An ‘exciting’ time for graduate school

As more students than ever pursue graduate studies, Queen’s introduces new programs to stay competitive

Professor Ron Easteal, left, and Professor Les Mackenzie, both from the department of anatomy and cell biology, collaborated to create a new master’s program in anatomical sciences.
Professor Ron Easteal, left, and Professor Les Mackenzie, both from the department of anatomy and cell biology, collaborated to create a new master’s program in anatomical sciences.

When Liz Hartnett, ArtSci ’07, graduated from Queen’s with a major in environmental biology, she started looking at her options for graduate school.

“I was looking for something multidisciplinary, because I have so many different academic interests,”
she said. “I wanted to focus more on environmental studies than biology.”

Although she considered the environmental studies program at Queen’s, Harnett has decided on a two-year master’s at York University instead. “I liked that the program was so liberal, you can choose courses from almost any department,” she said. “They also encourage a lot of field research, and you can do a project instead of a final thesis.” With universities across Canada adding new graduate
programs, students like Hartnett have more options than ever for graduate studies.

Professor Janice Deakin, dean of graduate studies at Queen’s, said the University is trying to stay
competitive by offering innovative and attractive programs. “We’re all about building strong programs that are engaging for students,” she said. “Right now, there is a lot of interest in interdisciplinary programs, and studying issues from a variety of angles.

According to the University graduate studies website, Queen’s currently offers graduate programs
in 43 different departments. Since 2001, enrolment in University graduate programs has increased by 35 per cent to 2,291 students in 2005.

In response to this ongoing growth, the University is adding new programs at the graduate level, and Deakin said they hope to continue expanding to provide more choices for future graduates. Deakin said the University is expanding its programs after receiving more funding from the provincial government. “The Rae Report highlighted the demand that the double cohort would put on graduate programs in the province,” she said. “The government has allocated us with room to grow, so we’re excited about that.”

Deakin said the school of graduate studies plans to increase enrolment in current programs as well as create new opportunities. One new initiative is the master’s degree in anatomical sciences. This was the first year the department of anatomy and cell biology has offered the program.

Professor Les Mackenzie, the program co-ordinator and a professor in the department, said the program sets itself apart from other graduate science programs because it does not involve a thesis, although it does include a research project. It also includes a unique component on teaching its students how to teach.

According to Mackenzie, the idea for the program sprang from a discussion at a Beer with Profs a
few years ago. Mackenzie said several students, at separate times throughout the evening, approached him to ask about the possibility of a program focused on teaching anatomy. From there, Mackenzie, Professor Ron Easteal, Professor Conrad Reifel and Professor Stephen Pang, all professors in the department, collaborated to develop the program.

“The whole concept is to prepare competent individuals to teach human anatomy or cell biology at community colleges and other allied health professions,” Mackenzie said.

The program lasts 16 months. This year it began in September 2006 and ends in December 2007. However, the incoming class will begin in May 2007 and finish in September 2008. Each session will accept 12 students, and Mackenzie said there are currently 30 applicants.

In addition to the principles of teaching, the program also covers the four core aspects of anatomy and cell biology: gross anatomy, embryology, neuroanatomy and histology. It also includes a practicum, which, according to the program website, is “designed to educate students in the art of teaching and designing curricula in anatomical sciences.”

Mackenzie added that the practicum part of the program will not only help students learn practical scientific skills, but the work will benefit other students in the department. “Part of the project these students need to work on is developing new learning materials for the department for students from first-year through to medical school to use,” he said. Although the program doesn’t include a thesis, the required research project provides an opportunity for students to conduct scientific research with a professor in the department. That way, if students want to pursue research later on, they’ll still have experience in the lab, Easteal said.

Easteal also said the new program’s focus on the actual teaching of anatomy will fill the need for more teachers, in light of the growing emphasis on research.

“Universities really put the pressure on hiring scientists and the scientists will say that their primary motivation is research and not teaching,” Easteal said. “Teaching has become secondary.” Entrance to the program requires an honour’s degree in biology, health studies or an equivalent professional degree like nursing or physiotherapy. The minimum mark requirement is a 75 per cent average in the last two years of study.

The development studies department has also seen many changes recently. This year was
the first year of its undergraduate major program. Previously, it was only possible to pursue development studies as a medial or minor option. “The restructuring has allowed us to create what we think is the best possible arrangement of courses,” said Professor David McDonald, the program’s director.

McDonald also said the department will soon change its name to global development studies to better reflect the geographic scope of the department. Additionally, the department is planning to introduce a
master’s degree by as early as September 2008. McDonald said the program is an answer to the increasing demand for programs in development studies at both the graduate and undergraduate level.
“Currently, there are really only two dedicated master’s programs in development studies in Canada, he said. “There is one at Dalhousie and one at St. Mary’s.”

Although still in the developmental stages, McDonald said the master’s program would have two streams. One would require students to take six term courses and write a major paper on a subject of interest (between 50 and 75 pages). The second stream would require students to take four term courses and to write a thesis. In its inaugural year, the program will accept between four and eight students. McDonald said the department hopes to increase that to eight to ten students in the following years. In addition to increasing the number of graduate students at the University, McDonald said
the program will better reflect the increasing diversity at the school. “It will add to the milieu of internationalization at Queen’s at the graduate level and will make it that much more exciting to be at
Queen’s,” he said.

Admission to the program will include an assessment of both academic performance and experience in the field of development studies.

Meanwhile, Queen’s will be set to launch a master’s of public health in September 2008, if all goes according to plan. According to Dr. John Hoey, the advisor to the principal on public health, the program will be the first offered by the School of Population and Public Health, also in development.

“The plan is to enroll 45 students in the first year, and, by increments, increase to 120,” Hoey said. Hoey added that the University recognizes the need for a school of public health because many other
universities already have such schools in place, and because of a growing workforce demand for
experts in public health. The master’s of public health program is described as “a non-thesis, professional development degree” on the website.

It will be either 16 months or an accelerated 12 months in length, and will include six core courses: environmental health, global health, health policy, introduction to biostatistics, introduction to epidemiology, and social and behavioural sciences in public health.

Students will also be able to take elective courses and will participate in a three-month practicum. “Creating a school of public health with a more global outlook would encourage opportunities for students and faculties to ‘engage the world,’” Hoey said.

The program is aimed at professionals but also to students who have extensive experience working in the community. Hoey also sees the possibility of there being collaborative programs with the law school and applied science in the future.

According to Deakin, development studies and public health are only two of several departments creating new programs. “We have a lot of work goingon at an internal level right now,” she said.
Deakin added that it takes at least two years for a new program to be implemented. “New programs need adjudication from the Ontario Council of Graduate Studies,” she said. “So a new program is a
two-year process, from conception at the University to approval at an external level.”

Once new graduate programs are introduced, Deakin said the number of student applications is the first indicator for success. “Clearly, once we mount the program, the first question is whether students apply,” she said. “Time will tell, but it’s an exciting time for graduate studies right now.”

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