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K-State Today Student Edition

September 27, 2012



New online master's degree program helps students serve families, communities

By Communications and Marketing

The Kansas State University Division of Continuing Education will soon be offering a new online program of study that can benefit members of the military and human service professionals worldwide.

The new online Master of Science in family and community services program enables professionals who are place bound and working full time to acquire advanced study without relocating geographically. It will be offered for the first time in the spring 2013 semester, and enrollment starts soon.

"This degree program is highly appropriate for people who have undergraduate degrees in family studies, social work and related fields," said Maurice MacDonald, the faculty chair of the new program and director of Kansas State University's School of Family Studies and Human Services. "People who want to supplement what they know from other areas or who want to get a degree focusing on this area will find it very convenient."

The new online program is offered through the university's College of Human Ecology and its School of Family Studies and Human Services. It is sponsored by the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, or GP-IDEA. The alliance is a partnership of 20 public universities that collaboratively provide high-quality, online academic programs.

The U.S. departments of Agriculture and Defense requested that the alliance develop the new master's program to meet the educational needs of military service members and their spouses, said MacDonald, who worked with Virginia Moxley, dean of the College of Human Ecology, to develop the program.

The new master's degree is an interinstitutional degree that will be offered online and through instructional support provided by Kansas State University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, the University of Missouri, the University of Nebraska, North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University and South Dakota State University. Graduate faculty members at these universities developed the program curriculum.

"Because we are pulling strings from a lot of areas, this program is going to have some highly developed course material with the expertise of people who teach in those areas," MacDonald said. "We think it will be a success."

By offering the program online, students have the opportunity to advance their education while remaining engaged in military services, while being on hold because of spousal deployment or while engaging in other human services careers.

"The online option allows students working in the human services field to increase their knowledge base and professional skills without having to commute," said Charlotte Shoup Olsen, program coordinator and professor and extension specialist in the School of Family Studies and Human Services. "I think of the family and consumer sciences cooperative extension agents throughout Kansas and other states who deliver community-based programs to strengthen individuals and families. This opportunity will allow them to obtain a master's degree that is relevant to their job responsibilities."

Courses are designed to provide students with a foundation for understanding family resources, dynamics and interpersonal relationships that influence individual development. Courses emphasize the development of theories and practices to lead, manage and evaluate the delivery of programs to support families. The program also includes two courses focused on individualized study or practicum in coordination with the student's community.

"The courses are intended to help people understand in-depth family and individual development in community context," MacDonald said.

To graduate from the program, students are required to complete 36 credit hours, including 10 core courses and two elective courses. While the program does not require a master's thesis or project, it does involve an oral examination of a written case study that is developed in two capstone elective courses that apply core course content for theories, research, design, implementation, evaluation and management skills.

Kansas State University's undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree program in family studies and human services enrolls 400 students and graduates around 160 students each year. University officials say the new online master's degree program gives students, especially those engaged in the military or other human service careers, the chance to advance their education.

"Kansas State University's online distance education programs offer students not able to relocate to Manhattan the opportunity to earn a degree, add a certificate or minor or to just take courses from an accredited, reputable institution," said Janice Nikkel, program coordinator in the Division of Continuing Education.

For more information about the new program, visit http://www.dce.k-state.edu/humanecology/fcs. Interested students can contact Charlotte Shoup Olsen, the Kansas State University program coordinator, at 785-532-5773 or colsen@k-state.edu.