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SUNY Oswego Boosts Enrollment Of Graduate Students, Works Toward New Gains

Theo Johnson (left) and Anne Reynolds look over a holographic computer enabling users to view real-world surroundings and interact with virtual objects at the same time. Both students took graduate courses as undergrads, dubbed "Bachelor Plus" by the Division of Graduate Studies, and moved directly -- "Stay and Complete" -- into a master's degree program in human-computer interaction.
Theo Johnson (left) and Anne Reynolds look over a holographic computer enabling users to view real-world surroundings and interact with virtual objects at the same time. Both students took graduate courses as undergrads, dubbed "Bachelor Plus" by the Division of Graduate Studies, and moved directly -- "Stay and Complete" -- into a master's degree program in human-computer interaction.

OSWEGO — Total enrollment of graduate students at SUNY Oswego has risen over the past five years, and the college’s Division of Graduate Studies has used the momentum to highlight an array of more than 30 programs across campus.

Theo Johnson (left) and Anne Reynolds look over a holographic computer enabling users to view real-world surroundings and interact with virtual objects at the same time. Both students took graduate courses as undergrads, dubbed "Bachelor Plus" by the Division of Graduate Studies, and moved directly -- "Stay and Complete" -- into a master's degree program in human-computer interaction.
Theo Johnson (left) and Anne Reynolds look over a holographic computer enabling users to view real-world surroundings and interact with virtual objects at the same time. Both students took graduate courses as undergrads, dubbed “Bachelor Plus” by the Division of Graduate Studies, and moved directly — “Stay and Complete” — into a master’s degree program in human-computer interaction.

“One of the things we’re really proud of is the diversity of our programs throughout all four of SUNY Oswego’s colleges and schools,” said Kristen Eichhorn, dean of graduate studies.

Graduate enrollment has increased about 14.5 percent since 2013, led by strong gains in the School of Business, especially its renowned business administration program, including its MBA in health services; career and technical educator preparation in the School of Education; the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ interdisciplinary program in human-computer interaction; and a new degree program in strategic communication in the School of Communication, Media and the Arts.

The college’s Division of Graduate Studies has moved purposefully to point out the advantage of graduate courses, certificates and degree programs to Oswego’s undergraduates.

Through a pair of campaigns, “Bachelor Plus” and “Stay and Complete,” the college’s graduate office encourages students in bachelor’s degree programs to add courses for graduate credit and, a step further, to continue on without interruption for a master’s degree or graduate certificate.

Undergraduates recognize the value of graduate work, Eichhorn said, but some say they just want to move on after graduation. “How do we respond to, ‘I just want to get out and work?’ We welcome the opportunity to talk about how your undergraduate degree can take you where you want to go when amplified by graduate education,” she said.

Eichhorn enumerates some of Graduate Studies’ benefits for Oswego undergraduates: bolsters confidence to move right into the workforce; supplies a competitive edge through building skills that readily translate to specific categories of jobs; deals with professors and departments that are already familiar; streamlines the search and application process, saving time and money; and invests in oneself to achieve such goals as a higher starting salary.

“If you have a bachelor’s degree, we can help keep you moving,” the dean said.

Why wait?

As Theo Johnson moved toward his bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a minor in cognitive science, he took courses for graduate credit. Computer science faculty member David Vampola said to him, “‘Hey, you might like HCI,'” the human-computer interaction graduate program.

Second-semester seniors can take up to six graduate credit hours at the undergraduate price, and Johnson took advantage. He said he had a remarkable experience last spring working on a research project in a gaming user-experience course — culminating in a presentation at an IEEE GEM conference in Ireland and publication in the conference proceedings.

“I did get job offers,” Johnson said. “But I wanted to jump right into a master’s program and get it done. I didn’t see myself waiting another two or three years. … Anything could happen in that period of time.”

Recent broadcasting and mass communication alumna Melissa Wilson, enrolled now in a strategic communication graduate program at Oswego, researched many post-graduation options. The Port Byron native recalled a Skype call with the director of strategic communication over winter break of her senior year.

“I got to know the program director before I even applied,” Wilson said. “Knowing who you’re talking to, face to face, makes it a lot more comfortable.”

Wilson said she’s “thrilled” to have had the opportunity to expeditiously pursue her master’s degree, and she’s looking forward to what happens after next May. “I’m hoping to be able to manage social media accounts for large corporations or non-profits,” she said.

Fully online options

While Graduate Studies recruits Oswego undergraduates among its more than 900 graduate students, it also seeks to attract working professionals and career changers. Strategic communication now offers a fully online path to a master’s degree, as does the college’s highly ranked MBA (master of business administration) program and eight other graduate options.

Darcy DiBiase, assistant director of marketing at Upstate Medical University, spent time researching graduate programs across SUNY. She chose SUNY Oswego’s MBA program in health services administration, which blends business fundamentals with specialized health administration coursework.

Why Oswego? “For one thing, I went to Oswego as an undergraduate,” said DiBiase, a 2001 graduate in communication and music. She also chose the college’s health services administration degree program because it offered a fully online option and a less clinical approach to the study of administration in a medical setting.

After six years taking a course a semester, as well as online Winter Session courses and a small number of summer courses, DiBiase expects to graduate this May.

“I really want to further my involvement in the management of healthcare,” she said.

Jessie Buecheler taught elementary school for 10 years before deciding to return to graduate school at SUNY Oswego to change careers. She enrolled in the school psychology master’s degree program — a number of her courses were at SUNY Oswego’s Syracuse campus — and finished this May.

Buecheler is a legacy in the program; her father studied school psychology at Oswego. “It was a long time coming around, but it’s all full circle now,” she said.

She is now a school psychologist at Heffernan Elementary School in Marcellus. “I wanted to narrow my focus to helping students and families one-on-one, and for more than one year,” she said. “I am 100 percent sure this was the right thing to do. I am loving this position. It was a difficult (graduate) program in a very good way. I came out well-prepared.”

Rolling admission

Anne Reynolds made a mark at SUNY Oswego as an undergraduate psychology and information science dual major, helping found the local chapter of Girls Who Code to encourage more young females to try for college and careers in computers and programming.

Now, Reynolds has a semester and a half left in her HCI graduate program and is vice president of Women in Computing at the college.

“My philosophy is you can always go to graduate school,” she said. “But if you apply for jobs and you’re not getting a response, go to grad school. It’s rolling admission — you can apply at SUNY Oswego whenever you want.”

Now a graduate assistant with the Office of Learning Services and a teaching assistant for computer science faculty member Craig Graci, Reynolds has what she was after: a job. She attended the 2018 Grace Hopper Celebration, the world’s largest conference for women in computing. Guardian Life Insurance offered her a job on the spot, likely in data analytics.

“I don’t think I would have gotten the job without (enrolling in HCI),” Reynolds said. “HCI was a really good choice for real-world experience.”

SUNY Oswego marks 70 years of graduate education this year, a legacy started by graduate teacher programs but continuously evolving to meet the needs of employers and students.

For more information on the wealth of graduate degree and certificate programs at SUNY Oswego, visit oswego.edu/gradstudies, email [email protected] or call 315-312-3152.