Four new UI certificates coming this fall

BY IAN STEWART | JULY 27, 2011 7:20 AM

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Starting this fall, University of Iowa graduate students interested in biostatistics will have a new way to prove their dedication to the subject with a certificate to add to their degrees.

"We decided that it would be nice if people had more of an official documentation that they took a substantial number of courses in biostatistics," said Jeffrey Dawson, a UI professor of biostatistics and director of graduate studies in the UI College of Public Health.

In the fall of 2010, 43 graduate students were pursuing a biostats degrees. But these won't be the people receiving the certificate.

Students in the public-health school are required to take the Introduction to Biostatistics course as well as subsequent courses in Design and Analysis and data analysis, among others. Dawson said biostatistics has applications across a wide spectrum of disciplines.

"The field in general is the application of statistical methods to the biological and medical sciences," he said. "We do a lot of collaboration with those in medicine, nursing, dentistry, public health, and environmental health."

Terry Kirk, the biostatistics educational adviser, said that because many students take a number of biostatistics courses, it's a logical step to offer the certificate.

"[This] gives them a mechanism to receive some recognition for this course work in biostatistics," she said.

The biostatistics certificate — which is open only to those not pursuing a degree in the subject area — will début along with three others in writing, fundraising and philanthropy communication, and disability studies.

Helena Dettmer, the UI associate dean for undergraduate programs and curriculum, said certificates can prove valuable for students pursuing topics outside of their declared program of study.

"A certificate highlights students' broad and varied interests, reflecting the breadth in their academic record," she said.

The university offers numerous certificates — including ones in aging studies, museum studies, and nonprofit management — that promote interdisciplinary study.

"A minor really doesn't get you the level of expertise that you want," said John Keller, dean of the Graduate College. He highlighted certificates' ability to beef up résumés and help in "a professional development type of situation."

"When they go out on the job market, they're often in lead positions because they've got this extra document," Keller said.

Most certificate programs require 12 to 20 semester hours, he said. But, with a few exceptions, they haven't required extra funding.

"They are really repackaging existing courses into a different format," he said.

Kirk said faculty have been discussing the possibility of offering a biostatistics certificate for several years, and the department has already received applications.

After the program gets going, she said, seven to 10 students are expected to receive certificates annually.

Those students will join the ranks of other UI certificate holders — students with interdepartmental experience. Dettmer said this is what makes the programs especially valuable.

"They allow students to augment their major with other interest and explore more individual paths," she said.

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