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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Columbia College develops new master’s degree in military studies

by Jimmy Patterson

     Columbia College faculty approved the Master of Arts in Military Studies, a new graduate degree program primarily targeting service men and women on active duty, in the National Guard or in the Reserves. The degree program will be delivered online and will focus on history, philosophy and political science and other related liberal arts areas. The degree is targeted to current military professionals and others involved in defense-related careers.    
Dr. Brad Lookingbill, professor of history and chair
of the Department of History and Political Science.

     Dr. Brad Lookingbill, professor of history and chair of the Department of History and Political Science, is spearheading the development of this program. He says that the concept for the program reflects the American military’s current emphasis on adaptive leadership. By fostering critical thinking and writing skills at the graduate level, the education that those individuals will obtain will help them to grow as professionals and to advance through the ranks. The outcome of the program will be the completion of a publication-quality thesis, which will be reviewed by a faculty board.
     Lookingbill said the master’s degree in military studies will be offered online because nearly     one-third of the college’s 20,000 online students are military personnel. The program will serve the needs of deployed individuals, enabling them to obtain their education and advancement in the ranks while performing their daily responsibilities. Similar programs exist at institutions such as Hawaii Pacific University, Temple University and Norwich University.
     Some faculty initially expressed concern about the quality of instruction in the new program. Dr. Michael Polley, associate professor of History and Political Sciences, was among them. However, Polley said that when he learned more about the plans for the degree program his fears were alleviated because he knows that the right individuals are involved.
     With the master’s degree in military studies on its way, Dr. Terry Smith, executive vice president and dean for Academic Affairs, said he hopes the program will be available to students as early as March 2011.
     Tery Donelson, assistant vice president for Enrollment Management, said he thinks the addition of the Master of Arts in Military Studies degree to Columbia College is exciting. Not only does it increase the number of offerings within our graduate studies program and provide the college with its first graduate degree with a liberal arts flavor, it also will resonate with a significant portion of our student population--the military student, Donelson said. This program directly aligns with this student sector, providing the military student with a graduate education opportunity that directly relates to their work environment and will allow each military student to bring real-world experience into the classroom, he said.
     Donelson compared the enthusiasm of instruction in the Master of Military Studies program with that seen among teachers in the MAT program, police officers in the MSCJ program and business executives in the MBA program. With the experience and numbers of our military student base, the discussions alone should provide quite an education, Donelson said.

Columbia College’s relationship with the military

     Lookingbill discussed the college’s history of military friendly programs that dates back to the early 1970s. For almost 40 years, Columbia College has helped to pave the way for giving military service members, veterans and their families assistance on the path toward a successful life by providing a flexible, affordable and relevant option to achieve their educational goals.
         As the Vietnam War era ended, the college developed undergraduate programs to help members of the armed forces complete degrees and pursue lifelong learning. With today’s focus on homeland security and international peacekeeping, from a service member in combat to humanitarian relief operations, military professionals need to make split-second decisions effectively. These decisions affect not only their lives, but also the lives of others around them.
     More leadership responsibilities are increasingly vested with enlisted personnel as well as junior commissioned officers. Because critical tactical decisions are made at lower levels of authority than ever before, today’s adaptive leaders must be critical thinkers as much as fighters. Higher education is a key component in the successful navigation of complex issues and evolving concepts related to the contemporary world.

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