SLIPPERY ROCK — The board of governors of Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education today approved Slippery Rock University's request to begin offering four new master’s degree programs. 

The new programs, which will begin in the summer of 2018, are a Master of Arts in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, a Master of Science in Health Informatics, a Master of Science in Athletic Training and a Master of Music Therapy.

“These programs represent SRU’s continuing efforts to adapt curricula to meet the changing needs of employers in the region, the commonwealth and beyond,” said Cheryl Norton, SRU president. “We’re excited about the opportunities these new degree programs will open up for our students.”

Assessing and adapting programs and developing new programs to respond to the changing nature of the world of work is critical to the University and inline with System objectives, Norton said.

“Our universities must constantly assess and reassess their academic programs, and adapt them to meet both student demand and the needs of employers—regionally, nationally and globally,” said State System Chancellor Frank Brogan. “Proper program alignment is essential to the success of our students and the success of our universities.”

The Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages degree, a linguistically based program, focuses on second language acquisition studies and the teaching of adult English language learners.

The program is needed, organizers say, because evidence shows that Pennsylvania and the region are seeing an influx of immigrants who are increasingly less proficient in English. 

“This lack of proficiency is an economic and social barrier for hundreds of thousands of people,”said Marnie Petray, SRU instructor of English.  “In Pennsylvania alone, the percentage of foreign-born residents doubled from 3.1 percent in 1990 to 6.2 percent in 2013. This represented almost 800,000 people in 2013.”

The Master of Science in Health Informatics is a broad, interdisciplinary field that lies at the intersection of computer science, mathematics and public health. Students will be expected to have completed previous course work in computer science or a closely related field.

“Healthcare is in the midst of an information revolution as organizations rapidly adopt information systems to improve both business operations and clinical care,” said Sam Thangiah, SRU professor of computer science. “Along with a demand for data to improve decision-making is a demand for informatics specialists; people who can use technology tools to support the management of information.” 

In fact, the Education Advisory Board predicts that the healthcare industry will be one of the industries with the greatest demand for data talent.

The program will offer concentrations in public health, data analytics and healthcare management. 

A required capstone/ internship course will provide an opportunity for students to acquire relevant experience and demonstrate competencies in an applied field of interest; and prepare students for technical, clinical and administrative leadership by educating them in healthcare issues, knowledge discovery, visualization and management, ethics, privacy and law governing healthcare data, cyber security and software development. 

The Master of Science in Athletic Training will transition SRU’s current undergraduate athletic program to a graduate offering. 

The need to transition the program is based on a decision by the Strategic Alliance of the Board of Certification, Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, National Athletic Trainers’ Association and National Athletic Trainer’s Association Foundation to require a master’s as the professional entry-level degree.

“A seamless transition of the current undergraduate athletic training program to a graduate-level professional degree will build upon the success that the program has achieved over the last 41 years, and align with the future direction of the profession and healthcare,” said Jackie Williams, SRU associate professor of exercise and rehabilitative sciences.

Market demand for athletic trainers is very strong, Williams said. The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s long-term employment projections show above-average growth for athletic trainers for 2012-2022 at 2.1 percent compared to 0.8 percent for other professions.

The Master of Music Therapy will prepare advanced-level music therapists to work in the rapidly-expanding field of music therapy by providing students with the opportunity to expand the breadth and depth of their knowledge and skills in the field, including advanced clinical education.

The benefits of obtaining the degree are the acquisition of advanced competencies, making graduates more effective therapists; greater potential to acquire jobs that require at least a master’s degree, e.g., in mental health; and the greater likelihood of opportunities for promotion.

The MMT will address a market need that is growing much faster than average, place SRU graduates at the front of an industry trend, and represent a fusion of the University’s academic strengths of health and wellness, counseling and working with special populations, said Susan Hadley, SRU professor of music.

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