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Oakland University to collaborate on national project to assess role of master’s education in STEM workforce development




Oakland University has been selected by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) to participate in a Master’s Career Path Exit Survey project, which is designed to expand our understanding of how master’s education across all fields prepares the STEM workforce.
 
“From a workforce development standpoint, it is imperative that we understand the reasons that master’s degree earners undertake graduate study and the employment outcomes that result from earning their master’s degree,” said Dr. Brandy Randall, dean of the Graduate School at Oakland University.
 
“Bureau of Labor Statistics show that many of the fastest growing fields require a master’s degree for entry into the field,” Randall added. “Our regional and national prosperity is dependent upon having a highly skilled and trained workforce. While this project has a special focus on STEM fields, it is designed to understand the experiences of all students graduating with a master’s degree.”
 
Oakland University was one of 10 schools chosen through a competitive grant application process to participate in this national project. The grant is a sub-award of a National Science Foundation grant that was awarded to the CGS for a project titled, Understanding Roles of Master’s Education in Entry Into, and Upskilling and Reskilling for, the STEM Workforce.
 
“We're being awarded $25,000 across two years to complete the project,” Randall said. “Two additional schools are participating, but are not receiving grant funding.”
 
Participating universities include: California State University at Bakersfield, Georgia State University, Hood College, Jackson State University, Oakland University, Old Dominion University, Texas State University, the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Central Florida, the University of Minnesota, the University of North Dakota, and the University of North Texas.
 
“Oakland's participation in this project gives us an opportunity to tell the story of our outstanding graduate education on a national stage,” Randall said. “Being part of this project gives Oakland a place at the table in the national discussion regarding the development of a data infrastructure for future research.”
 
The project entails disseminating a standard survey to all master's degree graduates across the next two years; beginning with students graduating at the end of the winter 2022 semester. OU will share its de-identified data with CGS, participate in meetings with the other participating schools, and share its experiences as part of CGS conferences that are geared to the national graduate education audience.
 
“As the dean of the Graduate School, one of my goals is to more consistently collect information about the experiences of our graduate students, as that will allow us to continuously improve and to have insight into what is going well so that we maintain those practices,” Randall said. “The opportunity to apply for this grant came at an opportune time, as it allows us to begin to fulfill that goal.
 
“In the coming months, we will be working with our campus constituents to develop and add additional questions to the survey to allow us to capture additional information that is helpful to us, but is not included in the survey already.”
 
Randall anticipates that eventually the data collection effort may extend beyond the initial participating universities.
 
“We will contribute to identifying best practices for such data collection efforts, as well as sharing how we are using the data at Oakland,” she said. “If we are able to develop such a national data infrastructure, that will, in the future, provide an opportunity to benchmark our student outcomes against national data.”
 
To learn more about the Graduate School at Oakland University, visit https://www.oakland.edu/grad.
 
For more information about the Council of Graduate Schools, visit https://cgsnet.org.

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