The Indiana Commission on Higher Education (ICHE) has approved two new degrees at Indiana University Northwest. One of these, offered through the School of Education, is a master of science degree in educational leadership. The second is a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology offered in cooperation with the program at Indiana University South Bend. The IU Board of Trustees approved both programs last fall; now, with ICHE approval, both are available to IU Northwest students.
Although the degrees are new, the programs they represent have been offered at IU Northwest for years. Until now, anthropology students were only able to earn an associate of arts degree in anthropology, or they could pursue a bachelor's degree in sociology with an anthropology concentration.
Similarly, study in educational leadership was already offered to School of Education students through the Educational Leadership Program (ELP), which offers a series of classes to prepare students for the Student Leadership Licensure Assessment (SLLA). This is the credentialing exam that education professionals must pass in order to earn an administrator’s license and work as school principals or in other administrative posts.
But educational leadership students who also wanted to earn a master’s degree had to pursue either the elementary-education or secondary-education graduate programs while taking an additional 27 credit hours in the ELP. The new master's degree streamlines the process for students who wish to focus specifically on the leadership track.
“There’s a sense of relief, because this has been in the works for more than two years,” said IU Northwest Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Vernon G. Smith, Ed.D, coordinator for the ELP. “There will be very few changes to the program. We are now able to offer the master’s degree, but we had already built the program. It’s not like we’re going to experiment with this new master’s degree.
“We’re really proud of how well we’ve prepared students for the SLLA,” Smith added. “We’ve had students who have scored as high as 196 on a 200-point test.”
Smith, a former principal who began teaching at IU Northwest in 1991, noted that demand for school administrators is high in Northwest Indiana and is only expected to increase as current school officials retire. He anticipates that a number of the school’s current graduate students will switch from the existing graduate programs to the educational leadership degree.
“We have a seasoned administrative population in our schools,” he said. “We continue to get notices from school districts that are looking for building administrators. It was important for us to offer this master’s program, because it meets an important need in the community, and because it allows us to remain competitive with other institutions in our region that offer the graduate degree in educational leadership.”
Smith said the ELP focuses on three important areas of learning for future administrators: the knowledge base, technical skills, and interpersonal skills. Administrators must be able to assess their teachers’ performance in the classroom, he explained, but they must also be capable of encouraging them to strive for better results.
“We teach them how to be a change agent,” Smith said. “We teach them how to motivate teachers to move from the status quo toward excellence in education.”
If Smith was relieved by the ICHE’s approval of its new graduate degree last month, then Associate Professor and Anthropology Program Coordinator Robert Mucci, Ph.D., was elated by the commission’s go-ahead on March 13 for the joint bachelor of arts degree. Mucci said plans for such an upgrade in collaboration with IU South Bend have been on the table for 13 years.
“It’s a joint degree in name and in faculty, but there is no requirement that students on either campus have to take classes at the other campus,” Mucci explained. “We anticipate that students will do that, because the two sets of faculty have different specialties. We do Native American and biological anthropology here, including forensics. Their specialties include global cultural anthropology, archaeology, and medical anthropology.”
Mucci said that IU Northwest’s program was already set up to offer a bachelor’s degree, but that it could not be certified to issue the four-year degree because the department did not have the requisite number of faculty members. IU South Bend, he explained, began its anthropology program more recently and was not yet in position to offer a bachelor’s degree. By combining their resources, however, the programs met all requirements for offering the four-year undergraduate diploma.
“One of the reasons we were able to get this approved was because this campus has been training anthropologists,” said Mucci, who began teaching at IU Northwest in 1990. “We have people who have gotten the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree here and who have gotten jobs at the Field Museum or as archaeologists, and who have gotten into graduate school in anthropology. We have several people who have gotten master’s degrees, and we’ve got several people in Ph.D. programs. And we have students who take other routes. We have two recent anthropology students who are in the Master of Social Work program.”
Even for students whose career aspirations lie elsewhere, Mucci said, anthropology is an excellent preparatory subject. Business, medicine, communication, and life sciences are just a few of the disciplines that bear some relationship to anthropology. That’s why he expects to see plenty of anthropology students who double-major in other subjects.
“If you’re talking about international business, for example, you need to be able to communicate across cultures,” he said. “People in international business have been taking anthropology courses, and have been told to take anthropology courses, for 50 years, at least. Anthropology has a holistic viewpoint. There are anthropologists who are also geologists, and anthropologists who are also chemists. They call themselves anthropologists, but they have a different specialization that they bring to anthropology.”
As a joint program with sites in Northwest Indiana and South Bend, distance learning is now a possibility for some anthropology classes, but Mucci said the discipline features many hands-on courses in which students probably would not benefit from videoconferencing. But some faculty members from each school are expected to teach classes at the other site on an occasional basis.
“We think that students would be willing to drive,” Mucci added. “We already have the occasional student who takes classes at both campuses. It’s only an hour’s drive.”
Despite being, until now, just an associate's degree program, the anthropology department has long played a significant role in the life of the IU Northwest campus. The Anthropology Club sponsors the popular One-Dollar Used Book Sale each fall and spring, using the proceeds to fund scholarships, research stipends, guest speakers, and special events. The sale draws hundreds of people to campus from across Northwest Indiana. The Anthropology Club also sponsors Darwin Day, the annual campus celebration of Charles Darwin’s Feb. 12 birthday that features skits, songs and guest presenters.
In the short term, not much will change for the IU Northwest program, Mucci said, except that students who wish to register as anthropology majors may do so as soon as the new bachelor’s degree is coded in the university’s computer system. Mucci explained that students who are very near the completion of their B.A. in sociology will not have the option of switching their credits to the new degree, but he estimated that students who are one year out or more from graduation may be able to convert to the anthropology major.
“It technically begins in the fall, but people can actually sign up for it as soon as they get the program code into the (computer),” he said. “We know that we have it, so people can be advised on it and take the courses that they’re going to need.”