From Film School to Photonics, Sustainability to Branding, Graduate Degrees for Tomorrow

February 9, 2014 | CUNY Matters, The University

AT Brooklyn College, plans are under way to transform a portion of Steiner Studios at the Brooklyn Navy Yard into the Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema, a new film school that will boast the largest production studio outside of Hollywood.

Inside a photonics lab at Queens College, graduate students are testing fiber-optic components and learning about advanced lasers for possible careers in defense or national security.

Graduate students in the new Masters in Branding and Integrated Communications degree present multimedia campaigns. Far left, a silhouetted student, Anthony Washington, in his team’s Citi Bike presentation.

Graduate students in the new Masters in Branding and Integrated Communications degree present multimedia campaigns. Far left, a silhouetted student, Anthony Washington, in his team’s Citi Bike presentation.

And, at City College in upper Manhattan, students in the Branding and Integrated Communications master’s program are creating inspired multimedia campaigns for Citi Bike, New York’s bike-sharing system.

On the campuses and in the research centers of the City University of New York, dozens of new and innovative graduate programs are being offered to better prepare students for careers in the emerging areas of technology, medicine, public health, advertising, film, and digital media.

Currently, the University has more than 800 graduate degree programs at its 24 schools and colleges in traditional fields such as education, business management, public administration and social services. But the newest array of graduate degrees that has unfolded in the past five years illustrates the evolution in masters programs aimed at meeting demands of highly competitive students and providing the city with a more qualified workforce.

“The City University of New York is continuing to build upon its historic mission of providing high-quality academic opportunities for New Yorkers,” said Interim Chancellor William Kelly. “These new programs represent excellent examples of how, with the help of a world-class faculty and staff, we are maintaining our momentum to provide the best possible education at an affordable cost.”

Perhaps the most highly publicized initiative has been the new Barry R. Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema. The Feirstein school, the first such program at a public university and the first on a commercial film lot, will offer two new master’s degrees: an MFA in Cinema Arts and MFA in Cinema Studies. Earlier this year, director Jonathan Wacks, of the television show “21 Jump Street,” was named founding director of the school.

In a show of public support for the project, the film school will receive $6.7 million in city funding to start the school and another $5 million from the state.

Another high profile project in the works is the plan to transform the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education at City College into a full-fledged medical school. Currently, the school offers a five-year program that includes a Bachelor of Science degree and the first two years of medical-school education. The move to a full, medical-degree program will offer a combined B.S./M.D. degree in seven years.

The plan passed the first hurdle with Board of Trustees approval in December to create a department of medical education. Still needed are funding support from the New York State Department of Education and approval by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, which accredits U.S. medical education programs.

Jobs in the health care sector are expected to increase in the next decade, leading to a greater demand for employees with health-related graduate degrees. Dr. Ayman El-Mohandes, dean of the CUNY School of Public Health, said the expected growth in health care jobs is attributed to the combination of retirements and newly created positions.

“Approximately 250,000 retirements in the public health workforce are anticipated over the next five years,” said Dr. El-Mohandes. “So there is no doubt that there will be a tremendous need for people with public health degrees. And this is in addition to new jobs that will be created and funded through the Affordable Care Act.”

The CUNY School of Public Health, which offers master’s programs at four campuses, has added several cutting-edge degree programs including a Master of Public Health with a concentration in maternal, child, reproductive and sexual health. Dr. El-Mohandes said the focus on women and children in public health remains critical due to troubling disparities in rates of infant mortality, childhood obesity and diabetes.

Another innovative public health program is the Master of Public Health in Geographic Information Science (GIS) at Lehman College, which trains students in mapping and analysis of health data.

“GIS is a very important tool in looking at the distribution of urban disease, especially in public health when it comes to planning and predicting risk,” said Dr. El Mohandes.

At Queens College, the physics department recently started a Professional Science Masters in Photonics, the rapidly growing field that studies light and its role in laser printing, fiber optics, security machines and other industries. Photonics program director Lev Deych said the PSM degree is unique in that it combines physics study with courses in business, providing students with a more rounded experience.

“The old master’s degrees in physics are useless. They have become basically consolation prizes for those seeking Ph.D.s,” said Deych. “With the PSM, we combine photonics with business-oriented courses. This is more practical for preparing someone to work in the field.”

In the Queens College Art department, faculty started a new concentration within the MFA Studio Art known as Social Practice Queens (SPQ) that combines studio artwork with community activism. Social Practice Queens works in partnership with the Queens Museum, where graduate students are given collaborative studio space inside the museum.

“This concentration is coming in line with a lot of changes in the art world,” said Gregory Sholette, art professor. “The artists are not just sitting in the studio. They are finding ways of making art in the community.”

Other unique offerings at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice include the MA in International Criminal Justice and MA in forensic mental health counseling.

At the CUNY School of Professional Studies, one of the more well-known degree programs is the Masters of Arts in Disability Studies, which grew from a Kennedy Fellows program in special education and rehabilitative counseling. Courses in the disabilities program may be taken in-person or online.

At City College, several new programs have enlivened the campus graduate offerings, including a master’s in Branding and Integrated Communication, or BIC. The BIC program, which started in Fall 2013, combines marketing research and communication with development of a print and electronic portfolio. In the program’s first year, the department received nearly 90 applications for 30 available spots.

“We’re living in a visual society and the industry is changing very quickly, and so is the way people consume information,” said Nancy R. Tag, program director of BIC. “We needed to create a program that brings all the disciplines together, so that creative [people] understand the data [personnel] in this data-driven world.”

Cassondra Bazelow, a student in the BIC masters program, said she appreciates the “real world” experience in the curriculum. Industry professionals assisted in creating the curriculum and also serve as adjunct faculty, guest lecturers and project advisers.

“Between the people instructing the courses and the guest lecturers that they invite, the students at BIC have access to the knowledge of working professionals relevant in their fields,” she said.

Two other graduate additions at City College are the Sustainability in the Urban Environment master’s program at the Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture and the Earth Systems and Environmental Science and Technology Master of Science degree at the Grove School of Engineering.

Tag said the variety of new graduate programs is likely to help diversify the upper management levels of many emerging industries that have few blacks, Latinos, Asians, and women in leadership roles. “When you look at the student population at CUNY, this is the ideal world,” Tag said. “Many industry leaders have already awakened to the fact that there is a place right here in their backyard that is producing great talent.”