College grad programs offer students opportunity to continue learning after graduation

Recent University of Georgia graduate Ed Silva gave a presentation to students in the international relations department Nov. 11 about his experience in graduate school. Silva is currently in his first semester at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

“It’s really all about taking advantage of opportunities that you have available to you as an undergraduate,” Silva said. “Something that I didn’t do enough as an undergrad was seek out opportunities. College campuses are fantastic. There’s always something going on, there’s always some sort of research or some sort of opportunity being posted somewhere, and I didn’t do enough of that.”

For students up to the challenge, the College of William and Mary offers a wide range of graduate school programs through four graduate schools and 10 graduate degree programs in arts and sciences.

Of 315 students from the class of 2015 who responded to the Cohen Career Center’s First Destinations survey, 62 students who attended graduate school after graduating majored in biology or psychology. Another 86 majored in chemistry, neuroscience or English.

Silva’s main piece of advice to undergraduates was to constantly think about the future.

“Always be planning, always be looking at your academic goals and ask yourself, ‘Where am I heading, what do I want to do with my degree?’” Silva said.

One of the College’s graduate school options, The School of Marine Science at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science is located in Gloucester Point, Virginia. The school offers degrees in three different fields: marine science, marine science and public policy, and marine policy.

“We have a particularly large fishery group here,” VIMS professor and Associate Dean of Academic Studies Linda Schaffer said. “VIMS was actually initiated as a partnership with the College to provide a mechanism to manage the resources of the Chesapeake Bay … So our traditional starting point was very strongly focused on the effective management of resources of the Chesapeake Bay.”

“We have a particularly large fishery group here,” VIMS professor and Associate Dean of Academic Studies Linda Schaffer said. “VIMS was actually initiated as a partnership with the College to provide a mechanism to manage the resources of the Chesapeake Bay … So our traditional starting point was very strongly focused on the effective management of resources of the Chesapeake Bay.”

While VIMS is about a 30-minute drive from the College, Schaffener said graduate students still find many ways participate in the on-campus community.

“So I have to say that I’m really happy to see that our students have worked hard to build bridges to make sure that that 30 minutes isn’t a gap,” Schaffener said. “There’s a sense of community even with that 30 minutes between us.”

VIMS currently has about 85 graduate students and is primarily a research-focused institute.

“One thing that got a tremendous amount of press was ‘Frankenturtle,’” Schaffener said. “One of our students who is modeling turtle mortality on the Chesapeake Bay and trying to understand actually where the turtles die, created these artificial dead turtle models and then floated them around the Bay. That got a lot of press.”

For students looking for a shorter commute, the William and Mary School of Education is a short walk from main campus. It houses three different departments: curriculum instruction, educational policy planning and leadership, and school psychology and counselor education.

“As a whole, I think, our faculty are super, super involved,” Dean of Academic Programs and Student Services at the School of Education Dorothy Osborne said. “We have small programs and we have small programs by design. We don’t intend to grow by leaps and bounds, because our faculty feel pretty strongly that what we’re teaching people to do requires small groups. You can’t really teach people to be good counselors or good teachers in classrooms of 80 people.”

In 2012, 18 percent of applicants to the School of Education were College undergraduates and 88 percent of those were offered admission.
Students looking to go straight to graduate school after graduation can apply to the five-year Masters in Education Program.

The School of Education has graduated 242 students through the five-year program since it started in 2009.

Looking towards the future, the School of Education hopes to begin an online program for students who are unable to travel campus to take classes.

“We are investigating the possibility of an online program,” Osborne said. “The School of Business has their online MBA program and so our faculty have been talking to their faculty. I think that will open up some pretty exciting opportunities for folks. We have a lot of people who want to come here, but who have good jobs who don’t want to give up that job to go to grad school full time or relocate.”

Another option for students looking for graduate school options is the Marhsall-Wythe School of Law, which is only a short walk from Colonial Williamsburg and Bicentennial Park.
According to Associate Dean of Admissions at the School of Law Faye Shealy, The School of Law is very active in the community and has many programs that allow to students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real-life scenarios.

“We’re always responding to the needs of the profession,” Shealy said. “For example, we have the building addition underway to house our clinics and the experiential learning center. The one that received the most publicity has been our Veterans Benefits Program. Our students are working with our veterans to work through the bureaucracy of the system and help them apply for [services] or appeal if they have been denied services.”

The College and the University of Virginia supply the majority of students attending the School of Law. Students enter with a wide variety of undergraduate majors, including government, international relations, history, biology, mathematics and sociology. The attrition rate of those students in the third year of law school has been 100 percent over the past three years.

“The key to success as a law student is strong legal writing and research skills, and our faculty has addressed this as a priority,” Shealy said. “We hire legal writing instructors that work with our first-year students in small groups [and] students will have seven individualized meetings with feedback on their legal writing.”

For students looking to build on their undergraduate majors or areas of interest, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at the College offers ten different degree programs.
Sarah Thomas ’08, M.A. ’12, Ph.D. ’18 is a graduate student in the department of American Studies. Thomas went to the College and graduated with a degree in history.

“I wanted to be a professor,” Thomas said. “So, you have to have a Masters depending in where you teach or Ph.D. to do that. I didn’t take time off. I went straight from William and Mary to U.Va. and then [back] to here.”

According to Thomas, attending graduate school is a lot of commitment and students should not apply until they are sure they are ready.

“Make sure you know that this is what you want to do,” Thomas said. “It’s kind of hard to know before you get in, but you have to really want to do this to make it happen. I love what I’m doing in terms of my dissertation. It’s just been a long time. You really have to want to do this to do it.”

The College’s final option for graduate studies is the Raymond A. Mason School of Business which offers numerous degrees for graduate students. The School of Business offers four different Masters of Business Administration degrees, one being an online M.B.A. program. It also offers a Masters of Accounting program and a Master’s Degree in business analytics.


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