WMU News

Trustees approve two new graduate offerings

June 26, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- Two new graduate programs designed to address critical needs in the nation's schools were approved June 26 by Western Michigan University's Board of Trustees.

Beginning immediately, WMU will offer a dual master's degree program in special education and orientation and mobility, which is designed to provide professionals who can meet the needs of visually impaired students. The University also will offer a new graduate certificate program in educational technology to help teachers and administrators meet the increasing demands of integrating computing technology into the K-12 curriculum.

The dual master of arts degree in special education and orientation and mobility is designed to address the shortage of professionals trained to work in schools with children who are visually impaired. Since many schools cannot find or afford to hire both teachers and orientation and mobility specialists to work with such children, the dual degree program will train professionals who are prepared to meet both needs.

"There is a national movement to improve the quality of teaching and services for visually impaired children," says Dr. William R. Wiener, chairperson of WMU's Department of Blind Rehabilitation. "This program will ensure quality training for professionals in both areas."

Graduates of the 58-credit-hour program will receive a master of arts degree in special education and will be endorsed to teach visually impaired students. At the same time, they will earn a master of arts degree in orientation and mobility and will be certifiable in that field. They will be competent in such educational services as literary and computer Braille and adapting a curriculum for visually impaired students. They also will be versed in adaptive computing technology and independent living skills for those with low vision and in adaptive sports and arts activities.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Education awarded WMU $326,328 to launch the program and has committed similar amounts for each of the next two years for a total of nearly $1 million. The funds will be used to offer the program in both a four-semester, on-campus format and a seven-semester distance education format. The latter will open up training opportunities for those already working in the field by allowing students to complete much of their course work at home.

Because of the severe shortage of qualified personnel in both areas, the federal funding also is intended to cover tuition and some other expenses for those enrolled. The program is expected to produce up to 54 specialists over the next three years.

The graduate certificate program in educational technology will be housed in the Department of Education and Professional Development and was developed in collaboration with WMU regional center and school districts around the region.

The program will address a new market that has emerged for professionals trained to serve as technology coordinators at both the building and district level. The 15- to 21-credit-hour program is designed to accommodate individuals who enter the program with varying degrees of technology experience. Those enrolled will acquire the skills necessary to keep current with the demands of technology and will learn to evaluate, integrate and develop technology to enhance instruction.

"This will be the only program in Michigan and it may be the only one in the nation with a focus on preparing technology specialists," says Dr. Joseph Kretovics, chairperson of the Department of Education and Professional Development. "We anticipate that by the end of the third year of implementation, we will have an enrollment of about 250 students."

Pilot course offerings developed for the program have enrolled more than 200 students over the past year and have attracted a waiting list of students who want to enroll. Telephone inquiries, focus groups and discussions with representatives of local and intermediate school districts indicate there will be a great demand for the program, Kretovics says. The program will be offered both at WMU's Kalamazoo campus and at its regional centers.

Both programs have been approved through the University's curricular review process and have been endorsed by the academic officers of the Presidents Council of State Universities.

In other action, the Board of Trustees approved changes in the bylaws of the Faculty Senate to increase the pool of candidates eligible to run for three senate offices in addition to president and vice president.

Up until now, only current senate members could run for corresponding secretary, treasurer and recording secretary. This limited the number of persons who could run for these offices.

With the approved changes, candidates for these three offices can be members of the current as well as the two previous senates, as candidates for president and vice president already are. The changes were previously approved by a majority of voting faculty members and the president of the University.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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