “and that’s a lot of what these companies look for.” 

Keith McCullum ’05 ’06 landed a job as a security consultant with Protiviti in New York City after earning a bachelor’s in computer science and then an MBA. He focuses on testing network security, trying to see if a hacker could break through protections on clients’ Web sites.

“Coming out of the School of Management, I had a better handle on how to focus my technical understanding and relate that in a way that management can understand,” said McCullum, 24, who grew up in Rochester. “If you can’t have other people understand you, you’re not going to be able to do your job effectively.”

He feels the MBA gave his résumé a boost; it also helped him look at potential  employers with a more discerning eye. “I think it was a little bit easier to get my foot in the door in some places,” McCullum said.

Ouderkirk, who turns 23 this week, was a philosophy and philosophy, politics and law double major as an undergraduate. He’s now working on a master’s in philosophy.

“I recognize that this is a unique environment,” he said, “and I’m trying to get everything I can from it.”

Ouderkirk, who grew up in rural Oneida County, applied to the master’s program in part because he’s not sure he’s ready to pursue a doctorate in philosophy. He’s working on a thesis about social capital theory and whether it’s all positive, a subject he believes will be a good foundation if he decides to do a doctoral dissertation one day.

Associate Professor Lisa Tessman, graduate director in the Philosophy Department, said this approach may well make Ouderkirk and others like him more appealing Ph.D. candidates.

“The students come in much more focused on what they want to study if they’ve already done a master’s,” she said. “They’ve also proven they can do graduate-level work, which makes them a better bet from the school’s perspective.”

Other students have used the master’s in philosophy as a way to improve their chances of getting into the law school of their choice, she noted.

Stamp envisions growing enrollment in Binghamton’s combined-degree programs, especially in the Master of Public Administration and Master of Arts in Teaching programs, where there’s both capacity and a natural fit with several undergraduate  offerings.


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Last Updated: 10/14/08