Earlier this year, after completing her bachelor's in English from Middle Georgia State, Terrie Lewis got an email asking if she would be interested in the University's forthcoming Master of Arts in Teaching degree.
"I was like, 'Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!' said Lewis, 52, who, after years of substitute teaching, decided to make education a full-time career. "I planned to go into a master's program somewhere. If it can be at Middle Georgia State, all the better."
If the program is approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, MGA will roll out the Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education in summer 2017. Another program, the Master of Science in Management, is also set to begin in 2017, pending SACSCOC approval.
The two new degrees would bring to four the number of programs that MGA - approved by SACSCOC as a Level III master's degree-granting University - offers through the Office of Graduate Studies, which is based on the Warner Robins Campus. Middle Georgia State became a University in July 2015 and introduced its first two graduate programs - Nursing and Information Technology - shortly afterward.
Dr. Kevin Cantwell is among a few faculty members left whose MGA career dates to the former Macon College, a two-year school. Now he's the first dean of Graduate Studies, and he likes what he sees so far of MGA's evolution as a University.
"Graduate education is part of the access mission of not just MGA but the University System of Georgia as a whole," he said. "Our graduate programs are building on that mission in the sense that we want to create programs that serve specific workforce needs, are relatively low cost and have reasonable admissions standards. We want to remove barriers to our citizens who need graduate education for the professional roles they fill. It's good for them and it's good for the region's economy."
As of this fall, 18 students are enrolled in MGA's Master of Science in Nursing in Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, while 55 are pursuing the Master of Science in Information Technology, which includes concentrations in cybersecurity, health informatics and software development. MGA expects to graduate its first master's degree students in December 2016, all in Information Technology.
Meanwhile, MGA is developing a graduate certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication, tentatively scheduled for a summer 2017 launch, and exploring a couple of select programs in the coming months.
In other developments, the Graduate Studies office just hired its first two graduate assistants - both in the IT program - and is establishing a Graduate Studies Council, an advisory body of the Faculty Senate.
"We're in the position of being able to reflect on ideal programs and build them," said Dr. Loretta Clayton, a nine-year veteran of MGA's English faculty who earlier this year became associate dean of Graduate Studies. "It's amazing to be able to collaborate with community and University partners and help shape what we learn from each other into specific programs."
Take the proposed Master of Science in Management. The School of Business consulted with Robins Air Force Base and other business and industry interests to come up with a program that provides career pathways in logistics and supply chain management. The degree is also designed to give bachelor's degree holders in accounting the graduate-level course hours they need to be eligible to take the CPA exam.
Many of the MSM classes will be offered face-to-face in the evenings at the Warner Robins Campus, which will be especially convenient for employees of RAFB, just half a mile away.
"With this degree, we're making an especially strong commitment to Houston County and Warner Robins," Cantwell said. "We see adding a premier graduate program in Management as a powerful way to help support the base's mission. Houston County and Warner Robins have been good to Middle Georgia State, and the creation of a signature graduate program based at our campus there is a response to the commitment they've made to us."
The University has set initial enrollment goals of 20 students for the Master of Science in Management and 15 for the Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education.
Lewis plans to be a member of the charter class in the MAT program, which is designed for people with bachelor's degrees in English, biology, math or history who want to get certification to teach at the high-school level.
The students will take three foundational classes to get started, then, through a proposed partnership with the Bibb County School District, get teaching experience as "graduate interns" at Howard High. The entire program is designed to be completed in a year.
Lewis has two grown daughters who are teachers - one at Bibb County's Northeast High and the other in Putnam County. She is excited about following in their footsteps.
"I've always had a passion for teaching, and I'd like to teach in Macon," she said. "I'm excited Middle Georgia State is helping me get the opportunity."
MGA Graduate Degrees Available Now
Master of Science in Information Technology
Master of Science in Nursing in Adult Gerontology Acute Nurse Practitioner
Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education
Master of Science in Management
Graduate Certificate in Technical Writing and Digital Communication
*pending approval by Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Photo: Terrie Lewis, a recent graduate of MGA's bachelor's degree in English, plans to be among the first students in the University's upcoming Master of Arts in Teaching in Secondary Education program.
This article first appeared in the fall 2016 edition of MGA Today magazine.