After two years of planning and development, McPherson College’s first master of education degree received final approval from the Higher Learning Commission at the beginning of March.

After two years of planning and development, McPherson College’s first master of education degree received final approval from the Higher Learning Commission at the beginning of March.

“The representatives were delighted with the innovation and the commitment to actual learning that they saw,” said Dr. Mark Malaby, master of education director and associate professor of education at McPherson College. “They had never seen a program quite like this, and they were very confident in its ability to create a transformative experience.”

The master’s degree in education program at McPherson College is committed to going beyond “book learning” typical of other master’s degrees. In addition to core curriculum, students pursuing their master’s degree are required to complete a practical capstone project that makes a real and profound difference in schools and the community.

The official certification from the Higher Learning Commission assures the master’s degree at McPherson College also meets standards for academic rigor and McPherson College has the resources and commitment to make the program a success. The Higher Learning Commission is an independent corporation and is one of six accreditors of higher education institutions in the United States. Its endorsement is an independent evaluation of the quality and reliability of the college’s new degree.
Marilyn Guy, professor at Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn., was a member of the HLC evaluation team that recommended approval of the master’s degree.

“The McPherson approach will make learning relevant and has the potential for combining the efforts of higher educators and preschool through 12 educators to make a difference for the children in our schools,” Guy said. “The level of excitement among college faculty and K-12 teachers is a positive omen for the success of the new program. This is going to be a program to watch.”

In their evaluation, the representatives praised McPherson College for developing “a strong, creative vision for the program, which focuses on transforming teachers’ ability to make substantive change in their workplace.” The report highlighted the project-based learning, social justice focus and community service as a great fit with the mission of the college.

They also commended Malaby for his enthusiasm, vision, communication skills, engagement with the education community and his demonstrated ability to “get things done.”

Already students who have been taking graduate-level classes in education at McPherson College are making a difference. One of the most advanced is a project in Mount Hope, to turn a closed elementary school into a kindergarten-through-12th-grade charter school focusing on rural life and entrepreneurship.

Megan Ragan, a preschool teacher at Hand In Hand Academy in McPherson, has been taking master in education classes at McPherson College. The unique project-based approach, small classes and individualized education are what drew her to the program, she said, because she will be able to apply her coursework directly to the needs in her classroom.

“It wasn’t the normal master’s program where you’re writing a lot of papers and you come out at the end with a piece of paper, and that’s all you’ve achieved,” she said.

Ragan said the master’s program at McPherson College will become a leader in graduate-level education and a model for other institutions. The certification will highlight what the college is doing, she said.

“It’s great because getting a glowing review will hopefully encourage other programs to look at what we’re doing,” she said. “And maybe consider doing the same kind of things for their program.”