Graduate Program Sent Back to the Drawing Board

Graduate Program Sent Back to the Drawing Board

Unsuccessful accreditation and release of graduate studies’ dean causes administration to rework program.

Photo by Nate Almquist

North Central recently encountered setbacks in the process of working towards offering graduate level classes, which also resulted in the dismissal of Susie Brooks, hired as dean of graduate studies.

The graduate studies program, which was up for accreditation over summer 2013, was not approved by the Higher Learning Commission.

“The decision by our accrediting body sets us back a few months in launching our full master level program,” said Thomas Burkman, vice president of academic affairs. “It is difficult to say, however, at this point, how long it will be before we are fully ready to launch.”

Revisiting the issue

Students on campus caught word of this graduate studies expansion in a previous article printed in the Sept. 25, 2012 Northerner issue. There, not only was the thought of graduate courses introduced, but also the ideal of moving towards a masters level program.

Although plans have been altered, the program has not been given up all together.

“The anticipation of this office and of the administration is that North Central will be able to offer a graduate level program in the future,” said Burkman.

The graduate program may not have been given up on, but the question remains as to why Brooks was released when the accreditation was unsuccessful.

Hearing from Brooks

Before being dismissed, Brooks said she was asked to write a report explaining why the program did not receive approval and how she believed they could move forward. She claims, however, that this was not taken into consideration.

“The report was never looked at, and I was never given an opportunity to give my side,” said Brooks. “I tried to steer North Central away from the partnership with CapEd showing that the financial projections they provided were not reflective of North Central’s reality.”

Capital Education (CapEd) is an outside vendor that was contracted by North Central officials to manage different aspects of the graduate program implementation process.

According to Brooks, the Higher Learning Commission that ultimately denied North Central’s graduate studies proposal, agreed with her assessment that the CapEd relationship with North Central required some adjustments to be made and projections were not accurately reflective of North Central’s current reality. This was expressed by the visiting HLC team in their reports.

Originally highlighted in the September 2012 article, Brooks was hired to work on further preparing the graduate program, developing individual graduate studies courses, as well as moving the school towards a fully functional masters program.

In regards to Brooks separation, officials at North Central, due to confidentiality policies, gave no comment.

Where do we go from here?

Burkman did, however, give notice that another business plan is being prepared to satisfy the expectations of the HLC. After the conclusion of this study, the President’s Cabinet will decide where to go from there.

As of now, there are steps being taken to continue moving towards the successful implementation of a graduate studies program for the school. Burkman is heading up a study to look into changes recommended in the report given by the accrediting body. The interest of students for a program like that of North Central is also being assessed in this study.

Although the future remains uncertain, there is a team researching and reworking to aim for a successful second attempt at implementing a graduate studies program.