Agreement gives K College students head start in earning grad degrees

Contact: Cheryl Roland
Photo of Jorge G. Gonzalez and John M. Dunn.

Gonzalez and Dunn

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—After more than a century of being neighbors and partners in countless community initiatives, Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University are now leveraging both schools' academic resources to streamline the path K students take to earn graduate degrees.

The presidents and senior academic leadership of the two schools met on the WMU campus today to sign an agreement to implement 4+1 programs that will allow K students to take an accelerated route to earning a WMU master's degree—completing a bachelor's degree at K and applying some upper-level class credits toward WMU master's degree requirements.

K students will be able to enter a 30-credit master's program at WMU with as many as 12 credits already earned through credit transfer or through a credit-by-examination process. The option ensures a faster and more economical route to earning a graduate degree.

The first 4+1 program being launched will be in comparative religion. Other programs will be added as student interest develops and as faculty members at both schools work out specific details about which courses in their disciplines may count toward degree requirements.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to leverage the resources we have in our community," Kalamazoo College President Jorge G. Gonzalez says.  "We should take advantage of the fact that we have two strong institutions located right next to each other.  It allows us to combine our undergraduate programs with WMU's graduate school programs for the benefit of our students."

In recent years, WMU has developed a number of accelerated master's degree programs offered to its own undergraduates. The University now has 18 such programs in five of its seven colleges. The option of earning a master's degree this way is increasingly popular and plays a growing role in recruiting freshmen and transfer students.

"We've gotten very good at offering a broad range of master's programs to our students in an accelerated format," says WMU President John M. Dunn. "What's new is that we're partnering now with our colleagues at Kalamazoo College to offer their very talented students the same option of getting a head start on their graduate education."

Dr. Susan Stapleton, dean of the WMU Graduate College, worked with Dr. Michael McDonald, the K provost, to develop the agreement between the two schools. She notes that there is interest nationally in this graduate education partnership between a private, four-year, liberal arts college and a public, comprehensive, research university.  She'll be speaking about the topic at professional conferences this summer.

"Lots of places have accelerated programs," she says. "This partnership is what is new and likely on the leading edge of a trend. We're doing something that will shave off the time to earn a degree and help more students achieve their dreams at a lower cost."

The first student hoping to take advantage of the opportunity has completed an application to begin WMU graduate studies in spring 2018.

"This is the next step in collaboration between our two institutions, and I expect there to be more ways that we can and will collaborate in support of student success," McDonald says.

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