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The Full-Time Role of Part-Time Programs

Dean Sarah Steinberg photo

Sarah Steinberg

The Krieger School’s venture into part-time graduate studies began modestly about 15 years ago with master’s degree programs in liberal arts, environmental studies, and government. Today, Advanced Academic Programs (AAP) offers 12 separate master’s degrees, including three that are dual MS/MBA or MA/MBA degrees, as well as targeted certificate programs and fellowships. Sarah B. Steinberg, associate dean of AAP since December 2004, is seeing to the division’s continued growth by forging partnerships with other Hopkins divisions and responding to specific demand from students in the Baltimore-Washington region, as well as reaching out to students nationally and internationally with increased online offerings. Steinberg talked with Arts and Sciences Magazine editor Angela Paik Schaeffer recently about AAP’s growth and its future.

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There are new offerings in communications and government that offer dual MA/MBA degrees. Was the success of the MS/MBA program in biotechnology (recently cited by Nature magazine as the largest such program in the country) the impetus for the new ones?

There seems to be a pent-up demand for this kind of program among students who recognize there are going to be business aspects of their job. We’ve partnered with SPSBE [Hopkins’ School of Professional Studies in Business and Education], which has essentially developed a core curriculum for the MBA program…in which students get a good broad overview of business topics and do a capstone project that will be of specific interest to communications and government students. These are selective, demanding programs that have about 20 course requirements for the joint degrees—twice the number of a typical master’s program.

 

What are some other new offerings in AAP?

We currently offer a small number of courses internationally. Last summer about 15 students went to London to take communication courses offered in conjunction with Westminster University. This summer we have courses planned in Florence, Italy, for the MLA and Writing programs. We’re also beginning discussions with SAIS [the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies] about offerings in Nanjing and Bologna for summer 2007.

New this spring is a joint master’s degree in bioinformatics with the Whiting School of Engineering’s Programs for Professionals that is fully online. The program had existed in traditional classrooms for students in this region, and now it’s available to people anywhere, and we’re reaching out nationally and internationally with this program. We held an online open house for the program in November and had about 80 people sign up for it, literally from all over the world.

 

What can you tell us about AAP students? Who are they, what are their interests?

We have close to 1,600 students total, which translates to about 2,200 course registrations per semester. We have students taking courses in Washington, Baltimore, and Montgomery County, as well as online. About 15 percent of our students are affiliated in some way with Hopkins, and two-thirds of our students are in the different biotechnology programs. The Montgomery County campus is an ideal location for the biotechnology program, right in the middle of biotech alley, near the National Institutes of Health. One of our fastest-growing programs in Montgomery County is the degree in bioscience regulatory affairs.

I think the most interesting mix of students is in Washington, where students represent literally hundreds of organizations, public and private. They are taking classes in areas ranging from government and communication to environmental science, applied economics, writing, and the MLA.

 

You recently moved AAP’s headquarters to Washington. What drove that move?

The center of gravity of our student population is closer to Washington than Baltimore, and we wanted to be closer to our students to be able to provide them a high level of customer service. We also had the opportunity to expand into much nicer facilities there; we currently occupy all of the first and fourth floors of the Bernstein-Offit Building in Dupont Circle.

Admissions, registration, financial, marketing, and web support functions are now in Washington, but we didn’t reduce the number of courses at Homewood. All the same offerings are still available at Homewood.

 

How quickly is AAP growing these days?

From about 1991 to 2003, AAP grew very rapidly, on the order of 10 to 15 percent a year. Beginning in 2003, we began to see the growth curve slow to a more manageable rate on the order of 3 to 5 percent a year.

Our inquiries from prospective students are way up, and we expect new interest as a result of the increased marketing efforts and the introduction of new degrees, certificates, and concentrations. We had about 950 inquiries from August to October of 2005, compared to 275 inquiries during the same period the year before.

 

What’s your vision for AAP generally?

I have an administrative vision and an academic vision. Administratively, I’d like us to be the division within the university known for the best administrative practices. I’d really like us to be the model for best practices, and I think we have a great team that’s in a position to do that.

Academically, it’s a broader vision that involves offering creative programs of the highest caliber with the flexibility and convenience our students want. Our academic reputation should be on par with the university’s full-time programs, and our content should be a blend of theory and practice that meets the needs of the broader community surrounding Hopkins.

 

What do you see as the role of part-time programs at Hopkins?

Part-time programs at Hopkins provide an essential link with the surrounding community. They extend the reach of Hopkins in ways that can’t happen through the conventional means of day-time programming. Today, students require flexibility and convenience but they also want the benefits of a Hopkins education. Every school within Hopkins now has part-time courses and/or degrees. About 8,500 students are considered part-time, out of a total of almost 19,000 students. That’s about 45 percent of the student body. In another five years, it’s going to be 60 percent, I imagine. These students are going to become a significant part of our alumni base.

 

 

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Part-time programs at Hopkins provide an essential link with the surrounding community. They extend the reach of Hopkins in ways that can’t happen through the conventional means of day-time programming.