UB Studies Feasibility of New Professional Master's Degree Programs in International Business and Trade

UB expanding commitment to interdisciplinary professional training

Release Date: January 22, 2004

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The University at Buffalo is pursuing the development of three new professional programs in social sciences and the humanities that will join a new group of interdisciplinary professional graduate programs and certificate programs in the natural sciences, informatics, education and other fields.

The three new Professional Social Sciences and Humanities Master's (PSSHM) degree programs being planned are: international business and trade in francophone Canada and the Caribbean, international business and trade in Latin America, and survey research methods.

Their development is being supported with a $15,000 grant from a Council of Graduate Schools program funded by the Ford Foundation to develop new professional graduate programs in social sciences and the humanities.

For several years, UB has encouraged, promoted and supported innovative graduate training in new fields to satisfy the educational and career expectations of the many graduate students who do not plan or need to receive doctoral-level degrees in their fields.

Joseph A. Gardella, Jr., Ph.D., professor of chemistry and associate dean for external affairs in the UB College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), is principal investigator on the grant. He says activities related to the study and development of the new PSSHM programs will be centered in the college and will involve important areas of UB's programs in social sciences and humanities.

"These are areas in which the faculty members already have successful collaborations in research and teaching within the university, and active engagement with colleagues outside of the institution," he says.

"This grant will enable us to establish contacts with individuals in government agencies, industry and non-profit agencies who could be invited to join advisory boards for these programs, and with whom we could establish internship programs. The grant also will fund travel to area universities to publicize our program and to explore and cultivate student demand."

According to Gardella, the new emphasis has evolved from a growing body of public evidence suggesting that in all disciplines of academia there is a mismatch between Ph.D. production and the career paths open to, and expectations of, doctoral graduates.

"The classic career path for a doctoral student, which is a faculty position in a college or university, is oversubscribed by current production," he says, "and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Significant employment opportunities exist outside academia for doctoral graduates in fields like the sciences and engineering, but there are signs that these paths, too, are oversubscribed."

He adds that the present pattern of doctoral education creates significant frustrations for individuals unable to satisfy their career expectations.

E. Bruce Pitman, Ph.D., professor of mathematics and associate dean for research and sponsored programs in CAS, is co-principal investigator on the grant. He says that UB recognizes doctoral students' frustrations and already has responded by establishing master's-degree options in newly developing and niche areas.

Among them are three new Professional Science Master's (PSM) degrees being developed with funding from the Sloan Foundation. The programs are in molecular chemical biology, computational chemistry and environmental geographic information systems. The programs have a number of innovative features, including project and portfolio options, as well as course work in ethics and in business, and will serve as a model for development of the PSSHM programs, according to Pitman and Gardella.

"We are committed to expanding opportunities for students in the social sciences and humanities," Pittman says. "Moreover, the university recognizes that many of its new degree offerings must be interdisciplinary in nature."

He cites new graduate certificates in computational science that involve faculty from five departments, geography options that involve departments in the fields of engineering and science, and a new master's degree in computational linguistics.

Pitman says new programs in international business and world trade at UB will train graduate students to a high level of proficiency in economics, geographic information systems, business and commerce, finance, communication, ethics and information technology.

"They would prepare students to begin their careers with fluency in foreign languages and a familiarity with the cultures of francophone Canada, the Caribbean or Latin America," he says.

Maureen Jameson, Ph.D., professor and interim chair, Department of Romance Language and Literature, serves as program director for the international business and language option.

"Through enhancements to our study-abroad programs, particularly to our unique program in the Caribbean," Jameson says, "students will be able to immerse themselves in the appropriate cultural environment while conducting valuable on-site studies of local banks, import-export companies, customs offices and the like."

Students also will benefit from UB's pre-eminence in the field of information technology, which will permit their acquisition of cutting-edge skills in the field.

D. Munroe Eagles, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Political Science, is a leader for the proposed programs in social sciences. He describes the program in survey research methods as important because those methods are commonly employed in academic and non-academic research.

"In academia," he explains, "survey research has become the method of choice for answering a wide variety of pressing questions in virtually all social science disciplines, from economics through psychology to sociology, communications, geography and political science. It also is widely employed in market and other research in business, medical, law, education, social work and other professional fields.

"In fact, our research indicates that there are more than 2,000 private research firms regularly engaged in survey research in the United States alone," Eagles said. "With the rapid diffusion of liberal democracy throughout the world, demand for trained and competent survey researchers will surely continue to grow worldwide.

"It is imperative that those involved in this research community be highly trained, ethical individuals who will respect and nurture this trust relationship and ensure that the information produced by the survey method is of the highest possible caliber, and that the privacy of respondents and confidentiality of the data produced is guarded with the utmost care," Eagles adds, "and this is precisely the kind of training UB will offer."

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