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Promoting the Professions

Unlike the other divisions, the birth of the School of Professional Studies (previously called the Division of Professional Studies and originally called the Division of Management Sciences) was not easy. For the other divisions, the person hired as dean created a collection of programs), and hired faculty who fleshed the programs out with curricula.

Not so Management Sciences.

First, the original Vice President for Academic Affairs, Wes Tilley, didn't really like curricula that offered vocational courses. He knew that, eventually, the College would have to offer professional courses, but he insisted that they be taught by a faculty who gave allegiance to the liberal arts. The other deans pretty much concurred.

So, while the four deans of traditional liberal arts subjects were hired in the spring of 1970, the Dean of Management Sciences was not hired until the fall of 1970. That person was not part of the conceptual planning, not part of recruiting of the First Cohort of faculty, and not part of the community-building that was so central to the work of the original deans.

In addition, the first candidate for Dean of Management Sciences—shortly after the position was offered to him—developed an inoperable brain tumor. We were forced to do a second national search, thereby delaying the vital planning it takes to create a college division.

The candidate we did hire, John Rickert, seemed a right fit for what we had already created, but personal problems prevented him from full participation in the planning process. While he hired the first faculty and created the necessary structure, he was never effective.

The wider community—in contradistinction to the founding vice president and deans, who insisted on a liberal arts focus—wanted the College to offer wide vocational curricula. The Atlantic City hoteliers asked for students trained in hotel management, the FAA Technology Center requested engineers and safety technicians, and local school districts strongly urged us to produce quality teachers.

Some professional curricula were needed; it was a matter of what kind of faculty and what kind of courses would be offered by the Management Sciences division. These tectonic faults are at the center of Marc Lowenstein's excellent survey of the creation of Management Sciences. For Lowenstein, the two points of view are Vice President Tilley's and President Bjork's. Bjork insisted that Stockton was not a "liberal arts college" and that it would certainly have professional programs). John Rickert, for his part, argued that whatever curricula the division finally produced, they would be based solidly on the liberal arts. It should be clear that Rickert was securely in the vice president's camp—to no avail.

As the national academic culture changed, Bjork's perspective prevailed. Management Sciences became more specifically vocational, less influenced by the liberal arts, and, unfortunately, less connected to the other divisions at the College.

Nancy Davis' essay also outlines the struggle to produce a variety of Health Sciences programs at the College. Resistance came from students who didn't see the value of Biomedical Communications, or the president—Peter Mitchell—who saw the health sciences costing too much, or faculty asked to initiate programs with no experience in that discipline. Davis' long and solitary struggle is both a warning and a confirmation to faculty. It warns faculty that new programs can be designed on paper but take on a life of their own when fully created. It is a confirmation that one faculty member committed to a cause can succeed when nimble and clever and, most of all, persistent.

It took years before support for graduate programs developed, as Bess Kathrins suggests, though from the very earliest days they were anticipated. Deb Figart thoroughly reviews the history and process of creating graduate programs; there are thirteen at the College as of 2011. The earliest was the Business Program—now an MBA—started in 1997. In 1997, 165 students had enrolled in two graduate programs; in 2009 enrollment had grown to 746 students.

The growth of Professional Studies at Stockton reflects that same growth nationally. Students have become very practical expecting that their courses lead to employment. This is understandable given a present unemployment rate of nine percent. But one wonders what will support these same students when, in the middle of their lives, they consider retirement or second careers. Will they not be limited given the narrowness of their early training? Somehow we need to seek a middle ground in the competing ideas of the liberal arts on one hand and professional studies on the other. Given its innovative history, the College needs to bridge this gap more effectively.

Inside Promoting the Professions:

Professional Studies: Competing Perspectives
Marc Lowenstein
  In Pursuit of Professions
Marilyn Vito
  Health Science Education at Stockton
Nancy Taggart Davis
Embracing Graduate Education
Bess Kathrins
  Growth and Change—Graduate Study
Deborah M. Figart

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