UI and Grinnell join forces to offer a 5-year cooperative degree program


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A new cooperative educational venture offers Grinnell students a chance to be Hawkeyes.

Mary Lober Aquilino, the associate dean for the Master of Public Health and Undergraduate Programs at the University of Iowa, said a cooperative degree program is a great opportunity to introduce public-health education at the undergraduate level for Grinnell students.

“It’s a win-win for both of us,” she said.

The program, which is similar to an existing UI program, allows students to combine an undergraduate liberal-arts degree and a master’s-level education in public health into five years instead of the traditional six.

Applications for the program will be accepted beginning next spring.

Prospective Grinnell students need to apply by the second semester of their junior year with a GPA of at least 3.25, and they must have completed both the GRE and taken the Fundamentals of Public Health course through the UI.

During their senior year at Grinnell, students are required to take 12 semester hours of master’s level courses online over the fall, spring, and summer semesters. Then, for their fifth and final year, they will only take master’s level courses at the UI campus.

Aquilino said setting up the program wasn’t difficult for the UI.

The challenge was in establishing the connection with Grinnell, whose president Raynard Kington sits on the UI College of Public Health Advisory Board.

“It took coordination to make sure a public and private school could work together,” Aquilino said.

Jim Swartz, Grinnell’s Dack Professor of Chemistry, said three or four students have expressed interest in the program. Grinnell’s graduating class is 400 students, so Swartz said the amount of interest is encouraging.

Swartz, who helped develop the program at Grinnell, said it was appealing, in part, because it allowed for students to transition quickly into professional training from the undergraduate level.

“It makes a career in public health more visible to students,” he said.

Despite the program’s shorter length, Aquilino said, the education students received would be undiminished.

The program accomplishes this by allowing graduate-level credits at the UI to count for elective credits at Grinnell.

“I don’t see it as making sacrifices,” said Lexie Just, an assistant director of the UI Master of Public Health Program. “I see it as putting different opportunities on their plate.”

Prospective Grinnell applicant and Iowa City native Ruth Riedl said she isn’t concerned by the truncated program but is wary of the online nature of some of the courses. She is uncertain how they will work but is interested to see the program in action.

Just said the program is a great way to attract students to a master’s program that is 170 strong.

She has encountered consistent interest in the program, and seven students at Grinnell took the required fundamentals course this year.

Riedl said she found the potential combination of Grinnell’s and the UI’s differing educational atmospheres and sizes exciting.

Just said the degree program isn’t going to be for everyone, because taking master’s level courses at the undergraduate level is inevitably going to be difficult.

However, Just said all the students she has been meeting with seem ready to take on the challenge.

“Grinnell has prepared me pretty well to take these classes,” Riedl said.

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