Brenau Creates Graduate Admissions Office as an Academic Function

Originally published on 3/15/10

Brenau University on March 15 officially opened the academic Office of Graduate Admissions to prepare for the two-fold growth in students seeking master’s, doctorates and other advanced degrees that is expected in the next decade.

The new office will be a cornerstone in the ongoing academic reorganization of the university that essentially combines all studies under two distinct groups, undergraduate and graduate studies, which will provide a more targeted focus on the unique needs of students in each group. Scott Briell, senior vice president for enrollment management and student services, will continue oversight of undergraduate admissions. Christina White, who most recently has served as dean of admissions, will head the new graduate admissions office and will report to the graduate dean, Dr. Gale Starich.

“The graduate admissions process truly is an academic function,” said Starich. “This organization tracks what we see in most universities. For example, prospective law student do not apply to the overall Vanderbilt University admissions office but directly to the Vanderbilt School of Law.”

White said the new Brenau program also will apply “a strategic approach to recruiting graduate students at a higher volume and a quicker pace.” As it evolves, the graduate admissions office will engage graduate faculty in the admissions process and develop recruiters for each of Brenau’s four schools: Health and Science, Fine Arts and Humanities, Business and Mass Communication, and Education.

“Prospective graduate students do not want to talk to someone who is ‘selling’ the overall university,” said White. “They want to communicate with faculty with whom they will be working and with people experienced in their academic discipline so they can understand what it is really going to be like to be in that area.”

Brenau had been engaged in graduate education for more than two decades at the intermediate master’s degree level. Of the almost 2,800 students enrolled at Brenau, about half of which are enrolled in graduate programs. The university’s strategic plan envisions a student body of 5,000 by 2025, and more than half that number will be seeking advanced degree, including doctorates and other “terminal” degrees – academic parlance for the highest degree attainable in an academic discipline.

Although White says the university will set “baby steps goals” for reaching that enrollment challenge, she’s got her work cut out for her. The new graduate admissions office comes online just as Brenau begins recruiting applicants for its first terminal degree – a Master of Fine Arts in Interior Design – with classes scheduled to begin in August at the Brenau North Atlanta/Norcross campus. In addition the university has imminent graduate degree offerings in other areas and new programs in existing graduate disciplines:

In nursing, the university has completed a feasibility study for a doctorate in nursing, which could begin as early as 2011, depending on available resources; and Brenau is developing a fast-track Master in Nursing program aimed at registered nurses with two-year degrees, a program that could be available on multiple campuses, including Brenau’s new South Atlanta/Fairburn campus.

In occupational therapy, Brenau’s combined Bachelor of Science/Master of Science program on the North Atlanta/Norcross campus recently won accreditation from the occupational therapy education board, and it will begin recruiting applicants soon. Also, the Gainesville-based dual-degree program continues to see a high growth rate.

In education, the university plans to begin an education specialist cohort program in the summer, essentially a terminal degree program for those with expertise in mid and early childhood development; a doctorate in education also is on the drawing board for the middle of this decade.

In business, the university established its first Master of Business Administration in Healthcare Administration cohort partnership with Northeast Georgia Regional Health Systems in Gainesville to begin in the fall term. Health professionals already are doing undergraduate prep work for that program (“A physician who enrolls in the program, for example, may not have the basic accounting prerequisites,” White explained. “Students are taking those courses now so they can roll right into the M.B.A. program in the fall term.”).

Other fast-growing Brenau graduate programs include master’s degree tracks in psychology and clinical psychology, nursing and nursing administration, multi-discipline gerontology, a project management track in business administration and education, including a Master of Teaching Arts for aspiring K-12 teachers with degrees in non-education specialties.

“When we enroll undergraduates today,” said Briell, “we presume that, at some point in their careers, they will each want to pursue an advanced degree. This new, more focused approach will help us attract students at all levels of their academic growth.”

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