The Dixie State University board of trustees approved the first master’s degree program in the university’s history Jan. 26.
Immediately after the ratification of DSU’s first master’s program, the Master’s of Accountancy, over 200 balloons were released outside. The new academic sanction marks history for DSU as one of the first graduate programs offered to students.
“We’re pretty fired up about it,” said Steven Day, associate professor of accounting.
To kick off the process, faculty and staff had to prove there was a need on campus for a master’s program, Day said.
Day said the biggest takeaway students will have is the ability to remain at DSU throughout their collegiate careers.
“In our accounting program, [DSU] has a unique way of delivering our material,” Day said. “We are very experiential in the concepts [we teach], very much active learning.”
Day said students who obtain degrees from DSU can often “walk the walk,” but feel out of place in the traditional classroom. This program is meant to prepare students for accounting careers while guiding them toward succeeding on the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Examination.
“We’re all excited,” Day said. “The faculty are excited, [and] the students are excited. Other universities probably aren’t that excited because we were sending them students every year, but they’re probably the only ones not excited.”
The path to offering a master’s program was not easy, said Kyle Wells, dean of business and communication, and it is not over yet.
“It was a big task,” Wells said. “I don’t think people realize what it takes to be the first.”
Wells said not only was there paperwork to design and propose the program, but there were also requirements to expand the goals of the university, acquire accreditation and secure funding for interested students.
The original proposal allowed for courses to be open and available to qualified students in the summer of 2018, with more courses available in fall 2018 and lighter courses in spring 2019. Due to the nature of the approval and accreditation process, faculty and staff now are hoping to have courses ready for students this fall, not this summer.
Approval via the board of trustees would have been the first step in creating a DSU master’s program until last September when it became the final step at the state level. Now, DSU must wait for national accreditation and financial aid before the university can advertise the program and offer applications.
Wells said this process should take no longer than four months, as the university has expedited the process.
“That sounds like a long time for an expedited process, but we’re hoping that by talking one-on-one with the committee that’s approving [the program] that we can get it done in a shorter time,” Wells said.
Wells said almost immediately after the approval, a Las Vegas business had already reached out to offer congratulations to DSU faculty and staff, and to express interest in the program.
“They wrote us and said, ‘We have never considered [DSU] because we only hire from programs that have graduate programs,’” Wells said. “What this does is it opens the doors for all of the employers that see us differently with a graduate program.”
Nate Staheli is the department chair of accounting and the lead faculty who worked on the proposal of the Master’s of Accountancy program.
“I look at all of the obstacles and struggles as opportunities,” Staheli said. “The struggle was just the time needed to put it together.”
Staheli said there were no problems in regards to having the faculty get together to design the program because they all knew it was about “creating a program that was going to be good for students.”
Wells said the biggest struggle facing the future of the project is resources, while Staheli said the biggest fear faculty and staff have regarding the future of the program is student involvement.
“I’ve always believed in this saying from Field of Dreams, ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Staheli said. “I believe that as we build this program, we’re going to have students who want to be here and do well at our university.”