While Keene State College is known as an undergraduate college, the school’s graduate programs have been expanding and improving this past year. Dean of Sciences, Sustainability and Health Karrie Kalich has been involved with the support of the growing master’s program.
“In the past, we only had graduate programs in two areas: education, which has a couple of different pathways, and our safety and occupational health program. As we’ve really started to realize more of the opportunities around graduate studies, we’ve been able to bring on board a third graduate studies area: history and archives,” Kalich said.
Timothy Hastings and Laura Ruttle are two students who completed their undergraduate at KSC in 2013 and returned this year to receive their master’s in the history and archives graduate program. Both students said that a major draw to this program is the close work they are able to do with faculty, specifically with their advisor Head of Special Collections and Archives Rodney Obien.
“Everyone here has been at Keene State for a long time, but Rodney has been an archivist for 20 to 30 years so he knows so many people in the industry. As far as looking for internships, programs where you’re getting a lot of attention and connecting with someone who will help you get into a really good profession are very helpful. It makes me feel really comfortable knowing there are people rooting for your success,” Ruttle said.
Hastings also said that Obien was able to introduce the students to several archivists and conservators in the area, who they are now able to contact whenever they need assistance on research or coursework.
Another draw to the graduate program at Keene State for both Ruttle and Hastings was simply that they were already living in the area.
“If I had wanted to do a graduate program right after school I would’ve had to look elsewhere and probably move out of the area because there aren’t any other programs like this in this area,” Ruttle said.
According to Executive Director of Research and Graduate Studies Nancy Fey-Yensan, providing graduate programs in this area specifically was important to the college.
“As a state institution we feel a great responsibility to serve the public need. We’re producing a workforce to get after some important areas for New Hampshire and the region. We feel an obligation to do that,” Fey-Yensan said.
However, with the introduction of the online safety and occupational health applied sciences (SOHAS) graduate program, people no longer have to necessarily live in the area to receive their masters in that field specifically.
“It’s the SOHAS program that’s broken ground in the online world and it was really brilliant to say, ‘Hey, we want to cast our net a little bit further and attract people to this really unique master’s program’ because it is [unique] and to have it all online has been an interesting experience,” Fey-Yensan said. “Those are models we’re looking at closely as we grow graduate programs. It seems to be working; it has attracted more students.”
According to Kalich, the enrollment for graduate programs had been declining, but with the introduction of the online option the numbers are back up. Graduate enrollment has increased by 60 percent in the past year. The online option has also provided greater opportunity for older students who may have families or full-time jobs to receive their master’s in a more convenient way.
Despite all the work that graduate programs have undergone this year, do people know these programs are available? According to Hastings, he was only made aware of the history and archives graduate program by luck after seeing a poster for it on campus while he was working in the biology department.
Chief Enrollment Management Officer MB Lufkin said that the graduate programs that are created are based off what research finds to be high demand areas.
“We usually work with an organization or a company that does the research for us. Some ways they look at that is by not only looking at what the projections are for the jobs in the future but also looking at what the search terms are that folks are looking for in Google. We also take a look at what our competition is doing and what’s happening competitively in the area,” Lufkin said. “All of those things come into play in terms of doing the market research. The freshness and the momentum we were able to bring was by looking at what was available in the marketplace in terms of keywords and search volume.”
This same process will be applied in the future when looking to implement more graduate programs on campus.
“We’ll never have more graduate students than undergraduates, but it’s a really important pathway for our undergraduate students and yet another way to serve New Hampshire and New England and the region in those important areas,” Fey-Yensan said.
Rachel Vitello can be contacted at