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SUNY Potsdam announces first master of science program


POTSDAM — SUNY Potsdam will roll out a graduate program in community health next fall.

The program has been in the works for nearly a decade. The college has long offered a bachelor’s degree in community health and watched as graduates left the area to complete their education at other schools.

With the approval of the new degree, SUNY Potsdam hopes to keep these students around, not just to finish their education but to find work in the north country, a region with a great need for medical professionals.

“It’s not just great for our school, it’s going to be really good for our community as well,” program coordinator Kelly K. Bonnar said.

Those with degrees in community health can go on to become hospital administrators, wellness managers, health educators or policy workers.

The creation of the program required review and approval from both the state and SUNY.

“It’s quite an involved process. I know they were working on it for long before I arrived at SUNY Potsdam,” said Joshua J. LaFave, director of graduate studies. Mr. LaFave was hired less than a year ago.

Mr. LaFave said the state’s approval of a master of science degree is a landmark for SUNY Potsdam.

Before now, the college offered only master of arts and master of science in teaching degrees. Now that one M.S. program has been approved, it will be easier to create others.

The college already is working to rebrand its M.A. in organizational leadership into an M.S. program.

There is no difference in rigor or quality of education between the degree types, Mr. LaFave said, but M.A. programs traditionally are associated with the liberal arts. Adding another type will allow SUNY Potsdam to expand its offerings beyond its traditional focus.

“We need to diversify the portfolio of what we have. We’ve always had the talents and skills in our faculty to do that,” Mr. LaFave said.

The community health master’s program required the creation of 45 credit hours worth of classes.

The college plans to hire a new faculty member next year, and another in 2015.

“It’s an entirely new program with entirely new classes,” Ms. Bonnar said.

The college is accepting applications for admission into the program.

“We’re ready to go,” Ms. Bonnar said.

While undergraduate students enrolled in the community health program are the primary market for the master’s degree, Ms. Bonnar said she expects other local health workers also to enroll to broaden their experience and boost their credentials.

“We think a lot of the people who work here in the health field will come take our program as well,” she said.

The college is considering other possible M.S. programs that would mesh well with its mission, Mr. LaFave said.

“We’re going to continue to do the analysis of programs that are a good fit,” he said.

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