Plans to reinstitute graduate degree programs currently underway

By Sophie Foster
Copy Editor

For those students worrying about graduate school applications, trying to improve their academic profiles, hoping to gain a more specializing experience in their area of study, or wish they could spend just a little more time in the Washington College community before moving on, a solution may be on the horizon. 

After almost a decade since its discontinuation, the College is looking to reinstate some graduate degree programs. 

According to Chief of Staff and Vice President for Planning and Policy Vic Sensenig, the return of graduate study “makes a lot of sense for the College at this time,” particularly because WC already has the accreditation approval. 

“Our motive is capitalizing on our strengths and giving more opportunities to our students and employees,” Sensenig said. “This could be a really good thing, potentially, for everyone.”

Presently, WC is the only liberal arts college in Maryland that doesn’t offer graduate levels of study, according to Interim Provost and Dean Dr. Michael Harvey, who maintains that WC’s attention will always remain on undergraduate education. 

“We will always have a liberal arts framework at the core of our identity,” Dr. Harvey said, but he believes it might be time to think more broadly. “If an economical master’s helps persuade of the power of a liberal arts education, it speaks to who we are and what we do.” 

Both Dr. Harvey and Sensenig identify this potential introduction of new programs as an effort for which the primary market would be current WC students, including varsity athletes hoping to prolong their time with their teams and those seeking higher levels of professional or occupational preparation. 

“We want to build programs that resonate with our students,” Dr. Harvey said, elaborating that surveys have indicated high student interest in the option to pursue a master’s degree at the College. 

“I think that it would be nice if WC offered master’s programs because of how many people it would draw in,” sophomore Liv Barry said. “The College has a fraught relationship with Chestertown locals, so if we opened up the opportunity for locals who already have college degrees to receive their master’s, then maybe the town would be more receptive to WC students.” 

Freshman Iris Scherr echoed this sentiment, adding that “it would be good because it would give students better access to a higher education and help prepare them better for the future.”

Ultimately, according to Dr. Harvey, this will be a collaborative process without an official timeline, though he is hopeful that graduate level courses may become available as early as the 2023-2024 academic year. “We have to think morally, think empathetically, and think in terms of data,” he said. 

Dr. Harvey sees this as an endeavor with five key tenets: alignment with the College’s enduring liberal arts foundation; enhancement of the undergraduate experience, rather than detraction from it; added meaningfulness for current students; ability to be competitive in the academic market; and a level of sustainability, meaning that faculty members should not be asked to take on excess responsibilities. 

Since student perspective is being held in high regard in approaching this new possibility, Dr. Harvey and Sensenig encourage students with insights into this prospect to be vocal about their ideas and viewpoints. 

“If there is interest, say it,” Sensenig said. “Now is the time to provide that positive reinforcement for ideas like this.”

According to Dr. Harvey, students who want to share these ideas and viewpoints should reach out either to him or their Student Government Association representatives.

Elm Archive Photo

Featured Photo Caption: After nearly ten years since Washington College ceased its master’s study initiatives, several campus affiliates hope to reinstate some graduate degree programs for the 2023-2024 academic year.

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