School of Public Service: New initiatives to help develop future leaders

Dr. Robert Waters - Exceslior CollegeDr. Robert Waters was named dean of the School of Public Service (SPS) in March 2014. Since that time, there have been many new initiatives to help develop future leaders in criminal justice, government, not-for-profit management, public administration, and the military career fields. Dean Waters sat down with Excelsior Life to share insight about new initiatives in the  School of Public Service.

Excelsior Life: Can you tell us about new programs launched  and plans for the future?

Waters: The School of Public Service has been active!  We are celebrating the first year anniversary of the Master of Public Administration and look forward to the Alliance with the Federal Government.  Our MPA Program Director, Karen Bryce, is located in the DC Center and we’re working closely with Outreach and Access to serve the educational needs of civil servants.  The MPA is a great option for federal workers.

The Associate of Science in Criminal Justice degree was launched in October 2015.  We were able to “stand-up” the degree with just one new course development, the ASCJ’s capstone.  SPS now has “stacked” the Associate, Bachelor, and Master of Science degree programs and provided our students with a seamless pathway from entry-level undergraduate to graduate study in the Criminal Justice field.  The School of Public Service will not stop there.

The M.S. in Criminal Justice now has a Justice Administration and a “non-concentration” options that joins the Homeland Security concentration.  The B.S. in Criminal Justice added a new “non-concentration” option to join the Homeland Security, Investigative Forensics, Criminal Justice Administration, and Law Enforcement and Public Safety concentrations.

To meet student needs and to strengthen the existing Bachelor of Science in Military Studies, the School of Public Service changed the title into Military Leadership.  The program continues to evolve and new courses will broaden and deepen the curriculum.

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The core courses including the capstone are now completed and over 35 are registered in the Summer II session in National Security courses.

Excelsior Life: I understand there is a new Bachelor of Science in National Security that started on May 2, 2016. Can you tell us about this degree? 

Waters: The idea was proposed at one of our Faculty Advisor Committee meetings as means of diversifying the SPS curricular portfolio and meeting student demand.  The core courses including the capstone are now competed and over a dozen students are registered in the Summer I session in the Introduction to National Security course.  We’ve tapped into the experience and professional network that Faculty Program Director, Brenda Roth, brings to SPS as a U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. (ret.) and former Associate Provost at the National Defense University.  The full build-out of the program is planned over the next two years.  Meanwhile the BNS concentrations take courses from the Schools of Business and Technology and Liberal Arts to round out the curriculum.  Courses in Cybersecurity and on International RELATIONS are perfect for the program.  We’re also in the process of developing BNS courses as hybrid course sections for our DC Center.  SPS is excited about the prospect of serving the Washington, D.C. market with the high concentration of active U.S. military personnel, civilian federal government employees, and defense contractors.

Excelsior Life: Are there plans for any additional degrees in the School of Public Service? 

Waters: At an April 2016 meeting, the Excelsior Board of Trustees approved the School of Public Service program proposals for the Bachelor of Science in Homeland Security and Emergency Management (BHE) and the Associate of Science in Paralegal Studies (ASPS).  Both degrees are approved by the New York State Education Department (NYSED).

The BHE program only needed the capstone course, thanks to the efforts of Bachelor of Science faculty Program Director Dr. Michael Verro in building an array of related courses as part of the Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice Homeland Security concentration.  We’ve also integrated courses from Business and Technology, Health Sciences, and Liberal Arts in the BHE concentrations.  SPS will look to expand its student base in the field of law enforcement and create new opportunities for students in other First responder areas like firefighters, EMTs /paramedics, and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The ASPS is just the start of SPS Legal Studies programming.  We expect to have full proposals for a Bachelor degree and post-Associate Degree Certificate as proposals for Excelsior governance consideration before the end of the calendar year.  SPS faculty Program Director for the Master of Science in Criminal Justice Gretchen Fleming is our lead expert on those projects with her prior experience running ABA approved undergraduate programs in Paralegal Studies at a different institution.

School of Public Service is also working on courses under the working title “Race, Justice, and Community Advocacy” for our graduate level degrees.  We are in the research and development phase of that project just this minute, but we’re very excited to include the courses as options in the MPA and MCJ programs.

I also expect School of Public Service will look at exploring a dual degree offering with our School of Health Science colleagues.

Excelsior Life: Is there a typical career path or background for students in the School of Public Service?

Waters: What our students, faculty, advisors, and staff have in common is a passion for public service.  We all want strong, vital, and inclusive communities.  This is not some partisan political or ideological thing.  People as diverse as President Obama, Speaker of the House Ryan, California Governor Brown, and South Carolina Governor Haley selected careers in public service as a way to better the lives of citizens and others in our nation.  Certainly each of those leaders could have taken a career path in the private sector, but they didn’t.  The call to service was too strong for all of them.  Many of our SPS students are active duty military or veterans, others serve in law enforcement careers or aspire to do so, and others are employed by local, state, and the federal government.  Current and future SPS academic programming is open to all that are looking for the knowledge and skills to work in and for our community.  The businesswoman that seeks to open a not-for-profit, a parent making the transition back into the workforce after raising a family, an individual that’s frustrated with the state of the country, and others that seek to change their lives and the lives of those around them for the better are potential School of Public Service students.  A person only needs a high school diploma or the equivalent; that, and a passion for public service.

Excelsior Life: If there was something you would like potential students to know about SPS, what would that be? 

Waters: That’s an easy question since it lets me brag about the SPS staff!  Our Director of Academic Evaluation, Deb Hodge, and our team of Senior Advisors Becky LaBombard and Scott Kemble are tireless in their work with students.  Crossing that threshold into a college program, either for the first time or after many years away from higher education, is daunting for many people.  Potential students should know that our advisors offer expertise, respect for their efforts, and an empathetic ear.  By the way, Becky was recognized recently as the Outstanding Advisor of the Year for 2016 at both Excelsior College and the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).  That’s not only a reflection of her, but a tribute to all the advising staff at Excelsior College.

Potential students should also know that every member of the SPS team- administrators, faculty, and staff are totally dedicated to their academic success and the achievement of their scholarly and professional goals.

Excelsior Life: What is the current career outlook for degrees in public service? 

Waters: Job growth for police and detectives is five percent between now and the year 2022.  That is an audience for our SPS Criminal Justice degrees.  The Master of Public Administration degree should appeal to some of the 2.6 million public sector workers covered by the new “Alliance with the Federal Government.”  The new Homeland Security and Emergency Management undergraduate degree may should be of interest to first responders like career and volunteer firefighters and EMTs and Paramedics.  There is an estimated seven percent growth in career firefighters and a 23 percent growth in EMTs and Paramedics.  Certainly, the SPS curriculum offers 1.4 military active duty enlisted and officers educational options.

 Excelsior Life: As a dean, what are the most proud accomplishments of your school over the last two years? 

Waters: The School of Public Service started on July 1, 2013 with seven full- and part-time staff members and a shared Dean from the School of Liberal Arts.  Now the School of Public Service has 14 full-and part-time staffers, operates independently of other schools, discontinued three obsolete undergraduate certificate programs, added four new undergraduate degrees, and modified the curriculum of the three original SPS programs.  We growing each year and excited to serve the educational needs of Excelsior students.  What really inspires the SPS staff is the opportunity to fulfill the vision of President Ebersole and the Board of Trustees in establishing our school.  The School of Public Service is a vital part of the Excelsior community and that’s a source of great satisfaction.

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