Grant to allow Western to study new professional science master’s degrees

CULLOWHEE – Western Carolina University is the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and Council of Graduate Schools that could lead to new professional science master’s degree programs in ecological biotechnology and in forensic science.

The grant, to be administered through Western’s Office of Research and Graduate Studies, will fund a yearlong feasibility study examining the pros and cons of adding the new master’s degrees to the university’s existing mix of academic programs offered at the graduate level.

The professional science master’s (PSM) degree programs would be designed to provide students with a combination of traditional training in “the hard sciences,” relevant applications in biotechnology or forensic science, and business and interpersonal skills required by start-up or existing employers, said Abdul Turay, dean of Western’s Graduate School.

“We anticipate that students will take courses offered by entrepreneurship faculty from the College of Business, and will develop professional, as well as academic, writing skills,” Turay said. “The goal of the project is the creation of degree programs that serve the professional and governmental workforce needs in Western North Carolina and across the state.”

The proposed ecological biotechnology program would focus on the development of practical applications of species native to the Southern Appalachian Mountains. It would build upon Western’s existing faculty expertise in chemistry, biology and biotechnology, and would take advantage of the university’s location in the one of the most biologically diverse settings in the world, said David Butcher, head of Western’s department of chemistry and physics.

The other new proposed degree, forensic science, has become one of the hottest new programs of study in that nation. The proposed program would complement new bachelor’s and master’s degree programs in forensic anthropology already under development within the department of anthropology and sociology, with classes anticipated to be offered beginning in fall 2004.

The Council of Graduate Schools is an organization of institutions of higher education in the United States, Canada, and across the globe engaged in graduate education, research scholarship and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. For more than four decades, the Council of Graduate Schools has been the only national association dedicated solely to representing the interests of graduate education.

CGS administers grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation that provides funds to develop professional science master’s degree programs at master’s focused institutions. The council awarded PSM planning grants to 36 institutions in 2002, with 22 of these institutions developing proposals to implement new PSM programs.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic nonprofit institution, was established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of the General Motors Corp. The New York-based foundation provides grants in several areas of interest, including science and technology; standards of living and economic performance; and education and careers in science and technology.