Higher Aspirations for Advanced Studies

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A majority of Buena Vista University freshmen are planning on careers where a master’s, doctorate or other advanced degree is required, or essential to advancement, in those professions.

The results from a survey recently administered to BVU freshmen showed that just over 53 percent aspire to earn an advanced degree — 30 percent targeting master’s degrees and 23 percent looking at a PhD or degrees in law, medicine and other professions, says James Hewett, director of institutional research. The BVU numbers, which are based on a survey response rate of nearly 100 percent, also reflect in varying degrees results from the past several years and what is happening at many other colleges and universities across the nation.

According to Dr. David Evans, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty, BVU’s academic programs provide students with many value-added opportunities to help prepare for advanced studies. This includes travel and internships as well as research.

 “We do exceptionally well in supporting undergraduate research, which is outstanding preparation for graduate school, particularly in academic topics such as biology, psychology, English, communication studies and similar programs,” says Evans. “A focus on faculty mentoring at BVU also provides great advantages to students who are considering graduate school because close mentoring relationships are, ideally, a crucial component of graduate studies.”

While the benefits of advanced degrees in terms of intellectual development and future earning potential are well documented, students need to make informed decisions about plans for graduate work, says Evans. They should weigh their potential investment in further education with the job outlook in their fields of study and be prepared to pursue alternative career opportunities.

Among BVU students preparing for advanced studies are Ronald Forsell and Arielle Butler.

Ron, a junior pre-law student from Norfolk, Neb. with double majors in political science and public administration, plans on a career as a defense attorney, and eventually in politics. Ron has already had the opportunity to do two undergraduate research projects. He twice presented one at the Midwest Undergraduate Political Research Conference.

“These projects have given me valuable experience in researching and analyzing information, which should help me immensely in law school.”

As captain of BVU’s Mock Trial Team, Ron has honed his critical thinking skills and had a taste of what criminal defense work will entail. Before he graduates, he wants to do an internship in a Congressional office in Washington. D.C.

Arielle, a senior psychology major from Chicago, Ill., looks forward to graduate studies as she pursues a career as a counselor in a school or community. In the summer of 2010, she interned with a children’s advocacy center in DeKalb, Ill, helping with the interviewing and assessment of children from abusive home environments. “That experience enabled me to see that I would love to help a broad range of people through community counseling.”

“Having these opportunities has allowed me to develop essential leadership skills that I will need in both graduate school and in my career,” she says. “I value the personal relationships I have developed with faculty and having a level of comfort in knowing that I am fully capable of succeeding in whatever I decide to do,” she adds.