By Samuel Bolds | Echo
Recent graduates of the environmental science program received a disheartening message during the 2012-2013 school year. The Master of Environmental Science (MES) program at Taylor University had accepted its last batch of students.
The program will be closing its doors after most of the remaining students graduate next spring, according to Mike Guebert, undergraduate chair of the environmental science program. Several students will remain in the program through 2015 finishing graduate work and long-term internships. All MES classes will end after the spring semester.
The master's program was created 12 years ago, relying heavily on the financial support of an outside benefactor. The benefactor agreed to provide funding for 100 graduate students and up to 10 per year over a 10-13 year period, according to Guebert. This money was given as a fellowship and tuition waiver for MES students.
After 12 years, the school's administrators, along with the support of the donor, have agreed it would be better to end the program a year early and use the remaining funds, which are reserved for the last 10 graduates, to revitalize the undergraduate environmental science program.
All students accepted to the program were given a full tuition waiver. The waiver for MES students enabled the university to stay competitive with similar programs at other schools.
"If we were to charge tuition we would not find the same quality of students because they could easily find funding at other schools," Guebert said. "And we would only get students that would not be able to get this funding at (those) other schools."
Restarting a similar MES program could be an option down the road.
"If a 'sustainable' funding plan can be devised a revised program could start," said Paul Rothrock, graduate chair of the MES program. "This is not likely over the next three to five years due to faculty transitions, plans for launching a new undergraduate major and participation in the new Public Health program."
The completion of the program coincides with Rothrock's retirement. Rothrock has served at Taylor for 33 years.
Although the program is ending a year early, current graduate and undergraduate students understand the reasons behind the change, according to Guebert. Both he and Rothrock remain positive about the program's success.
"The goal of training 100 students was on track, but, given the slightly early termination of the program, we expect to end with close to 90 graduates," said Rothrock. "Thus the program has been a success in preparing Environmental Science professionals for work, ministries and Ph.D. studies."
Students from both undergraduate and at the graduate level understand the importance of teaching on both levels. Guebert explained that the graduate students interact with the undergraduate environmental science program in several ways. "(They bring) vitality and a little more maturity and a higher level of research experience."
The MES program also enabled graduate students from other universities to spend time at Taylor, adding a different perspective and teaching from their individual experiences.