The University of Missouri System is considering two new degree programs at MU: a master’s degree in business, and a bachelor’s program to train occupational therapy assistants.
The UM System Board of Curators Committee on Academic, Student Affairs and Research and Economic Development voted Tuesday to recommend the two new programs for approval. The board will vote whether to give final approval at its Sept. 26 meeting.
Board member Phillip Snowden attributed the lack of questions about the programs to thorough presentations that addressed any areas of concern the committee might have had.
"It looks like we've got some really fine programs moving forward," he said.
Both MU programs were portrayed as innovative or ahead of the pack.
The master’s program, proposed by the Trulaske College of Business, will follow a "stackable certificates" model, which would let students earn multiple certificates from the college or any other schools on campus.
The program would provide more choices in classes, options to customize the degree "in real time" and interdisciplinary options, Ajay Vinze, the college’s dean, said. Students would be able to tailor the program across disciplines to create "a meaningful degree" at MU, he said.
The degree has received endorsements from MU colleges and programs, including the MU College of Education, the School of Health Professions and College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, among others.
The Trulaske College of Business would plan to hire at least 12 new faculty members over the next five years to accommodate the college’s growth, according to the proposal. But the proposal also states that “most of the resources needed to deliver this program are already in place.”
The program is close to being launched, pending approval of the board and a state agency, Vinze said.
The board’s committee also voted to approve a new bachelor’s program for occupational therapy assistants.
For more than 60 years, the entry-level education requirement for an occupational therapy assistant job has been an associate degree, according to the proposal. But as demand for “highly trained, evidence-based practitioners” has increased in the last few years, the industry wants people in entry-level jobs to have more advanced degrees.
Entry-level occupational therapy assistant programs are currently only offered as associate degrees, which are mostly available at community colleges and for-profit colleges. The proposed program at MU would allow students to finish their associate degrees at a community college in the state before applying, according to the proposal.
The proposal also cites a study that shows occupational therapy assistants who have a bachelor’s degree “are more qualified and ready for advanced practice positions and greater job responsibilities.”
Timothy J. Wolf, department chair of Occupational Therapy at MU, said standards for entry-level education of occupational therapy assistants at a bachelor’s degree level were released in November. MU started to develop its program early this year. The degree program will need approval from the board, the state and the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.
There are only "a handful of schools" that have applied to provide such degrees in the nation, Wolf said. The department aims to launch the program summer 2021, he said.
Supervising editor is Tynan Stewart.