KALAMAZOO, Mich.—In the summer of 2019, the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Western Michigan University welcomed its first cohort of students, kicking off a period of growth in the college. In the last two years, the Department of Occupational Therapy launched a new Doctor of Occupational Therapy program, which replaced its long-running and well-regarded master’s degree program, as well as a new Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy.
Those programs illustrate WMU’s commitment to health care fields, creating pathways for Western students to highly rewarding careers in great demand. For the fall of 2022, the College of Health and Human Services is announcing new programs and redesigned certificates that show our commitment to growing and evolving to better support our students and the communities we serve.
Health Administration: a partnership with Haworth College of Business
Perhaps the most exciting interdisciplinary offering for fall will be the new Bachelor of Science in Health Administration. Offered through the School of Interdisciplinary Health Programs (SIHP), the program was developed with the Haworth College of Business to prepare graduates for leadership roles in health care organizations—a strong career market in a massive and growing business sector.
“It was a huge opportunity for WMU to step up, identify this need and work efficiently across colleges to develop this program,” says Dr. Ron Cisler, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “The University’s emphasis on interdisciplinarity helped us ramp this up relatively quickly. And the fact that we already have a number of interdisciplinary programs in our college helped us lead in this particular case.”
The program development team included Dr. Jan Hahn, director of healthcare services and sciences programs, and Dr. Devrim Yaman, associate dean for undergraduate programs at the Haworth College of Business. Also integral to the process were former SIHP Director Dr. Mark Kelley and a five-person faculty committee from Haworth College of Business.
“Career growth and overall growth in the healthcare industry really clarifies the need for this program,” says Dr. Tiffany Lee, interim SIHP director. “So much of our healthcare services and sciences program is already pointing students in that direction. So working with the business college to design a program that incorporates specific business and healthcare skills and knowledge was incredibly rewarding for us. And I know it will be rewarding for our students.”
The new program will be led by Dr. Jessica Cataldo, SIHP faculty specialist. Cataldo joined Western during the summer and was most recently part of the faculty at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Rethinking existing certificates
While the college has introduced several new degree programs in the last few years, two existing programs have reorganized their offerings to make them more relevant for today’s students.
The Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences has established a formal undergraduate certificate to replace its “post-baccalaureate prerequisite course sequence.” Like its predecessor, the new Undergraduate Certificate in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences is primarily directed at students preparing to pursue a graduate degree in speech-language pathology or audiology. The courses in the certificate will satisfy prerequisite requirements for many such programs.
In addition, current Western students from any major may pursue this certificate to complement their bachelor's degree. The focus on communication sciences is broadly applicable in many careers, and all the required coursework in the certificate can be taken virtually.
“The majority of students interested in a certificate like this will be getting ready to apply for graduate programs,” says Dr. Alyssa Eminhizer, undergraduate program director in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. “While we have a popular bachelor's degree program in speech, language and hearing sciences here at WMU, many students discover these career paths later in their academic career, after they have chosen a different major. This certificate gives students with other backgrounds the coursework needed to continue on to graduate work in speech-language pathology or audiology, both of which are extremely rewarding careers."
Teaching nurses in classrooms and other settings requires a special set of skills. The WMU Bronson School of Nursing will now offer a Nurse Educator Graduate Certificate to prepare post-graduate nurses, whether they have a BSN, MSN or doctorate, with necessary skills to be an effective educator in academic or staff development settings.
“One of the concentrations in our MSN program is nurse educator, so these are courses that we have offered for some time,” says Dr. Lisa Singleterry, director of the WMU Bronson School of Nursing. “It’s exciting to offer these three courses as a certificate. It offers clinical experts an opportunity to learn the art of teaching.”
Rounding things out with two new minors
Throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic, the field of public health has captured widespread and growing interest. The new public health minor allows students to add focused public health skills and concepts to their undergraduate degree. In the required courses, they will learn and practice the interdisciplinary skills needed to succeed in areas associated with public health.
“Careers in public health-related fields are growing,” says Dr. Robert Bensley, program coordinator for the public health bachelor’s degree. “And the global pandemic continues to highlight the ways that public health impacts all sorts of careers. The concepts covered in this minor will definitely inform healthcare and social science workers in a number of jobs. But they can also be beneficial for students who plan to work in business, education, government and other fields.”
As Baby Boomers continue to age, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities continue to grow in number, creating another set of careers that are growing at a tremendous rate. SIHP has launched a 15-credit minor in long-term care administration to prepare students with skills and knowledge needed to oversee the daily operations of nursing facilities, adult day cares, home care organizations or assisted living facilities.
"Licensed nursing home administrators and trained managers at all levels of senior care are in high demand,” says Hahn. “Once students complete this minor, they’ll meet the educational requirements to get certification as a nursing home administrator in the state of Michigan. We are pleased students have this new option to prepare them for a meaningful and challenging career options. This serves our aging community as well as our students."
More information about all of these programs can be found on the College of Health and Human Services website.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.