IIT Announces Launch of National Professional Science Master's Association with Sloan Foundation Grant

October 18, 2007 (PRLEAP.COM) Education News
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has awarded a $500,000 grant to a group of eight universities including Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) to provide the initial funding to launch the National Professional Science Master's Association (NPSMA).

The association will promote and support professional science master's degree programs (PSM) at universities across the nation and encourage the continued expansion of such programs, which are designed as terminal degrees for students in the sciences who plan to work in professional positions in business, industry, non-profit and government organizations.

Dr. Elizabeth Friedman, executive coordinator of the Professional Science Master’s Degree Programs for the College of Science and Letters at IIT, was a co-principal investigator for the grant and serves as the first convener of the association’s Board of Directors.

IIT founded its first professional science master’s degree program over a decade ago and is now operating PSM programs in Analytical Chemistry (1996), Health Physics (1997), Materials and Chemical Synthesis (1998) and Biology (2003). The programs combine rigorous graduate study in science with the development of business skills to prepare graduates who feel equally comfortable in the lab or in the boardroom, courtroom, and other professional settings.

Illinois Institute of Technology’s PSM degrees stand out from the majority of programs in that they are offered fully online. IIT was a pioneer in distance learning via the internet and continues to lead the nation in the number of students earning their PSM degrees online. The online factor has been particularly attractive to working professionals who are seeking to advance their career while studying part-time. The skills learned in communication, leadership, team-building, and management go far in meeting the needs of industry.

“In today’s knowledge economy, professional science masters degree programs have a critical role to play in keeping America competitive by creating linkages between institutions and industry to prepare scientists with the practical training they need to work in high-need fields,” said U.S. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who supported the COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promotes Excellence in Technology, Education and Science) Act as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.

Bogdan Vernescu, NPSMA president, professor and head of Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Mathematical Sciences Department “noted that the $43 billion America COMPETES Act, recently passed by Congress, will assist the new organization in fulfilling its mission by providing support for students in PSM programs as one way to stimulate research and economic development.”

“These skills are absolutely necessary to compete in today’s global workforce and go far beyond what a student learns with a traditional research degree, “ Dr Friedman said. “It is very clear from the businesses, industries, non-profit and government agencies employing PSM graduates that this degree readily satisfies current workplace demands.”

The impetus for the NPSMA came from 75 PSM program directors and coordinators who saw a need to build the value of the PSM degree and bring recognition to it nationwide. In October 2005 they voted to form a national organization to provide a collective voice and to promote the PSM as a standard feature of graduate program offerings. Starting in July 2006, with support from the Sloan Foundation, a steering committee of initially 10 program directors and coordinators, including Dr. Friedman, developed plans and a structure for the new organization and put together the successful proposal for the Sloan grant. The award will fund the activities of the NPSMA, which includes setting quality standards and educational metrics to measure the programs’ success, and creating best practices for assisting new program directors. After the first annual meeting for members in November 2007, the NPSMA intends to become self-supporting through its rapidly growing list of member institutions, students, and alumni.

More than 100 professional science master's (PSM) degree programs, most with support from the Sloan Foundation, have been established at over 50 universities since 1997.

Founded in 1890, IIT is a Ph.D.-granting university with more than 7,300 students in engineering, sciences, architecture, psychology, design, humanities, business and law. IIT’s interprofessional, technology-focused curriculum is designed to advance knowledge through research and scholarship, to cultivate invention improving the human condition, and to prepare students from throughout the world for a life of professional achievement, service to society, and individual fulfillment. Visit www.iit.edu.