3.6.1 Post-baccalaureate Program Rigor

The institution’s post-baccalaureate professional degree programs, master’s and doctoral degree programs, are progressively more advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs.

Judgment of Compliance

PVAMU SACS Accreditation - Judgement Compliance

Narrative of Compliance

Graduate programs at Prairie View A&M University are offered under the joint supervision of the Graduate School and academic units with master’s or doctoral level programs. Rich educational experiences are provided by faculty members who are actively engaged in research and involve students in cutting-edge projects, college and departmental lecture and seminar series presented by visiting faculty from flagship institutions, relevant practicum experiences, and internships with agencies and organizations.

As noted in the Graduate Catalog, “Opportunities for advanced study are provided to qualified students seeking graduate education and/or degrees [1].” Most programs require a thesis, dissertation, or project report prior to program completion, and oral examinations are required of all thesis and dissertation students [2].

The Graduate Council sets minimum policies that are printed in the Graduate Catalog. These policies include specified periods of time for degree completion, thesis and dissertation requirements, minimum credit hour requirements, minimum acceptable grade point average, standards for satisfactory academic progress, admission to candidacy and qualifying examinations the candidate must pass [3]. The Master’s degree requires a minimum of 30 graduate credit hours [4] and, according to discipline, may also include a graduate research project or thesis, and oral and written comprehensive examinations. The Doctor of Philosophy degree requires 53-76 doctoral credit hours [4] and, according to discipline, may also include qualifying examinations for advancement to candidacy. The doctorate degree requires an oral comprehensive examination and dissertation [2]. The general completion requirements for master’s and doctoral degrees are determined at the academic unit level.

An integral component ensuring advanced academic content is the review process for new courses and curriculum changes by the Graduate Council. Proposed programs are reviewed internally by the Graduate Council and Office for Academic Affairs for course content and degree structures to ensure consistence with the mission and authority of the academic unit and the University [5]. As non-voting members of the Council, academic deans and administrators from the Office of the Provost and Office of Research and Development are present during the presentation and defense of all proposed courses and degree programs. The Graduate Council assesses the proposed master’s and doctoral programs for adherence to Texas A&M University System (TAMUS) [6] and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) Criteria 5.45 for New Baccalaureate and Master’s Degree Programs [7], or 5.46 Criteria for New Doctoral Programs [8] as well as other nationally recognized standards of excellence. Any new programs must meet the criteria set forth in the Preliminary Authority Request Form distributed by the THECB [9].

The recent 2009 proposal for changes to the graduate program in English demonstrates the documentation reviewed by the Graduate Council. The 2008-09 proposal includes: 1) a Cover Letter to the Deans of the Graduate School and College of Arts & Sciences, 2) a Summary of Change Requests Form, 3) a Three-Year Course Rotation, 4) Current Degree Plans for comparison, 5) a Self Study with a comparison of course offerings at other universities, 6) Minutes from a One-Day English Faculty Assessment Retreat, 7) Minutes from a Follow-up Curriculum Meeting, 8) Sample Student Support, 9) a Program Learning Outcomes Matrix, 10) the English Recruitment and Retention Plan, 11) Sample Syllabi for proposed courses, and 12) THECB Update Forms [10].

Sample Graduate Council agendas for February 20, 2009 [11], and minutes for January 24, 2008 [12], February 1, 2008 [13], August 7, 2008 [14], and January 27, 2009 [15], demonstrate part of the review process before sending items, once revised by the Department and approved by the Graduate Council, to the Texas A&M Board of Regents and THECB. The Graduate Council follows all guidelines for recognition and classification of courses and degree program offerings required by the THECB [16]. After TAMUS approval, the proposals are sent to the THECB where they are reviewed in accordance with THECB standards. The THECB examines whether the associated curriculum of new proposals is "up-to-date and consistent with current educational theory" and it ensures that "Professional programs and those resulting in licensure [are] designed to meet the standards of appropriate regulatory bodies [7]". Before the THECB will approve a new doctoral program, a mandatory peer review and site visit is required [8]. All degree programs at Prairie View A&M University have been approved by the THECB and can be found on the THECB’s website in its list of approved programs [4].

The THECB also monitors all new doctoral programs in existence three years or more to ensure viability and that faculty are prepared to offer rigorous programs. The Characteristics of Texas Public Doctoral Programs [17] requirements, as of 2008, include reporting faculty publications, grants, as well as doctoral student publications. In 2008, Prairie View A&M University sent Characteristic Reports for doctoral programs in Electrical Engineering [18], Educational Leadership [19], and Clinical Adolescent Psychology [20]. Any queries from the THECB are addressed within weeks of the original submission [21].

The University also ensures that its degree programs are progressively more advanced in academic content by ongoing review of courses and programs as required for specialized accreditation. Most graduate programs for which accreditation is available are accredited by respective agencies, such as the National Architectural Accreditation Board, Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, State Board for Educator Certification, ABET, and the National League of Nursing Accrediting Commission, among others [22].

The course numbering system used by the University further indicates the extent to which post-baccalaureate programs are progressively more advanced than undergraduate programs. Graduate courses are distinguished from undergraduate courses by their 5000 or higher numbers, while 7000 courses are reserved for doctoral coursework [23].

Students seeking a graduate degree must meet admissions requirements set by the Graduate School and by the program in which the students intends to study. Requirements for entry are published in the Graduate Catalog [24]. The Graduate Student Degree Plan and Admission to Graduate Candidacy form point to other mechanisms the University utilizes to monitor student progress and ensure programs are progressively more advanced in academic content. A student petitions for Graduate Student Candidacy after successful completion of at least 12 semester credit hours of graduate-level coursework [25] [26].

Faculty teaching in the Graduate School also undergo review by their Department Head, their Dean, and the Dean of the Graduate School before entering into approved Graduate Faculty status. The process includes a review of the faculty credentials, terminal degree status, scholarly publications, and evidence of professional accomplishment [27]. Faculty teaching at the graduate level teach in courses with fewer students to further ensure advanced study and more intense faculty-student interactions. Based on Fall 2008 data, the current average undergraduate class size is 24.35 students, while 13.42 is the average graduate class size [28].

Sample syllabi collected from courses in several Colleges also illustrate post-baccalaureate rigor. In the College of Arts & Sciences, ENGL 3153 [29] and ENGL 5313 [30] are both Literary Theory and Criticism courses. In the 3000-level course, students focus on secondary readings about theory and theorists, while shorter assignments and applications of theory are required. At the graduate level, students in ENGL 5313 are engaged in reading primary texts by literary theorists themselves and the course requires two fifteen-page essays, class presentations, and daily discussion about literary theory. Similarly, SOCG 4053 [31] and SOCG 5123 [32] are courses taught at different levels on Social Statistics. Student Learning Outcome Four in the undergraduate course is to "Develop a working knowledge of SPSS for Windows and manipulate and analyze secondary data," where as at the graduate level students are expected to be "proficient in using SPSS for Windows to manipulate and analyze data" by the end of the semester. Students are moving from basic knowledge about SPSS to the use and application of SPSS. Furthermore, students are moving from "Understand the meaning and application of descriptive and inferential statistics" in SOCG 4053 to "Demonstrat[ing] a working knowledge of measurement of central tendency, z-tests, t-tests, and analysis of variance" in SOCG 5123. Longer research assignments are required at the graduate level and indicate that graduate programs are progressively more advanced in academic content than its undergraduate programs. Sample syllabi for courses in Physical Chemistry demonstrate the requirements for a 12-page project in CHEM 5783 [33] over a similarly titled course, CHEM 3423 [34], where shorter assignments are required.

In the School of Nursing, student learning outcomes are more advanced in NURS 5013 [35] Theoretical Foundations for Nursing than they are in NURS 3164 [36] Basic Concepts of Nursing. Students are able to "Discuss theories from the humanities and sciences as they relate to health promotion, protection and restoration needs of clients" [36] in the undergraduate course, but are able to "Analyze theoretical concepts/constructs relevant to Advanced Nursing Practice" as well as "Apply a theoretical framework that will guide the advanced clinical practice and research modality" [35]. More textbooks are also required at the advanced level as is an Analysis/Synthesis Paper over a Group Presentation.

The College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology offers two similarly titled courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels. PSYC 2423 [38] Developmental Psychology requires an introductory textbook and has student learning outcomes that are lower on Bloom's taxonomy: "Demonstrate a broad working knowledge of developmental psychology…" and "Identify major theorists". The similarly titled JPSY 5763 [37] course moves higher on Bloom's scale, requiring and teaching students to "Synthesize theory and research to apply toward solutions…" and "Examine and assess current research…" to "[d]emonstrate effective writing". The graduate course [37] requires a book review and discussion leadership where as the undergraduate course [38] introduces students to scholarship through a review of an article.

Prairie View A&M University engages graduate students in a broad range of academic disciplines with vigorous programs which are adequate in scope and complexity to foster learning and intellectual keenness beyond the undergraduate level.

Supporting Documentation and Links

Comprehensive Standards 3.6.1

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