HAMBURG, N.Y. – For the first time in its history, starting this fall Hilbert College will offer graduate degree programs, one a master’s in criminal justice administration and the other a master’s in public administration, making the MPA currently the only master-level program of its kind in Western New York.
Hilbert received New York State Education Department approval this month to offer the 36-credit hour degree tracks, which are geared to mid-level working professionals who are seeking advancement in their field and to recent bachelor-level graduates looking to further their education in these areas of study. Graduates will be ready for mid- and upper-level administrative positions in a myriad of criminal justice agencies, including law enforcement, courts and corrections, and government and non-profit agencies.
“Throughout Hilbert’s 54-year history, the college has had a longstanding tradition of excellence in its academic programs that have been central to our students going on to excel in the workplace and having a positive impact in the community. With this vision guiding us, the graduate programs were developed in a way that underscores the strength and vitality of Hilbert’s overall educational experience,” said Hilbert President Cynthia Zane, Ed.D.
In announcing the graduate programs, Zane said “Hilbert is entering an exciting new era. Adding graduate programs is a significant step in the life of the college and reflects the college’s commitment to enhancing the career advancement and professional success of our students.”
Approval for the master-level degrees was the culmination of two years of work by Hilbert’s six-member Graduate Program Task Force, led by Christopher Holoman, Ph.D., provost and vice president for academic affairs.
“The graduate programs are a milestone for Hilbert,” said Holoman, who noted they “were borne partly out of a demand from our bachelor’s degree graduates who have frequently expressed their desire to continue their graduate studies at Hilbert. In addition to this, the programs are responsive to a need in the community for educated professionals with advanced degrees in these areas of study.”
The master-level programs are designed in an accelerated format to be completed in 18 months. With the working professional in mind, each course will last five weeks and all classes will be held on Wednesday evenings and Saturdays. Between each five-week cycle, students will have one week off.
“By structuring the curriculum this way,” explained Holoman, “it will allow adult learners to earn their graduate degrees while balancing work and personal commitments. Right from the beginning, students will have clarity about the schedule so they can make appropriate arrangements to meet the necessary time commitments. It provides a predictability and structure that many adult students need and appreciate given their other obligations.”
Students in the MSCJA and MPA programs will progress through their respective degree tracks as a cohort, taking courses as group through to degree conferral, a curriculum design that’s known to encourage in-class participation, cohesion among classmates and student retention.
Graduate students in both programs will complete 15 credit hours of core courses built around providing a foundational understanding of organizational management, finance and budgeting, statistics, program planning, and politics and policy analysis. They will then branch off into advanced courses in their respective disciplines.
“As the curriculum was developed, we recognized there was an overlap in the basic courses required in the programs. This model will provide common academic experiences for students in each program, creating a shared knowledge base that will provide a richer interdisciplinary educational experience and allow students to build skills that will be readily applicable in their professional field,” said Holoman.
The impetus for the graduate programs came from Destination 2012, Hilbert’s five-year strategic plan. Following an exhaustive feasibility study to determine if the college was in a position to offer graduate degrees, it was determined Hilbert was prepared to meet this goal.
Selection of the two degrees that would be launched emerged after looking at the college’s strengths, particularly criminal justice and social sciences, and its mission.
“The programs draw on Hilbert’s existing expertise in the college’s well-respected criminal justice program and the strong foundation we provide in areas related to public administration, which made these the logical disciplines to start with for launching our graduate offerings,” said Zane. “The framework exists as does a strong network in Western New York to support our students in these fields.”
Both programs have been designed to qualify for accreditation from the relevant accrediting bodies, specifically the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA) for the MPA and the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences for the MSCJA.
Using a multidisciplinary approach, Hilbert’s MSCJA program is targeted to mid-career adult learners who are already working in the criminal justice arena and to newer graduates seeking master-level degrees in the field. Criminal law and courts, penology and causes of crime are among the focus areas for the 21 credit hours of degree specific courses, all of which cover essential advanced concepts in criminal justice.
The MSCJA program comes at a time when the field is experiencing tremendous growth. According to independent research conducted for Hilbert by Hanover Research Council, 505 criminal justice administration-related degrees were conferred at the master’s level statewide in 2009, while an average of 6,950 job openings are projected to be available annually in New York through growth and replacement.
For Hilbert’s MPA program students, job prospects are equally promising. Hanover’s research revealed that in 2009, 1,758 public administration-related degrees were conferred at the bachelor’s and master’s levels, while an annual average of 5,206 job openings are projected for individuals with those degrees statewide.
Holoman explained that “the MPA degree is increasingly seen as a valuable alternative to other types of degrees, whether an MBA or a law degree,” adding that it’s a valuable multidisciplinary degree for managers in a wide range of institutions.
The program features a diverse curriculum with an emphasis on state and local government functions, court administration, values and ethics and a concentration of coursework in management as it relates to nonprofit, governmental and law-related organizations.
Based on a research-oriented curriculum from the beginning of the programs, the final component for all master’s degree students will be a capstone course that will integrate classroom learning and concepts learned throughout each program, concluding with a research project.
Inherent with launching the master-level programs, which will be taught by doctorally-prepared faculty, Holoman noted the new degrees will “bring a new academic vibrancy to campus as a whole that will greatly complement the college’s existing dynamic educational environment.”
In essence, Zane added, “the graduate programs will enrich the overall academic atmosphere of Hilbert’s learning community. Our main goal is to serve area professionals by providing them a master-level education with minimal interruption to their work or personal lives that will, ultimately, enhance their professional success.”
For more information about Hilbert’s MSCJA or MPA programs, visit www.hilbert.edu
or call 716-649-7900.