Two new doctoral programs to emphasize cross-disciplinary research

Media Credit: Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

The speech, language and hearing sciences department will offer a new doctoral degree in 2020.

Updated: June 11, 2018 at 10:55 p.m.

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Nursing will both offer new doctoral programs focused on research in 2020.

The Board of Trustees approved two doctoral programs last month in nursing, and speech, language and hearing sciences. Officials said both doctoral programs were designed to emphasize cross-disciplinary research – a focus that will make students more attractive in the job market after obtaining one of the degrees.

The new speech, language and hearing sciences program will be the department’s first doctorate degree, which officials said was developed after they noticed a high demand for professionals with the highest level of an academic degree in the field.

Paul Wahlbeck, the vice dean for programs and research in CCAS, said the program will launch in fall 2020 and a plan to recruit students is in developing stages. He added that all full-time faculty in the department will have a teaching role in the doctorate program.

“It is our hope that the doctoral program will raise the already strong national profile of our Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences Department and advance our research in this discipline while training the next generation of scholars in the field,” Wahlbeck said in an email.

James Mahshie, the chair of the department of speech, language and hearing sciences, said the program was proposed by departmental faculty years ago. He said officials will admit about three to four students during the degree’s first year and will cap the program at 12 participants over the course of three years.

“It was actually the faculty that had the initial vision and then put in the work to develop a program that was consistent with the standards of doctoral programs of our peer universities, and that capitalized on the research and teaching expertise in our department,” Mahshie said.

The degree incorporates classes focused on psychology, neuroscience, physiology and linguistics, in addition to speech, language and hearing disorders, he said.

He said the program was created to expand the department’s research profile, allowing students to collaborate with GW’s Neuroscience Institute to conduct research. He added that a more visible research profile for the department will help attract more students to apply to the program.

University President Thomas LeBlanc said improving GW’s research profile has been one of his top priorities during his first year in office.

“We have a strong research profile with several active and funded research labs, and this program will further enhance our research goals and opportunities,” Mahshie said.

Mahshie added that the National Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates an increased demand for master’s-level speech-language pathologists over the next eight years, but there is a severe shortage of doctorate-level faculty to teach these master’s students, according to data from the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association.

“Our program will help to reduce this shortage while also adding to the scholarly work of the department,” Mahshie said.

The School of Nursing will also offer a new 57-credit doctorate degree starting in 2020 focused on research. The primary goal of the curriculum will be “scientific discovery” in the nursing field, according to an official memo about the program.

The degree, which could take up to three years to complete, will be primarily online and is designed for registered nurses who have completed a master’s program, the memo states.

The new program also allows doctoral candidates to focus on topic areas ranging from symptom management for chronic diseases to infant and child health. The degree was developed to meet the professional nursing demand to increase the supply of “doctoral-prepared faculty and researchers trained to educate the next generation,” the memo states.

Pamela Jeffries, the dean of the nursing school, said the doctoral program was a dean’s initiative and has been one of her top priorities since 2015. She formed a committee of faculty and administrators last fall to evaluate the creation of a new doctoral program.

“The Ph.D. in nursing is for those seeking to become nurse scientists, and graduates are prepared to educate and conduct clinical research in a multitude of specialties,” Jeffries said in an email.

The nursing school currently offers one other doctorate degree in nursing practice. The new program also aligns with the nursing school’s recent push to raise its research portfolio as outlined in a strategic plan earlier this year.

The program will be funded by the nursing school and will be capped at 12 students, according to the memo. Jeffries also said that, according to national trends, the number of doctoral programs offered has not kept up with the pace of opportunities in the nursing field.

“Creating a Ph.D. in nursing program will provide another opportunity for students to pursue their doctoral education, particularly here in the nation’s capital,” she said.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
An earlier version of this article stated that Pam Jeffries said the new nursing school program will be capped at 12 students and will be funded by the School of Nursing. This information was actually listed in an official memo about the program. We regret this error.

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