George Mason University welcomes you to learn more about the degree you’re considering. Our esteemed faculty members offer unique insights to their program and answer the most popular questions in a Virtual Open House made available to watch today.

Simply find your degree below, read through the faculty member’s biography, and click Play Now to watch immediately.

When you’re done, click Ready to Apply or reach out to your admissions representative with any questions or to get information on an upcoming Virtual Open House — they’re here to help you through this process.

Master of Business Administration

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

Dr. Ioannis (Yannis) Bellos

faculty photo of Dr. Ioannis in a suite jacket.

Dr. Ioannis (Yannis) Bellos is an Associate Professor in the Information Systems and Operations Management area at the School of Business, George Mason University. His research interests are found at the intersection of sustainable and service operations with an emphasis on innovative business models. His primary focus has been on service-based business models shaping what is known as the sharing and access economy. The novelty of these business models lies in the fact that customer value is linked primarily to the product “use” rather than the product. He also studies the emerging practice of service design as a managerial discipline. Prof.Bellos’ work has appeared in book chapters and leading journals, including Management Science, Manufacturing and Service Operations Management, and Production and Operations Management. Read his full biography here.

View Transcript

MS in Data Analytics Engineering

MS in Data Analytics Engineering

Bernard Schmidt

faculty photo of Bernard Schmidt

Bernard Schmidt is an Instructor at George Mason University’s Volgenau School of Engineering, MS Data Analytics Engineering Program. He is also the Assistant Director of the MS Data Analytics Engineering Program. He joined Mason’s VSE Faculty in the Fall of 2020 from Northern Virginia Community College where he served as a professor of Information Technology as well as an Assistant Dean for Information Technology and Computer Science at the NVCC Manassas campus.

Schmidt was involved with computing and the computing industry for over 35 years prior to joining academia. His early career involved computer operations and programming of IBM mainframes, which then led to researching computer image processing algorithms for multi-sensor aided target recognition at the Army’s Night Vision Lab. He has subsequently held progressive technology and management positions at a variety of organizations in Northern Virginia including Oracle Complex Systems, Cordant, IBM, ORBCOMM, Sprint, Battelle, and Prison Fellowship Ministries. Read his full biography here.

View Transcript

MS Applied Information Technology

MS Applied Information Technology

Dr. Ioulia Rytikova

faculty photo of Dr. Ioulia Rytikova

Dr. Ioulia Rytikova is an Associate Professor and an Associate Chair for Graduate Studies in the Department of Information Sciences and Technology. She received a B.S./M.S. degree in Automated Control Systems Engineering and Information Processing and her Ph.D. in Automated Control Systems from National University of Science and Technology. Dr. Rytikova designed and developed multiple interdisciplinary programs, concentrations, and courses in the emerging areas of data sciences and big data analytics, computer and information technologies, health information technologies, and statistical analysis. Read her full biography here.

View Transcript

Masters in Economics

Masters in Economics

Christopher Coyne

faculty photo of Christopher Coyne

Christopher Coyne is Professor of Economics at George Mason University and the Associate Director of the F. A. Hayek Program for Advanced Study in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center. He is the Co-Editor of The Review of Austrian Economics, The Independent Review, and Advances in Austrian Economics. He also serves as the Book Review Editor for Public Choice. In 2008, Coyne was named the Hayek Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics, and in 2010 he was a Visiting Scholar at the Social Philosophy & Policy Center at Bowling Green State University. Read his full biography here.

View Transcript

MS in Health Informatics and Graduate Certificate

MS in Health Informatics and Graduate Certificate

Janusz Wojtusiak, PhD

Dr. Janusz Wojtusiak

Dr. Wojtusiak, Professor of Health Informatics and Director of the Machine Learning and Inference Laboratory, has expertise that spans machine learning, health informatics, artificial intelligence in clinical decision support and knowledge discovery in medical data, and a wide range of applications of these fields in health care. His particular area of interest is in developing algorithms that derive simple, transparent and usable models from complex health data to predict patient and population outcomes. He studies how to create and evaluate reproducible, unbiased and trustworthy algorithms and models.

Dr. Wojtusiak serves as the Division Director for Health Informatics in the Department of Health Administration and Policy. He oversees undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs in health informatics. Dr. Wojtusiak teaches several courses focused on machine learning, data mining, artificial intelligence and computing applied in medicine, healthcare and individual/population health.

He authored or co-authored over 100 research publications and presentations and continues to collaborate with multiple national and international institutions. Read his full biography here.

View Transcript

MS in Learning Design and Technology

MS in Learning Design and Technology

Dr. Douglas Wilson

Dr. Douglas Wilson

Dr. Douglas Wilson is Assistant Professor of Learning, Design, and Technology in the College of Education and Human Development. His primary focus areas are online teaching and instructional design. Dr. Wilson joined George Mason University in 2021 after serving online as an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Higher Education and Learning Technologies at Texas A&M University-Commerce; there, his teaching portfolio included a diverse set of online courses in the areas of instructional design and educational technology. Dr. Wilson has also contributed instructional design expertise to the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Dallas College and to the Center for Teaching Excellence at Southern Methodist University. Prior to moving into instructional design, Dr. Wilson served more than a decade in various faculty leadership roles. In addition to his PhD in Learning, Design, and Technology, Dr. Wilson holds an MS in Journalism from Columbia University in the City of New York. Before becoming an academic, Dr. Wilson worked as a television news reporter in major markets including Dallas, Baltimore, Tulsa, and Washington, D.C. Read his full biography here.

View Transcript

Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)

Shanti Chang, DNP, FNP-BC

Dr. Shanti Chang

Dr. Shanti Chang is an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, and the Family Nurse Practitioner and Adult-Gerontology DNP Program Director. Chang’s interests are pediatrics and underserved populations. Chang is responsible for developing a free vaccine program at the Fairfax County Public School Mason and Partners (MAP) Clinic that provided 1,000 immunizations to uninsured children registering during its first year. Now, she continues to support multiple immunization clinics and is the Prince William CSB and Homeless Shelter- MAP Clinic telehealth provider. Before coming to Mason, Chang worked full-time in pediatric private practice. Read her full biography here.

View Transcript

Master of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Master of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology

Dr. Afra Ahmad

faculty photo of Dr. Afra Ahmad

Dr. Afra Saeed Ahmad is the program director of the online Master’s of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology. She received her BA in Psychology (2008), MA (2008) and PhD (2016) in Industrial and Organizational Psychology right here at George Mason University! Afra worked as an assistant professor of management at Zayed University in Dubai for three years before returning home to Mason. Read her full biography here.

View Transcript

Master of Public Health

Master of Public Health

Dr. MB (Marybeth) Mitcham

faculty photo of Dr. MB (Marybeth) Mitcham

Dr. MB (Marybeth) Mitcham is an assistant professor and the director of the online MPH program in the Department of Global and Community Health. Mitcham’s research interests include the effect of intergenerational learning opportunities on healthy behavior patterns, rural gender identity, the intersection of plant-rich diets and rural populations, and effective public health education methods. Her work focuses on translating research into practice by promoting kinesthetic learning opportunities designed to reduce the barriers to achieving good health. Before coming to Mason, Mitcham worked as a nutrition and healthy living resource educator for Cornell University Cooperative Extension.

View Transcript

Master of Social Work

Master of Social Work

Dr. Daphne King

faculty photo of Dr. Daphne King

Dr. Daphne King is an Assistant Professor and MSW Online Program Coordinator in the Social Work Department/College of Health and Human Service. King’s research interests are self-esteem issues in teens and adolescents, mental health concerns and treatment modalities for women of color, specifically African-American women, and the impact engagement in Christianity or spiritual practices have on self-esteem. King is an expert in treating teens and adolescents with self-esteem issues and depression and has facilitated numerous clinical and psychoeducational groups on self-esteem issues for teens. Before coming to Mason, King was an adjunct professor at Indiana Wesleyan University and a school social worker with Loudoun County Public Schools. Read her full biography here.

View Transcript

Master of Education in Special Education and Graduate Certificates

Master of Education in Special Education and Graduate Certificates

Dr. Jodi M. Duke

faculty photo of Dr. Jodi M. Duke

Dr. Duke is an Associate Professor in the Division of Special Education and Disability Research. She is also the Academic Program Coordinator of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Graduate Program.

Dr. Duke received a B.S. in Elementary Education from University of Michigan, a M.S. in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University, and an Ed.D. in Special Education from Johns Hopkins University. Her research focuses on postsecondary transition and college supports for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities. Read her full biography here.

View Transcript

TESOL (MEd Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction)

TESOL (MEd Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction)

Dr. Kathleen A. Ramos

faculty photo of Dr. Kathleen A. Ramos

Dr. Kathleen A. Ramos is an Associate Professor in the College of Education and Human Development, School of Education. She is also the Co-Academic Program Coordinator for the Teaching Culturally, Linguistically Diverse and Exceptional Learners (TCLDEL) graduate program. She is an experienced educator who has been working closely with culturally and linguistically diverse learners and their families since 1992. Dr. Ramos earned a PhD in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012 and also holds an M.A. in Foreign Language Teaching earned at Pitt. She began her work as a teacher educator in Pennsylvania. Dr. Ramos joined the faculty of Mason’s TCLDEL graduate program in August 2016. As a teacher educator, she is dedicated to supporting preservice and in-service teachers locally, nationally, and globally to strengthen their capacity to serve culturally and linguistically diverse students and their families with excellence and equity. Read her full biography here.

View Transcript

MHA Health Systems Management

MHA Health Systems Management

Dr. Brenda Helen Sheingold

faculty photo of Dr. Brenda Helen Sheingold

Dr. Brenda Helen Sheingold is the Director for the Master of Healthcare Administration at the Department of Health Administration and Policy. She was awarded a dual-titled PhD from George Mason University in Public Policy and Nursing, a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins Carey School of Business, where she also earned a Graduate Certificate in Women’s Leadership and Change Management. Her research to identify and measure social capital in the healthcare workforce has been replicated by scholars globally and recognized by the Royal College of Nursing. She was founding faculty for George Washington University’s School of Nursing where she served as the Director of the Healthcare Quality Master’s and Doctoral programs. Read her full biography here.

Watch the Virtual Q&A with Maria Uriyo, Assistant Professor and MHA Online Coordinator.

View Transcript

MS Computer Science

MS Computer Science

Dr. Robert Pettit

faculty photo of Dr. Robert Pettit

Dr. Robert Pettit is the Program Director and Professor of Practice for the online Master of Science in Computer Science. Additionally, he serves as the Director of New Graduate Programs, where he is responsible for coordinating efforts associated with the new online offerings as well as the advancement of our Bachelor’s-Accelerated-Master’s (BAM) program and retention across the M.S. CS and SWE programs. Pettit’s research and practical interests include real-time embedded software; software modeling and design; model-based engineering; software performance analysis; and mission assurance for critical software systems. Read his full biography here.

View Transcript


Master of Business Administration Transcript

SUSAN NAGER: My name is Susan. And I’m an online admissions rep for George Mason. And I am joined with Dr. Bellos, the program director for our online MBA, as well as two guest speakers, Pat and Jessica. So without further ado, Dr. Bellos, do you want to take it away?

YANNIS BELLOS: Absolutely. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Susan. Hi, everyone. My name is Yannis Bellos. I am an associate professor of information systems and operations management here at the School of Business at George Mason University. I am also the MBA program director. But I have to admit that my favorite hat is that of the MBA faculty, someone who has been interacting and teaching MBA students for the past several years in a variety of formats, whether face-to-face, hybrid, or online.

I look forward to sharing my perspectives with everyone today. I am thrilled to be in the company of Jessica and Pat. Those are our guest stars this evening. In the next slide, you can see we have put brief bios. I think it speaks volumes when our current or past students take the time to talk about the program.

Both of them, they are very close to graduation. As a matter of fact, I will be thrilled– I will have the pleasure to see them in person this Friday during our graduation dinner in Arlington. So I’m grateful for both of them being here this evening. And I look forward to meeting in person with them. You will have the opportunity to ask Jessica and Pat any questions that you have about their experience in this program.

So let’s talk, mention MBA. As you can see in the next slide, our program comprises 48 credits. That is 10 core courses, five elective courses, and one global requirement, which students can meet by choosing between an international residency and a traditional course with an international emphasis.

As you may already know, we offer two separate delivery formats. One is face-to-face with evening classes taking place on our Fairfax and Arlington campuses. And the other one, the focus of this session, is our fully online mode. In this session, we will focus on our online program. But both programs, both the in-person and the online program, are equivalent in terms of course content and structure.

Speaking of courses, all courses take place over eight weeks, over eight week modules. Each semester, fall, spring, and summer, has two modules. A distinctive characteristic of our program is that although this is an asynchronous online program, we choose class sizes that facilitate interpersonal connections between the instructor and in general among the students.

I should not forget to brag about a couple of things. Both our online and face-to-face programs are in the top 100 programs. Most recently, US News and World Report ranked us number 65 in the best part time MBA nationally and number 51 in the best online MBA programs among public universities. On the admission side, our MBA program is test optional. However, if you would like to submit a test score with your application, we invite you to do so. But from our side, this is completely optional.

Students who enroll in our program take courses from faculty members who do cutting edge research in their domains. They are known and well-respected in their fields. And they are frequently quoted in the business and popular press. Our faculty specialize in three broad areas, ensuring global features, digital transformation of work, and entrepreneurship and innovation. More than 40% of them come from international origins, like myself. And nearly half of the faculty speaks more than one language.

The next slide captures a snapshot of our MBA student population. The average age of our students is 33 years old with an average work experience of nine years. The split between male versus female is around 57-43. But given the trends that we have seen, we expect this to get closer to 50-50 within the next few admission cycles.

Our students have majored in a diversity of fields, such as psychology, law, English, communications, engineering, and so on. This is to emphasize that you do not need prior training in business to do an MBA. The top three reasons for which our students decide to do an MBA are career advancement, the opportunity for professional development, and the desire to change careers or industries.

As you can see in the next slide, the average salary at graduation is in the six digits. Speaking of graduation, in the graduating class of 2021, 94% of our students were employed at graduation with 94% of them in a position related to their career goals. The most popular industries for our graduates are consulting, government and government contracting, and financial services. Our alumni have a strong presence in companies such as Booz Allen, Boeing, Nestle, Northrop, and several government agencies in a variety of roles.

In the next slide, you can see a snapshot of our curriculum. On the left side, you see the core required courses. And then on the right side, you see our elective courses. In addition to our core courses, which aim to enable students to gain a holistic understanding of business, we offer electives through which students can further improve both their soft and quantitative skills.

Speaking of quantitative skills, one of the offerings that I would like to draw your attention is in the next slide. And it’s specifically our certificate in business analytics. This is a 12-credit certificate that requires for four courses, data mining for business analytics and three more elective courses that you can see on the right side.

I should emphasize that students can pursue the certificate as part of the MBA program or as a standalone option without having been admitted to the program. Students can use the certificate as a pathway to the MBA program or not. That is, if you join the MBA program after you have completed the certificate, you can use the certificate credits towards the 48 credits of the MBA program that I mentioned earlier.

In the next slide, you can see some of the places that our MBA students have visited through global residency in the past. Jessica, I’m wondering if you are in one of those photos here because I know that you did travel last year. Perhaps Jessica can talk more about this experience at the end of this presentation. But overall, our students spend a week abroad visiting and starting companies in a foreign country and participating in cultural activities. Last summer, Jessica, I think you traveled to Dubai?

JESSICA GREEN: That’s correct. I’m not in the slide deck, though. So we’ll have to get a new picture.

YANNIS BELLOS: I’m sorry. And I believe, Pat, you are going to Estonia this summer.

PAT VONGSUMEDH: That is correct.

YANNIS BELLOS: I promise you that you will make it to our next virtual open house slides part.

PAT VONGSUMEDH: Sounds good. Thank you.

YANNIS BELLOS: In terms of in terms of course expectations, in the next slide, overall, you should expect to learn a lot and have fun. No two courses are the same. Our instructors bring their unique approaches and teaching philosophies. But overall, our courses are interactive and the instructors facilitate active learning through pre-recorded video lectures, optional live sessions, hands-on activities, such as simulations, group projects, and real life case studies.

In terms of workload, the expected time per week is six to eight hours per course. But that also varies based on prior education and professional background. This video will offer you a preview of our courses and how we deliver content to our students.


– Welcome to the George Mason University online MBA program. You’ve taken the first steps in beginning your graduate degree. And we’re excited to support you through this journey. Like many students, you might have some questions about what it’s like to take classes online, so we’ve put together this video to show you what it’s like to be an online student.

Let’s start with a quick tour of Blackboard. All of your important information can be found by using the navigation on the left hand side of your screen. Here, you’ll find a link to course announcements, your course syllabus, assignments, and the library. At George Mason, we believe strongly in providing you with opportunities to test your knowledge and receive feedback in real time.

– The only difference is that we will also add today’s costs.

– Faculty have curated and created custom videos and tutorials to provide you the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the content and build a broad network of peers who will enhance your perspectives and challenge your thinking through rich discussions and a variety of group work. Remember, your student success coach will be here to support you every step of the way because at George Mason University, student success is our number one goal.


YANNIS BELLOS: A couple of things that I would like to emphasize is that our students have diverse academic and work experience backgrounds. No matter what your background is, the MBA team, faculty, and staff are here to work with you. Keep in mind that in my experience, commitment is the greatest predictor of student success.

Lastly, before I hand it over to Jessica and Pat, I would like also to emphasize that students who join our MBA program, they’re not just part of the Mason MBA or just the School of Business. They are part of the broader GMU ecosystem. So during your decision making process, I would encourage you to also look at the many resources, for example, the various industry centers, like the Baroni Center for Government Contracting, the Center for Retail Transformation, or the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, just to mention a few, that Mason can provide you access to.

So thank you very much for taking the time to listen to this presentation. And please feel to jump in to ask any questions you may have for me, Jessica, or Pat.

SUSAN NAGER: Absolutely. So Jessica, do you want to kick it off and share your experience with Mason’s online MBA program?

JESSICA GREEN: Yeah. I’m happy to do that. So I really started the program at the beginning of the pandemic. And the online program proved to be, I would say, the perfect way for me to spend all that spare time that we had when we were all working from home. And what I really enjoyed the most was not only the diversification of the coursework that I got to take, but the fact that it offered, I would say, the eight-week modules.

So those eight-week modules are fast paced. But it allows you the opportunity to work through one set of course materials at a time and be laser focused on that specific course. And I found that easy to work through, as well as the flexibility that the program offered me to be able to come and go from course materials based on what my schedule looked like.

So it’s really been a tremendous experience in personal and professional development. I would also offer that if you have the opportunity to go on the global requirement– I know Dr. Bellos was talking a little bit about that– I would highly encourage you to. That’s a real opportunity for you to take the concepts that you have learned throughout the program and apply them in a live setting, as well as you get to meet with a number of businesses that the school has set up for you to meet with in their C-suite and be able to talk about the things that you have been learning over the course.

And I would say the global requirement really becomes the capstone of the entire program. So all in all, it has been a wonderful experience. And like Pat, I am looking forward to marching towards graduation next week.

SUSAN NAGER: Well, that’s awesome. So how would you say it was working full time? And I know that you mentioned that you loved the focus of having just one course at a time. And that is wonderful. How would you say the work life and the juggling of all that– how did that work for you?

JESSICA GREEN: At the beginning of the pandemic, it was great. When we came back full time, I would say it has been a little bit challenging. But you have the opportunity to be able to– you have to be dedicated in your approach and organized on when you’re going to work on the deliverables for the course. I’m not the type of person that likes to wait until everything comes to the weekend and try to tackle it all at once.

So I chose– Dr. Bellos is laughing because he knows that to be true of me. I like to chip away at things a little bit at a time. And so I would set aside time each evening, probably about an hour, depending on how early I got home from work, and work on it a little bit at a time. I always took Fridays off, because we needed a break, and tried to wrap up any deliverables, I would say, sometime on Saturday or Sunday, if I could, before I started the next week.

SUSAN NAGER: Wonderful.

JESSICA GREEN: It’s doable. It’s doable. Don’t be afraid to jump in and just go for it.

SUSAN NAGER: Cool. Yes. That’s very important to hear. Pat, do you have anything to add?

PAT VONGSUMEDH: Yeah, Jessica, just piggyback on what she’s saying, it’s really all about time management. Even for me, I could say throughout the pandemic, even now with my promotion, I travel quite a bit for work. So even with that, I still make time to tackle schoolwork, plus my job at the same time. It’s really all about just planning.

There will be weekends where you have to set aside for school and team up with your group and work on projects, deliverables. But it is manageable. It’s a great experience. And the most important part is it’s fun because of the networking, the people you meet. And you get to share your experience and your knowledge with everyone. And you get to learn a lot from your peers. So it is a great opportunity.

SUSAN NAGER: That’s wonderful. And–


SUSAN NAGER: –do you all want to– oh, go ahead. I’m so sorry.

YANNIS BELLOS: I should also add that if you’re in a period in your career or let’s say that you know during this year that work is not going to be as crazy as it used to be, you also have the option to double down or take more than one course per eight weeks. And that can get you to graduation faster. We do see most of our students, they take one course per eight weeks. But some students also choose to double down. And that brings them to graduation at a faster pace.

SUSAN NAGER: Yeah, I have to say that– apologies for sounding froggy– but the wonderful thing about this program is the flexibility. I don’t think it can be beat. So you have the 33-month option. You have the 24-month option. And then like, Dr. Bellos, you just mentioned, if you want to double up and complete it faster, you can. So that’s absolutely amazing.

And then on the flip side of the coin, sometimes life gets in the way. So we allow you up to six years to complete the degree. So that’s really amazing. Y’all, as guest speakers, really come with amazing credentials. Do you want to talk a little bit more about the jobs that you currently do and how this MBA is going to benefit you in your career? Don’t be shy.

JESSICA GREEN: I’ll go first, and then Pat, you can fill in a little bit. Yeah, so I work in financial services. I work for a company called Pinnacle Financial Partners. That’s a really roundabout way of saying I work for a bank. And I work in business development and maintain a book of clients specifically focused on middle market companies with complex deposit and treasury management needs.

I’ve been doing this, I would say, for the past 15 to 16 years. And I did not have a business background going into this role. And so my goal for the program was really to build out a lot of the concepts that I needed to better service my clients, as well as I wanted the opportunity to demonstrate to my leadership that I could move into a leadership role as well. And I would say I’m well on the way in the path to getting there. And I had definitely seen a direct result of being able to better understand what I’m doing because of the MBA program.

SUSAN NAGER: That’s amazing. Pat?

PAT VONGSUMEDH: So a little bit about me, I am a business consultant for 7-Eleven. I’m pretty sure everyone’s been to that convenience store once or twice in their lifetime. So I oversee about 18 stores right now, spreading across from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. I have a big territory, so I travel a lot, like I was saying earlier.

So my daily focus is just to work with franchisee on a daily basis, focus on food safety, beverage, digital, guest services, store profitability, just making sure that franchisees are following the regulations that we apply to our company, just making sure that everyone is working well and troubleshoot any issues that they have.

Now, a few things that, of course, I use during my daily focus with my franchisees that I learned during my MBA course is just communication. I expanded my skill set in terms of Excel during my MBA program. And it’s just been great. I can see the difference between what I was able to accomplish before and after and using all of this and what I’ve learned.

Of course, you saw the statistics that a lot of people pursue an MBA program because career advancement. And that is also one of the goals I had when coming into the MBA program, so looking forward to just moving on up and just making an impact in the company and seeing what I can do to change and grow the business for the franchisee and the company itself.

SUSAN NAGER: That’s terrific. That’s great to hear. I also, about this program, I love the fact that you have a combination of asynchronous and synchronous modalities. So Pat, you had mentioned that there was a lot of networking opportunities with your fellow students. But the synchronous sessions also allows you to have face-to-face with the faculty, which I’m sure that you all found helpful as well. How much group work would you say was involved for this MBA? I see some smiles.

PAT VONGSUMEDH: Well, we take what roughly 14 courses– wait, no, 16, my apologies, 16 courses.


PAT VONGSUMEDH: I would say a majority, if not all– if I recall, I think there was only one or two class that was just an individual course. But all of them is group work. And like I was saying, it’s no better opportunity than taking advantage of getting to know people and networking. And that’s what I’ve come to realize, is after I graduate with my undergrad, that networking is very essential. And the connection that you have makes it life much easier throughout your lifetime here.

SUSAN NAGER: Thank you.

JESSICA GREEN: Yeah. I want to add to that because I the I have actually made some really great connections that we’ve continued to stay in touch outside of courses that we are no longer in together, as well as some really close friends that, honestly, sort of we text every day now about just sort of life and things like that. And I know Dr. Bellos knows exactly who that individual is.

But take those courses, do the group work, and stay in touch with those individuals even after you’re outside of that course. It will pay in dividends because you will be able to build that relationship over time and leverage their knowledge, perhaps when you’re working on something in your role, or even open up an opportunity for you in the future. You never know when that type of connection is going to bear fruit. So it’s been really impactful.

SUSAN NAGER: That’s great.

YANNIS BELLOS: I would also add to that that when we organize, let’s say, events for our in-person program, either in Fairfax or in Arlington, let’s say when we bring when we bring a C-suite speaker to give an in-person talk, either in Fairfax or in Arlington, we do extend an invitation to our online students. And you are more than welcome to join. So we are cognizant of the fact that networking is very, very important for MBA students, and we try to facilitate that for both our in-person and online students.

SUSAN NAGER: Now, Dr. Bellos, would you say that– one of the things that I find that’s very positive about the online program is that Mason prides itself on keeping the online classes at a small size.

YANNIS BELLOS: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SUSAN NAGER: So you’re not going to feel like a number. And I think that’s why, Jessica and Pat, you guys have been able to create meaningful relationships with other students. So that’s really phenomenal.

YANNIS BELLOS: And as I said before– and this is an asynchronous program– but the reason that I love teaching MBA students is because of the connections that I want to make. So this is an asynchronous online MBA program. But most of your instructors, most of your courses, will have optional live sessions.

If you want to participate or if you want to engage– and your instructors, they will want to interact with you– you will realize that your instructors, the program director, they will know you on a first name basis. And you will be exchanging emails with them at random times to see how things are going, reaching out with feedback and so on and so forth. Yes, that’s a very good point. Thank you for bringing this up, Susan.

SUSAN NAGER: Yeah, and another thing I’ve got to say is I knew that Mason has a diverse student population and faculty. But I didn’t realize that with the MBA, that you said that most faculty members speak two languages. That is so cool. I’m attempting, hopefully one day, to be fluent in Spanish. But we’ll see. But another thing that I wanted to add too is that big time heavy hitter companies seek out our Mason grads, so Booz, Allen Deloitte. Is that correct? A lot of US Department of Treasury and so forth.

YANNIS BELLOS: That’s absolutely correct. And we have a very large footprint of our graduates in those companies.

SUSAN NAGER: Yeah. So obviously, we’re an accredited program and one of the best part time MBAs around, so lots of good stuff. Good question. Are there any scholarships for international students? Dr. Bellos, do you know?

YANNIS BELLOS: This is one of the questions that I will encourage people to reach out. I don’t have the most up to date information all the time. This is one, and there was another question on financial aid. Please reach out to our to admissions team–

SUSAN NAGER: That’s me.

YANNIS BELLOS: And they will provide you up to date information.

SUSAN NAGER: Yes, and so in terms of tuition, it’s approximately $1,066 per credit hour. And yeah, in terms of financial aid, scholarships, private loans, I’m your gal. My colleagues can definitely assist you with that. That said, there aren’t as many– when you’re an undergrad, if you’re left handed, there will be a scholarship for that, or you’re a certain height, there’s a scholarship for that, not so much for graduate students.

So most people do rely on financial aid. And so for an international applicant, that probably wouldn’t apply to you. But most students, as long as you don’t have any outstanding graduate loans, for FAFSA, most students are awarded about $20,500 per year in unsubsidized loans. But reach out. If you don’t already have an admissions rep, I’m going to provide that information so that you can reach out to us and we’re happy to assist you with that. Yeah.

YANNIS BELLOS: I would also like to add that part of our mission, as an institution, not as a school of business, as George Mason University, part of our mission is to enable access to excellence, take down barriers to access to excellence. And we take pride in that. Our tuition has not gone up for– I don’t even remember when it was the last time that the tuition meaningfully went up.

If you do a market research, you’re going to see that the number, the $1,066 per credit that Susan mentioned earlier is quite competitive, especially when you factor in the flexibility and the intellectual capital of our faculty and the roster that you will have access to. So in that sense, we have priced ourselves in order to deliver to our mission of enabling access to excellence, which may compensate for the fact that there are not that many scholarship opportunities.

SUSAN NAGER: Well, our admissions reps can provide you with external links outside of Mason for some scholarships. One of those organizations is If you go to that, it’ll bring up a slew of scholarships that may or may not be applicable. But one thing that I really want to mention, that Mason as a whole is ranked seventh in the entire nation.

So if you think of all the colleges and universities throughout the nation, what that means is that you’re going to get a great bang for your buck. You’re going to get a high ROI. It’s like getting a private school education at a public school rate. So you’re coming to a great program. So one of the questions is, what is the acceptance rate?

YANNIS BELLOS: Yeah, so that’s another question that I will have to defer to the admissions team. But I want to emphasize something here again. And that relates to the fact that we are not conventional in that sense. When someone applies to the program, let’s say, and we feel that maybe they are not ready to do an MBA or maybe based on their goal statement the fit is not there, our admissions team will work with you, and they will point to you the right program that presents a better fit for you.

We have other programs at Mason, masters in finance, masters in business analytics starting this fall, masters in management. Our team, again, the objective of our admissions team is to maximize your fit. So when they see applicants that are potentially are not a great fit for the program, they work with them to see whether they have a better fit with another program at Mason.

SUSAN NAGER: Absolutely. And so–

YANNIS BELLOS: Our admissions team’s job is not to turn down, to reject candidates. Their objective is to find the best fit for the candidate.

SUSAN NAGER: Yeah, exactly. And to be honest, if someone is borderline or needs something to strengthen their application, that’s what I’m there for. And that’s what my colleagues are there for, to suggest how to make your application stronger.

So if it’s going back and maybe taking some non-degree-seeking graduate level courses in business, of course, and showing that you can do it at any regionally accredited institution or at Mason, getting a B or better, that shows that you’re a qualified candidate and that you can do graduate work. But a lot, I think we stress, is the work experience, correct, Dr. Bellos?

YANNIS BELLOS: There is a minimum of two years work experience. But as I mentioned in the previous slide, on average, our students have a 9 to 10 year work experience.

SUSAN NAGER: Yeah, exceptional. And one of the great things is, a lot of students are happy to hear, is that we don’t require the GRE or GMAT. But that said, I guess if you blew the test out of the water and did really great and you want to keep include those scores, by all means.

Dr. Bellos, I have a question for you. So if you have a student where admissions comes back and says, you know what, we want you to do the business fundamental courses and see how you do– so for example, right now, we are accepting candidates for the fall start, which is the end of August, August 24. In June, we’ll open up the January start. But say somebody is in the process of completing their fourth course for fall. But they’re not done. But they’ve done well. Do you do provisional acceptances or conditional acceptances?

YANNIS BELLOS: Again, we look at the file holistically. And one important thing that we put more weight on is on the work experience. So we do handle those cases. We do see an increasing number of cases going that path that you mentioned. But what is very important is making sure that the work experience is there. So courses will not substitute lack of work experience.

And actually there is a related question of whether work experience can compensate for courses. Typically, we do not waive courses based on work experience. Now, if someone has a very unique background that has a very specific specialization in some area of accounting that one of our core courses focuses on, we may talk about waiving one course on an individual basis. But typically, we do not waive course work based on numbers of years of work experience.

SUSAN NAGER: Thank you. Now, I have a question. So if that person who is completing– and this is hypothetical– completing their fourth business fundamentals course, do they have to complete that and have a grade prior to applying, or can they be in the middle and they’ll be done before the term that they’re applying to starts. And that’s what I mean by a provisional acceptance on the successful completion of that fourth course.

YANNIS BELLOS: We will have to look at the deadlines because we do admit students up to a few days before the term starts. So we will have to look at the specifics of the case. So I will be happy to talk more about this offline. Gotcha. Sure. Yeah, absolutely. And any questions? Let’s see, anybody else that has questions? Don’t be shy. You have two students here and the program director.

Well, what I’m going to do is I’m going to forward it to– we have a couple more minutes here. And so we’re going to go to the end and talk about the admissions process. So you do have to have a bachelor’s degree. It’s helpful if you have some business courses, but not necessarily. It doesn’t have to be. It could be in, say, psychology or something like that, the resume, a goal statement, two letters of reference.

The application process is actually quite simple. Mason will accept unofficial transcripts. And we’ll attempt to order official transcripts on your behalf as a courtesy. And letter of reference is super easy peasy. You put in their names and emails, and they get an electronic form. Literally, it only takes about 10, 15 minutes to complete, so very, very easy and important. So they want you to have successful completion of calculus, algebra, or a statistics class is recommended prior to enrolling to the MBA program. So that’s good to know.

But we were talking about a minimum of two years post-baccalaureate work experience. We do, however, accept non-traditional students. So for example, if you’re in the military and you’ve been in the army for, say, 10 years, but you’re just graduating, someone like that we would consider, correct, Dr. Bellos, in terms of a non-traditional student? Perfect.

And in case, I wanted to provide the contact information. So if you don’t have an admissions representative, here is the phone number for you to call and the email. And again, we’re more than happy to go over what is required for international applicants, for domestic applicants, for financial aid, scholarships, and the like. It’s a fantastic program. And it’s going to enable you to get and meet those career goals that you’re looking for. Any last comments, Dr. Bellos?

YANNIS BELLOS: There is a question by Greg.

SUSAN NAGER: Thank you.

YANNIS BELLOS: The question is, I will potentially have to be out of town for two weeks in September? Will this be a good reason to enroll in the online program? Or could I join the in-person MBA program and work ahead? So in general, we ask, given the fast pace of our courses, we ask our in-person students– so as a reminder, the courses take place over eight week modules. We ask our students to not miss more than one week of classes in the in-person.

So if you feel confident that you cannot meet that, if you think that more likely than not, you will be missing more than one week, this is not ideal because that may affect your understanding of the material, your participation, grade, and so on and so forth. So yeah, I would consider in this case starting in the online program and later on transitioning in the in-person program.

We do have students who do that. We do have students who actually started in the in-person program. They know that next few months are going to be particularly hectic, and they ask us to switch to the online one. Yeah, that’s a good question.

SUSAN NAGER: And another student is asking, will a community college statistics course satisfy the requirement? And the answer is yes, as long as it’s from any regionally accredited institution, and you want to get a B or better, if possible. That’ll satisfy it. And then there’s another question. If you do the graduate certificate in business analytics and then want to do the MBA, yes, the courses will definitely transfer over into the MBA, like Dr. Bellos had previously said.

So yeah, so basically what that is, that will get four out of your five electives out of the way. And another question, does a diplomaa– yeah.

YANNIS BELLOS: There is no distinction. There is no distinction between the online and in-person, whether you did the program online or in person. So this will take pictures of Jessica’s and Pat’s diplomas, and then we’ll be using them in next year’s slide.


YANNIS BELLOS: There is no mention– modality is not mentioned anywhere on your diploma. At the end of the day, you will be getting an MBA from George Mason University.

SUSAN NAGER: Yes. Yes. The rigor is the same. The presentation is just a little bit different. And then a question is, since the program is asynchronous, how do students have the opportunity to work together? That’s a great question for Jessica and Pat.

JESSICA GREEN: So we typically would set up a Zoom meeting and a group text and meet over Zoom to go ahead and get our course deliverables set. I did know of a couple of groups that if everyone was local, they would meet up at a local brewery or a restaurant or something and work through their course materials together. So that’s primarily how we connected.

SUSAN NAGER: Nice. So a couple more questions coming in, so great. Keep them coming. I’m a US citizen, but all my degrees are from overseas. Yes. So you would need a WES evaluation. And you would need– specifically, it’s called a WES ICAP evaluation. But again, that’s what the admissions representative is for. And we will assist you and walk you through that process. And it says, and secondly, I have not done any of the subjects need to have done before applying.

Again, we look at you holistically. It depends on your work experience. We could always set you up with something that might satisfy the statistics requirement because statistics is one of the first courses that you would be taking. But again, we look at you holistically. If you took organic chemistry and was an organic chemistry major and your GPA was a 4.0 and you have all this business related work experience, yeah. But it’s best if you reach out to one of us, and we’ll be able to assist you.


SUSAN NAGER: Another question– go ahead. I’m so sorry.

YANNIS BELLOS: And we do– go ahead, Jessica.

JESSICA GREEN: I was going to say, let me chime in about the statistics course because I think that that’s something for folks that don’t have an analytical background get a little bit nervous about. And quite frankly, it had been a long time since I had taken any of those math classes. You are fully supported. There is a tutor that is directly there for the statistics program to guide you through that. You work together. You have all of the resources that you need to be successful in that course.

If you haven’t taken math in a while, you do have to bone up on some of those concepts. But it is totally doable and not something to be afraid of. I know a lot of people in the program also want to put it off. I would say, just go ahead get it over with. And you’ve got all the resources and support to be able to help you.

SUSAN NAGER: That’s amazing to hear. Thank you for sharing that. Now, what if I have graduates all the time, that maybe they took statistics 10 years ago. And so– go ahead, Dr. Bellos.

YANNIS BELLOS: We do provide– we do not expect you to– the expectation is not that you’re joining the program and you remember how to do– I don’t know. I don’t want to mention random math topics. But we do not expect you that your calculus or algebra skills will be super up to date and polished. That’s why we do provide you resources before you join the program. And the math resources are quite basic. We just want you to be able to gain some confidence and refresh some of the previous skills.

So let’s say we do have some math resources, basic math resources you can go through. As a Mason student, you do have access to LinkedIn Learning, which has so many free of charge video modules that you can use for different quantitative statistics topics that you can quickly go through, watch an hour long video, and you will feel ready to start the statistics course with a little bit more confidence.

So we do not expect you you’ll be joining this program being in a tip top shape, let’s say, having your calculus keys sharpened. We don’t want you to do that. We do not expect you. We provide the resources because we understand that you’re working professionals, and that will take some time towards us to grad student life. And part of it is freshen up your quant skills.

SUSAN NAGER: Thank you. And yeah, again, this program was designed for working professionals, like Dr. Bellos just mentioned. A couple more questions. Do you need transcripts from programs completed or transcripts from all institutions, including incomplete programs? An incomplete program of study doesn’t have an adverse effect on admissions, unless you didn’t do well or something. Again, you’d have to reach out to the admissions rep and we could guide you.

So basically, for an associate’s degree, we need an unofficial transcript. Anything higher, a bachelor’s or higher, unofficial transcripts are fine for admissions purposes, provided that they have the degree conferral showing. And then like I said, Mason will attempt as a courtesy to order official transcripts on your behalf. So I hope that answers your question, Stephanie.

So Gregory is answering, at what point in the semester can you switch from the online to the in-person program? And there was another question too. If you enroll in the online program, can you move to the in-person program?

YANNIS BELLOS: Yes. The answer is yes, you can move. We do have in-person students, who they have taken many in-person courses, but next module, they tell us that they’re going to take an elective online, again, because of work related issues and so on and so forth. So you can do that. You can do that, I believe, at the end of each module.

Now, I would caution– I need to mention something here. You can do that. You can go from online to in person, take online or in-person courses back and forth and so on and so forth. That may have an effect on your original graduation timeline. So one of the fascinating things in the online program is that you join the program and you will start building a very personal close relationship with the student success coach. I believe both Jessica and Pat have worked with Lily.

And the student success coach will sit down with you, and they come up with a timeline for your graduation. Every time that you modify something, that study plan, that course plan, the timeline may be slightly affected, which means that when you make a decision to change from in-person to online and vice versa, you will have to sit down with your advisor and look at how is your timeline to graduate affected?

SUSAN NAGER: Yeah, and one thing that’s super important to know, that it’s a one way trip. So if you start out online, you can switch to campus and vice versa. So for example, if you start out on campus and you decide, hey, I really want to do online, it’s an easy switch. However, you can’t switch back and forth, back and forth, just one way, correct, Dr. Bellos?

YANNIS BELLOS: That’s what we’re advising students because of the implications to graduation, to the timeline, because when we go through them, the course plans, and how they will affect them, then they realize, well, I should not be doing that often.

SUSAN NAGER: Thank you. And what is the required English score? It depends on the test, so I do suggest Duolingo because it’s the cheapest and you can get the results the fastest. You can sign up and take it online the same day. You need a score of 120. And let’s see, great questions. Thank you. Is there a listing of start dates for the next academic year available, including application deadlines? So the next start date is August 24. The spring start, I think usually it’s after the new year sometime. But there is an academic calendar.

So if you’re not already working with an admissions representative, feel free to reach out to us, and we can provide that with you. But typically how it goes is it’s fall and then spring, which is January, in the dead of winter, and then the summer. And then it just repeats itself. So let’s see here. I’ve applied for the in-person MBA. Do I have to submit a separate application for the online MBA? Unfortunately, yes. It’s considered a separate program. Anything to add to that Dr. Bellos?

YANNIS BELLOS: Not that I’m aware of. Yeah, send us an email about that. If you have already been admitted to the in-person MBA program and you want to switch, send a note to to let us know. And a person from our team will reach out to work with you directly on that. So before you create a separate application, send out an email to the in-person team, and someone will reach out to work with you on that.

SUSAN NAGER: Wonderful. Thank you. And here’s a question. This is a great question. So Janessa is asking, you mentioned that the online students have an opportunity to participate when there are guest speakers on campus. Can you talk more about this? How are students notified?

YANNIS BELLOS: Most recently, we sent out– so we had an event in an Arlington campus. We curated a list of the students who we knew that they are local. They are in an online MBA program. But they are local. So we reached out to them several times with an invitation and opportunity to RSVP to join the event.

SUSAN NAGER: Wonderful. Wonderful. Terrific. Well, my goodness, we have gone over time. So any other parting comments before we wrap it up here, Dr. Bellos?

YANNIS BELLOS: I will ask Jessica and Pat to give one piece of advice to folks considering–


YANNIS BELLOS: –starting not an online, an MBA program, just any piece of advice.

PAT VONGSUMEDH: I’ll go first, Jessica, if you don’t mind. So for everyone listening, I would say I’ve been in your shoes before. I was very hesitant on reapplying. Going back to school, earning your MBA, it’s intimidating. It could be because for me personally, I’ve been out of– I earned my undergrad back in 2015. And going back to school five years later with a full time job can be very intimidating.

But my advice to you is just apply. Take a leap of faith. Me, personally, I believe it was much easier compared to my undergrad because if you’re pacing yourself and you’re taking eight-week courses, it’s not as difficult as you think. Just take it one day at a time, utilize the resources that George Mason provides you. Your professors are amazing. They are very quick on responses. And they will give you all the support.

But most importantly, like Dr. Bellos was referring to, was your success coach. She will help you guide you through the process. Lily [? Jaranka ?] is amazing. She has been there for me every step of the way. I actually just got off the phone with her this morning. She will help guide you through to the right path, your course, set everything for you. Everything is just there for you.

You just got take the course, and like I said, take a leap of faith. You’ll reap a lot of benefits from it. And already see the difference in, like I said, from before and after. I’ve seen the difference in my progression. And I can see a lot of rewards coming at the end of the course after I received my MBA. So thank you.

SUSAN NAGER: That’s great. If I can just add one more thing, so when you go to apply– and sometimes that can be intimidating as well– you’re going to have a personal assistant, like me or one of my colleagues. So one of the things that Mason prides itself on, again, is that support. So it’s going to be from start to finish. And so yeah.

My goodness– I’m a US citizen who has a bachelor’s degree overseas over 10 years ago. I work in the US for over nine years. Am I still required– Yeah, so you would. But again, I would suggest that you take the Duolingo. So obviously, the English exam is going to be a no brainer. It’s $49 US. You can sign up and take it online. You get the results in two business days, unless Dr. Bellos, you have– there’s some way we can get around it. But that is the school policy, as far as I know, in terms of the English language proficiency exam. Anything that you’d like to add?

YANNIS BELLOS: I don’t have any more up to date information on that.

SUSAN NAGER: Yeah, it’s frustrating. I totally get you. So obviously, you’re fluent in English. And so the test is going to be very easy for you. But you have to look at the big picture. Sometimes there’s hoops to jump through. And so in this case, for the cost of a dinner, you do it, bing, bang, boom, you’re done. And you won’t regret it because it’s a fantastic program.

And I love the support that the faculty offer. And you heard it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, the students and the program director. So thank you so much, Dr. Bellos, Pat, Jessica, for taking the time out of your evening to speak about this great program. Again, if you have any questions, reach out to me or one of my colleagues. You have the information there.

YANNIS BELLOS: And if you have any questions about the program, or the academics, or the courses, feel always free to reach out directly to me. You will be surprised by how responsive we are, how quickly we respond to emails.

SUSAN NAGER: Wonderful. That’s amazing. So is there a particular email that they should reach out? Like you said, the mba@– what was it? And I’ll go ahead and type it into the chat here.

YANNIS BELLOS: For students who have already been admitted in the program, it’s And for students who have any questions regarding to academics, they can reach out directly to me. If you Google my name, Yannis Bellos, you will find me online.


YANNIS BELLOS: For any admissions questions, at

SUSAN NAGER: You got it.

JESSICA GREEN: I can attest how responsive he is. It’s almost wickedly fast sometimes.

YANNIS BELLOS: I do, yeah. I take pride in that. My emails may have typos or may be short. But I do respond fast.

SUSAN NAGER: That’s amazing, though. That’s great. And I tend to be the same way. So anyways, it was a pleasure. Thank you so much. And I wish everyone a great evening. Thank you, Dr. Bellos, Jessica, and Pat.

YANNIS BELLOS: Thank you. Bye.



YANNIS BELLOS: Good night.

MS in Data Analytics Engineering Transcript

HOST: So just to go through the presentation itself, we’ll be meeting professor Schmidt. We’ll also be talking about driving forces in the program, why choose the program, along with the program details and some information about the online classroom, admissions requirements, and then questions at the very end. Oops, all righty.

And for now, this is Bernard Schmidt. He is the program director. And I’ll give him the floor to introduce himself.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Hello, everyone. I’m Professor Schmidt. I’m currently an instructor and acting director of the Data Analytics Engineering program. Our normal director, Dr. James Baldo is currently away on sabbatical for the past year. He’s going to be gone for the next year. But the program is well in hand with me in charge right now. In fact, I’m actually a graduate of this program as well.

I started in the program back in the fall of 2013 when it was just a four course certificate and graduated myself back in the spring of 2017. So I am definitely somebody who knows the program very, very well from the student’s perspective.

HOST: Wonderful, all righty. So professor Schmidt, what would you say is the background of this program?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: OK, well, that’s an easy one because I was there right at the very beginning. So I can answer this. So it all started actually back in 2011 when George Mason University had a contract with a US government intelligence agency to provide a series of seminars about big data. That was around the time that people started realizing that big data analytics was going to be the next wave, along with cybersecurity.

And so we gave a series of presentations, like I said, to a government agency. Thereafter that, once the seminar was done, George Mason University realized that this was an up and coming area. And that we needed to actually create a degree program for it. So Data Analytics Engineering is a multidisciplinary program.

And that’s going to lead me into why it was created. It’s a multidisciplinary program. We draw on courses from other academic departments. So we’re not an academic department by itself. Normally when you think about a degree program, it contains– for example, computer science, you’re going to take all nothing but computer science courses.

But one of the things we realized early on is that data analytics engineering covers skill sets across the spectrum. So when you normally go into a degree program, you get a lot of depth of knowledge. But we give you the breadth of knowledge you need to be effective in this day and age. And so that’s how this course got started– program got started, as I mentioned.

It started in the fall of 2013 as a four course certificate. And then in the fall of 2014, the master’s degree was approved. And so we’ve been in as a degree program for nearly 10 years now.

HOST: And why would you say there is a need for this program in today’s society?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: That’s a very good question, Miriam. Data analytics engineering is important because it involves gathering and studying data to form insights that can be used to make decisions. We often use a tagline from data to decisions in this program to really drive what this is all about.

So the information that’s derived can be useful in many different ways. For example, you could use it to build a business strategy or ensure the safety and efficiency of an engineering project. So data engineers are– set up with analytics databases and data pipelines for operational use. And much of the work is really spent in preparing the big data. Because a lot of data is actually– the majority of data we find these days is what we call unstructured data.

Structured data is the kind of data you might find in a relational database system, where the fields are well known, the data values are well known. But now more and more so, if you look at what’s available in the world today, we have lots of unstructured data, text documents, chat sessions, things like videos on YouTube. These are all unstructured data elements. And so we need to be able to know how to process them along the way.

So much of the job of a data analytics engineer is preparing the big data and ensuring that the data flows work optimally. Data engineers get– good way to look at it is data engineers gather and prepare the data for the data scientists to use the data to promote better business decisions. Now, in our program, while we recognize we’re not a true data science curriculum, you can think about the difference as a data scientist is someone who builds a machine builds a– builds a machine learning model versus an analytics engineer that uses that analytics– machine learning model.

We are very much an applied program. In fact, one of the things I like to tell students and others when they ask about this is we’re more of a professional degree, like a master of business administration. An MBA degree is considered a professional degree. And that’s a good way to look at data analytics engineering. It’s also a professional degree as well. We give you– teach you a bunch of skill sets that can be applicable to any domain space.

And so– by the way, that’s not to say our students don’t go on to PhD programs. They can if they want to. But typically, students that enter our program enter it in order to be able to get high paying jobs in industry right now.

HOST: And speaking of the industry, are there any industry trends that you could share?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Sure, basically with data analytics engineering, the kinds of skill sets we’re looking– seeing in industry’s needs for this program is coding and data warehousing. You have to have knowledge of operating systems, especially when you’re working in cloud environments. Database systems, obviously. We talked about relational databases. But then you also have NoSQL databases.

These are databases that are not your traditional relational database. They’re document databases. They’re graph databases. They’re intended for these– what we call semi-structured data where you might bring in documents and stuff and store them in these data sets, these NoSQL databases.

Certainly, data analysis, we give you– we teach you a lot of skills around that from statistics perspective. Because at the end of the day, big data analytics is all about statistics one way or the other, whether it’s machine learning models or just doing a simple median or mean. You’re all going to be dealing with statistics.

Critical thinking skills are very important, as well as basic understanding of machine learning and communication skills. So these are the sorts of things we’re seeing there. And when we look at what employers are looking for, they’re looking for experience in working with data, Structured Query Language, or SQL, mastery.

Certainly programming language expertise. And the two programming languages I want to call out are primarily Python and R, especially given their large volumes of libraries out there. But then there are other programming languages, such as Scala, which are used in specific environments that are related to big data.

Being able to communicate, interpersonal skills, knowledge of the various tools out there. Yes, while you can build a machine learning model using a Python and code libraries, you’ll find more and more these days that there are a lot of automated tools out there. For example, on AWS, their machine learning tool is AWS Sagemaker. We have a faculty member who has a company called a Cure. And he developed a machine– a workbench that resides on top of the machine learning tools on various cloud platforms called Momentum.

And so a lot of our students in our capstone course get an opportunity to use Momentum if they happen to have a project that is machine learning based. Also, speaking machine learning, you wouldn’t think of machine learning or natural language processing as associated with data analytics engineering. Because typically, that’s in the– has been in the past, in the purview of data scientists.

But the reality of the situation is unless you’re actually going to build the model or build the tools like a data scientist would, data analytics engineers use those tools. For example, Momentum, we have students that come into the capstone course, have not taken any machine learning courses, yet they are able to very quickly and easily build and train a machine learning model using tools like that. So being able to master data engineering tools is very, very important.

Tableau for visualizations another big one. Alteryx designer, these are all analytics tools that are on the marketplace today that just– it’s like using a calculator. They make your job so much easier than having to necessarily code things by hand with R or Python.

And then lastly, when we talk about cloud implementations, especially things like machine learning models, there’s this concept of continuous integration, continuous delivery in a production environment. And so what we’re finding now is that in addition to the basic set of skills, that being able to take something that’s in a development environment and migrating it into a production environment, or taking something in a production environment and constantly updating it.

For example, machine learning models will drift over time. And so you have to retrain them on occasion. And so that becomes what’s known as mlops, or machine learning operations. That’s an important skill set.

Taking something that was developed in a development environment and migrating it into a production cloud environment, that’s called DevSecOps. And so these are also skills that industry’s now starting to ask for that we have to train our students in.

So you’re probably wondering right now what makes our data analytics engineering program unique. Well for starters, it’s a multidisciplinary approach that allows students to get a breadth of topics, rather than just a depth of topics. Yes, you can go into– select courses that can go very deep into a particular topic area.

But we prefer to be able to have our students be more generalist because they will then be able to apply those skills in any subject matter domain they migrate to once they graduate from the program. On top of that, George Mason University is one of the top 100 best rated engineering schools by US News and World Report. The online format is certainly designed to allow the best analytics professionals to learn and advance in– in the science together.

We have some very world renowned faculty with industry experience. And so that’s very helpful as well. And if you don’t want to do the full degree program, we do have a four course online certificate option, which if you’re already in the workplace doing analytics, a certificate is oftentimes a very good way to justify a big raise to your employer for showing the quality of work that you’re doing.

Now, when we talk about the curriculum, you basically have to– if you’re doing the data analytics certificate, you only need the first four courses here, AIT 580, Big Data to Information, CS 504, Principles of Data Management Mining, OR 531, Introduction to Analytics and Modeling, and STAT 515, Applied Statistics and Visualization for Analytics. Those four courses are core to the program and are– basically make up our certificate.

If you go into the master’s program itself, there’s a fifth core course, which is DAEN 690, Data Analytics Project. That’s my course that I’m the course coordinator with. And so I consider that my baby because I put all my time and effort into constantly improving that course for our students. That’s where students actually work on real world data analytics engineering projects, not made up Kaggle competition type projects, but real world projects that are going to be similar to what you’re going to find when you actually go out into the workplace if you’re looking to change careers at this point in time.

Now, our online program is not as big as our on ground program– our on ground program has 13 different concentrations with over 100 potential courses you could take. But that’s– in the online format, where the courses have to be designed to be taught asynchronously over an eight week period. And that’s, by the way, it’s another big difference.

In a 15 week normal semester, you would have 15 weeks to complete a course because you are– this course is set up in two eight week, back-to-back eight week sessions, you’re essentially cramming 15 weeks worth of work into an eight weeks session. And so you have to be cognizant of the fact that if in a normal 15 week class you’re expected to spend about 10 hours outside the classroom mastering the course material, either through reading, or homeworks, or assignments.

In this online program, and I’m setting realistic expectations here, you may have weeks where maybe it’s a little more, a little less. But on average, you have to dedicate 20 hours a week. And that means spending like two hours– the way to look at it is spending a couple of hours each night working on your coursework.

You don’t want to defer it to the weekend because a lot of courses actually have assignment due dates in the middle of the week. And certainly when there’s a lot of work to be done, you don’t want to give your entire weekends away just doing these online programs. So the key to success is to budget your time accordingly and spend a couple of hours each night on the work. So that you’re not overwhelmed through each week as you go through the coursework.

Now, in this case here, we actually now have 21 elective courses. There’s the DAEN 698 independent research project course, where if a student wants to do independent research, they can propose a project. And we review it and decide whether it warrants a– is good enough to warrant as an individual research.

Otherwise, we have courses from four different departments. That we have the information science and technology elective courses. And this is where you’ll find most of the database, and machine learning, and natural language processing courses. They’re very good. We have systems– SEOR, which is our Systems Engineering and Operations Research department. And they have some very good courses related to business analytics and decision sciences.

In our Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, we actually have a couple of courses related to digital forensics. You wouldn’t think that big data has anything to do with digital forensics, but actually, it really does. For example, if you’re– if you’re looking for intrusions into a system, it’s oftentimes very hard to actually find when individuals have broken into your system unless you happen to know what a normal system operation looks like. And then you can actually use data analytics to find anomalies in systems. And that’s how a lot of times, in the cybersecurity realm, people are using data analytics to detect– for intrusion detection.

And then finally for folks that have a business idea, you can take– we have four courses from our MBA, from the School of Business. It’s actually a general business elective courses. But they actually are there for their MBA courses. So we do have 21 different courses to select from. And it’s actually a well rounded out right now at this time.

I see there’s a question– a couple of questions in chat. Do you want– do we want to work with them right now? Or do we want to wait till the end?

HOST: That’s completely up to you. If you’d rather just answer all questions at the end, maybe there’s something that is going to be covered.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: OK, why don’t we– I’ll wait till the end. We’ll answer those. I’ve noted them in chat. We’ll go ahead and wait until the end to answer those.

HOST: Sure.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: So when we talk about an asynchronous online format, the courses are structured. You go from course to course. They’re very similar in their structure, how they’re laid out in Blackboard. And this is just an example. I mentioned Dr. Baldo earlier, who is our director of the program. This is an example– I don’t know if that’s an actual video you can click on to play.

No, that’s just screen capture, OK. So why don’t you go ahead and finish up with the next slide. And I’ll go ahead and answer questions after that.

HOST: Sure, yeah, so the admissions process, it’s pretty self-explanatory. We do have some prerequisites for the data analytics engineering program, we do require that students take one course of calculus, one course of statistics, and one computer programming course. In addition, we do ask that you have a minimum of 3.0 for your GPA and a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

We also ask that you submit your transcripts and your professional resume. Make sure it’s up to date. And then we do ask for two letters of recommendation. They must be professional recommendations and not personal. And then there is a personal statement that also needs to be written for the application itself. All righty, and now we will take those questions.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: All right, so let me start with two that I’ve got there. So I’m going to go with the easiest one first. Amir Nabipur asked how about the course evaluation. Are they project based or exam based? And Amir, that depends on the course. A lot of courses are exam based. But some of them, like our data analytics engineering project, is project based.

And in fact, it’s a team project. So in that case your grade is based on how well you– that’s another good exception, by the way, thank you for bringing that up about project based work. The DEAN 690 course is our capstone course. It’s the one exception to the online program. You must take that course over 15 weeks in the fall or spring or over 12 weeks over the summer.

It’s the one exception to the rule where normally it’s an eight week session. You cannot complete a full blown real world data analytics project in eight weeks. And so when you take that course, you’re going to be taking it for that full duration. The next question was from, let’s see, Louis Catacora. And you’re asking about the difference between the MSDN and the MSIT applied IT with the data analytics intelligence analysis.

It really depends on– and they’re very similar. I mean, we use similar courses. The applied IT program, online program developed– we first started developing a lot of courses. And then when they built their online program, they used the courses we developed. And then subsequently, they built some more online courses that we were able to develop.

That’s why we are– when you take those courses, you’ll find students from both online programs in them. The big difference is that if you just want to take courses that are in the– offered by IST, then feel free to go ahead and take– go in the MSIT program. If you feel that those courses will give you what you need for your job, you’ll notice, though, that our program has additional courses from other academic departments that give you a little more depth of– breadth of knowledge. For example, you get some skill sets in the SEOR courses that you wouldn’t necessarily get in the IT courses. Let’s see–

HOST: And then Toka had a question about– they did not submit their personal statement or letter of recommendations but they were still accepted. What I can say from the admissions side is that might be a question that’s better suited with your admissions advisor because they may know your situation a bit better. So I suggest getting in contact with them about that.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: And we have a Q&A as well.

HOST: It says if you are an alumni and already have an MS degree from GMU, do you still have to have the two letters of recommendation?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yes, I was a George Mason alumni and I still had to have the two letters of recommendation.

HOST: And then here we got another one. I got a bachelor’s degree in accounting. If I want to apply to this master’s program, there are many courses that I need to take before I can apply to meet the requirement, right?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yes, that’s why we have those three courses. This is very much an engineering program. Although we do get a lot of students from undergraduate degrees like accounting or non– I should say from non-engineering degrees. So that’s why we require one semester of undergraduate calculus, one semester of undergraduate statistics, and one semester of a programming language to give you the basic skill sets you need to be successful in the program.

HOST: All right, any other questions? Oh, I see another one. I spoke with an admissions representative yesterday who suggested I ask this evening about provisional or conditional acceptances, as I am registered to take an intro to computer programming course with a focus on Python that ends August 8. I already have a math degree. Would this meet the prerequisite if I earn a B or higher before the fall start?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Well, you wouldn’t have to be provisional at that point in time. If you’ve met all the requirements by having an undergraduate calculus, undergraduate statistics, and then this programming course, then there is no reason for you to be provisional at that point in time. You would just apply. And I think the deadline for the application process is August 11 for the fall.

HOST: And then we’ve got another question from Luis. It says would an MIS entry level class into R be considered as a computer programming course?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: That’s a hard one to answer because programming courses typically go over concepts such as the three basic control structures of any programming– of any program, and as well as rudimentary algorithms and analysis. So those are skill sets you have to have. And not knowing what that course is, you can teach a programming language.

There are many courses out– that you can get on Coursera, Udemy, any of those online massive online open courses, MOOCs. But the problem is they’re just teaching the programming language. They’re not teaching fundamental programming concepts that you need to understand to be a good programmer.

HOST: And then we’ve got another one that says, could you please explain the math courses that we will need to pass?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Are you talking about the prerequisite or are you talking about courses in the program?

HOST: I think they’re referring to the prerequisites.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: It’s one semester of undergraduate calculus and one semester of undergraduate statistics.

HOST: Oh, in the program.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Oh, in the program. Well, that depends on the course you’re taking. For example, OR 531, which is a very good course, by the way, uses Excel spreadsheets of all things to be able to teach concepts like Monte Carlo methods. So it just depends on the course.

When you’re taking STAT 515, the course is very much– at least when I took it on campus, I can’t vouch for how the online course has been changed over the years, but back when I took it, it was an online course that focused on how to visualize data in two dimensions and used R programming as the method for doing that.

So we didn’t have to know the mathematical formulas for statistics. Remember, this is an applied program. And so but we very much needed to be able to do analytics using R programming, using the RStudio development environment, integrated development environment and generated visualizations throughout the course. And so I found it a breeze to actually– based on my foundational knowledge of statistics, to be able to pick up the more advanced statistics work that they taught me in STAT 515.

HOST: All right, and we’ve got a few more questions. It says outside of the initial prerequisites, is there anything you recommend we can do to better prepare ourselves for the program if our background is more based in data science instead of engineering and this will be our first engineering master’s program experience?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: I think if you’ve got a background in data science and you understand programming and can pick up Python and R fairly quickly, I think you’ll do fairly well. Everything you need, for example, if you don’t know anything about relational databases, that’s what CS 504 is all about. OR 531, like I said, goes into different types of analytical tools, like Monte Carlo methods. Then STAT 515 visualizations and more R programming there.

So that’s– I don’t– if you already have a background in data science, you probably won’t have too much difficulty picking things up. You might run into some problems when it comes to looking at cloud deployments, AWS, Microsoft Azure. Some courses do– I think the IT 580 course does an AWS. But it’s fairly simple to pick up. That’s where the operating– understanding how operating systems work, virtual machines work is good for that course.

There was a question actually above that from Toka. Would BUS 310 and BUS 210 be counted as statistics? I don’t know those courses. I assume you’re talking there in the George Mason courses?

HOST: For prerequisites, yes, from George Mason.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: We’d have to– we’d have to look at that. I don’t– I’m not familiar with the business– school of business. I mean, there’s a lot of courses that are common across many colleges. When we’re thinking of undergraduate statistics, we’re thinking about the statistics course that’s taught by statistics. It may not count, I don’t know. We’d have to– we’d have to– whoever’s evaluating your application would have to take a look at that and see if it covers the same course material as, for example, the undergraduate stats course.

HOST: And then we’ve got another few questions in the Q&A. It says I did my first two years in GMU Korea campus and last two years in a Korean local university. So I believe I need to submit a course by course evaluated transcript from West. However, I’ve seen somewhere that if I submit my application early enough, admissions can do the evaluation for me. Is that the same case for this online course as well?

It’s kind of a difficult question to answer. We would need your course by course evaluations because you did not complete a full US bachelor’s degree, since you only did the first two years at GMU Korea. But I don’t know about George Mason’s admissions with the online campus, at least, doing the evaluations for the student.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: The next question is from an anonymous attendee. What is the cost of the certificate master’s programs? I don’t have the current cost. Miriam, do you have the current cost per credit hour for the online program?

HOST: Not at the moment. But I–

BERNARD SCHMIDT: I know it’s posted somewhere on one of the web pages.

HOST: Yes. Oh, go ahead.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Go ahead. I do know it’s a little more expensive than the in-state tuition. But it’s a lot less expensive than out-of-state tuition. So it’s somewhere in between there. And as far as the certificate, you can actually apply to get the certificate in the degree program. It’s an extra step that has to be done by the advisor.

But many of our students can earn a– can ask to get the certificate awarded as they’re going through the master’s degree program. It’s just have to make some extra steps working with your advisor to do that.

HOST: Yeah, and the way that would work is all of the classes can transfer into the master’s program for data analytics engineering. You would just have to apply again for the program. Don’t quote me on this. But I believe the app fee is waived for that because you’re already doing certificate to master’s. So it’s completely possible.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Now when– the anonymous attendee also said, can we apply past courses taken at another university to the prereqs? Yeah, we don’t care as long. As it’s an accredited University, any undergraduate calculus, undergraduate statistics, and undergraduate programming class will count.

HOST: Any last questions? These are great, honestly. This is a lot of participation. I love it. Any last questions? What does the accepted class look like? In terms of GPA or demographics, employment, background? Any way to make our applications more competitive for admissions? And would the cost differ for the accelerated program?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: We don’t do the accelerated program in the online. That’s only for on ground campus.

HOST: And for making applications more competitive for admissions. I’m not too sure. What does the data analytics program look for in the applications themselves?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Basically what you described, minimum of 3.0 GPA, undergraduate calculus, statistics, and programming class. And certainly with the online program, we’re growing. So there’s a good chance– we’re not being– we’re not like UVA. We’re not restrictive. We’re very– George Mason, unlike our sister universities within the Commonwealth, we are very inclusive. And come one, come all.

HOST: Are there many career switchers in the program? And do they seem to have success balancing full time jobs and coursework?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah, we actually have– a lot of our online students are career switchers. And I won’t lie to you guys. The 20 hours a week is not an exaggeration. You have to carve that time out. For the time you’re in the program, and it’s going to be two years if you take– well, let’s see, actually, could be I think, 18 months if you finish off two classes a semester now and and work through the summer.

HOST: Correct.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: But you’re– I mean, I have two master’s degrees from George Mason. I was in the applied IT program as well as the data analytics engineering program. And I gave up my life for four years each time just because I had a goal in mind. And that’s just the reality of it. You’ve got to balance your work, personal life, and school life. It is doable. But you’re going to have to give something up.

HOST: And then it says what is the program acceptance rate.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: I can’t answer that because I don’t know that number. Dr. Baldo does the admissions acceptance for the program. And I don’t have access to that information.

HOST: All right, oh, and we’ve got one more. Are there a lot of applicants/students with no background in data related fields applying to this program? Is it doable? Do you have recommendations for someone like me?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: First of all, define non-engineering program in this case.

HOST: Well, let’s see, I’m not sure if they–

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Sami, can you give us an idea of what type of degree program you’re talking about?

HOST: And then from Luis, while Sami is answering that, he said, did you see the benefits soon after graduating?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Well for me, I didn’t take the course– I didn’t take the analytics program to change jobs. It just so happened that three years ago when they were looking for an assistant director to the program, I wound up wound up applying and getting accepted.

Prior to coming to Mason, I was actually– for nine years, I was a full professor at the Northern Virginia Community College Manassas Campus. And I actually took data analytics engineering literally for the fun of it. I mentioned about those seminars that were offered back in 2011, well, one of the faculty that was offering it was one of the teachers I had taken courses from in the applied IT program.

And so when they started the first AIT 580 course in fall of 2013, he invited me to enroll in his course because he said, hey, Bernie, this is the course in big data analytics. All the things I couldn’t tell you about when we were doing these classified seminars. Why don’t you come and join my course? And so I did that.

And I was literally in that beginning group of students that started with the program as a certificate. And I enjoyed the– I enjoyed the class so much. I said, let me take a couple more classes, maybe I’ll get the certificate. And then six classes into the program, I said, maybe– and mind you, I didn’t actually enroll in the program right away. I was actually just– I was actually a non-degree student. I was just taking classes because they were interesting classes.

But six classes into the program, I finally figured out, maybe I better apply to the program. And that’s what I wound up doing. But yeah, so I didn’t need the job because I already was a professor over at Nova. But I know a lot of our students, when they graduate, they walk into analytics jobs right away. Now, there’s some students, mostly international because they’ve got visa issues, and a lot of jobs in this area require US citizenship.

But if you are a US citizen, at least of the students I’ve seen, they’ve been able to get jobs fairly quickly in this region. Or actually, anywhere in this country. All you have to do is take a look at job board postings. And there’s lots of jobs for data analytics engineers.

HOST: And then Sami elaborated saying I have earned a BS in business degree and I wish to study data analytics, the certificate program at the moment.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Yeah, like I said the only requirement– and you do fine. As long as you’ve got those three required courses, one semester of undergraduate calculus, one semester of undergraduate statistics, and one semester of a programming language. That’s really– for the certificate, that’s really all you need because like for example, AIT 580, you’re going to do Python programming. In STAT 515, you’re going to be doing R programming.

In OR 531, you’re going to use a spreadsheet, Excel spreadsheet, and an add-on called problem solvers. And then in CS 504, it’s just creating a virtual machine and doing– running, creating, using databases. So those are all skills you’ll learn along the way.

HOST: You guys are on fire with this participation. I love it. I really do.

BERNARD SCHMIDT: You’re the most lively bunch we’ve had in a very long time.

HOST: Yes. Any last questions?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Ask me anything. Apparently a number of you are George Mason students already. So I’ll be glad to answer any questions you’ve got. No?

HOST: OK, well, if there aren’t any more questions, thank you so much to everybody who attended our virtual open house. Once again, my name is Miriam. And I am an admissions representative for George Mason University. If you have any questions for admissions specifically regarding your application or any documents, feel free to contact us with the contact information here on the screen.

You’ve got our phone number. And then you’ve also got our email. And then we’ve also got a link where you can submit more requests for information there as well. Any last words, professor?

BERNARD SCHMIDT: Nope, I wish you all luck. And enjoy the rest of your summer. And I look forward to seeing you all in the data analytics program.

HOST: Wonderful. Thank you so much, everybody, once again for attending.


MS Applied Information Technology Transcript

HEATHER BRYANT: Welcome to the virtual open house for our online Master of Science and Applied IT. My name is Heather Bryant. I’m an admissions representative here at George Mason University. And I work with the graduate programs online. We’re going to get started in just a couple minutes.

But as more folks are coming in, if you could just put a message in the chat letting me know what your first name is and where you’re coming in from, just so that I know that you can hear me and see me, and we’ll get started in just a moment.

Hey, welcome everybody. We’re going to get started in just a moment if you could just put a message in the chat letting me know your first name, and where you’re joining from, so that I know that you can hear me and see me.

OK, great. All right, so we have one person from Florida, awesome. OK, some folks from Virginia– locally. Nice to see everybody in here. OK. All right, we’ll give it another minute or two and then we’ll get started. Again, my name is Heather Bryant. I’m an admissions representative here at George Mason. We’re just giving folks a few minutes to join and then we’ll get started.

If you’re just joining us now, just put your first name and where you’re joining from in the chat so I know that you can hear me and see me as we get started here. We’ll give it about one more minute and then we’ll get started.

OK, I’m going to go ahead and get started. So thank you for joining us for the virtual open house for our online Master of Science and Applied IT. My name is Heather Bryant. I’m an admissions representative for our online programs here at George Mason. And I’m very happy you could join us this evening. So I’m here as a resource to give information, answer questions, and walk you through the admissions process if you decide to move forward with an application.

This event is set up so that we will answer questions at the end, but our faculty member, who is here tonight, Dr. Rytikova, also said that if you would like to raise your hand and ask questions while she’s talking, that’s fine as well. So please feel free to use the Raise Hand feature to ask questions or just type them in the chat, and I’ll read them afterwards.

So we’re going to go ahead and get started now. So our agenda for this evening, so first, we’ll meet our presenter, Dr. Rytikova. She’ll talk a little bit about the program details, the career outlook, as well as some details about the curriculum in this program. She’ll also explain the online classroom and how that works. And then we’ll talk a little bit about admissions requirements and next steps. And then I’ll pose questions that are offered up in the chat. And we can do a little bit of a Q&A as well. So that’s our agenda for this evening.

And then these are just the instructions for the chat. So in your controls in the bottom window, you can click Chat for the chat window to appear and type your message. And you can also select who you would like to send the message to by clicking Next To. You can just select everyone or you can select me if you’d like. Also, if you have a question during the presentation, you can use the Raise Hand feature as well. And then you may need to unmute yourself to ask your question. But those are the instructions for how to ask questions this evening.

OK, so with that, I’m going to introduce our presenter, Dr. Rytikova, who will talk a little bit about herself, her role in the program, and then talk to you more about the program.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Well, thank you very much, Heather. My name is Dr. Rytikova. It’s very exciting to be here and to meet students. What I really like to do when I give a presentation is to have some sort of conversation with students. I’m heavily involved in research in learning analytics, though my background is in data sciences and big data analytics.

But I do a lot of research in cognitive and learning sciences. And if you look at what research says, they say that people lose their attention and interest in, I don’t know, two, four minutes, maybe 10 minutes at most. And that’s what I’m always worried about when I give a presentation. I don’t see students, I don’t see people at all. I don’t know what’s going on. If they are still with me, if they’re paying attention, if they want to ask a question.

If you would like to say something, you don’t really have to wait until the end of this presentation. We have a relatively small group of students. And I really want to make it a more personalized presentation than a generic presentation. It would be really nice if you put some questions in the chat window if you cannot speak. If you can speak, it will be even better.

So please feel free to interrupt me at any moment. I can adjust my presentation to what you want to hear. I have the slides, but in general, there is so much I can talk about. And I’m truly excited to present our program. It’s a great program. I’m proud to say that we developed it about 10 years ago.

But we consistently improve this program. We work on that. And we spend so much time on improving this program. So I I’m happy to present a high-quality program. I’m happy to discuss anything you want to know about this program. And I just need to see your questions. So please don’t hesitate to stop me at any time and ask specific questions.

You probably see my background. I spent in academia all my life. My grandfather was a professor. My mom was a professor. I am in the family of professors. And I didn’t really have much of a choice. When it was about my future career, then I knew from the very beginning that I will end up in academia. And I’m very happy because I ended up at Mason, not just in some other institution.

But I’ve been at Mason for many years, over 15 years. I’ve done a lot of interesting projects here. I’ve participated in developing multiple programs, undergraduate, graduate, multiple new research projects. And with all of my knowledge that I have and experience, I worked closely with my colleagues, with industry leaders to develop this program, MS AIT.

About 10 years ago, we developed this program in response to the needs of government agencies. They approached us and said if we could create a new program, graduate program, because we very successfully gave a few workshops and courses, individual courses to their employees in the field of big data and cybersecurity.

And back then– it was over 10 years ago– it was quite revolutionary. Not that many departments were ready to do so. But we had, again, our contacts with industry and government agencies. And we did a great job on that.

We developed this program. About five years ago, this program was redesigned significantly. Obviously, the IT field changes quite a lot. Everything we teach today will be different tomorrow. Well, maybe it’s a slight exaggeration, but still that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to keep up with industry. With the recent– yeah, we can go to the next slide, yes. So thank you.

There is a great summary here about the MS AIT program. But the idea is that we are a very, very dynamic department. We are probably the largest department in the university, at least one of the largest. We have over 2,000 students, but at the graduate level, it’s about 250 students all together. We have two graduate programs that we offer to our students.

But what’s important is that in MS AIT, particularly, the program that I’m here to present, we have the most interesting topics and concentrations that we cover– topics that we cover in this program. We focus on cybersecurity, data science, machine learning, and natural language processing, intelligence methods, human computer interaction. You will see some of these courses in this program. But there are three major areas where we offer students– three major concentrations.

The first one is cybersecurity, which is quite successful. Because our cybersecurity online program was ranked in the top 25 programs in the past– in the last few years. Then we offer a concentration in machine learning engineering. And we also offer a concentration in big data intelligence methods. So again, you will get a mix of different courses. But the idea for each concentration is that we build foundation and then we allow students to choose a concentration, and then specialize in that concentration. Next slide, please.

It’s not just about the university, George Mason. The place, the university, itself, is quite impressive. It’s a great school. It’s a public university. Also, it’s an R1 university, which means that we are very strong in research. We are, again, one of the largest universities in Virginia, I guess maybe even in the country.

We are quite large. Maybe not the largest, but we are quite large. And we are– also, at the institutional level, we are very dynamic. We respond quickly to the needs of industry, to the needs of our students, current and prospective students. We listen to that. We collect data. And we try to develop, again, the top courses that are available today.

I am particularly proud about– we have, again, multiple programs, but I’m particularly proud of this program because our courses were developed professionally. It’s not– well, actually, let me take it back for just a second. Before I get to the courses, I forgot to mention that due to pandemic, everyone went online. And now if you say, people, can you teach online? Everybody says, sure we can do that. Well, that’s what happened in the last few years.

But our department, we are experts in online education because we were the first department in the university that developed the entire program online about 10 years ago. And there is a significant difference between teaching online in a year or two and developing courses consistently– online courses for 10 years.

As the director for online education in our college, he says– Professor Garrison– he says that not only we developed the first program, but more importantly, we developed best practices, procedures, standards for online education that are now adopted by other departments and other colleges within Mason. So we are experts on that.

We don’t just– that’s a very common question that I receive from students. They say, so, you have an online course, and what do you do there? If we have time– usually we don’t have much time– it’s only one hour, but I try to finish it within maybe 30 to 40 minutes so that we have time for questions. But if anybody is interested, I will be happy to stay longer and show you an actual course, how it looks.

The course looks, again, very professionally. It’s fully online. That’s important because many students also ask if there are any activities that require their presence on campus. And the answer is, no. We provide everything to the students online. It includes assignments, the meetings, working with other students, taking exams or completing projects. That’s very well set up in each course. No problem for that.

Nevertheless, even though it feels like it’s an online environment, and then students can take– students can complete all the assignments when they have time, but we do have deadlines for assignments. We make sure that we provide great support for the students, not only from the academic perspective.

We have advisors who guide students through their college career. That’s very important. And our advisors are just outstanding. They have lots of experience. They’ve been working with graduate students for many years. And you can expect a response in literally less than 24 hours if you contact them. They are experts on any questions regarding which courses to take, which classes to complete first and so forth.

You can also contact, obviously, all the instructors and all the faculty, who will be happy to discuss any course with you, your future career, or answer specific questions about any of the areas that we are covering in our curriculum. Again, going back to online courses that we offer, it is true that it is a media rich, collaborative learning environment. Because what we try to do is we developed professional videos.

Again, there is a difference between the video, which somebody makes in the basement and then the professional developed video with the media team. So we were very lucky because we were supported– greatly supported in our development. And our courses are very consistent throughout the entire program. You will not be surprised.

Every time when you start a new course, you will say, oh, wait a second, I already saw this before. I saw these colors. I saw this design. I know how to find assignments, or reading materials, or anything else, which many students comment on that. Because they say it’s so convenient, I don’t have to spend any extra time on searching for the course, trying to find what’s needed.

But it’s very consistent throughout the program. We use lots of videos. We provide PowerPoint presentations. We include open educational resources. So that students could get the best what’s available out there in the world. And we also include different– very different types of assignments.

The goal– I don’t know if this or not, but what I also hear quite often from students who just start this program, they say, oh, it’s so different from undergraduate classes. Because at the graduate level, expectations are slightly different. We want students not just to complete some assignments. That’s not the main purpose. We want students to think critically, to learn how to solve problems, real-world problems. We want them to know how to apply knowledge that they have. Because that’s the number one priority for us.

We are very closely related to industry and what’s going on in industry, in all IT industry. Because we want our curriculum to reflect the new technologies that appear on the market. I am very happy to say that we offer new courses every semester– not even every year, but every semester, which is quite impressive. And students have the luxury of taking new courses, just the newest– on newest subjects and topics that are available in IT, which is, to me, quite exciting.

So again, our courses are available online sometimes, but that’s what I wanted to mention. Nevertheless, we make sure that students stay connected and they stay engaged in their classes. We do have– all professors, they have office hours every week. We have teaching assistants or GTAs, Graduate Teaching Assistants. They also offer office hours online– it’s obviously online– every week. Students can contact instructors anytime they need. And we ask professors to respond within 24 to 40 hours, at most. If it’s a weekend or something, then it might be a bit longer. But usually, that’s within 24 hours.

We incorporate a lot of discussion boards and other platforms within our learning management system, where we ask students to participate, to ask questions, to post questions, to respond to other students’ questions. And also, to work together on some solutions. That’s something that in our days, it’s quite important. Because we are preparing students to work in industry. And we, in our department, we do a lot of research on innovative teaching and learning.

We have multiple faculty in our department who’ve received the highest teaching award available in our institution. That’s the Mason Outstanding Teaching Award. And these faculty, they are not experts in their fields, like whatever any field– IT field that we’re working in, but they are also experts in education and courses. When they teach these courses, that makes such a difference for students. Students stay motivated. They stay engaged. And they also learn a lot in our courses.

The workload is– so for this program, students are required to complete 10 courses. Maybe we can move on to the next slide. Yes, that’s already– OK, we can look at numbers. Numbers look good. So we can keep it here. But if I go back for just a second about the program itself.

So the program has 10 courses. We have four fundamental courses. And then– yeah that’s– yeah, thank you very much. We’ll get the numbers– the prices. Maybe we need to switch the order of slides. We have fundamental core courses for all students. They are the same. And they truly build fundamentals in IT.

And then after that, you can move on to concentration courses. Even though sometimes students take one or two core courses first, and then they start taking some concentration courses, that’s also possible. If you look through the list of courses, you will see that we have a large variety of courses. And they all cover very interesting topics in each concentration.

We have, for instance, on the left side, cybersecurity. It’s not just fundamentals, but also we have cloud computing security. We have network and system security. On the right side, machine learning, for instance, we have introduction to NLP. We also have advanced machine learning courses.

And if you look at the entire curriculum that we have, that is quite comprehensive and covers– prepares students very well for their future career. What we recommend students to do is to start with core courses and then complete advanced courses. Because some of the advanced courses, they have prerequisites. And most of them, they are core courses for concentrations.

If we go back to the previous slide, after graduation our students, they have such a large variety of options where they can go. I also often get this question– so what can I do with your degree? What I like about this degree, that it’s very flexible. If you look at the titles– numbers, again, are very impressive. But if you look at the titles, it could be in cybersecurity. It could be in data analytics, machine learning.

But what’s important today, if you look at the list– and I’ve done this because I once worked on a research project, and we analyzed the current state of jobs– the job market and how it affects our curriculum and students. And if you look at the current list of jobs, you will see that job titles are very, very, very different. This is just a short list of some possible options, but for each one you can get about 10 different titles that are within the same realm.

That’s why I recommend students, when they look for jobs, I recommend to find the title maybe, but focus more on a description for each title. If you look at the description, compare it with the courses that we offer, you will see that the amount of jobs, the number of jobs available for what we have to offer is quite significant. We are preparing students very well for what’s needed on the market today.

You probably know that projections for the– I just finished another research project and it was about the future career of graduates. And the World Economic Forum Reports, which is quite famous, which was released only one month ago– So it’s the most– very fresh data.

And they projected for the next five years the top areas where jobs will grow will be number one, big data and data analytics. Number two, AI and machine learning. Both of them, we offer that. Then cybersecurity, and then after that, some other IT fields. So we cover the areas that are number one priorities right now and lots of jobs that we offer for students. Next slide, please. And maybe one more. Here we go.

So this is– you cannot really see that. It’s just a picture. But that’s how a course looks like. That’s the start of a new course. At the top of the screen, we have a description. Then at the bottom of the screen, we have the first video, which introduces the course. On the left side– it’s probably too small, but still, on the left side, we have eight modules.

And that reminds me that I forgot to mention that this program is designed specifically for very busy students, mostly professionals, who work, and they want either to receive another degree, or if it’s their mid-age career, and they want to change that, we get a very, very broad population of students with very different backgrounds. But we still want to make sure that it works best for all students, whether they have time or don’t have time.

In general, most students who come to us, they take two classes per semester. And the way it works, students focus very hard on one course only. They complete a course in eight weeks. And then they start the second course after that. So during each semester, they complete eight– they complete two courses, eight weeks each.

Now some students might consider taking more courses, but we don’t recommend that. Because usually, graduate courses are quite intense. And again, what we offer is based on research, on statistics that we receive and collect every year about similar programs, about similar graduate programs in other institutions. And we try to make sure that we offer students the best options that are proven to work effectively for students.

So we have eight modules on the left side. Every week students complete one module. They meet with professors. In addition to office hours for GTAs and professors, many of our professors also offer what’s called optional class meetings. And since not everyone can attend those meetings, they’re optional.

Again, nobody is required to appear there. But these class meetings are recorded so that students could watch them later if they have any questions, which I, personally, do this all the time. And I receive feedback from students saying, oh, that was really helpful because I had a few questions and so forth.

And again, if you would like to, I can go into that further. And then, if we have time at the end, I can show– just go through a course and show you how it looks. And the next slide, please.

All right, so this is the admissions process. Heather would like to speak about it a little bit.

HEATHER BRYANT: Sure, yeah. So basically, the application for this program is all online and everything is self-contained within the application portal. So there are some requirements that you have to have in order to apply. You need to have a bachelor’s degree, typically with a GPA of at least 3.0. Dr. Rytikova, do you have any additional information about the prerequisites, that you’d like to share about that before I move on?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: I’d like to say a few words, but if you continue, then I will add–

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, great. All right, and so you– also there’s a section for your educational, your work experience there. You can also upload your unofficial transcripts through the application portal. And then later on in the application process, there’s a separate process for requesting official transcripts as well.

You’ll submit your resume through the application portal too and your personal statement. We also require two professional letters of recommendation. Although, with our application system, it’s actually a questionnaire format. So you enter the recommender’s information, and then that gets sent to them. They can fill out the questionnaire. So it’s a quick process. Correct me if I’m wrong, Dr. Rytikova, but for this program, they don’t need an official letter of recommendation. Is that right?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: That is correct.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, so it’s just a questionnaire format that they fill out. It should still be professional, though. So please make sure that if you are applying, you are including professional references. But it should only take your recommenders about 10 to 15 minutes to complete that, as opposed to having to write a full letter. Dr. Rytikova, did you have additional information about any of this that you wanted to share?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: I do, but there is one question in the chat window. Do you mind looking at it?

HEATHER BRYANT: Oh, sure, yes. So there is a question here about the questionnaire. So how long should they expect the questionnaire to be? So it’s just a series of a few questions. Typically, it only takes recommenders about 10 to 15 minutes to complete that recommendation. That’s what I’ve heard from feedback from folks, anyway. If you want more clarification about that, please ask in the chat, and I’ll be happy to address it. Dr. Rytikova, did you have anything else to add about that or anything else about the application process?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Yes, thank you. Another common question I get, students say– and I am always very happy to answer it– students say, what if I don’t have a strong background in IT? Or what if I completed my bachelor degree 20 or 30 years ago, or 50 years ago? What should I do? Can I still apply? Yes. The answer is yes.

And I’m happy to say that because we are very focused– that’s one of the differences between us and the CS Computer Science Department. I often also get this question, because the CS Department is more focused on theoretical concepts. They require very strong fundamentals in computer science and math. We are a department where you apply knowledge. We also cover fundamentals. We also cover the theory. But our main focus is to teach students how to apply it.

And that’s why our students– our program is designed to support students with a very different background. We design courses in a way that helps students to learn even if they’re not experts on IT. Because we feel that’s what we need to do. We help them become experts in IT. But if a student or a prospective applicant doesn’t have a lot of IT background or there is no relevant work experience in IT, then the student will be accepted provisionally.

What it means, that the student will need to take one course, a prep course, in addition to 10 courses that they need to complete. And usually, this course, it prepares– literally, just prepares students for further studies. All students who are admitted to our program, those who were admitted provisionally, they are quite grateful. Because they say that they really wanted to get into this program, but they worried that they won’t be able to succeed. But with this prep course, they felt very comfortable and they would complete the program quite well.

So if you are one of those students who you’re not sure about that, there is no need to worry. We are working on that with our students, and we help them get through the program easily.

HEATHER BRYANT: Another question that I get from students a lot is specifically about how much programming experience they need to start the program. Because if I’m not– correct me if I’m wrong– but I believe Java and Python are the programming languages that are used a lot in this program. So students typically ask if they need to have extensive knowledge about that when applying or not.

And I know you just touched on some of the support that students can get in the program if they don’t have as much of an IT background. But I just wanted to know if you had any other things to say specifically about that, about the programming language experience. Because that is a question I get a lot from students.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: It is a very common question. Thank you for bringing it up. No– the answer is we do not require any extensive background in programming. If you do have it, that’s wonderful. But if not, there are two options. Number one, again, you might be admitted to the program provisionally. And you will get this prep course, which basically prepares you, gives you fundamentals for programming.

But sometimes I see that students– in the next course that students are supposed to take, that’s also on advanced programming, but sometimes students, if they’re admitted– if they are not admitted provisionally to the program, and they start taking this– it’s not advanced– very advanced, but still, it assumes that students already have some knowledge of programming.

But if students start that course and they feel that it’s not really going that well, they can easily move to that prep course. And we allow students to take a prep course just to help them out to get through the program. So that is not a big concern for me.

But what I always answer students who ask me if they can prepare for that, just to make your life a little bit easier when you go through the program, it might be a good idea to take a course or two– online courses, MOOCS, or anything that you can find, you don’t have to pay for that. But any course on programming, introductory programming would be fine.

You just need to get a feeling about programming, whether you like it or not. And that also helps a lot to decide whether this is the right program for you. If you take a couple of courses, programming courses , and you feel that it just doesn’t work for you, then you might reconsider applying to this program.

In IT, even though it’s not, again, computer science, where programming is the number one skill, in IT, it’s not maybe critical. You don’t have to be an expert in programming, but you have to be able to program, that’s to code. That’s part of this program. I hope I answered that question.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yes, you did. Thank you so much for clarifying that. Was there anything else you wanted to add about the admissions process before we move on to the next slide?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: No, not about the admissions process. But I wanted to say something else.


IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Yes, it’s the end of this presentation, but what I also– just because– it’s not part of this specifically, but I still wanted to mention this. I’m also quite proud of our faculty. I don’t know if you have that feeling, but we all went, I’m sure, when you go through school, when you go through college, and once in a while, you get to a class, and you think, oh, I wish that professor could teach all the classes that I have to take. That’s such a great feeling when you connect with someone and it works for you. You’re really excited.

I just finished my spring classes. I received a few emails from students, saying, Professor, your class changed my goals, changed what I want to do in the future. And now I see myself in this field, and I’m so excited about that. That’s the kind of feedback we would like to hear from students about all our classes. That’s why I’m proud to say– I will repeat this one more time because I’m very proud of this– several faculty in our department received outstanding teaching awards.

And just to give you an idea about that, we have over 2,000 professors in the institution, and there is one teaching award in each category. So our professors are that good. And they have lots of experience. What’s also important, that they are not only great professors, who teach very well, because they have also background and experience in innovative teaching and learning, but in addition to that, they are great experts in their field of knowledge– cybersecurity, intelligence methods, data analytics, data science, machine learning, natural language processing.

We are, for instance– they are affiliated with our department, but we have a great center on cybersecurity, which is probably one of the most successful research centers– it’s actually the most successful research center on cybersecurity in Mason. And faculty who work there at that research center, who does revolutionary research projects, they also work for us. They work in our departments. They are faculty members in our department. So faculty who teach these classes, they are also great experts in IT fields. And they bring their knowledge, their expertise back to the classroom.

We also have a lot of professors who have a very extensive industry experience, because they have experience both in academia and in industry. That’s even more exciting when I see that. Because these faculty, they bring their industry knowledge, not only academic background, but industry knowledge to the classrooms. We make sure that students stay connected, not only with professors, but with industry, whether it’s possible or not, but we try to do that.

And overall, the type of environment we create for our students, it’s very collaborative. It’s very supportive from every angle, from professors, from the department, from the admissions office, from the graduate office, and from the advisor side also.

Overall, students are quite satisfied with their experience. And every year, we go through accreditation. We just went through a huge accreditation, actually, which went marvelously. We received outstanding results. And the report was just spot on. They said that we did everything we could to build a great program, which was very nice to hear.

And I hope that you will check other programs, because I always recommend students to look around to see if there’s anything else that they might be interested in. Then please feel free to contact us, Mason, the admissions team, the department itself, and myself. And we’ll be happy to answer your questions about the program. Oh, there is a question.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yes, there’s a couple of questions coming in. I have one question in the Q&A and one in the chat right now. So in the chat, it says, roughly how many professors are teaching for the cybersecurity concentration? And they’re asking this because they know that cybersecurity is a new track for GMU.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Thank you. I have to very politely disagree with this statement. Because we are experts on cybersecurity. We’ve been doing cybersecurity for over 10 years. So it’s not new for us at all. Cybersecurity was the first concentration we developed. And It exists for as long as I remember, 10 years. And roughly, again, you can check our department, and then it will take you to the Cybersecurity Center, the research center I was talking about.

You will see how many faculty are involved. I would say that currently we have at least five, six professors who are senior professors, who work in the cybersecurity field. And we also have junior faculty, whose expertise is in the intersectional– cybersecurity, for instance, and big data, cybersecurity and data analytics, and so forth. That’s a great question, by the way. I’m always happy to answer such questions because I can talk more about our faculty. That makes me feel very good. Thank you for asking me.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah. I have another question too that came in through the Q&A. It says, from the employer side of things, how would you differentiate a candidate that has a master’s in data analytics engineering versus the MS and Applied IT with a concentration in data analytics and intelligence methods? Do you think that’s something that an employer would take into account? This person who’s asking this question is split between choosing between the two Mason programs.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Well, that’s a tough one. I know that students– unless I’m mistaken, the student had the open house for the data analytics engineering program yesterday. I hope that students were able to attend that presentation too. What I recommend to do is to look at the list of. Courses

I cannot speak for employers, because each employer will look for specific skills that a person needs to have when they hire someone. I would look at this list of courses. I would decide which path– which path would be more applicable to me. In the data analytics engineering program, math requirements are higher. That’s for sure. So you will have to be a bit more better prepared in math. But other than this, it’s hard to say if there is a huge difference between two programs.

What we do better– not better, but what we offer, we have higher level courses. Data analytics and engineering, it’s an interdisciplinary program, which is developed by multiple departments. We also participate in that program. We have one concentration offered in that program. So once you apply there, you might actually end up in our own concentration.

But if you look at the list of courses that they have to offer– And if I’m not mistaken then, for the data analytics engineering program, there are 10 courses also. And six of those courses are our AIT courses. Which means that if you go there, then you will have very similar background once you graduate.

But what we do in our department, we don’t just give introductory and medium– middle-level courses in each concentration. We go further, and we offer higher level courses. They’re usually called 700 level courses.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, thank you so much for clarifying all of that. And we have another question coming in. It says, what are the electives and core subjects for the MS and cybersecurity? Can I additionally take courses in machine learning for physical security. In parentheses, they put machine grid security, et cetera.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Yes– well, not yes, but what I’m trying to say is that, so if we go back to one of the previous slides, there is a list of courses there in the cybersecurity concentration. On the left side, we have six courses. But if you look at the machine learning engineering concentration, they’re quite different from the cybersecurity concentration. And what I usually recommend students to do is to consider two options.

Number one, you can take one concentration, and in addition, you can complete more courses. But you don’t need it for your degree, because you only need 10 courses. But you can not substitute. The concentrations were developed very closely with the standards for each of these fields, standards provided by the professional organizations in IT and so forth. So we tried– we wanted to make sure the students, by the time they graduate after completing one concentration, they become experts in this field.

If students try to mix courses from different concentrations, then at the end, it might be– we’re not sure that we will be able to deliver high-quality experience for students and build great foundation in their selected field. Again, it might be OK for some programs, but our goal is to guide the students through a particular concentration they chose. So I hope– OK, good, I answered this question.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. All right, great, thank you. On the topic of concentrations, are students able to switch concentrations once they choose one in the program?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Yes, of course. What I recommend to do, not to delay too much. I always worry about this. This is my scariest thought when I think about new students. And our advisors are very good about that. For instance, we just accepted lots of students in the fall, new students. And what we’ve done, we went back and we double checked, because students come from different places and there are different ways they get into the department. All the details are not important to you.

But to us, it’s important. So when we admit students, we go back. We check if everything is met. If they have– for all the concentrations selected, if they are on the right path. And just recently, in the last three weeks, we contacted students three times every week to make sure that students have their concentrations selected. So we discovered that a few students missed that. We also contacted students in the program once we realized that, oh, wait a second, maybe some students are still confused.

So we contacted students in the entire program. We asked them to double check if they have a concentration. We provided some help if they’re not sure about which concentration to choose. Just remember that undergraduate and graduate studies are very different. Graduate studies, you start today and then no time, and you’re done. It’s only two years. But many students finish earlier. You can even finish this program in one year.

It’s a lot of work, but it’s doable. Because you can complete multiple courses– four courses per semester. We also offer classes in summer. And I’ve seen students who would do– again too much, in my opinion, but they would complete multiple courses each semester. And they would finish earlier than two years. So it’s doable.

But we recommend to make sure that you select your concentration from the very beginning. You have maybe one semester, at most, to make a decision to change the concentration. But, again, nevertheless, you can change it later. But then you might end up with extra courses, which you don’t want to. You want to have only 10 courses that you need. You don’t want to waste your time.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, is there a definite time that students need to choose their concentration within the program? Like is there a definite time that they can’t switch again after that? Or that they have to choose a concentration by?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: There is no such date, but students are asked to select a concentration when they apply. And we do this on purpose, even though we understand students sometimes don’t know much about it yet. But still, I really like it when students do some homework. You can look around. You can read about each path. You can think more about what you want to do or look at some jobs, look at some salaries. Even though all salaries would be good in these fields.

But then once you’ve applied, you can still talk to– you can still change that. And you can change it even in the last year, but you will need to take new courses all over again to get that concentration. But still, it’s not an issue. I’ve never heard any concerns about that from students. So that part is easier.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, thank you. We have another question also on the topic of concentrations. Which concentration would you recommend for someone who has a focus wanting to jump into reverse engineering?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Well, what I– what I would do, probably– machine learning engineering is great. Data analytics is great too. But all these fields, they’re applicable in pretty much any IT field today. This education is very broad, in a sense it’s very focused, but broad. It covers different areas. And you will be able to apply this knowledge to different fields.

What I would suggest to do is to look at the description, again, of what job tasks that you are interested in. And then check the courses that we have to offer to see if there is a match.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, thank you. And I have another question coming in here. Someone is asking, how many credits a student can take during a semester? I know you mentioned earlier really encouraging students to not take more than one class at a time. But how many credits are students allowed to take during a semester?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Well– so usually, it’s two courses. You can try and take more, three, four courses. That’s what I was talking about earlier, that if you are– if you don’t have a job, if you don’t have a family, if you don’t have children, if all you do– you want to just to focus on studying, then you can still take more than two courses. But in my experience, that’s not really a– it is challenging. So there is no limit, per se. There is a limit, but it’s up to you. But it could be challenging.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah, that makes sense. And just to clarify, for this program each course is three credits, is that correct?


HEATHER BRYANT: OK, so typically students would be taking six credits during a semester if they’re taking two classes a semester.

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: Correct. But if you think about this– I don’t know if we want to go into details, but if you think about it for a second, if you’re taking a course, which is a three-credit course, then– and I’m not giving any secrets. That’s a standard– not requirement, but standard definition. Here we go, that’s a standard definition for a three- credit course. You can check it online.

It means that a student spends three hours in the classroom. Here is everything online, so it’s not really directly applicable, but stay with me. It’s three hours in the classroom. And for a three-hour class, it’s twice that amount for homework– for study at home, which gives you six hours. So basically, a graduate course, which is a three-credit course, gives you nine hours per week to study. And that’s the amount of time that you will have to put into this.

But what we do during these eight weeks, we run these classes on this compressed schedule. Usually in universities, classes run during 15 weeks. This course is packed into eight weeks because it’s designed for working professionals. So that means that you are taking twice the amount. You need to complete twice the amount of work then you would do if you would take it during the entire semester, which gives us– for nine hours, that gives us 18 hours.

So if you’re taking four courses per for one semester in this program, or any other graduate program, that will be 36 hours to work for this program. So again, that’s like full time job.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah, that definitely makes a lot of sense, why we’d encourage students to only take one course at a time in the program. In terms of the coursework, can you give some more information about what students can expect in terms of what type of assignments they are going to do in the program? Is it a lot of group projects? Is it papers? Is it a mixture of different kinds of assignments?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: It’s probably one of my favorite questions. When I hear that, all I want to do is to talk about courses. Because we are– many of us, we are very enthusiastic teachers. And we put so much effort into each course that we develop. And these courses in this program, again if you decide to come, you will not be disappointed, I guarantee this to you.

But we try to mix. Again, we base everything we do on research, on educational research. And we make sure that we address all the recommendations, that we follow those guidelines to create the best experience for students. Even though it’s online, and I know it’s more difficult to create an engaging environment here, but still, it’s possible.

So I will give you just a few examples. It’s from my course, but other courses are very consistent with what I do. Well, I make sure that students have opportunities to complete different types of assignments. That’s important from the educational perspective. Because if I only give one midterm exam and one final exam, then it’s– that is a set to fail students. And that’s not what we do.

In graduate programs in general, we want students to succeed really very much. In majority of– most of the students in graduate classes, they receive very high grades. It’s either A or B. Because if you get a C, then you cannot get really a lot of C’s, because you will not be able to graduate. So in general, in graduate programs, student graduate classes, students are very, very, very much supported by professors. We really try to make this experience not only valuable, but also interesting for students.

So going back to the assignments. And that’s why I have different types of assignments with different weights. Because sometimes students say, oh, I cannot really do this because it’s too much, but I can do this and that, and I can succeed here and there. And overall, when students complete the course, then with these multiple types of assignments, they really build a very, very comprehensive knowledge of the field of study.

For instance, I have quizzes, which are not quizzes as you know them. In my classes, and many other classes, we do– that’s something which we discovered with my colleagues– but in our classes, we use quizzes as learning tools, not testing tools what it means, that the students take these quizzes, but they can take them as many times as they want to. They see results– answers. They can retake them until they are satisfied with the grade.

We use the same test banks for exams. So students, by taking these quizzes, not only learn the material, but they’re also preparing for exams, which students absolutely love. They say it’s like a game. So you press a button. You read that, and automatically you learn the material. We showed it at a conference, that by using quizzes in this mode, students improve their grades on terminology by one letter grade, which is very significant in our days.

We all don’t remember things very well. We have to because we can get answers like that. But this helps tremendously to memorize terminology, to help students with key concepts and to learn the material. I have practice problems, which are assigned to students to work together– to work on together. I ask students to post their solutions to the discussion board to provide feedback to other students, to incorporate feedback into their solutions.

I have what’s called– I call it a baby research paper. I don’t know if many of you heard about ChatGPT. Could you please put it in the chat window– yes or no? I’m just curious. ChatGPT, did anybody hear about ChatGPT? Yep. OK. I’m so happy to hear that. I hope other students are still with us. But that’s a great tool.

And just recently, in the last two months or so, everyone in academia, that’s a new disruptive technology. Now we don’t know what to do because ChatGPT, it’s an AI tool that is capable of doing quite a lot. It can write papers. It can write code. It can program for you.

And the first impression was quite scary. Because if students– not students, but anyone– if anyone can use that, then how do we teach students? What do we do? What I’ve decided to do right now, and I’m teaching this class I started last week, I incorporate ChatGPT. I ask students to use it for a baby research paper I have– is like only two, four pages– on databases. And students learned this tool.

They already got some feedback to me. They said, wow, that’s really interesting. It could be so useful to learn better from that. So I have a little baby research paper– a baby research paper for students to see how we can incorporate research activities into– not just this course, but into our everyday life.

Because if you think about research, even if you buy a car, if you buy a house, you have to do research. You need to know how to search data, how to interpret data, how to understand that. So research really helps students. That’s based on, again, lots of studies and reports that we get from industry, that they expect students to have the skills that are acquired by doing research. But not much. Again, it’s a very small– just a tiny bit small percentage of that.

I also have so-called homework assignments, whereas these assignments are completed by students individually, but they can also get help from their classmates. They can discuss their– and assignments are individual, so that they’re different. So the students could try on their own how it works. And, of course, again, discussion boards, where students can discuss anything any questions they have.

We also include projects. It depends on the particular class. You might have a final exam. You might have a project. And it depends on the particular course which kind of assignments you will get. The way it works, again, overall, the goal for our classes– and I’m sure all graduate programs are pretty much to same– is to set students for success.

Everything we provide, all the assignments, all the reading materials, all these participant, collaborative activities, it all helps students to get better in their classes, to get as much learning as possible, and to find it to be enjoyable. Because that’s what we care about a lot. Thank you. Great question. I appreciate that.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah, thank you. So we have one more question in the Q&A. It says, during the summer months, are most of the courses and electives available? Or are most of the courses only available in the fall and spring semesters?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: And I’m so happy to answer this question. I’m proud of our department because we schedule all classes in summer– all you don’t have probably access to our scheduling system, because you are not students yet. But if you look at that, then we offer literally all classes in summer. Because we don’t want students to stop in the middle. Students can take one course. Students can take two courses.

Still, that’s some work, because in summer people are– well, it’s the summertime, vacation time. It might be a bit challenging for students to stay in the classroom. But I’m teaching right now a summer class. Students are very engaged. I just finished a meeting with them a couple of hours ago. So we discussed lots of ideas that we can implement in this course. So that’s a great way to work with students and professors in these online classes. I enjoy it very much. So, yes, we have all the classes.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, that’s great to hear. I’m glad that we offer all of those all throughout the year. So we do have a couple more minutes. So if anybody has any last-minute questions, please feel free to put those in the chat or put those in the Q&A. But in the meantime, I did want to point out the contact information for admissions. If you are interested in applying to the program, you can give us a call at 703-348-5006 . We’ll be available tomorrow if you want to call in.

There’s also the email address. You can reach out to us at And if you have any other additional questions that you didn’t get to ask this evening, please feel free to reach out to us about that there as well. And then the website here is if you’d like to visit that website for more information about the program.

Thank you for joining, everybody, tonight. I was very happy to have this virtual open house with you all. And thank you to Dr. Rytikova for joining us and for providing us with all of this very helpful information. But we’re going to log out in just a moment, but folks are saying thank you, as well, in the chat. Thank you so much for attending.

If anybody has any last-minute questions, please feel free to put those in right now. We have about one minute left of time. Dr. Rytikova, did you have anything else to add before we end our meeting here tonight?

IOULIA RYTIKOVA: All I can say is that thank you for coming, number one. But more importantly, I’d like to wish you all the best in your future decisions. Whether you decide to come to us or to another program– would love to see everyone in our program, but I only wish you success. I hope that you will find the right program for yourself. You will enjoy it, you will go through it, and you will be– I’m sure you will be very successful in your future career. Good luck, everyone.

Masters in Economics Transcript

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Well, Thank you, Stephanie, and thank you all for taking time out of your day and all your busy life to talk with me about the program.

Just a little bit about myself. My name is Chris Coyne. I’m a professor of economics at George Mason University and I’m also the online MA director. And I should also mention that I’m an alum of the program. So I did both my master’s and my PhD at George Mason. I entered the program in 2001 and I finished a joint master’s and PhD in 2005.

And after heading to Southern Virginia and then West Virginia for several years, I came back home to George Mason in 2010 and I’ve been here since. And so I have a deep knowledge of our graduate programs but also they are near and dear to my heart because I’m a product of the program. And so I feel comfortable answering your questions honestly and with knowledge both as a student and now as a faculty member. And so Stephanie, if you can advance us a slide.

I want to just say something about our Department of Economics. And I know many of you probably have some knowledge of this, but perhaps not. And George Mason is a really unique place for studying economics. We are the only school in Virginia and one of few schools throughout the country that has two Nobel laureates in economics. One is James Buchanan and one’s Vernon Smith.

And so when I think about the Masonomics tradition, I really think of three names. Of course, there’s many influences on the faculty here. But in terms of our department, one influence is F.A. Hayek, who won the Nobel Prize in 1974. And the Department of Economics is relatively young. So it started in the 1980s.

And Hayek came and spoke. I think the video is up on YouTube if you’re interested in this kind of stuff of him giving this talk in the early ’80s. But he was a part of the influence and inspiration for the Department. And so a key kind of aspect of our program emphasizes Hayek, emphasizes market process theory, and there’s an elective course in the program called market process theory, which is inspired by that.

The second is James Buchanan, who I mentioned earlier. He won the Nobel Prize in 1986 while he was a faculty member at George Mason. And he is considered one of the founding fathers of public choice economics. And so we have an elective course in the program called Public Finance and Public Choice Economics, which takes its inspiration from Buchanan.

And then finally, we have Vernon Smith, who won the Nobel Prize again when he was on the faculty here in 2002. And Vernon Smith is one of the founding fathers of experimental economics. And so we have also an elective on the books for the online program called Experimental Economics inspired by Vernon Smith.

And so I wanted to mention that because it’s a very rich and unique tradition. One of a kind, in fact. But also as we progress through our discussion this evening and get to the course listing later, as you see these courses come up in the elective section, and I can say more about each of them during the Q&A if you’re interested, you can tie that back to that rich tradition that’s at the foundation of our department. Stephanie, please.

And so what do we do and what’s the value of economics? Well, I view it or the way I think about it, my colleagues in economics think about it, is really four quadrants. And these aren’t mutually exclusive. They can overlap. And of course, what we do and what we train our students to do is engage in academic analysis or scholarship. And of course, having a deep appreciation and understanding of both the theoretical foundations of economics as well as the applied component is crucial for being a scholar. And so we provide that foundation.

Related to that is a policy. And again, having both a deep theoretical understanding but also the ability to do applied work is crucial for policy. And so a lot of the work that my colleagues do in economics has this overlap between academic scholarship but also having policy implications for really important issues, issues that are central to human well being and human flourishing. And in a few minutes later in my brief presentation, I’ll come back and give you a concrete example of what that might look like.

The other two things we do is public communications and outreach. And so our department places a premium on communication. The way we think about economics is that economics is not simply meant for those who are sitting in the ivory tower, those who are in academics. Certainly that’s important, as I just mentioned. But we place a premium on being able to communicate economic ideas to academics, to policy makers, but also to the general public.

What are some examples of this? Well, one is my former colleague who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago, Walter Williams. Walter Williams was a master communicator of economics, both in media, so television, radio, but also in written form in his weekly columns and so on. And if you’ve ever tried to communicate complex economic concepts in a 500 word op ed or 750 word op ed, you really realize how difficult it is. But it’s really important to have that skill.

And so one of the things that you’ll see throughout the program is the opportunity to develop not just a understanding of concepts, not just applying them. We do that too. But also there’s lots of opportunities to engage in various writing projects and writing opportunities, oftentimes very short, to kind of practice and hone that skill to be able to take concepts and applications and distill them down into a concise and clear kind of product that can be widely understood.

And then, of course, teaching. We place a premium on teaching economics to empower people to incorporate and apply economics as part of their analytical toolkit. And one of the really great things about economics is that it is not a field that is narrowly constrained. And what do I mean by that?

One of the questions I often get is, well, what can we do with the degree in economics? And the answer, which some people might find unsatisfying because it’s quite broad but it’s accurate, is pretty much anything you want. So we’ve had students who are high school teachers. One of the courses they often teach is AP economics, so they’re going back to get a master’s degree in economics. We’ve had students who are working in various development organizations, the World Bank, the IMF. We’ve had people who are in consulting. We’ve had entrepreneurs who are running their own businesses and lots of other fields.

So it’s quite a diverse set of backgrounds. And I think that’s because economics is a way of thinking. It’s an analytical set of tools that can be applied to all walks of life. And so from that standpoint, it’s quite empowering because it will kind of set the stage, if you will, to allow you to pursue a variety of different fields and kind of career aspirations depending on what it is that you want to accomplish. Stephanie, please.

So here’s an overview. And let me say a little bit about the program itself. So now that I’ve given you that background. The master’s in economics is a 30 credit course. A 30 credit program, pardon me. Each course is three credits. So it’s 10 courses. And the way it’s broken down is there are five required classes what we call core classes that everyone has to take and then a capstone that is required. That’s the last course you take.

And then in between, you have four electives that you need to take. And the way we’ve structured this is to set it up to choose your own adventure. And so we wanted to empower students to be able to select from a catalog of electives that offered different perspectives and different points of emphasis. Some are more conceptual. Some are more applied. And we set it up this way purposefully to allow students to focus on those things that interest them.

And as I mentioned earlier when I was going through that history of the Department, you can see in our elective courses experimental economics, market process theory, and public economics and public choice. And that’s capturing that tradition. We also have a causal inference course, which is another applied statistics slash econometrics course for those who are interested in it and a comparative economic systems course for those who are interested in economic development or institutions. That’s what that course gets at. And so there’s lots of opportunities for students to customize what it is that they want while all of you have a very firm foundation in economics.

And so if you look at the core classes, we have one course, and again, these are required, we have one course in econometrics. And so that’s teaching you applied econometrics. We have a sequence in microeconomics. So microeconomic theory one and two. We have a macroeconomic theory course and then a mathematics or math econ course. And that’s not necessarily the order you take them in. That’s ordered by course number. But that’s the sequence. Excuse me, that’s the courses that you will end up taking. The sequence is actually math econ first to make sure that you have those skills down. And then you transition into micro economics and then so on through those core classes before getting to the electives.

And the capstone course, which I can say more about during the Q&A but I’ll just kind of hint at what it entails to give you an overview. It’s a course that ties everything in the program together. And so it is a overview course and largely self directed. And what I mean by that is that students have a lot of leeway to select the topic of the project that they want to carry out. And again, I’ll stop there. But I can certainly say more about that during the Q&A. And I can give you two examples of projects that students have done to give you a concrete example of the type of things that you can do. But for now, we’ll move on.

So I mentioned earlier our faculty. And here are a couple of examples. Keep in the back of your mind those four quadrants that I mentioned earlier of the things we emphasize in our program. Because I think this really emphasizes and clarifies those points. And so my colleague, Tyler Cowen, along with my other colleague, Alex Tabarrok, run Marginal Revolution. Marginal Revolution is among the most popular and most well read if not the most well read economics blog there is.

And Tyler and Alex are masters of doing what I mentioned earlier. They’re masters of taking complex concepts in economics and applying them to a whole host of different topics. More traditional economics topics, monetary theory, interest rates, all that type of stuff, but also things like culture. You can see the post that I happened to select here is about Top Gun, the movie. And they talk about all these things through the lens of economics. And they are great at communicating and engaging a very broad and wide audience.

Then if you look down at the bottom of the screen, this is a article, or excuse me, a screenshot of testimony that my colleague Thomas Stratmann gave regarding what’s called certificate of needs laws in Georgia. And it came out of scholarship, academic scholarship he had done. So remember I said earlier that one of the things our department I think does extremely well is bridge the connection between academic scholarship and policy. Here’s an example of this.

So what Thomas did is a study of certificate of need laws. And if you don’t know what a certificate of need law is, what it is is in states in the United States, and it varies from state to state what the laws are, to open a medical facility, so a hospital, you need to go through a board of regulators and get approval. It’s called a certificate of need law. And the idea behind it is that you want regulators to make sure that resources are not being diluted, there’s not too many hospitals, and to make sure that there’s high quality hospitals.

But what Thomas pointed out in his academic research, well, wait a second. By raising the cost of starting a new hospital, you also increase barriers to entry. So you reduce competition. And so that leads to an empirical question, which is, is the benefits of restricting entry through regulations to get a higher quality product, well, there’s cost to that. So does the benefit from that outweigh the benefit of states where you don’t have certificate of need laws? You can just start a hospital if you want to start one.

And what they find is that certificate of need laws lead to lower quality health care and fewer options for people. So what they find is that the barriers to entry argument outweighs the benefits of regulating hospitals through restricting entry. And you can see why this matters. You can see why it matters. Why does it matter? Because health is one of the most important things for human well being and human flourishing. And if you are adopting policies which restrict health care access, which provide lower quality service to citizens, to patients, that’s going to reduce their overall quality of life. And so you can see why this is so important.

And so I highlight this example because it really nicely captures the ability of economics to both engage in straight up academic scholarship but also for that to feed into real and lively policy conversations that matter for human well being.

And then the final thing I just wanted to highlight is this book, which came out a couple of years ago. My colleague Peter Boettke is a coauthor on it. And it’s a book called Public Governance and the Classical Liberal Perspective. And it’s a book on public administration. And so the reason I wanted to highlight this is because I think this book nicely captures the interdisciplinary nature of our department.

And so Pete and his coauthors are all trained as economists, but they have written a book on public administration. And so for those of you who are interested in those type of issues, public administration, government type activity and government work, you can see how the type of scholarship and policy work and communication that my colleagues do really traverse a wide array of disciplines.

And I should also mention that Pete developed the comparative economic systems course that I mentioned earlier and Thomas Stratmann developed the public economics course and causal inference course. And so these faculty that I’m highlighting were active participants in the development of the classes that compose the program. Stephanie, please.

So here I want to say a couple words about the structure of the program and give you a behind the scenes look. Because an online program is unique if you’ve never been in one before. And so I mentioned the structure. I said, look, it’s 30 credits, 10 classes. I talked about what the classes are. But let’s delve a little deeper into what exactly this looks like and entails.

And so one of the things I want to be really clear about with this program by design, and it’s the main reason many of you are attracted to the program, is that the course structure is largely asynchronous. And what I mean by that is that if you went to a traditional undergrad or you’ve been in another graduate program and in the traditional on the ground type format, you had classes every Monday or every Monday and Wednesday at certain times and you had to show up and you had to participate in the class at those times and it was a regular synchronous structure.

The courses that constitute this program are designed as asynchronous by design. We wanted to give students greater flexibility to be able to take this program or the courses that constitute this program and have maximum flexibility given your commitments at work, given your commitments at home, or other commitments in life. And so there’s a structure to it. There’s modules that are structured on a week to week basis and there’s content that you have to go through on a week to week or module to module basis.

But within that, it’s oftentimes, for most of the courses, largely self structured. And so you can do everything on Monday. You can spread it out a little bit over several days. And you have some flexibility built into that in order to adjust as you need to. And so one of the strengths of the program is that flexibility. And when we talk to students who are in the program and who have graduated the program, this is one of the things that they highlight that they greatly value about the program, which is that it allowed them to kind of balance everything they had going on in life and be able to take classes.

And so these are screenshots of two of the courses. That’s me in the top there. And so this is from the market process theory class. I designed two classes in the program, Microeconomics 1, Microeconomic Theory 1, and Market Process Theory. And in the bottom corner is my colleague Johanna Mollerstrom. This is from her gender econ class. She designed both the applied econometrics class and the gender economics class.

And so as you can see, and this is just a small sample of what’s included in these courses, there’s professionally made videos. There are lecture slides and content, oftentimes narrated. And then oftentimes there’s interactive exercises for the students to walk through to get a visual illustration of key concepts and key ideas. And that’s what that visual in the bottom, the one directly below my screenshot, is showing.

And so the courses are designed, again, for you to have maximum flexibility but also for the content to be presented to you in a variety of different formats. Videos, lectures, readings, visuals, all meant to triangulate the learning experience to ensure that you’re getting access to the concepts from a variety of different perspectives and in a variety of different formats.

Now, I should say, even though the program is designed to be asynchronous, many of the courses have a synchronous component that is optional. And so let me give you an example from my own experience. I just finished teaching the Microeconomic Theory 1 course. Literally Sunday was the final exam. And in that class, so it was asynchronous module to module, but I had built in optional live Zoom meetings, very much like what we’re doing now.

No points for attending. No requirement to attend. Students could come if they wanted to. They could drop in for 10 minutes if they wanted to during the time and then drop out. And some did. And it was nice, because it was very casual. It was low pressure. Some students asked me questions about class content. Others just came and chatted about their career or things that interested them from the news. And there was no agenda. And that’s how I did it.

Some of my colleagues might do it more structured in order to meet the demands of their students that are particular to that class. But I just wanted to give you that sense as well that even though the program is designed to asynchronous, which want to make sure I’m clear about, many of the classes do have an optional synchronous component involved.

And of course, one of the other things that really comes out of a lot of these cohorts that come in is they form study groups. And so one of the things that I’ve really come to appreciate, I didn’t know when we started this several years ago this program, I didn’t know how this aspect would work since everyone was remote. But the students have been really great about forming study groups and friendships and professional connections through the program.

And I mentioned earlier that the first course you would typically take is the math econ course. And one of the things we built into the math econ course was group work, a group kind of project. And some of you might say, oh gosh, a group project. I don’t want to do a group project. Well, one of the things I’ve heard feedback when we do our surveys at the end from students is they really like that because it connected them with students in their cohort right off the bat in the first course that they were involved in. They got to meet people.

And in many cases, they maintained those relationships through the program and they formed online groups, study groups, or just kind of a live kind of chat feed where when people needed help with something, they could go to that group and have that support in addition, of course, to having the faculty member to support them and support staff to assist you as needed. So that gives you kind of a window into to some of the structure of the courses and what it might look like if you were to enroll in the program. Stephanie, please. So do you want to say something about the admissions process?

STEPHANIE: Sure. So yes, we have an admissions team that works with you throughout the application process. We’re happy to help answer your questions along the way. You can see here what we require for admission. We are accepting applications right now for the August 24 start date. I realize that sounds soon, but you’re actually right on time. You still have time to apply and even apply for financial aid or set up payment plans if needed. But what we typically look for or what we need is at least a bachelor’s degree. You will upload your transcripts into the application and upload your resume and your goal statement essay. And of course, we’ll send you the specific instructions for those.

For the recommendation forms, we do things a little bit different. All you need to do is to list the two people’s email addresses on your application and then we will send them a form and they type on the form. They can type comments and then they submit it online. So you don’t have to worry about people typing a long letter and mailing it. They do have to be professional in nature though, so please try for a supervisor or coworker or colleague or former instructor. Oh, sorry about that.

So a lot of people oftentimes call in and say, well, do I need specific prerequisites? They are not required, but you can see some recommended courses here at the bottom of the slide that will be particularly helpful. And we can definitely give you some guidance when you start to submit your admissions items on what to expect math wise in the program and emailing you the course descriptions so that you can make sure that you’ll feel comfortable with the material.

It does take about one to four weeks to receive the decision, usually within a week to 10 days, but sometimes it can take a little bit longer. So I recommend trying to apply as soon as possible. I would try your best to try to complete your file by around July 1st so that you’ll get a timely admissions decision and have plenty of time to get your books and registration complete. And then you’ll have a student success coach that will actually stay with you until you graduate. So that’s a huge benefit of the online program. Is there anything you’d like to add to that, Dr. Coyne?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: No, that’s captured perfectly. The one thing I will say, based on the point you raised about the recommended but not required. So thank you for highlighting that, because that is one of the most common questions I receive. It is not an overstatement in any way, shape, or form to say our student body, so the people enrolled in the program, both currently but historically who have graduated, is extremely diverse in terms of their background.

And so to give you a sense, we will have people who majored in economics undergrad. But even within that, we have people that graduated a year or two ago. So things are quite fresh. We have had others who graduated a decade, two decades ago. Many of our students took economics but did not major in economics. And either their current interest or their career trajectory have taken them in a direction where they want to pursue further study in economics. And so they don’t have the kind of background where compared to someone that just graduated undergraduate and is coming in. And that’s OK.

We’ve structured the program to enable people from a wide variety of backgrounds to both succeed in individual courses but in the program overall. Now that’s not to say certain aspects of the program might be more or less difficult depending on your background and your strengths. But that’s for any graduate program, even with a background in economics. Some people struggle in more things in certain areas and not others. And so that’s common. But I’m happy to answer any questions related to the program or to those recommendations or anything else that’s on your mind. Feel free to raise any questions at all that interest you.

STEPHANIE: Well Dr. Coyne, I can see a lot of questions rolling in here already. So we’ll try to make sure we have time to answer as many of these as we can here. Our first question is, do we offer any sort of a hybrid option for those that live local in person and on ground?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, thank you for raising that question. It’s one of the most common ones I receive. And the answer is no. And so when we were setting this up, we had to deal with– it’s an accredited program. I should say I should mention that, by the way. This is a fully accredited program. It is a George Mason University master’s degree.

And so when you’re in the online program, when you graduate you will get a master’s degree like on the ground program. You receive the same diploma. Your transcript says MA in economics. It does not differentiate between the online and on the ground. And I mention that to clarify that because some people think, well, this is somehow a different program or it’s not the same as the on the ground program. And from an accreditation degree standpoint, that’s not true. They are exactly the same. The difference is the modality, the delivery form.

And so in any case, we had to separate the programs and keep them distinct for purposes of getting approval for the accrediting agency of the University. And so students select into one or the other, the on the ground program or the online program. And then they have to stay in one of those two tracks.

STEPHANIE: Thank you. And I believe I can answer the next question, but feel free to jump in, Dr. Coyne. Can full time George Mason employees with tuition waiver benefits of six credit hours any semester per term be applied toward this online master of arts in economics? I have had plenty of Mason employees use their tuition benefits for the online program. And I do know that you don’t have to go straight through the program. You can take time off as long as you finish in, is it six years, Dr. Coyne?


STEPHANIE: OK. Do you have anything to add to that or is it pretty common?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: No, you’re exactly right. That’s an option. And so again, really what it comes down, to link this up with the first question, is to think about what modality best suits your kind of life and your goals. And so if it’s the online program, again, from George Mason University’s perspective, this program is a graduate program and has the same standing and status as other graduate programs. And so from that standpoint, it’s the exact same.

And I should also mention for people in the online program, you get access to the GMU library obviously remotely. I mean, if you were here you could go because you’re a George Mason student. But if you’re remote, you can access all the online library materials, career services. You get access to all those things because you are a George Mason University student with all benefits and privileges.

Really the difference is for those of you not in Northern Virginia proper, you’re remote. If you do live in the area, you are closer and you could come onto campus and access those services like any other student could. So thank you for those questions.

STEPHANIE: Yes. And they do even offer online tutoring if you ever need us to send you the link for the writing or math, which is within George Mason, not this department. OK. And this kind of leads us into the next question as well. Do the asynchronous courses allow students to work ahead or are the modules released one at a time?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yes. So they are released– how do I answer this? It’s a mix for most courses. I want to make sure I’m answering clearly. I’m not trying to avoid the question. I don’t want to confuse, but I do want to give you as concrete answer as I can. And so let me when I say it’s mixed, here’s what I mean.

The materials are, for the classes I’ve designed, OK, I’ll speak to those two, you could access all eight modules at once if you want to. What you can’t access is the assignments, because the assignments are time dated. And so let me give you a concrete example, again, for the Micro 1 course that I just taught, which again, I designed.

Each module has a discussion forum. So that’s a chance to interact with your colleagues and to practice your writing skills. That has three posts. There’s a quiz on the material. And then there’s a study guide and then there’s a midterm and a final. You can only do the discussion forum for each module during the week because it opens certain days and closes certain days. And the quiz opens certain days and closes certain days. The midterm opens and closes certain days.

And so you certainly can go ahead with the material and you can read ahead. You can watch the videos. But you won’t be able to complete the assessment and activities for each of the modules until the specified days of that module or that week, if that makes sense. Hopefully I answered your question clearly. If not, I’ll certainly do my best to clarify.

STEPHANIE: So could a student then type out the answer to the discussion board question in Microsoft Word and wait for the window to open?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: I am not sure the prompt is even available in advance. That’s a good question. I haven’t actually thought of that. I don’t know if the prompts for the discussion– because it’s a prompt related to the weekly material. But two of them for my course, there’s one that is a prompt. You have to directly engage the prompt. So if that was public, you could certainly pre-type it out. But then the other two, you have to engage other students, your colleagues. And again, I’m trying to get a kind of flow and conversation going. And of course, there you’d have to wait for your colleagues to enter their original post in order to engage.

STEPHANIE: And to me it’s really the best of both worlds, because you have a lot of freedom, but it keeps you– a lot of students have said it keeps them on track, from falling behind, and just really digging in with the material rather than skimming over it.

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah. And again, for most of the students, and given the diversity of backgrounds this is not going to speak to everyone, but most of the students doing the readings and keeping up, they’re doing it week to week. And so most of them don’t have time to get ahead even if they wanted to. But of course, depending on your capabilities and your other obligations, that might be something you’d want to do. And certainly you could read ahead. I mean, you’ll have the course syllabus with the readings and the materials. So anyone that wanted to read ahead would be more than welcome to do so.

STEPHANIE: Sure. And the next question has to do with what you’re looking for in an ideal candidate for the program. So any feedback on acceptance rates or just what you’re looking for in terms of a grade point average, recommendations, or anything else a student can do to boost their chances of admission?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah. And so I should mention, again, I’m a product of the graduate program. And before I did this, I was the graduate director. So I oversaw both the PhD and the master’s on the ground program before I designed this entire program and launched it. And so I’ve reviewed hundreds if not thousands of graduate applications to our programs. And so I actually can answer this quite well.

And by the way, I’m in charge of reviewing– I’m the head reviewer for all the applications to this program. And so as Stephanie was saying, when you apply, it goes through the graduate admissions process. That’s a box checking exercise. Do they have the right bachelor’s? Do they have a bachelor’s degree? Do they have the letters? But then of course, the Department of Economics makes the decision on admission. So that’s led by me.

And so what am I looking for? Again, one of the things I really love, and I know I keep harping on this, but I think it’s one of the really neat aspects of the online format, is the applications we get are just enormously diverse in backgrounds. More so, I think, than on the ground programs, because the flexibility of this program allows professionals, it allows parents, it allows caregivers who can’t attend classes in person to participate in a graduate education. And that’s a really neat thing from my perspective as an educator.

And so what am I looking for? I am looking for someone who wants to be here and who I believe will succeed. And so what are indicators of whether someone’s going to succeed in graduate school? Well, look, again, this is someone having read thousands of graduate applications and dealt with PhD and master’s students for well over a decade, some of who are very successful, some who struggle and have a variety of issues, which is that past performance certainly tells you something but not everything.

So what do I mean by that? Some of our best students, and this is not an exaggeration, did very poorly as an undergraduate. And they just were a goofy undergraduate. They goofed off their first or second semester. They didn’t know what they wanted. They didn’t take school seriously. And so their first year, first two years undergraduate, they have a two something GPA. And then they got serious or somewhat serious and they improved.

But some of these people have been working and they’re extremely successful professionals. Like all of us, they matured. They found their passion. They figured out things in life, and they’re extremely successful. So I would never look at someone who was extremely successful in their career and then they have a 3 or a 2.7 GPA undergrad and say, wow, this person can’t succeed in graduate school. That’s just silly. In that case, past performance in school doesn’t capture that person today.

And so the most important part of your application, from my perspective, which sometimes strikes people as counterintuitive, but hear me out, is the statement of purpose. And here’s why. You’ve already done what you’ve done in the past. It’s what we call a sunk cost in economics. You can’t change it. Whether you have a 4.0 GPA as an undergraduate, a 2.5, or somewhere in between, it is what it is. What you can control is the narrative about yourself.

And so I urge you to spend time on that statement of purpose and to avoid simple kind of platitudes. I want to come to George Mason University because it’s great, it’s premier, and that kind of thing. Those are nice things to say. I like them, of course. But it doesn’t tell me anything about you. The best statements of purpose say here’s kind of me. This is what I do in life. This is what I’m passionate about. This is why I want the degree. This is why George Mason University’s program is a fit for me. And here’s why I’ll succeed.

And so the best letters are ones where I walk away and I’m like, wow, this is a really interesting person, and I think they’re going to flourish here because they’re interesting and because they clearly know what they want. And that’s the real predictor of success. Some people call it grit. Some people call it drive. It’s knowing what you want. And I’m presuming that if you’re applying to a graduate degree, people don’t typically select a graduate degree to goof off. That would be an odd thing to do. You typically select into a graduate degree because you’re a serious person who is serious about intellectual study. And so that’s what we’re looking for.

And here’s the other thing I just want to mention to you. If you did perform badly in the past, just own it. Just talk about it. Say here’s why I didn’t do well. And that doesn’t reflect me today. I always think the ones that– kind of the applications that are somewhat marginal are the ones that don’t do a good job communicating why they’re a fit for the program and communicating about themselves, but also they have that weak performance and they don’t own it. They just kind of push it under the rug as if it didn’t happen.

And I always greatly appreciate when people just say, yeah, I was immature or I had some life challenge. People have personal challenges. They have family challenges. All of us do. And so whatever it is, you don’t have to go into great detail. You certainly don’t have to reveal any information you’re uncomfortable revealing. So I’m not trying to suggest that. But just tell a narrative about yourself. Just be yourself. And if you’re able to do that, you’ll have a great chance of being accepted into the program. No guarantee, of course. But it sets you up for the admissions committee to have a good sense of who you are.

Letters of recommendation matter, of course, but they’re marginal. All of us pick letter writers that are going to say good things about you. So they matter. I read them and I take them into account. But that statement of purpose is one of if not the most important aspect of the application process. So again, I urge you to spend time on that and just tell your story. That’s what we want to hear.

STEPHANIE: Very good. And good news. We do not require the GRE for this program. That was a question here. And another question about calculus. Do you feel that Calculus 1 would be sufficient to cover the recommended prerequisite calculus coursework or is a course in multivariable calculus preferred? And we covered that these are not mandatory prerequisites. But would you give us any further feedback on that, Dr. Coyne?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Certainly. And so we recommend a working knowledge of Calc 1. All else constant, the more the merrier. So if you have multivariate, if you have additional math courses, that’s great. If not, again, that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. There might be certain concepts in the math class or in Micro 2 that you might struggle with. It might be harder than others. But again, that’s for all of us.

And let me say this. The way we’ve structured this is to empower you to succeed. And so we put math econ first to kind of serve as an entry point to refresh people’s memory who have been out of that way of thinking for a while. Because even if you took math as an undergraduate but you graduated a long time ago, you might have just forgotten it if you haven’t been using it on the daily. Just like many of us would forget things we haven’t used on a daily basis. And so that math econ course is meant as a segue into the program.

One of the things I always suggest is there’s a series of books, they’re called Schaum’s outlines, S-C-H-A-U-M. And there’s a whole series of Schaum’s outlines. One of them is Introduction To Mathematical Economics. And if you get your hands on Schaum’s outlines, introduction to math econ, which you can get on Amazon. It’s in paperback. And you go through that and you feel comfortable with most of it, you’ll be OK.

The other thing I want to mention to you is the structure of the program, the sequence for those of you who are concerned about the math. So you start with math econ. Micro 1 is next. And I developed that. And Micro 1 is heavily theory based. So there’s very little math in it. And it is making sure that you have fully internalized how to think like an economist.

So you have the math in math econ. Micro 1, you’re going to get price theory. This is microeconomics hammered into you. It’s micro theory over and over again. Then you go to Micro 2. Micro 2 is a combination of those two. So it is very heavily math based micro. And Hal Varian is the textbook, his microeconomics textbook. And it combines the math you learned in math econ with the theory you learned in Micro 1 and it combines those things together.

So you can see how that three course sequence segues one to the next but also reinforces those concepts. And so you’re getting the math, you’re getting the theory, and then you’re reinforcing both together and combining them and you’ll see how they fit together. And so that’s the kind of structure and purpose of that. And so that’s how we think about it.

And the other thing I should just mention is the wonderful thing about the online world today is there are so many resources. So you can find online math econ courses not for credit, necessarily, just for your own self paced study if you want a refresher and you want to spend time walking through that.

And so those are some general guidelines. And I don’t want to overstate either direction. And let me just say one more thing before I move on. You could go take three calculus courses and then come into the program and still struggle. And I don’t want you to turn around and be like, you told me I wouldn’t struggle.

Well, you could struggle for some other confounding factor that is beyond my knowledge at this time. Or you could have no math background or one course and struggle with aspects of the program. But we’ve also had students that come in and flourish with that. And so it’s really a diverse set of skills that people have. And whether they succeed or not is based on a variety of factors.

But one of the reasons that I really want to urge you to form study groups is because it is a way for you to have an additional resource, which is your colleagues in the cohort, and to leverage the diverse backgrounds that people have. Because some people will be really good in math. Some people might be better in the straight up theory courses. And so you can get that support system built in if you form those study groups early on.

STEPHANIE: Yes. And if anyone is concerned about the math also, we have some of the resources of what you’ll encounter in the program math wise. So let your admissions representative know or email and we have those resources that we can recommend.

OK. The next one is– this is a great one for you, Dr. Coyne, given your education. After the Master of Arts program, if someone wants to apply to a PhD program in the future, typically how long would the PhD take?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Great question. And so it varies. And so I’m going to give you a range because that’s just the reality of it. And so when you go into a PhD program, and I think this is true for almost all PhD programs, there might be an outlier here or there, but I feel comfortable saying this is a near universal. You start over. And so you take a dedicated micro macro sequence in the PhD program even if you’ve taken it as a master’s student. Sometimes you’re able to waive out of a math econ course or one of the econometrics courses based on your performance in a master’s, but that’s program specific.

So let’s say you didn’t get any transfer credits. So you had to start from scratch. A PhD in economics would take four to six years full time. Full time. That’s start to finish. That’s coursework, that is exams, and that is electives. And when I say coursework, that’s core classes and electives. And then your dissertation, of course. And that range depends on you, of course, and how quickly you move, especially through the dissertation stage, but also the program itself in your field. Some fields take longer.

So some fields, for instance experimental economics, they often end up, those who specialize in experimental economics oftentimes take six years. Others take outside of that field. And you don’t have to take six years in experimental, it’s just often the case. Others take four or five years. And so that’s a good rule of thumb.

STEPHANIE: OK. And can online students enrolled in this online format have the ability to get involved in other facets of George Mason such as the Mercatus Center?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Great question. And so the Mercatus, it depends what you mean getting involved in Mercatus. The Mercatus Center offers a fellowship for master’s students, but that is only for on the ground students right now. So that has not been extended to the online program. Because it’s a highly– in addition to classwork, it’s a very policy focused fellowship and there’s a lot of face to face, hands on work with policy scholars as part of that fellowship.

There may be opportunities to participate in other kind of programs that they run, some of their other like reading groups and things along those lines. But it is certainly not a major component of the program. And I don’t want to give you any false sense that there’s a large number of opportunities that currently exist. And so if they do exist, they’ll be kind of on the outskirts, meaning that they’re not part of the program itself.

But even for the on the ground people by the way, unless you’re part of the Mercatus master’s program, those opportunities don’t exist. So from that standpoint, the online program’s no different. So it’s not 0, but it’s also not like there’s a set of programs I can point you to is what I’m trying to communicate.

Now, outside of that or are there other opportunities? It’s the same on the ground master’s students. And that is that they have to seek out those opportunities, whether it’s with particular faculty members or other opportunities. And so to the extent there’s anything in the Department that is online, you are welcome to attend those events and participate and be an active participant in those opportunities because you’re a student at George Mason University.

What you won’t have access to is any face to face opportunity. So our weekly seminars, a lot of those are face to face in person. So obviously if you’re remote, you wouldn’t be able to participate in those. But if you’re in the area, of course, you’re more than welcome to. And so that gives you a sense of some of the things that you might be able to pursue and not for that matter.

STEPHANIE: OK. And I believe I can take the next question. Do courses take place concurrently during the semester or does each course take place at a separate time, such as over an eight week period? I know that we normally starting in the first semester register you for one eight week class on the front half of the semester and then one on the back half. So there’s a fall A term and a fall B term. And usually they’ll register you for one at a time. Now, can students double up further down the road on courses if they wish to take concurrent eight week classes, Dr. Coyne?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Certainly. Certainly. Here’s my thought on this. My thought is that one eight week course at a time, it’s a lot. Your plate will be full. But some people have wanted to take more, as Stephanie was just saying. That’s a minority of students in the program, I should say.

But what we try to do is communicate to the student what’s entailed in taking those courses to give you as much information as we can. Not to tell you what to do, because you’re an adult, but to empower you to make the best decision for yourself. And so we certainly have had students who double up. It’s a lot and they’ve had mixed results. Some of them don’t do as well as they would like because I think they took on too much.

Others, again, flourish because they can handle the workload or because maybe their work or professional or personal life, pardon me, for those eight weeks allowed them to dedicate extra time to those courses. In which case, that’s great. And so my own view is empower people with information and they take the courses that are best for them and the path in their life that’s best for them given that information.

STEPHANIE: Yes. And you’ll have a student success coach. So if it gets to the point where you’re considering doubling up, just reach out to your success coach. They can advise you and create a progression plan for you and just work with you to do what would be right for you.

And then the next question is about scholarships. Are there any specific scholarships? I know that we send the students the links to the general Mason scholarships with the recap of the program when they inquire. Are there any specific scholarships that you know of specifically within the Department?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, not for the MA online. And so as I mentioned, there’s the Mercatus fellowships for the on the ground program, but not for the online. And so as of right now, there are no department dedicated scholarships for this program. But as Stephanie was saying, there is a general kind of database that Mason, the University that is, maintains of opportunities that you can pursue.

STEPHANIE: And we’ll put our contact– well, it’s actually right here on the screen. So if you email us, we’ll send you the link to those Mason scholarships. And the next question is, given the rising prominence of AI in various fields, does the economics program offer any coursework that encompasses the application of AI and economics?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, that’s a great question. As of right now, we do not. And that’s the same for the on the ground program. Now that said, my colleagues who I mentioned earlier, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, recently wrote a paper, which you can Google and find online. It’s called something like AI and teaching economics or AI and economics. And they outline numerous ways that very much in line with your question AI is going to change– may change the trajectory of both economic education but doing economics in general. And so you might find that of personal interest given that question.

STEPHANIE: OK. And then we just have two more questions so far. But one question is George Mason is an excellent school. Thank you for that. But it does have a reputation for a more conservative leaning. Is that reflected in this program? How standard or non-standard is the economics education I’ll be receiving and how does it compare nationally?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, well thank you for that. I’ve certainly heard this before. And let me say a couple things about this. Of course, a lot of this depends on what one defines as a conservative or what counts as that. I’m not trying to engage in semantics, but let me explain why I’m saying that.

I actually think our department, and if you look at our faculty and you can look up our faculty online and study what we’ve done, we are an extremely diverse set of faculty in terms of the research we do and the views that we hold in terms of the output of our research. And so we have faculty who have made an argument, my colleague Bryan Caplan has a book called Open Borders. So he is a proponent when it comes to immigration, he makes these arguments on economics grounds, for near complete opening of borders. Which most people wouldn’t think of as a conservative position.

I have other colleagues who want more restrictions on immigration. And then we have people in between. All of them coming at this not from an ideological perspective but from a economic perspective. We have people who work on a variety of issues related to development and foreign policy who have a variety of different views and conclusions they draw from their research on these things. And so I think from that perspective, we are quite a diverse department.

Now, that all said, people have the view that you pointed out. So it’s a good question. And so what’s the program like? The program is a standard economics program. If you look at those core classes that I mentioned, math econ, Micro 1, Micro 2, macro econometrics, you will find those same five courses perhaps with different titles at any economics department offering a master’s degree. Those are standard courses. There’s nothing unique about them, about those five courses.

You move to the electives. Causal inference is, as I mentioned earlier, statistics slash econometrics course. And then unique things then come in experimental public and market process. And those are unique fields to George Mason. Of course, experimental economics many schools have now.

And there’s no ideological content to those courses. They focus on certain aspects of economics and the study of economics. So I wouldn’t characterize them as conservative or liberal or anything in between. I would say that they are economics courses in the tradition that I mentioned earlier, that Masonomics tradition.

And so where does our program rank nationally? Well, it depends on what rankings you look at. And you always have to be wary of these rankings. Let me give you an example. In some of these online MA programs, we’re in the top five. If you look at on the ground master’s program, somewhere around 30 often is where we come in for the on the ground program. That’s national.

And so what does that mean? I don’t know what it means. I’ve always thought– here’s my thought on this. It’s only one thought, but I’ll share it with you nonetheless. I say it’s only one thought so you can gather other information. Look, you could try out for– the basketball playoffs are going on in the NBA right now. You could try out for the NBA and I could try out for the NBA. People could rank us as NBA prospects and there would be some number attached to us.

But once you’re outside the top tier, whatever that is, the top 100, 200 players, whether you’re ranked 1,000 or 2,000, it matters nothing at all in the world. It doesn’t matter on the margin. And so what’s going to matter is if you can get into those top tier programs. So the number one ranked master’s program in economics I think in the country is NYU, if I remember correctly. So certainly that matters a great deal, going to a school like that, because that’s the number one ranked program.

But once you get out of the top 4, 5, 10 programs, then it’s really a matter of fit for you and what fits your lifestyle and what fits your career aspirations. And so that’s how I would think about it if I were you as you’re considering it. It’s like, what fits with what you want to do, both in terms of the structure of the program, the course selection, the topics, but the faculty as well.

And the nice thing about my colleagues and myself is that like many academics, we’re very open with what we do. So all our websites are online. Our research is online. We have videos online. You can go check us out. Think about it and see if it’s a good fit for you.

STEPHANIE: Wonderful. And the last couple of questions, because I know we’re coming up on time here, I believe we’ve already answered, but I’ll just go over that again in case anyone joined late. So we have three semesters in the year. Every year there are spring, summer, and fall. But students take one eight week class at a time. So you’re taking two courses in a semester, one on the front half and one on the back half.

And most people finish in five semesters, but you do have up to a six year time limit. So three semesters a year. So if you were asking over how many semesters, that would be 18 if you did it that way. But I would talk to your success coach first to make sure that the classes would be available when you need them.

So you’ll have a success coach, sorry, will handle your registration for you. And before you decide to take any time off, just reach out to them and they can plot it all out for you to make sure that you can finish as soon as possible if you’re trying to maximize your tuition assistance or something from the employer.

In all of our electives, they’re listed right here. So that was a question about banking and money electives. These are your choices of electives on the screen. Anything else to add to that, Dr. Coyne?

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Nope. Nope, that’s comprehensive and accurate. So thank you.

STEPHANIE: OK. Well, just once again to reiterate, you do still have time to apply for the August 24 fall term of this year. We do not require the GRE. You still have time to go ahead and get your application in. You can apply here at

You can call us tomorrow. We’ll be available at 703-348-5006. We’re always happy to answer your questions. You can email us at And I’d like to thank Dr. Coyne for taking the time to be so specific and put this presentation for us. Thank you so much and thank you everyone for joining us.

CHRISTOPHER COYNE: Yeah, thank you for taking the time to speak with us and best of luck, whatever it is you choose to do. Thank you again.

STEPHANIE: Thank you and we hope to hear from you soon. Take care.

MS in Health Informatics and Graduate Certificate Transcript

SPEAKER: –an admissions representative here at George Mason for our online Master of Science in Health Informatics. I’m here as a resource to give information, answer questions, and walk through the admissions application process as well, if this is something you obviously want to move in the direction towards in terms of applying for our program. So here is our agenda for the evening. To start, we are going to meet with our presenter. We’re going to focus on why George Mason might be a good fit for you in terms of the Masters and Health Informatics program. We will also go over curriculum details and learning outcomes. And we’ll finish up with a focus on admission requirements, and there will be a Q&A portion as well.

And a few housekeeping items here as well that I want you to review before we jump in. Feel free to use any of these features this evening. We have our chat function. Feel free to use that as we go through the evening here. In your controls at the bottom window, click Chat for the chat window to appear and type your message. And we will go through that, usually, at the very end of the webinar, not typically during the actual presentation.

You may also wish to raise your hand, if it’s a more pressing question. But again, we do prefer if you wait towards the end of the webinar. And of course, please do share your questions in the Q&A function. And we will address those questions towards the end of the webinar. And you’re free to use those tools during the actual presentation, so we can have those ready at the very end.

Without further delay, I would like to hand over to our presenter this evening. Dr. Janusz Wojtuskiak, I’ll hand over to you. Thank you so much.

JANUSZ WOJTUSIAK: Thank you very much. Welcome to the information session. And I’ll be happy to share with you information about our master’s program.

So there are lots of reasons why we are unique and one of the best programs in health informatics. We are accredited. You probably already checked out CAHIIM website. This is accrediting body for health informatics programs. There are currently, I believe, 26 accredited programs across the US. We were the 11th program. We are the first-and-only accredited program in Virginia and in DC capital area.

We have a very flexible format for online classes. And courses are taken in condensed eight-week format, in which the content that is usually presented in 15 weeks for on-ground students is condensed into eight weeks. But students take one course at a time. And you can really focus on taking this one specific subject. We have great instructors that deliver content of the courses. And these are usually the same instructors that teach on-ground courses and the ones that actually develop the content of the courses.

We have, well, very competitively priced curriculum. And you can, and probably you did check out prices of other programs elsewhere, and you know that our pricing system is actually quite competitive as compared to other programs. The program can be completed somewhere is 22 to 28 months. The goal is to have you out of door in two years. And that can be a little bit shorter if you’re coming with strong background that is related to the program. But this is something we can discuss in detail when we talk about specific curriculum.

Our next slide. So this is the core curriculum of the program. This is what everybody takes. There is a tiny change that happened very recently, and this is something we’re very proud of. We have recently became the first-and-only College of Public Health in Virginia. And because of that, the first course that is listed there, HAP 678, Introduction to the US Health Care System, has been replaced by the Introduction to Public Health.

As a College of Public Health, we need to deliver public health content. And that is done in the course that is replacing the first one, which is in here, you still get introduction to US health care system, but it’s not in its standalone course. It’s been spread around other courses that are required.

HAP 618 is the course I personally created, Computational Tools in Health Informatics. What it gives you is the introduction to computing. So you learn things that every IT professional and every computer scientist actually know. And on top of that, we teach you how to use Python to do programming, mostly focused on using internet data.

But you’ve got to be able to program in Python or other programming languages. Well, we actually use– mostly the program is Python. And this is skill needed across other courses in the program.

Now, a side comment in here, on the admission, we do not require you per se to have computer science or IT skills. However, once you’re admitted to the program, and you do not have those skills, we ask you to complete the bridge course. And that bridge course prepares you to be proficient in computer use, have just a little bit of programming skills, just a little bit of database skills, have some informatics knowledge. It reviews some of that, that for many of you is long forgotten for a long time.

So for those that come with some computing skills, we don’t ask them to do bridge course. But many of you come with either health care-related or other type of background, for which we ask you to complete the bridge course. Again, not exactly required, but you’re strongly encouraged to do it. And completion of the bridge course makes your life easier once you get to the first courses in the program, especially Computational Tools and other courses in there.

Introduction to Health Informatics, very standard course, health care databases. That’s mostly an SQL course that teaches you how to query databases. Data and Standards, this is all about data. This is all about making sure that you understand ICD codes, what are ICD-9, what are ICD-10s, what are [INAUDIBLE] codes, what are NDR codes, how those things are related to large coding systems, like large ontologies like UMLS and so on.

At the end of the program, our students are required to complete precapstone and capstone. Capstone is really about sending you to complete an internship out there in the community. What’s different from a typical undergraduate internship is that you work on a project that is agreed between Mason and the partner out there. And you need to deliver, and you need to work on that specific project, deliver, write a report, make a presentation at the end, and so on. So it’s a project-specific experience that you complete, usually in an outside partner, outside of the university.

Next slide, please. We have two concentrations, concentration in Health Informatics Management and concentration in Health Data Analytics. Those two concentrations are offered in the online program. Health Informatics Management is about managing health informatics projects. It’s about health care security privacy, understanding of the policies, understanding of legal issues, understanding how health informatics fits into a larger scope of organizations, mostly health care organizations, but also vendors from a more managerial perspective.

And that concentration gives you, in addition to some required technical skills that every health informatician needs to have, it also gives you soft skills related to project management, to be able to interview customers, talk to customers, talk about projects, and so on. It serves us– what health informaticians often do is serve as this interface between health care and IT works. On the IT side, we have all the programmers, administrators, all the other strictly IT personnel. And they do not understand clinical world, and clinicians do not understand the IT world.

And lots of the work, which is done in health informatics is being able to bridge the gap and interface those two. Having said that, there are lots of things that are specific to health informatics, things like data standards that neither side actually understand. And quite often you work on projects in which you can get in one room, the IT people and clinicians and health care administrators, and they just can’t talk to each other.

They don’t really understand the data. They don’t really understand other things. And even though it’s a combination of technical and clinical skills, problems cannot be resolved. So health informaticians are needed in that mix to bridge the gap.

The second concentration, Health Data Analytics, it’s really data science in health program. So this is about getting you the hard skills and understanding how to take medical data and health care data. It could be EHR data, from Electronic Health Records. It could be medical claims data. It could be survey data. It could be medical registry or something like cancer registry data and apply analytics techniques. This could be what people refer to right now as AI methods or machine learning methods. Or they could be more traditional statistical analysis methods, or they could be some combination of the two, and be able to extract data or extract information from those massive data sets.

Or often massive data sets go through some processing steps and actually build some models at the end and find out how those models can be implemented as a decision support system, for example, that supports clinical use. So it is really about data science in health program with hard skills, a quite technical concentration and one of the popular ones among our students. But those of you that want to end up with hard technical skills should go after data analytics.

And there isn’t related coursework. Inside, both have statistics. But the technical one will have things like data mining, statistical process control, comparative effectiveness. While the less-technical Informatics Management concentration would have things like privacy security, organizational behavior, or legal issues.

Next slide. It’s a myth to think that health informatics graduates work in hospitals. I’ve been approached by many students in the past saying, we’re looking for a job. And actually, there are no health informatics jobs in the hospitals.

Yeah, that’s partially true. Hospitals don’t often advertise health informatics jobs. And many of our graduates from our program actually do work in hospitals. But quite often these are the ones that were already there in clinical or other positions, and they stayed and moved to informatics positions.

Where most jobs are for health informatics graduates from our program is health IT vendors, right? You still work for hospitals for hospital data. But you’re not exactly a hospital employee. You’re actually a vendor or a contractor or a consultant working for a hospital. it could be– IT vendors could be analytics companies.

A good number of our graduates actually work, do health analytics and health data science work working for those analytics companies. Some work in consulting firms. Some do work in hospitals and clinics, other insurance companies, research institutions, public health departments all over the place. If you look at any major company that does anything related to health informatics, health IT specifically in DC area, there are graduates from our program in there. And there are many more graduates in those companies across the nation. And those are mostly graduates from the online program that are across the nation.

Now, when you’re looking for specific jobs in health informatics– you go to LinkedIn or you go to other places– you find very few that have health informatics in their title. And those will have everything ranging from health IT consultant, health data analysts, to health data scientists, to health IT project manager, to anything else. So the job titles are all over the place. But if you look at specific job requirements, those are clearly aligned with what we teach in the program and what are the program competencies.

Next slide. So here’s the process. You need to have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum of 3.0 GPA. Submit your transcripts, letters of recommendation, statement of purpose. And I can talk about that a little bit more if we have time later. And you just apply.

SPEAKER: Yeah, I’m just expanding on that as well, before we jump into the Q&A portion here. If you have any questions regarding the next steps as far as start dates, application materials, anything like that, please do reach out to your admissions representative. If you don’t know who your advisor is, I will be sharing the main number on the final slide. So you can definitely reach out to the main office to get connected with your admissions representative. And your advisor, your representative, will be able to address anything you’re missing in terms of application fees, start dates, things like that.

So please do reach out. And as we just mentioned, a bachelor’s degree is required, at least a 3.0 GPA. If your GPA is slightly lower than a 3.0, you can include a GPA addendum in your application as well, where you get to explain why that GPA might have been a little bit lower and kind of fill the gaps in a little bit for the admissions team. Of course transcripts are also required. We can use unofficials for a decision, as long as they have some key bits of information included. And we can always request the officials on your behalf as well. So that’s a pretty simple process.

And then of course your resume, two letters of recommendation, of course, no family or friends. But we do require at least one to be from a current or previous supervisor. And the second one can be the same thing, or it can be a colleague, something like that. So we do require two letters of recommendation and then finally, a statement of purpose of a word count of 750 to 1,000. And you’re shared the prompt as you go through the process with your admissions representative as well. So that’s just the general direction that you’ll be taking if you were to apply for the program.

JANUSZ WOJTUSIAK: Yeah, I want to add a couple of things about this statement of purpose. It’s really about the purpose and your goals in the program. So I’ve seen very nicely written letters that talk about everything but your actually goals in informatics, right? So just make sure you’re as precise as possible, and be as precise as possible why specifically Mason program and why our curriculum, why our courses, why our faculty, right?

You may not know exactly details of every single course, although lots of this information is available online. Just try to do some research and try to find out why this is a good fit program for you because we very carefully read those goal statements. And this is quite often the admission decisions are based of what you actually are writing there. And this is specifically important for those that come from noninformatics field, those that actually change careers. So again, also feel free to reach to any of the representative or to myself if you have any questions how to write it. And we’ll be happy to answer.

SPEAKER: Absolutely, yeah. Fantastic. So we are going to move on to the Q&A portion here as well. We haven’t got any questions just yet. This is your kind of chance to ask any questions that might have come up as you were listening to us or kind of going through any research on your end.

And you might want to take this time as well to just jot down the details on the screen here. You have the phone number for the main office. You also have an email address, if that’s your preference. And of course, you have the website as well that you can reach out and make an online appointment or put an online query as well should any questions pop up along the way after this webinar. So I’ll give you a few more seconds here, if anybody wants to ask any questions. And if not, we will finish early.

Nothing is coming up at the moment, Dr. Wojtuskiak. So I think we might go ahead and finish here. But again, if you do have questions that come up, please do reach out to your admissions representative. I want to thank everyone for their time this evening. Of course, Dr. Janusz Wojtaszek, thank you for your time as well. Appreciate you being here. And again, last call for questions from any of our participants. I think we’ll wrap it up there. Thank you so much, everyone. Bye-bye.

MS in Learning Design and Technology Transcript

DOUGLAS WILSON: I want to tell you just a little bit about my background, and then I’ll toss it to Dr. Dabbagh and Dr. Bannan. Being a professor is pretty much my third career. And I love working with students. And I love sort of being a coach more than I am a professor. Because most of you coming into this field are either already practicing it or you know a lot of it from your own personal studies and your own learning.

So we have a lock on the theory and the research, which Dr. Bannan and Dr. Dabbagh do very well. If you google their names, you will find them published on textbooks, in research articles. So these are well-known professors.

I actually, since coming to Mason, have been to a few conferences where Dr. Dabbagh’s name comes up and Dr. Bannan’s name comes up in a room of 300 people. And I’m going, wow, I work with these people. Well, they can be your professors. So I just wanted to say that.

So I graduated from Penn State in 2015. My focus was in higher education. And then after I graduated with my doctorate in learning design and technology from Penn State, I did instructional design work at a couple of universities, large and small, and have worked as a designer on programs in the areas of cybersecurity and engineering.

That was one of the big projects that I worked on while I was at Southern Methodist University. And then I also have worked as a designer at Dallas College, where I had more of a focus on developing professors to teach at that college, and designing their courses and building their courses.

And so before I started doing this sort of work, I was a television news journalist for about 13 or 14 years. And it turns out that being a TV journalist is basically teaching online. And I like to say that I didn’t really become a good student until I became a TV news reporter.

Because think about it. You’re out in the middle of somewhere. You don’t necessarily know where you are. And you’re having to collect facts, talk to people, synthesize information. And then you have to put it all back out on the air. And you have to do it on deadline every day, every night. And you have to be right.

So that high standard is something that I think is fair to say I apply at George Mason when I’m working with students. Mainly because you, as a designer, are– and this is my personal opinion– when you’re designing instruction or you’re addressing a performance gap, you’re basically are going to be getting into people’s heads, literally. So there’s a lot of responsibility that you have when it comes to designing instruction.

And so we think we give you some of those frameworks at George Mason that you can apply professionally in terms of being an ethical instructional designer. And in terms of taking what you do seriously, because you can have a big impact not only on people’s lives, but my take is you can have a big impact on the world, solving some of these wicked problems that are out there.

I’ve had some students in the program who come in, they design active shooter training, for example. And then after they design it with us, they actually go out in Virginia, in Northern Virginia, and they put that training in place at a school or in an organization.

So that’s just a little bit about me. You’ll discover professors can talk at length. I’m sure you know that already. But I’m going to pass it now to Dr. Dabbagh and Dr. Bannan for their comments.

NADA DABBAGH: Thanks, Dr. Wilson. So I’ll try to be brief. I also got my doctorate at Penn State. At the time when I got it, it was called instructional systems. When Dr. Wilson got it, it was learning design and technology. But I’ve been at George Mason University for over 20 years. I love to teach. I love to design courses. I also do research in online learning. I’ve published a lot of books and articles on meaningful online learning.

I’ve done a lot of webinars on how to teach online and how to design learning interactions online. And lately, I’ve been really into personalized learning. I like to design personalized learning experiences or help people design personal learning environments for continuous learning and lifelong learning opportunities.

And I just published a book with one of our graduates on personalized learning. She came up with this PLEF framework that’s pretty amazing. And we hope to be– get on the road and showcase that framework, and how it might be used to design personalized learning experiences using technology, using instructional technology. Dr. Banner.

BRENDA BANNAN: And I’m Brenda Bannan. I’m probably the oldest member of this faculty. It’s 26-plus years. I lose count. In any case, we are all Penn State grads, which ironically, just at different points in time. And so we are thrilled to work together and try to create a student experience that benefits no matter where you are in your career. If you’re just beginning, you’re transferring in, or you have been in the field for 20 years, or 25 years, we’ve taught people at different points, and different times, and different foci, and different interests.

So a little bit about me. My research area varies according to the decade. Most recently, I’ve been doing some live simulation training with emerging technologies, and artificial intelligence, and IoT devices, and wearable devices. So pushing the envelope about how people learn in training contexts with emerging technologies for learning.

So we are very steeped in ideas about learning and how to translate that into current technology systems And all of the processes that go along with that in design that Dr. Wilson alluded to. So we are thrilled you’re here with us. And we really, really enjoy what we do. So we hope you’ll come along with us. Doug.

DOUGLAS WILSON: Next slide, please. Thank you Dr. Bannan and Dr. Dabbagh. OK, so you can see on the screen there some big names in media, some big names in, perhaps, defense contracting– Booz Allen Hamilton– and some other corporations. These are the places where our graduates work. Sometimes the graduates of our program come in already working in these places, and then they get a promotion.

But other times, we have students who come to us, do a career transition, and then they have a portfolio of work that they completed. And they use that portfolio to apply for jobs in these places. So a lot of these companies also are in the DC area, Northern Virginia, and Maryland area. So if you’re regionally in this area, then you can aspire to work in one of these places.

And the other good thing is, when you show up for your interview, you might discover that the person on the other side of the table hiring you is a George Mason alum. So that’ll be really good for you if you had that experience. I know that happens for a fact. So that’s another benefit of joining our program.

NADA DABBAGH: Yeah, a lot of our grads, actually, as Dr. Wilson mentioned, work at these places. Way back when, the program was probably mainly face to face. So it was the DMV area, District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. But since we went 100% online, many of these companies also now have remote work opportunities.

And so a lot of our alums work at these government contractors or corporate– nonprofits, as well, as you could see, The National Geographic, and the Smithsonian, and SAIC, and Bixal. And yes, our alums are amazing because they help– we have a specific list– we’ll talk more about it later– where we post jobs that our alums send to us, the faculty, to post. Because they want to hire students in our program. Because they benefited so much from the program, and they want to hire students who are going through the program just like they did.

So once you’re admitted and you become a student in the program, you will subscribe to this listserv. And you’ll probably see about two or three job opportunities a week. You may not be looking for a job, and that is fine. You may be looking to upskill, retool your skills. Because as Dr. Bannan mentioned, we try to keep you at the cutting edge of things and what technology is helping us do with design and with learning design.

But this is really special. We’re the only program, I believe, in the country that focuses on– we have separated programs for teachers who want to stay in the schools. We have an excellent program for teachers who would like to stay in the schools and want to learn how to use technology in the classroom.

But this program is dedicated for those who want to, as Dr. Wilson mentioned, transition from K-12 context, or you’re already working in a government contracting agency, or some other company, corporate company, and you would like to upskill and upgrade your skills. So thank you.

INTERVIEWER: It’s also– the program, as I understand it, is very applied in focus. And the graduates can be very selective in terms of the jobs that they can take on. Would that be correct?

NADA DABBAGH: Yeah, Dr. Bannan, you want to answer that?

BRENDA BANNAN: Yeah, we’ve designed the program so that you are really translating theory to practice, where if someone grills you on what do you know about adult learning theory, you can spit out I know this about adult learning theory, but I know more than that. I know how to apply it and then how to design it. Translate those tenants about how adults learn to a technology ecosystem of some sort or a technology system of some sort that’s used for learning and training.

So all of our projects– all of our courses are project based. So we don’t give tests. We focus on you learning to translate how people learn to current technologies. In all of our courses, we build up that knowledge. So that when you leave here, you feel pretty confident that you can take what’s handed to you in different types of contexts, and you can take the ball and run with it. So we hear that from our grads. So I hope that helps.

DOUGLAS WILSON: Yeah, see that graduate on your screen? That smile? Dr. Bannan, that is the smile of confidence right there. So we’re not just telling you this. There it is on the screen. That’s from a Mason graduation. And that can be your smile too.

INTERVIEWER: And I was just going to say that Mason also provides lifetime career services. And I would say that with this program, it sounds like you’re prepared from day one to take on the job a learning design and technologist. So I think that’s pretty amazing.

DOUGLAS WILSON: Absolutely. And what you’re hearing from the folks in the room here points right at these career opportunities. When we talk about confidence, when we talk about learning sciences, adult learning theory, when we talk about technical writing and having the language of the field to apply in a corporate or a nonprofit setting, you’re not only going to know what you’re doing, you’re going to have the theoretical frameworks on how to do it.

So skills– so that could be anything from the developer or designer. Right there at the top of the screen, where you see instructional designer, learning developer, UX designer, these terms are likely familiar to you. I’m not going to drill down on all of these. Save your questions. We can talk about them.

Then we have students who are consultants, who have more of an entrepreneurial lean. And they, in some cases leave the program, and they are positioned to take advantage of the marketplace as entrepreneurs and as consultants who are typically highly paid.

And then managers– so let’s say that you don’t necessarily want to be a line person, like at the bench, developing. So some people come to the program– I’m thinking of a lady in Massachusetts, who worked for a global hospital corporation with something like 10,000 employees. Very good designer and technical person, but she managed a global workforce for the hospital chain.

So her background as a designer and as a technology specialist gave her entree not only to that management role, but also allowed her to get her hands dirty even at an executive level, because she well understood the folks on the front line who were doing all of the work on behalf of the hospital corporation.

So you’re going to be well positioned to be a manager, or if you like the bench, and you like getting your hands dirty, so to speak, then you can do that too, consulting. Or maybe research– we haven’t talked a lot about that, but a lot of these corporations are doing learning engineering research and applying as a return on investment approach what it is they’re learning about workers and how to turn that into revenue for the company.

NADA DABBAGH: Yeah, you’re going to get every flavor that is on this screen in the program. We have courses on user experience design, on E-Learning, on learning and performance, on learning theory. So really, our field is very rich and very varied. Not a lot of people really know what instructional design is, but in this program you are going to get the richness of our field in its different roles and variations. And that’s what’s going to empower you to become whatever you would like, as Dr. Wilson mentioned.

And in one of the courses, that capstone course that I mentioned, we will actually connect you with some of our graduates, and they can tell you how they went from point A to point B, how they became a learning strategy consultant. Dr. Wilson just gave you an example of how that happened. We have a lot of students who have crafted their own niche and stepped into a role of their choosing so that they can really excel at what they do and be passionate about what they do.

INTERVIEWER: Dr. Dabbagh, how much time would you say on average does a student have to devote per week? Because most people are working full time.

NADA DABBAGH: So if you want to advance– we’re going to get to that when we talk about the program. Dr. Wilson, do you want to go to the next slide so we can show the program, the courses, and how it is?

DOUGLAS WILSON: Sounds good.


INTERVIEWER: You want me to pass forward, keep going?

DOUGLAS WILSON: Let’s talk about money just briefly.

INTERVIEWER: Always a good thing.

DOUGLAS WILSON: Because it’s important. And so I won’t spend a lot of time on this slide. And you can see, looking off to the left there, up to the right, that’s an upward trajectory for salary. And look at that, less than one year experience, 56K. And then within four years, you’re up to 63, and then at 10 years, 70.

So as you’re thinking about our program, think about these dollars and that salary, and also the flexibility Dr. Dabbagh talked about. Because you are going to be in a position– there’s such a demand for people in the field right now, you’re going to be in a strong position to call your own shots when it comes to salary, when it comes to where you work, how you work, and that sort of thing.

INTERVIEWER: Wonderful. Ready for the next slide?

DOUGLAS WILSON: Yes, please.


DOUGLAS WILSON: So you’ve already heard now some of the things that make our program unique, but this slide breaks it down into four neat boxes. So we have an E-Learning graduate certificate. And so I talk to those students and vet those students as they come into the program. And that’s a bite of the apple for students who may not yet want a master’s degree or who might want to explore the program before deciding to earn a master’s degree. And you can earn a certificate, and you still end up with many pieces in your portfolio that you can use to apply for a job.

Not all learning design and technology specialists have a master’s degree. But when you come out of our program, not only are you positioned to earn a master’s degree if you choose to, but you’re also positioned to actually say, well, I can do Adobe Captivate, or I can do UX research, or UX design. And you can show somebody that.

It’s a part-time online format. So you keep your life, basically. You stay with your family. You keep your job. And then your challenge, of course, because it’s a challenging program– make no mistake about it– it’s challenging to teach it, and George Mason students are very short sharp– it’s on you to basically marry your personal life with the demands of the program. And students do it successfully all the time.

And now in the lower right-hand corner, competitive tuition. So we’re not necessarily the cheapest folks on the block, but we’re certainly not the most expensive. And you want to certainly consider your resources or whether your company can pay part of your tuition. And we can have more conversation about that.

And then there’s our ranking, in the left-hand side. The College of Education, itself, is very well known, as are the professors in this program, who you would be studying with. So that’s what I wanted to share about that slide.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, and I’ve got to say that Mason is actually ranked seventh in the nation as a value ranked school, meaning you’re going to get a great bang for the buck. And to be taught by knowledgeable faculty, such as these faculty, it can’t be beat.

NADA DABBAGH: Should I take the slide?

DOUGLAS WILSON: Of course, of course.

NADA DABBAGH: This is the core of the program. So as Dr. Wilson mentioned, it’s a flexible program. It’s meant to be completed on a part-time basis. Because you are all adult learners. And this has been the profile of our students, as we’ve mentioned. Now if you absolutely want to complete this one on a full-time basis in a shorter time, you can talk with your advisor, if you’re not working full time.

But this program has been designed for people like you, who work full time, who’ve got families, who’ve got other obligations– life– and they would like to upskill their skills in instructional design. And you will earn a Master’s of Science in Learning Design and Technology.

So this is a very important delineation. Most of the programs in instructional technology, or ed-tech, or educational technology are M-EDs. This is a Master’s of Science– Master of Science in Learning Design and Technology, along with the E-Learning certificate, graduate certificate, for the same number of credits, that is 30 credits. You’ll be able to put on your CV two degrees. One is your Master’s of Science in Learning Design and Technology. The second one is the E-Learning certificate.

And again, the program is 100% online, 100% asynchronously online, although as you know from us now, we do like to see you and talk with you. We have optional weekly synchronous meetings with our students when we are teaching the classes over Zoom. And we like office hours so we can talk through any concepts in the course that you’re having difficulty with or any other issues. But all three of us, as faculty, as well as our adjunct faculty, do make the time available for you to be able to optional come in with us on a synchronous level, and talk with us, and meet the other students in the program.

But basically, the program is designed to be completed on a part-time basis. Now what does that mean? That means six credits per semester. And since it’s 30 credits, it’s going to span two years, including one summer. So basically, it’s six credits per semester. And the cool thing about the way our courses are offered, it’s not like you’re taking two courses across a 15-week semester on top of each other. You take them one at a time.

Every course is no more than eight weeks by design. So all of our courses start at some point and then they finish in October. So your first course, let’s say, will start August 21, and then will be done October 3. Then you’ll have a little, few days break, and then you will start the second three-credit course in October. And that will go until December. So basically, the courses are designed to be completed in eight weeks or seven and a half weeks. And they’re designed to be taken sequentially.

Now there will be some semesters where you might be adding a two-credit elective or a one-credit elective on top of a core course, but the idea is you are taking six credits per semester and completing the Master’s of Science with the E-Learning certificate in two years. If you start in the fall, this coming fall, 2023, you can expect to graduate in spring of 2025, in May of 2025, with the MS in LDT and the E-Learning certificate.

So as you could see on the slide, we have 23 credits of core courses. You see them here– EDIT 705, 704, 706, 730, 732, 752 are the user experience design courses that I mentioned. We have a great course on learning analytics that Dr. Bannan developed and how to leverage data and analytics to understand better how your learners are doing, how your employees are doing, to leverage that data for continuous improvement. And then we have two one-credit courses, the 601 and the 701.

So these are the core courses that you have to take. And then we have electives that you can choose from. Your advisor will let you know what electives are being offered, when. We have a two-credit elective on web accessibility and design. If you’re interested in 508 compliance and how to make your E-Learning designs more accessible, then that’s the 526. We have a project management course for two credits, if you’d like to understand project management.

And we have the E-Learning design applications, this 575 course, changes from Adobe Captivate to Articulate Storyline. And we try to keep abreast of things. So if a new technology comes up, like a software, like Articulate Rise, then we change that course to feature Articulate Rise. So we’re always trying to give you the most popular software development tool in the industry.

And then we have– those of you who are going into higher education, may be interested in doing the one-credit course on online teaching essentials. And Dr. Wilson just designed a fabulous course on immersive 3D learning technologies, virtual worlds, augmented reality, and gaming applications. So that’s the EDIT 772 that you see at the bottom of the screen.

So if you’re interested, again, in designing 3D immersive learning technologies, you can take that course as an elective. And you’ll be also invited to a conference that we’re doing in September about immersive learning technologies. Anyone would like to add something that I missed here, Dr. Brennan, Dr. Wilson?



DOUGLAS WILSON: I’m good. Thank you.


INTERVIEWER: The audience here is being very shy. You haven’t posted any questions in the chat. Come on, y’all. You have the faculty here.

NADA DABBAGH: Maybe we can then finish and then allow them to actually ask questions with–

DOUGLAS WILSON: That sounds good.

NADA DABBAGH: –with their videos.


DOUGLAS WILSON: That sounds good. We have one more slide. Actually, there’s two more slides. And so there’s the admissions process. And so bachelor’s degree and work experience– two years is what we’re looking for in terms of work experience. And it really could be anything. It’s better if it’s in a related discipline, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, if you have military experience, that’s definitely applicable. And we know the military does a great job training our armed forces.

Transcripts and resumes, that’s pretty typical. This is where I get a really good sense– Number 3– from students about whether they can succeed in our program or not. So all of us read the applications. It’s the personal goals and the statement. And what we’re really looking for in the personal goals and statement is a clarity of thought and an expression of how you personally, given your own personal background, would use the skill set that you’re going to develop.

And that’s important in terms of focus. So when Dr. Dabbagh is talking about flexibility of the program, yes, there’s flexibility there, but it moves fast. And some of these courses have a lot of reading. Well, most of them do– theory. So I, personally, am looking for focus. Others may be looking for some other things.

Because without that focus, that wandering that could happen, if a class is only eight weeks long, that could be a potential problem. So we’re looking for focus. No GRE required– I’m on Number 4 now– and two professional letters of recommendation. Anybody have anything to add about the admissions process?

BRENDA BANNAN: I would just add that it’s really about you and where you want to take this. So there’s so many positions in our field, so many different ways. And throughout the courses, you can leverage some of the courses, which are manageable in those eight weeks. Yes, it’s some reading. Yes, it’s some projects. Yes, it’s putting together some presentations, sometimes on your own, sometimes with a small team. But it’s really about how you want to leverage this program to take you farther and ahead in your own professional trajectory.

So many others have done it prior. And we have designed the program to be manageable. But also, to be flexible for many different outcomes and many different professional trajectories. So I just wanted to lay that in there.

INTERVIEWER: It sounds like a great program.


DOUGLAS WILSON: It is. So time for Q&A. And you see a phone number on the screen, an email address. And then, of course, the website. And unless someone else has something to add right now, we’d like to– I’d like to go ahead and open it up for questions.

BRENDA BANNAN: Yeah, and you can put them in the chat. Whatever you’re comfortable with– you can email them to us later. We understand that not everybody wants to appear on camera at this time of night– totally understood. But whatever you’re comfortable with. We can keep talking, as you see, certainly. But we’d rather have you get a chance to ask some questions if you have any.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, OK, so there is a question. What kind of apps are going to be taught during the program?

BRENDA BANNAN: What kinds of apps– applications?


BRENDA BANNAN: Different apps– well, you can use different apps for different things. So Nada mentioned some of the Articulate Storyline and some of the software applications. Certainly, using different apps– in the learning analytics, we explore ChatGTP as an example of what’s happening. And many different apps– were updating that course continuously– so many different apps that can be utilized to demonstrate how some of the capabilities of AI impact the learning and development profession. And teaching what we can do with some of the current applications that are coming out almost on a daily basis now.


NADA DABBAGH: So in terms of– Allison, thanks for the question. In terms of how we deliver the program to you, we have to use our learning management system, which is Blackboard, that the university uses to deliver the courses online. I’m not sure if that’s what you were asking about.

But now, even with our learning management system, different professors will have different maybe requirements. So, for example, in some of– if you’re working in a small group, you can choose whatever app you would like. So Google Drive, you can have SharePoint, you can do how to communicate with your colleagues.

Like, suppose you have to develop a design document in Dr. Bannan’s class or Dr. Wilson’s class. And you’re working with two or three other people. That’s up to the team to decide whether they want to use Google Drive or they want to use a Wiki.

I, for example, like to use Wiki Spaces in the LMS to get the groups to work together. So also, you can use– you can video record your presentations using Kaltura. So we have a lot of variety. And sometimes we use VoiceThread in our discussion boards. Sometimes we use–


NADA DABBAGH: Which one? Yeah, [INAUDIBLE]. And sometimes we use– we have even Padlet in some of our courses that Dr. Wilson and I– so we try to integrate in the– from our side as many technologies as possible, based on their affordances, that will give you a very good learning experience. And then, of course, we model how we use this technology. So that if you’re using it in your own company, or with your own employees for training, then you know hos that technology functions.

Now, as Dr. Bannan said, in terms of the electives that you can choose, for example, if you’re interested in learning how to use Articulate Storyline, then that would be an elective that will be offered, which will teach you how to use Articulate Storyline to design an E-Learning training interaction.

Now, keep in mind that this is a master’s program, which means it’s a graduate program, which means we don’t have hundreds of students, so that we can offer the course every semester and every summer. So it’s very selective. So we might offer Articulate Storyline once a year, in the summer, or maybe another semester.

So you’ll work with your advisor to decide on the available electives that are available for you to learn how to use a specific E-Learning design app, or something with project management, or web accessibility and design. So I hope we’ve answered your question.

INTERVIEWER: And Jeanette is asking what are the tuition costs? And tuition is $805 per credit. The E-Learning graduate certificate is 15 credits. The master’s is 30 credits. So if you reach out to the admissions representative, we can tell you all about tuition, the various ways of covering tuition, such as FAFSA, or private loans, and scholarships, and the like.

And Molly is asking, do internships count as the two years of work experience? That’s a good question.

BRENDA BANNAN: Yes. It depends on the length of the internship and what you were doing. We have had students come in who have a little less than a two years work experience, but yet, have some applied experience that’s in the field, or can be connected to the field in some way. So, yes, we have considered that in the past.

DOUGLAS WILSON: And make that connection for us when you write the essay. And we’ll be looking for that. Because you’re going to be your best agent in this sense. And if you’re making the connection for us, we’ll see it right away. We read a lot. We write a lot. And just make it as clear as you can. And, yeah, an internship, for sure, could count.

INTERVIEWER: And she’s asking, is there a predetermined schedule for the courses? Or would we build that ourselves with our advisor?

BRENDA BANNAN: There is kind of an ebb and flow to the courses. Nada, do you want to jump in on that one?

NADA DABBAGH: Yeah, let’s say you’re starting in the fall, there is a sequence. There are some prerequisites. Again, this is a graduate program. So you have to take, say, a couple of courses before you could take the advanced version of the course. So you work with your advisor, but ultimately, you have to take the basic instructional design course. EDIT 705 is a starter course, so to speak. Followed by the 704, which is about adult learning theory, heutagogy, and other learning theories that permeate our field.

And then the second semester, in the spring of 2024, let’s say, you will do the user experience design courses, back to back. These two courses are really cool because you work on a team, and you stay with the same project across those two courses, so across the first eight weeks and the second eight weeks. And as my colleagues mentioned, you get to choose the project that you’d like to work on. Of course, the faculty member has to approve it.

So if you’re working for a company, and we’ve had, as Dr. Wilson mentioned– maybe you want to mention that again, Dr. Wilson– is a lot of– our program is totally project based, no tests, no quizzes. And you get to choose the projects that are relevant to you, that are meaningful to you. And as Dr. Wilson mentioned examples, you get to apply them in the workplace almost immediately. So you get to hit both with one stone– two birds with one stone, so to speak.

But, yes, there is a sequence. The electives are up to you, and of course, up to when we’re offering them. And then in the second year, of course, you take the analytics course, which is a more advanced course, the learning analytics course. And you take the advanced instructional design course and things like that. But you can work with your advisor in terms of how fast you want to go or how slow you want to go. Like, if you only want to do one course, a semester, and you want to spread it across three years, that’s fine.

But if you’re ready to take, for example, let’s say, more than six credits a semester, we’ll talk with you, make sure it’s feasible. Because remember, the courses are accelerated. It’s an eight-week course, and there’s almost a deliverable every week.

INTERVIEWER: That’s amazing in terms of the flexibility. I know that Mason gives up to six years to complete the degree. But I think it’s great for the working professionals that you only have to take one class at a time if that’s how you desire.

So let’s see, Allison is asking, could someone discuss how a class looks like on a weekly basis, such as are there weekly essays that have to be posted? Just looking for a general feel.

BRENDA BANNAN: Yeah, some of those deliverables that Dr. Dabbagh mentioned, weekly deliverables across the eight weeks, seven– it turns out to be about seven and a half, are– sometimes it’s a discussion posting. Sometimes it’s a mini video of you stating your opinion. Or maybe it’s contributing to an online debate. Maybe it is a reading and synthesizing it into a paragraph or two. So those can be deliverables.

There’s usually a few more major assignments, like, for example in the learning and analytics course, it takes a while to– you’ll get some lectures, you’ll do some readings. You’ll try to add to the discussion– what do you know about learning analytics? When have you heard that term? Reply in a two-paragraph response. And then reply to two of your peers’ postings. And so that would be an early example.

And then some of the more major examples would be building up your knowledge to then put together a 10-minute online presentation on you thinking about how you would apply what you’ve learned in learning analytics towards your workplace or another type of professional outlet. And there’s guidelines and rubrics to follow in that presentation. But you do a narrated presentation at the end as the final performance measure, if you will. So that’s project based, but more about you applying your knowledge to a context.

In some of the other courses, 732, 752, that Nada talked about, the UX research and design, you’re working with a team of usually about four students total. And you will pick the context. And you will design and develop. You’ll do a conceptual design. You’ll do cycles of interviews and research about that context to get up to speed and document that. And then apply it to the design that you’re doing.

And then you will actually put your design concept in front of other users or learners, that target learners that you’re going for, and collect some data and get their insights into it. So very much a design thinking, design project-based type of– and that actually is over two sessions, two courses, so the two eight weeks. So it spans a little bit more.

But other courses, like the learning theory course, is really about you as an adult learner. It’s really looking at your experience as a learner through the lens of learning theories. So how do these apply to my own experience as a learner? So that’s just a little bit of the flavor, if you will, but I’ll let my colleagues opine.

DOUGLAS WILSON: I think that’s really a wonderful question and some wonderful answers. And, for me, it comes down to, can you, as a designer, as a learner in our program, solve a real-world problem? And so the application of the theories and the tools– a hammer is a great tool if you want to hit a nail, but you don’t want to use a hammer on a screw, right?

So it is very much a problem-solving, real-world context, where we’ll paint a scenario for you. I do one in the virtual reality course where I ask students to solve a school-based problem. If you didn’t know, a lot of young people are injured going to and from school. And now, this has nothing to do with shootings. But it’s a real problem. It’s documented. And so I asked my VR/AR students to look at the affordances of VR/AR tools.

And so which one might you choose to solve this problem? And so, OK, go ahead, what’s your thought process? Think aloud for me on video and explain to me why you see this working. And then, oh, yeah, by the way, pick the tool and then show how you used it. And the other students look at that approach to the scenario. There’s not any right or wrong. There’s many paths to a solution in design. But that’s your challenge, to apply these neat things that we teach.

And there are a lot of wicked, intractable problems in the world. And part of our culture at Mason is we need you to demonstrate that you can attack this when you leave us. It’s part of our– it’s one of our values, that you should be ready to take action. It’s not textbook stuff. It’s what are you going to do with it? So that’s a theme that runs through all of the courses. And I don’t teach them all, but I know from talking to students, that’s the challenge.

INTERVIEWER: That’s great, very applied. Michelle is asking, can we pick more than one elective?

NADA DABBAGH: Yes, so the core courses are 23. If you’re only going to do the Masters of Science by itself, then you have room for seven credits of electives, which means our electives are usually two credits or one credit. So that means if you have seven credits of electives, you can take one two-credit, another two-credit, another two-credit. That’s already three two-credits electives. And then a one– one-credit elective.

Right now, we only have one one-credit elective, which is the online teaching essentials. But we’re also thinking of designing another one with ChatGPT. And as we move along, we’re going to be adding more one-credit electives.

Now, if you want to do both the certificate and the master’s together, you will only have room for two two-credit electives. Why? Because we have a course that is specific to E-Learning, the E-Learning certificate. It’s called EDIT 611. That course has to be completed on top of the 23 core courses for the Masters of Science, which means 23 plus 3, that’s 26 credits, which leaves you with four open credits for electives. And if you’re doing two two-credit electives, that means only two electives.

But if you’re willing to take more, even with the master’s and certificate, it’s OK to graduate with 32 credits or more if, of course, you have time to do it and the finances to do it. But we can work with you when you’re assigned an advisor to see what you’re really interested in and how to structure your program plan. And, of course, it’s very flexible. We can always reorganize it based on your needs.

INTERVIEWER: That’s great. Jason is asking, what is the minimum GPA requirement? It is a 3.0, but we do have a GPA addendum that is allowed. My bachelors is just under a 3.0. In my concentration, it was over a 3.0. So that’s good. I’m currently an L&D professional for my company, and I’m being asked to go into management. I really want more of a background in L&D.

BRENDA BANNAN: You’d be a perfect candidate. He would be a great candidate for our program, absolutely, absolutely. And we have a business of learning technologies course that is available too that we crafted for thinking about those types of professional trajectories into managerial roles. Many of our prior students are now in senior learning design and L&D positions. We’ve even had chief learning officers from our alums and many other different types of higher level positions. So it’s a very good way to leverage in order to advance.

NADA DABBAGH: Yeah, and Jason, feel free to unmute and say what you’d like to say. But we understand adult learners. My children, I know, they had less than 3.0 in undergrad. That is something we understand. And it’s really, with your experience, you’re already in L&D, that should not be a problem.

We understand adult learners. We understand your applications. And as Dr. Wilson mentioned, your personal goal statement is really important. As long as you clarify that, and your experience, and why do you want to get a master’s, should be fine. So, go ahead.

AUDIENCE: Fantastic. Thank you. I’m in meetings, and I work with a curriculum designer now. And his breadth of knowledge, he brings things up, and I’m like, I don’t know that. So I’m really interested in this program so I have a broader sense of learning and development.

BRENDA BANNAN: Yeah, Jason, we haven’t mentioned it before, but we have people who have been in the field for 10, 15, 20 years, sometimes, and they will say, oh, my gosh, I’ve been doing this, now I know what to call it. Right?


BRENDA BANNAN: We get that a lot. And so we love that, because you’re catalyzing all of your experience. It’s very much an adult learning theory kind of idea. You’re catalyzing all of what you’ve built to this point. It’s just you’re codifying it into the master’s program, and hopefully, learning some new things too. Because we race to try to keep ahead of you.

AUDIENCE: I would like that. Because in the past three years, I moved from working from home. And I had– the company that I work for, we all had to learn how to skill up and provide– provide training in an online environment. And there were a lot of bumps in the road to do that.

BRENDA BANNAN: Absolutely.

AUDIENCE: As most people experienced, yes.


BRENDA BANNAN: Changing continuously, so we’re right there with you. We’re just trying to run faster sometimes. But we love that breadth of experience that you bring and that real-world context. And we leverage that in our courses. So we hope you’ll bring it with you and share some of your insights too. So that we can make this very much a community of practice. That’s a learning theory.

AUDIENCE: Fantastic, thank you.

INTERVIEWER: Look forward to hearing from you, Jason. If you don’t have an enrollment counselor, please reach out to one of us, and we’d be happy to assist you in the application process. That’s another thing about Mason, is that we look at the whole person. You’re just not your GPA. We look at your work experience and, as I said, as a whole person.

AUDIENCE: Yeah, finishing my bachelors with a six-year-old in school, and working full time was quite interesting. Quite interesting.

INTERVIEWER: But you did it. Good for you.

AUDIENCE: I did it. He was in– he was in class a lot with me.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, my goodness.

AUDIENCE: My professors would tease and say, we enjoyed him more than you.

INTERVIEWER: Love it. Too funny. That’s good for you, though. So here’s another question. This is a great question. Is there a chance to get financial assistantships like GA, TA, or– I’m not sure what you mean by TA.

NADA DABBAGH: Yeah, that’s a little that’s a little bit of a tough one for master’s level students. We get that question a lot. We also have a doctoral program, if any of you are interested later on. Of course, I always say if you want to open your own consulting company, or if you decide to get a PhD in education with a concentration or specialization in learning technologies design research, we have to– because we pretty much give those GAs, GRAs, GTAs to doctoral students. Right, Dr. Bannan?

It primarily goes to them college wide. But we do have opportunities for internships in the summer that our students– our students in the master’s program can get paid internships in the summer. But there is a priority system that offers the graduate research assistants or– and we don’t really have teaching assistants, right Brenda?

BRENDA BANNAN: I would say there’s a process for applying. That’s not to say that master’s students have not been hired. They have. Some master’s students do have a special skill set that faculty might be looking for or support. Sometimes you can’t find a doctoral student who can work 10 hours a week on something.

And so I’m going to say that while the preference does go to doctoral students, typically, for graduate research assistants, because they are typically sometimes full-time students. But master’s students have been hired as graduate research assistantships, depending on their skill set and the match to a faculty need. So I would say, put in an application. And there’s a process for doing that that we can show you.

INTERVIEWER: That’s a great question. Thank you for asking. And Molly is asking, would it be more difficult to start in the spring or are most classes offered both semesters?

NADA DABBAGH: In terms of starting, no, Molly, you can start in the spring very safely. It’s fine. We offer the two courses, right Dr. Wilson? The starting courses, 705 and 704 that I mentioned, in the fall and also in the spring. So no problem there. In the summer, it gets a little muddy. But no, no problem starting in the spring. And then you will be graduating in December of 2025 instead of May of 2025. Yep, no problem.

INTERVIEWER: Yep. Well, we’ve gone past 8:00. Are there any other questions for our faculty before we end the session? And I want to thank you so much for your valuable time. This has been a very informative session.

NADA DABBAGH: Thank you, Susan. Please feel free, guys, if you want to send us an email, specifically to one of us, Dr. Bannan, myself, or Dr. Wilson. Feel free if you have additional questions. Of course, in terms of application, and tuition, and all that, Susan will direct you. You should probably email the online too And then go– you can go on the website, take a look at our courses.

You can also even see some syllabi of the courses. I believe they’re posted, right, Dr. Wilson? If you just want to get an idea–


NADA DABBAGH: –of what the course is like, what you’re getting into. But it is a graduate program. It’s 100% online. And you can start with the certificate and earn it quickly. And then add the masters. But we recommend that you apply for the master’s program if that’s your goal. Because then the certificate naturally fits into that.

INTERVIEWER: Yes. Thank you, again. Thank you for joining us. And, again, faculty, this has been a terrific session. So appreciate your time.

Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) Transcript

CASEY: –Virtual Open House for the master’s, the MSN, Family Nurse Practitioner license– degree, excuse me. And just a little bit of agenda if you guys weren’t here– we’re going to save the questions and answers to the end, but feel free to go ahead and ask your questions as we go along throughout the slides. We’re going to meet our professors who are here today. We are thankful for them to be here today and excited to get some of your answers as well. All righty, let’s go ahead and get started.

Again, if you don’t know how to use the chat, use the chat here. Raise your hand if you have any questions at the end as well. All righty, so here’s our professors, Dr. Cheryl Oetjen– I’m sorry. I don’t know–


CASEY: Thank you– and Caroline Stowe are two professors here at George Mason in our Nursing department. Did you guys want to go ahead and take it away?

CHERYL OETJEN: Sure. So, Caroline, go ahead if you want.

CAROLINE STOWE: Sure. Hi, everybody. I’m Caroline Stowe. I’m excited to be here with you tonight. We’re just going to run through these slides. You can see that Dr. O and I can– and we say Dr. O because it’s much easier than pronouncing her actual last name. So we call her Dr. O.


CAROLINE STOWE: And so we are so thrilled to get to chat with you guys tonight. My pronouns are she/her. And you can call me Dr. Stowe. You can call me Caroline Stowe. It’s very casual here.

You can see that I actually got my doctorate here at George Mason. And so not only have I been a student here, but I’ve also been teaching here as well. So I think I bring different perspectives, just like Dr. O does, so super excited.

So I’m going to move on to the next slide. We just want to run through what is the MOL program like here at Mason and what sets us apart. There are lots and lots of programs out there, and what we really are excited about is that the kinds of nurse practitioners that we are producing are really, I mean, top notch.

You’re going to get a wonderful experience. We were just ranked as number 37 as for the best master’s program in nursing schools by US News & World Report. We have financial aid programs and lifetime access to Mason’s career services.

This is key because, in school, the Career Services are important, right? They can help you with your resume. They can help you with so many different things. But it’s that after part where you’re really going to really get quality care and help in terms of Career Services.

And even after you graduate, you can access the jobs. People who can help you as you continue down your career path with updating your resume. Every one of our faculty has years and years of experience.

So we don’t have ones that are so ancient that they don’t remember their names, and we don’t have ones that are so young that haven’t practiced at all. So we really found that sweet spot of those who have worked long enough to really understand what they’re doing and ready to pass that knowledge along. We really pride ourselves on evidence-based nursing.


So sorry that is actually a seven-year-old trying to FaceTime in with us. And so, again, real-world experiences, right? We know all of y’all are busy. You have kids.

You have jobs. You have things. And so we want to fit in with your current lifestyle.

And so we are fully accredited, our MSN-FNP program, by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. You’ll hear CCNE a lot as we’re going through accreditation again. And our curriculum was founded on the Interprofessional Education Collaborative Core Competencies. Dr. O, do you have anything else to add here?

CHERYL OETJEN: Yeah, I mean, our FNPs in our programs have traditionally had about 100% pass rate– so not too shabby, right? And we do, through this program, really try to prepare you not just for passing a test or your certification exam, but also to be the best practitioners out there. And so quality is high on our list of things to do.

So you might take a first few classes and go like, this is not a nurse practitioner curriculum. But every course you take really is connected to what you need know to be a strong nurse practitioner, and it starts with theory and ethics. And you will take a research class, and you’ll take a community-oriented primary care course class, and statistics. You use that in diagnostics.

And so really understanding that every course you take is building the best nurse practitioner that we know we can put out there. And we put the little Mason stamp on you when you leave.

And we can talk about later in the program, really, what are our nurse practitioners that have graduated from this program doing? And there’s some really exciting stuff there. So, Caroline, take it away.

CASEY: Yeah, for sure. That’s definitely a question that I hear students ask a lot is what students do after the program. So that’s great.

CAROLINE STOWE: Oh, here we have our curriculum. And so, Dr. O, if you’ll run through this for the students really quickly.

CHERYL OETJEN: Sure. Yeah, absolutely. So we start with theory and ethics and why because it’s foundational to decision making in what we do as nurses. And what I hear from students that have entered this class and exited the class is, I wish I had known this before I’d become a nurse. I didn’t get a lot of that in nursing school.

And so ethical dilemmas, especially through COVID, you saw that all the time, right? During COVID were some ethical dilemmas. But they happen even outside of COVID. There’s a lot of ethical issues that come up. And so having a foundation and having a method to work through ethical dilemmas in that course is really good, and they will come up as a nurse practitioner as well.

So we’re going to change this around a little bit. So you’ll do 665, and then you’ll do– so I thought we were going to add the– wait, OK. So we’re now College of Public Health, so this is a little different. So what you’ll take is 665, and then you’ll take what’s called the Foundations of Public Health.

So you’ll take 665, then the Public Health. And then we’re actually going to get rid of one of the nursing and research classes. So be you’ll take just 757, which will really be a focus on evidence-based practice, quality improvement, that kind of thing.

So you’ll go 665, 688, and then you’ll go into your 715, 757 course, and you’ll also take Nursing 643 up there in those core courses. So those become your core master’s level courses. And then you will go into what we call level 2 core, which is really your the foundations of your nurse practitioner courses. And you’ll hear us call it the three P’s, but it really is four P’s here because we add one.

So the first one will be your pharmacotherapeutics, which is different than the pharmacology class that you took as an undergrad, which was all about classes of medications and what are the nursing implications and all that. This is about prescribing, and how you will be a prescriber, and how the selection of medications is based on evidence, and clinical practice guidelines, and what you need to prescribe these medications and a safe and quality way– to not over prescribe, to not under prescribe, to really just give patients what they need. And so the way the class was built is it is in tandem with our Physiology and Pathophysiology course.

And that’s advanced. And so you’ll be learning about body system. So we’ll say cardiac and then cardiac meds. And then the different diseases, chronic diseases, and conditions, you’ll see with cardiac so that by the time you’re done with that class, you’ll know– if it’s something like pneumonia, if it’s respiratory, then you’ll know what antibiotics to prescribe for that or not. So just knowing the back and forth of how to manage disease.

Then you’ll go into Health Assessment, and we’re changing that up a little bit in that it used to be two eight-week courses. So we’re going to do Health Assessment in tandem then with Clinical Decision Making so that you can put it all together. So you’ll do the foundations of pathopharm and figure out this disease, these meds. And then you’ll come into health assessment, and it’ll be here’s how I rule in and rule out based on my exam.

And then how would I manage that putting it all together? Writing SOAP notes, doing those kind of things, and really thinking through the practice guidelines and how I would not only treat or manage, but how to diagnose. So that’s a thing that is missing across nurse practitioner programs, physician programs, and– what are they called– physician assistant programs. And so there’s a whole society to improve diagnostic medicine right now out there, and it’s a big thing. So we really push the symptom to diagnosis books, things like that, that’ll really help you to not– see, people don’t walk in with their disease, right?

You have to actually diagnose that. And so you can learn about the disease, how to treat it, and how to even do different things. But it’s with your health assessment and your clinical decision making that you’ll actually be able to go back, look at the symptom, and then be able to diagnose, and then treat based on that. So that’s it.

And then you’ll go into your Family Nurse Practitioner courses 1, 2, and 3. And then we make a flip. We flip from body systems to populations.

So FNP 1 is all adults, mostly adult acute and some chronic diseases. But you’ve had a lot of chronic along the way. So acute and chronic, mostly primarily adults, but not older adults, just the adult population.

In 739, you’ll move into pediatrics– so children, child, from birth to all the way up. And you’ll really need to know some adolescents and then young women. So you’ll do some women’s health type of stuff in that class across the spectrum– so from teenagers that might be pregnant all the way through the older adult and looking at things like breast cancer, those kinds of stuff. So that would be Nursing 744.

As you get into 7– no, that’s 739– 741, these are the didactic courses. Then you’ll go into elderly population, so you need to know them from birth to not birth, to palliative care and end of life. So in 741, you’ll do that.

And then you’ll do care of older populations. And that is a big thing with nurse practitioners is really understanding those social determinants of health and how do we approach the different vulnerable populations that can be across the lifespan. So it’ll be those three.

Now, with all of those, you will need to know what are the diseases that primarily affect adults, that primarily affect children, women of childbearing age and that kind of thing? You need to know. And that’s why the population helps you narrow that differential, really get very good at diagnostic and management of chronic and acute disease.

So that’s your courses. So it does seem like there’s a lot of core at first, and you’re like, I just want to get to the real stuff. But these are really important, and they should drive what your decision making. They should drive– data informs practice. And then understanding the systems of care within our– especially in the United States and what are the different systems of care, but also with public health, understanding primary, secondary, tertiary type of approaches to health.

So that’s what you’ll do in those courses. And I think you’ll be really happy with all of the courses. And we are updating some of them so that you’re even more happy. So it’s really a fun way to learn. And most of us, I think all at this point, right, Caroline, we do weekly sessions.

So even though it’s an online course, we will be available at least once a week and then also for office hours remotely so that you guys, if you have questions, if you want to jump on and listen to the faculty review the week or have questions for the week, you can always jump on a Zoom session during the week. And we record all of those so that you have that. And I think that’s it.

Career outcomes– I would love to hear from you guys to see why do you want to be a nurse practitioner? But most of our students end up in primary care, but there’s many in community health centers and actually in health departments– home health organizations, urgent cares, hospitals. And there’s plenty of FNPs that actually do work in hospitals. FNP is the only one that doesn’t prescribe acute or primary. So if you were an AGNP, it would say you have to decide, acute care or primary care? If you were a pediatric nurse practitioner, acute care or primary care? So there are different curriculums.

The FNP doesn’t really prescribe that. But you should look at the lace model and look at those. What is the things that you would expect an FNP to do? And I will tell you, there are some hospitals that are starting to say that FNPs can’t work there, but most of them are going, like, actually they really can. So it is an interesting approach.

At Mason, we also run medication-assisted treatment programs. So if you’re close by, you can certainly join us in person if you want to come and do that. Or we have telehealth visits as well. So all of you, when you’re in your practicum courses, will come and visit with a nurse practitioner faculty in our Mason partners clinics, either locally– come on in– or by Zoom, so a Zoom telehealth visit. It is our way of making sure that you are approaching the patient the right way, that you’re asking the right questions, and you’re narrowing that differential.

There is a variability in salary, for sure, for nurse practitioners starting– I don’t think it’s quite 120. It was for a while there. It’s fluctuating a little bit right now.

But that’s something we’ll show you how to do. And, Caroline– Dr. Stowe, actually, is really good about how do you negotiate that contract? And career services are actually really good about that too. But we will go over that with you because there’s more than just your salary when it comes to a nurse practitioner contract.

So keeping that in mind, that is actually a focus of what we go over in that FNP 3 course as well to really make sure that you’re ready for practice and that you are your own advocate for salary, CE, money, that kind of thing, your licenses, your insurances. All of that kind of stuff is really important to negotiate when you’re doing that– and malpractice, for sure. [LAUGHS]

So we do have one nurse practitioner that’s working at a– I’m really excited for her. She’s just doing great work and working with the sickle cell population in Southwest Virginia. And so she’s the regional leader for that. So there are some really cool jobs that can come out of this.

One of my nurse practitioners started a whole wellness thing with the fire department in Alexandria. It really is an opportunity to be an entrepreneur as well and think about how you might develop your own business. Nurse practitioners are just really needed in primary care. Really, it’s where we need them. But if that doesn’t turn you on, there’s plenty of places that– and certainly community health centers.

So we do like to expose all of our students to care of vulnerable populations because it is a huge need in this country, and we offer services from chronic disease management, acute care, school physicals, that kind of thing, and psychiatric mental health with our nurse practitioners. So the future is bright. And there are a lot of people that are getting an FNP and also a psych mental health nurse practitioner certificate along with that. And we do offer that here. So that’s something to look into as well if you like that psych thing a little bit.

OK, next slide. Anything else you want to add, Dr. Stowe?

CAROLINE STOWE: No. I think that’s– it’s just– y’all, I’ve been a nurse practitioner for 13 years, and I’ve been in nursing for far longer than that. And I started off– I graduated with my FNP and went straight into a community health center, a federally qualified health center.

And it was the best base for me. But for what I do now, it’s very different. I built– I created this niche spot for me. I actually work in headache medicine. I also work with PrEP in HIV patients.

So you can do so much. You don’t have to just do one job. And I think we all get excited to get to do different kinds of roles, but you can work in person. You can do telemedicine after you’ve been practicing for a little while in brick and mortar.

It’s just so exciting. It’s my favorite topic. I’m like, what do you want to do? What’s exciting to you? Because that is what’s going to keep you from burning out, and that is what’s going to keep you here in nursing and caring for people. So I can’t wait. This is, again, my favorite topic to talk about. How can we get you the best contract?

And then how do we keep you excited about caring for people? Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to find that spot. But I promise you, you will. So I just– I love. And this is something that Mason does such a good job about is bringing in voices from the field, bringing in different perspectives because I remember being in my master’s program and speaking to a nurse practitioner who did derm, which wasn’t really my thing, but she was so excited.

And she was like, I work two days a week and make all kinds of money. And I was like, well, that’s fabulous for you. But I just didn’t know. There was so much I didn’t know, and there’s still so much I learn today. And staying in touch with your faculty, which is what we do here at Mason, really helps set you up for jobs and helps sets you up for really, really great jobs.

CHERYL OETJEN: I continue to get text messages from the students that have graduated. It’s really fun. And so make that connection. It’s really important. Is this is?

CASEY: Yeah– no, this is me. Sorry, I didn’t realize I was muted. But again, my name is Casey. So I’m an Admissions Advisor here at George Mason.

So pretty much what my role is I will help students throughout the process to applying for master’s programs, specifically MSN. So pretty much, you’ll talk to me. Like I said, I’ll be your advisor helping you throughout the application process, making sure everything looks great on your application so that you have the best application to get into the program.

Again, I’ll help you make sure that you’re uploading your resume. They like to see recommendations, academic, professional, things like that, as well as a personal statement. And we also do help with requesting transcripts as well– another great thing here at George Mason. I know sometimes those little fees here and there can get a little costly. So George Mason does actually help request your official transcripts from your bachelor’s.

But there sometimes is a little bit of pushback from some universities, but it is a little bit of a perk that we have as well. And those are the other things that we request. The prerequisites– must have a BSN with a minimum of 3.0 GPA, active US RN license, one year of experience as an RN, and a current CPR card as well.

CHERYL OETJEN: Yeah. Can I jump in here just for a second? So sometimes things happen when you’re getting your BSN. And if you have a 2.9, but you have– this happened.

Just write a little statement about this is what happened during my BSN, and this is why I had a 2.9, 2.8 because we still look at them. And really, if you’re working for five years, and you’ve got a good track record, and working, and all that kind of stuff, we don’t hold– we like a 3.0, but we understand that sometimes it just doesn’t happen, but doesn’t mean that you’re not a great nurse or a good student. So keep that in mind if you’re close to that.

CASEY: Yeah, thank you. That’s also one of the questions I was going to have at the end, but thank you for answering that just because that’s definitely a common thing that students come to, and they worry about their GPA, but they have such great work experience, like you mentioned.

All righty, anyone have any questions? I’m going to see. Utilize the Question and Answer function as well, and let me know if you guys have any questions for the professors. Thank you guys again as well for taking the time to do this for us as well.

CHERYL OETJEN: Sure. It looks like we have eight in here now, so that’s cool.

CASEY: Yeah. Oh, wow, awesome. Can’t really– oh, there we go. I see it now where I am. So someone asked, what is the average class size?

CHERYL OETJEN: So actually, our new what’s called the National Task Force for nurse practitioner programs has a new quota. So clinical would not be more than one to eight per faculty– so one faculty to eight students for clinical. And courses are– you can go upwards of one to 30, but I’m keeping it at 24 for the most part.

There might be 25, there might be whatever. But that allows for a really nice sized course where you get a lot of attention. And to me, a timely feedback is really important to me in those courses. And so this allows the faculty teaching these courses a little bit of time.

And if I didn’t mention, I’m actually the interim director for the School of Nursing right now. So I have to oversee a lot of programs, but I did help to build this program, and I think it’s really pretty top-notch. And we have some really strong faculty teaching in it, so I think you’ll really enjoy it.

CASEY: Thanks for the question.

CHERYL OETJEN: I see other questions.

CAROLINE STOWE: And I also wanted to say we take what you as students say in your feedback really seriously. So you get to do mid-semester evaluations. You get to do end-of-semester.

And we meet weekly, I’ve had students that say, Dr. Stowe, our group’s too big. This is too complicated. This is too much.

And we really take it into consideration and say, all right, let’s make some changes, and how can we really make this work well for you? Because our goal is for you to be successful and for you to enjoy it. And so please know that that certainly is important to us, and we take it very seriously. And we love all the good feedback, and we thrive off of the stuff that gives us some good information to make some updates.

CASEY: We got another question. What is the process for clinical placement?

CHERYL OETJEN: Oh it’s a process, for sure.


CHERYL OETJEN: So it depends on where you live. And so there are certain states that have rules. And so we have to follow the rules of the state where you live. So some are pretty easy. And others, we have paperwork to do for you to do your clinicals there.

We ask that the students take a shot at finding a clinical site, for the most part, especially if they’re not in Virginia because we don’t know all those clinical spots, but we certainly have people that can help with that, even outside of Virginia. So take a shot at that, but it is our responsibility as a school of nursing that is CCNE accredited to assist you with the process at a minimum. So you will never not graduate because you couldn’t find a clinical site. It would be our responsibility to help you to find that clinical site, and we’ve done that before.

And we’ve done that in Oregon, and we’ve done that in other places where it was kind of a phone-a-friend thing because we all– nurses are a big– we know each other, right? And nurse practitioners even more. So you go across the state, and you find some friends. I know a person in Oregon.

I know a person in California, that kind of thing. We are approved to have students in California. We’re approved in Alaska.

We’re approved in a lot of different places where it’s often difficult because we’re such a good program. We did everything we were supposed to do to demonstrate that we’re a high-quality program. And I’m telling you, there is a lot of legislation getting ready to pass that says something differently for these programs that are these online programs that are fly-by-night. They’re really just there to make money.

That’s not who we are. We are a very reputable R1 institution in Virginia. The quality of our education is really important.

And the clinical is so important to that. So we want to make sure that not only you have a really good clinical placement– so we’ll check out your preceptor. We definitely need a CV from the preceptor.

We’ll call the site to make sure everything is good. What resources do you have? What orientation you have for the student. And then we’ll orient the preceptors. We make sure that we have a practice agreement with or a contract, we call it, but it really is a practice agreement with the clinical site. So all of that can take a couple of weeks to get done– so the earlier you get that in.

Our faculty will talk about clinical a couple times during your program just to make sure that you’re ready to go and that we don’t– the big thing is don’t wait till the last minute. [COUGHS] Excuse me. So but Caroline– Dr. Stowe is really on top of all that. We’ve got others that help specifically with clinical placements.

We really are a partnership with you to help you meet your goals. So it is sometimes a back and forth, making sure that we can make sure you get all the hours that are required. And so there is this thing with hours right now.

So the new document wants 750. We do 600 right now, but we haven’t actually added that to our program yet. So if you’re coming in the fall, you’re still at 600, but we may change that as this new document gets implemented more and more.

So CCNE has not accepted this new– or approved this new document from MTF for our AAC and essentials. So it is going to be probably next year before that’s all approved. And then we are going to have to get the 750, which is actually what it was when I was in my FNP program. I had to have 750 hours. So it’ll be interesting to see what happens.

NONPF, which is the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculty, they actually would like students to get 1,000 practice hours. But they also want them to get their DNP. So there’s a lot of changes on the horizon coming, but the ANCC that is the certification for your NP still only requires 500. So there’s a lot of numbers out there. And so which is the right one is the right one for you is actually the one where you feel confident.

So it’s not about 500, 600, 750, or 1,000. You need to feel confident leaving here that you have at least the foundational knowledge, just like you did when you became a registered nurse, to go out and practice as a nurse practitioner. So I’m telling you, we have students that sometimes it takes 700 hours to get them to where we feel comfortable, and they feel comfortable graduating and doing that. But for the most part, it’s 600 hours for our nurse practitioners with a master’s. Yep, awesome. Make sense?

CAROLINE STOWE: Yeah, and I was just going to say, too, and that’s where that really quality site comes from. So we have some students that say, oh, I have I have a site, and they’re great. And it ends up being something that’s not appropriate for the program. It’s really much– we do allow some specialty hours, but your base, your core really needs to be in what Dr. O talked about– the family medicine, peds, , adult, that kind of thing, chronic care, acute management.

And so if it’s not the right site for you for what we need, we’ll help you. We have a clinical site advocacy component that’s really strong, and we will become best friends along the way because we’ll talk so much. And we just want to get you through. And so if, for some reason, the site that you want to go to doesn’t work for the 600 hours or the 500 or whatever, we can certainly work some things out. But what’s so important and what makes this program so different is that we really do vet these sites, and they have to be where we know you’re really going to learn because that preceptor is so important.

Your clinical faculty is so important. Our clinical faculty– I mean, we have all kinds of texts, WhatsApp groups, all kinds of things I mean, they’re getting pictures of my kids all the time whether they want it or not. But I mean, they’re like family to me. So I’m so proud of the NPs that we have produced.

And every time someone texts me and says, I passed my boards, I think, well, I knew you would. And so just know that we’ll work with you. But it is something that you want to start a semester or two. If you want to come into the program and you have sites, we’d love to hear about them, and we can’t wait to get you all signed up for it.

CHERYL OETJEN: That’s so true. And there was a question about what if you struggled before, and you struggled in high school, you struggled through the BSN program? I would say, one, we’re here to support you. And so if it takes us getting on the phone with you every day or getting on a Zoom session, walking you through these processes, we’ll do that. And also, we actually encourage study groups.

And I mean, literally, it’s such an important part of graduate education is to really have a friend or a group that studies together, that whatever. And you can study on Zoom now very easily. If you’re close by, certainly come to campus. We have a beautiful lab that you can come in and do things. We’re looking at some programs that help with some remediation stuff a little bit, help to further explain things.

But there’s a vast amount of resources either through Mason Library, through lots of different avenues that we provide to you guys. You’ll have access at some point up to date, to different types of resources– all the beats videos for your health assessment, all of the access medicine stuff through our library, which is easily downloadable– DynaMed– all kinds of stuff that will help you to get there.

And we’re looking at a product called Osmosis– I’m just not 100% sure yet– which is really a nice way to– it’s actually a different way of learning. And so it’s a lot of, I call them, whiteboard talks and really nice resources that are, I’ll call them, Gen Z, really strong resources for Gen Zers because there isn’t 14,000 chapters of reading. It’s almost like a “let’s get to the high points of learning” platform, which is really good.

We’re also into AI and really liking the ChatGPT. And we’re trying to integrate that into some of our courses because, you know what, you’re not going to beat them, so you got to join them. And how can we use that in practice or in our scholarship in a way that is helpful?

CAROLINE STOWE: Yeah, I think that’s a good point. Also, I’ll say this. My BSN program, which was– I’m not going to tell you when I finished that one but– was so different than my master’s program. it feels different.

I had so much stress. I mean, I was so stressed out my BSN program. It felt different.

When I got to my master’s, I was like, oh, they’re treating me like an adult. I love it. And we do.

We treat you like adults. You’re master’s level students. We do expect master’s level deliverables.

But you are an adult. We are a team. We certainly do not act like we are anywhere above. We’re just trying to just provide knowledge. So I will tell you, I remember this.

My BSN program was very stressful for me. It was hard. It was so hard. And I’m not saying this isn’t hard because it is, but it’s different. It’s exactly what you want to do for the rest of your life.

So don’t worry about that. We’re here for you. Just know that this program is different. Your master’s is different than your BSN.

CHERYL OETJEN: It totally is, yeah. And quite frankly, it is some self-learning because you have to find the resources that work for you at times too. But we’re here to facilitate that learning. We’re not going to just let you out there, hanging.

And so there you’ll see faculty in the course. Even though they’re online, you’ll see a presence in there. I was going to say something else, but it just left me.

Oh, I know what I was going to say. So with every credit you take, plan on three hours a week of studying. So it could be upwards of, if you’re taking six credits, 18 hours a week. It depends on the course.

But it is an expectation that you’ll be spending that kind of time on these courses. And I don’t mean that to scare you away, but to do a calendar of when you can’t wait and study all on Friday night because there’s not enough time. But piecemeal your calendar so that you find that time, not just to study, but also to practice some self-care in between all the working that you’re doing, and know that you got to find that time and that balance in your life.

And it’s OK to say, I’m going through something right now. I don’t know if I can get it in this week. Do you mind if I have an extension? That’s OK. So know that that’s always OK.

CAROLINE STOWE: Yeah. Just know that when it comes to– when you start clinical, which is y’all– right at the end of your program, right? You’re ready to go. There are a certain number of hours you need to make for that semester.

So if you’re already working full-time, plus picking up extra shifts, plus you just had a baby, plus you got a new puppy– don’t get a new puppy and have a new baby at the same time. I’m just giving you a warning. We need you to make those hours because it is a requirement.

So if you come in and think, oh, I don’t even know if I can make it, just look at how you might be able to shift some things around. I’ve had people, I’m like, you’re taking your 40 hours of PTO now, and you got to get your hours in. So we’ll work with you, absolutely. But b a good look at this and make sure this is something that you can fit in because at the end, it is just about finishing those hours.

CASEY: Awesome, thanks.

CHERYL OETJEN: So it looks like Madison is asking about if there’s a bridge to the DNP program– absolutely. There are some courses in the DNP we do want people on campus, but we’re really looking at that as a continuation for this MSN program and trying to see how we can do maybe some more online. And I don’t know if you were looking at that from you want it online, Madison, or if you want it more just continuing on in this program, or if you wouldn’t mind coming to campus because there are some DNP things that– executive format.

So some immersion experiences on campus are important for your learning. And through COVID, we did a lot of DNP online. And it just didn’t feel the same.

So that’s what I will say to you. But yes, absolutely, we have a master’s to DNP program. And I’m actually working on looking at a way to bridge and actually give you more credits as you continue on in this program, so for sure.

CASEY: OK, so the next question is, do you still have in-person FNP program? If you do, what is the difference with the online curriculum? And what is the schedule like for in-person?

CHERYL OETJEN: Yeah. It’s a hybrid, so it’s some in class and some online. But for the most part, it’s the same curriculum because that’s what’s approved through our programs.

So you would take the same courses as a person that is in the online program. It would be that you’re just on campus for some of your NP courses, some of your health assessments, some of your– mostly at the end of the program. So the core curriculum we talked about is online, and then we go into more of a hybrid type of model.

CASEY: Next question is, how many years is the program?

CHERYL OETJEN: It’s two and a half years. So it’s 49 credits. So that’s usually about two and a half years if I think I did it right, yeah.

CASEY: Yeah, yeah. And then– oh, yeah, so Caroline’s answering.

CAROLINE STOWE: Yeah, same kind of an idea. That is that if you continue and you take all the courses as you should, and we have success coaches that help set you up to know exactly what you’re going to take which semester and walks you through that whole process. But of course, if you have extenuating circumstances– you need to move. you have a baby, you get a new pet– I have a lot of pets– anything that you need to delay, that’s totally fine.

Just stay in touch. Communication– you all know this– so important. If you all of a sudden go MIA and I’m having to come knock down your door to find you, then I’m going to worry.

But all you have to do is just stay in touch. And we’re happy, of course, if you need to take a semester, take it. We don’t want you getting stressed out and being in school when there are other things happening. We want this to be a fun, successful program for you.

CASEY: Yeah, for sure.

CHERYL OETJEN: Yeah, and we’ve done this already. So we had someone living, I think, in Australia. And so she waited until the end of the program and did all her clinicals, took a semester off here or there.

We’ve had so many things where people just needed some time off, especially through COVID. Think about that. And so, yes, we absolutely can. Every course is taught every semester, including summer.

So every course is repeated. So you could fall back on one or take just one in that semester instead of the two and be able to pick up. Some students come in with credit, so theirs might look a little different too, but absolutely. And if you want to do the front loading part of things and then do the clinical at the end, you can do that as well.

CASEY: And then the next question is, every class is eight weeks with one class at a time with one weekend off in between courses.

CHERYL OETJEN: So the schedule’s changed a little bit, but I think that’s about right. But we’re trying to make it so that our– so it used to be our Mason Online program, right after the holidays, you were there on January 5, and so now you have a little bit more time. So there’s actually a little bit of a break out at the winter break more than just a weekend.

And I believe there’s a little bit in the summer as well right before classes start. So it’s a little bit more than what it used to be, but yes because that’s not only draining for the students, it’s draining for the faculty too. So it’s nice to have a little break in between those classes starting up, for sure.

CASEY: All righty, I think that’s all the questions. Any other ones left? We’re just getting to the time.

CHERYL OETJEN: And I did send a private message to one of them, and they can just call me.

CAROLINE STOWE: I was going to say, y’all, and let me make sure I put my email. I don’t know if I have my email on these slides. But this is my email.

Feel free to directly message me. I’m always happy to answer questions, and I love this program. I love George Mason.

I mean, I can’t tell you what an incredible experience I’ve had as a student and as faculty. And you’re getting the best of the best with Dr. O, honestly. So send me all the questions.

I love talking about it. I love answering all of them. And if don’t have the answer, then Dr. O always will. So we’ll get back with you quickly.

CHERYL OETJEN: Thank you. And I’m actually now a professor, not an associate professor. So that was a little nice, little thing that happened this year– but happy to help in any way too– so Dr. Stowe, myself– Dr. O, not Dr. Oetjen, is always what I prefer.

And really, we’re here. So any questions, just let us know. But it’s been great to have you guys here tonight.

CASEY: Yeah. Thank you guys so much for taking the time out of your day. We really do appreciate it. I know students appreciate it as well.

I know there’s some that couldn’t make it and will watch this recorded version as well. So thank you. And I’m also going to drop some other contact information for students to have.

Please feel free to contact us at the main line when you want to start an application. And you’ll talk to myself or one of my colleagues as well to start your application. But thank you, everyone, for joining. Thank you, Dr.–

Master of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial and Organizational Psychology Transcript

AFRA AHMAD: Thank you so much for joining us this evening. You are here at our Virtual Open House for the Master of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial Organizational Psychology. Hopefully that title didn’t scare you away and you all are still here and know that you’re here to learn more about our programs.

So we have a lot that we plan to cover tonight. So you’ve been speaking to the admissions representatives about our program and about this decision and journey that you’d like to embark on. But we’re hoping tonight to tell you a little bit more about ourselves, the history of Mason, our I-O program, and more about the MPS program and share some student testimonials.

And we have two guest speakers here with us tonight because we want you to hear and learn from the current students who are in the program right now and be able to ask questions from both Dr. Stagl and myself as well as the students. And then we’ll wrap up talking about the admission requirements and hopefully answer any lingering questions you have. And hopefully Dr. Stagl And I will get to review your applications. But that will be coming in for the fall or the future.

And please, I know we said Q&A at the end. If any question pops up and you want to make sure you don’t forget it, Dr. Stagl is monitoring the chat. And we’re always tag teaming really well to make sure that we answer all of your questions in the time we have tonight. So please, please, please feel free to ask your questions in the chat. And that’s why we really wanted to make sure that chat feature was working. But please feel free to jot down any questions you have any time in the presentation.

All right. So my name is Dr. Afra Saeed Ahmad, and I am the program director. And I know we were talking about schools. I’m actually a long time Mason patriot. I went to undergrad and did my master’s and PhD all from right here at George Mason University. After I graduated, I went abroad for a few years and taught in the United Arab Emirates and lived in Dubai before returning back home to Mason and launching and building this online program.

And my research expertise is in the area of diversity, equity, inclusion. So that’s where my passion lies in terms of my research interests and topics. We’ve been having some great conversations. I get to teach the research methods and practicum course and help support students on their journey as they learn more about the research process and how it’s applicable to things they’re doing. And so we’ll be talking a little bit more about some of those requirements a little later on. So now I’ll turn it over to Dr. Stagl.

KEVIN STAGL: Hi. Let me get your faces back up here so I can see you. Hi. I’m Dr. Kevin Stagl and I’m the assistant director and assistant professor here. And I started in assessment consultancies in ’96 and then moved on to tech incubators and ultimately here in academia. So I’m very interested to meet all of you and looking forward to get to know you this evening. Welcome.

AFRA AHMAD: Oops. So a little bit about Mason. I know that there’s a lot of folks here from Virginia over the area. So you all are probably very familiar with George Mason and his name. But for those of you that may not know, and Victoria, I’m curious if you knew. Did we know did you know that we were a branch of UVA? Yeah. So George Mason University was established in 1956 as a branch of the University of Virginia and we became our own institution in 1972.

And more recently, we are classified by the Carnegie system as an R1 doctoral research university. And that is a huge deal because this is where the expertise lies. We’re going to be talking a little bit more about the faculty. But the faculty cadre, we have faculty that are leading in not just the journals but their applied experiences and leading positions in the field as SIOP presidents. And so that’s really a key note or thing that as you’re thinking about different programs for you to learn about.

And so we have multiple campuses. For those of you familiar with the Northern Virginia area, we have the Arlington campus, Prince William and Fairfax campus, and one in South Korea as well as several online programs. Anything else you’d like to add about Mason? All right. I know, Kevin. Go for it.

KEVIN STAGL: Was that for me? No, I’m just fascinated [INAUDIBLE]. I thought you were suggesting that they were still a subsidy, a subsidiary of UVA. In ’72, they became independent. That’s very interesting to me.

But we have here at Mason some fabulous research oriented resources because we’re an R1 institution. And we pride ourselves on that in this program. We study the applied scientific method in the workplace to cultivate smarter workplaces. And we build more evidence based solutions to build those smarter workplaces. So you’re going to get in touch with just an incredible spectrum of faculty, including six SIOP fellows. And so just incredible resources for you here.

AFRA AHMAD: And for those of you that may not know, SIOP is our professional association, or Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology. So getting fellowship status takes time and lots of effort. And so the fact that we have six SIOP fellows here teaching in our program, we have both full time and adjunct faculty, is a really unique point about our program.

KEVIN STAGL: Thank you, Afra, Dr. Ahmad. I should mention that there’s only 270 or so SIOP fellows and six of them are here. On the whole planet, six of them are here. So that’s fairly amazing, the depth and breadth of that. And we also have, in addition, the rest of us, we have 14 other instructors dedicated to this program.

And in fact, 15 I believe. So there are 21 faculty members here to support you in some capacity in addition to your success coaches and just awesome set of university services. So many, many people are here with you matriculating the journey with you and celebrating your success as you learn and grow.

AFRA AHMAD: Absolutely. And so now a little bit about the I-O program. We have been around since 1972, the same time when we became our own institution. And as we mentioned, our faculty have been academics practitioners and serving in the profession. And several of our students go on to be doing all of these amazing things as well in the workforce.

So our program, the Master’s of Professional Studies in Applied Industrial Organizational Psychology, the fully online program, which is distinct from the on ground in person PhD and MA program, we began in the summer of 2019. So we had a little head start prior to the pandemic. But we were founded on the scientist practitioner model, as Dr. Stagl alluded to. We are preparing individuals for applied careers in a variety of industries and positions.

So several of you may already have jobs and are applying what you’re learning to the current jobs you have. Several of you may be aiming for promotions within your own organization. Several of you may be interested in switching careers altogether. So we are catering to all those different needs. But everything is based on the scientist practitioner model. That is the heart of our field.

And that’s why it was important for us to point out that with that science part, you have that covered with the faculty research expertise and the practitioner part through all of the applied nature of the coursework here. So you take coursework for about a year and a half and you follow an eight week modular schedule. So the nice thing is you focus on one class at a time while you’re balancing your work life demands.

And all the courses include applied projects and assessments that may be very much translatable to the workforce. And as I mentioned earlier, I teach the research methods and practicum course. And that is your capstone experience. And then you round off with completing your electives.

KEVIN STAGL: I just wanted to cap that thought. Occupational diversity of the program is amazing. In the last two years, I mean, we work with medical experts, engineers, computer scientists, accountants. Lawyers are in this program. And they come here and senior representatives of every government agency, they come here and they bring such diverse incredible experiences, applied work experiences.

And it makes for a very rich and engaging learning experience. It’s not just people focused. We have every version of psychologist here or people that have studied master’s levels in psychology. Some we have doctors in education. And they’re here retraining or PsyD’s retraining. And it makes for a really rich and engaging experience.

AFRA AHMAD: Absolutely. That’s what I was going to add was we have students who graduated just last semester from their undergrad all the way up to graduated 30 years ago. And those, again, undergrads, master’s. And what surprises Dr. Stagl and I is folks coming back who already have their PhD or PsyD and they’re coming back to leverage the expertise and knowledge of I-O and make it applicable to the work that they’re doing. So wide variety of work and educational backgrounds here at Mason.

We’ve talked a little bit about what makes our program unique. We’ve noted some of the faculty and experts. We noted some of the way that the online modality. So we mentioned that you’re taking courses one at a time in eight week modules and whatnot. Most of the work is asynchronous, so you can do it at your own pace. But you do need to, as the students will talk to you a little bit about, you do need to have deliverables due by the end of the module in week and to kind of pace yourself.

And we highly encourage the students to attend live office hours, which a variety of faculty host in different ways. Some faculty do mini lectures. Others invite guest speakers. Other talk about the assignments. A wide variety of ways those office hours are held.

And we are competitively priced. I actually just last month ran the analysis again and looked at, compared. On average, we are cheaper than other programs. $4,000 cheaper compared to the average of all other online programs. And we do offer some financial aid support. So several of our students to be qualified as a full time master’s student, you just need to take two classes in a given term. And then you can qualify for some financial aid. And so several of our students work with the financial aid office to see what offerings or support they can lend from that.

All right. So a little bit about our curriculum. This is the set of coursework that you’re going to be taking. So the required courses that all students in our program are taking is you’ll come in and begin with the introduction to the science and practice of industrial and organizational psychology. And this course was actually something developed after we launched the program, because as Dr. Stagl mentioned, we have students coming in from a variety of academic backgrounds, including degrees. Not everybody had a psychology degree. They were coming in without some of that base knowledge.

And so to level that playing field, we offered this course to everybody to get everyone ramped up and familiar with the field of I-O and how to write and think in terms of from these I-O perspectives. And then you take the foundations of organizational psych course, the data analysis 1, foundations of industrial psych, data analysis 2.

Now you notice, you might ask yourself, well, why aren’t we taking data analysis back to back? I see Victoria smiling. We didn’t want to burn you out. We want you to have data analysis and then take a break with the content course and then another data analysis course. And so we did that deliberately. It’s for your benefit to break that up with some of the content courses.

And then we require all of our students to take the selection course, because how can you be an I-O psychologist without having taken selection? And then you do your capstone experience. The research methods and practicum courses go hand in hand. So you will take them one at a time but in a given term. And you’ll work with peers on completing a project.

And then you wrap up the program with two electives. And yes, you have to pick two out of this great list of electives from leadership, motivation, well being, teamwork, organizational change development, performance management, and training. But several of our students are looking into the opportunities of taking additional electives beyond their time here with us at Mason. And so we are definitely working on providing some opportunities or support for that. So that’s a little bit about our curriculum.

The research project. A lot of students ask about this capstone experience. Victoria and Jessica will be joining the research methods and practicum course in the fall. And so this is how it’s typically laid out. We have students working in small teams, research teams. Because if you notice, when you read those scholarly articles, most research is done in teams. And so they’ll be working in teams and identifying a workplace sort of problem or challenge that may be happening. Some of them get– their ideas are generated from their problems going on in their own workplaces.

And so they come up with a research question and they work on developing that, completing a literature review, coming up with the outline, writing the entire intro, putting together the questionnaires, finding measures, putting together questionnaires, and then administering it. Ideally administering it to people at work, but we understand there are limitations. So a lot of our students do snowball sampling and their friends and family become great participants for our surveys.

And so they administer those questionnaires and then come back and write up the results discussion. And then they practice their applied skills by drafting a white paper and applied presentation. So by the time they’re done with this process, they would have engaged in all those steps and really be able to execute this and translate it back into several of their work tasks and things. So that’s a little bit more about that capstone experience.

And I make sure I cover that, because a lot of times when people read practicum or they are thinking, do I have to quit my job and start doing a separate work? Or how does that work? But we’re trying to say that we’re trying to combine the work you’re already doing in your workspaces with your coursework. So you’ll notice even earlier in the program, we will often ask contact a subject matter expert to do this job analysis. And it will be individuals from your workspace.

Now I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Stagl. He’s going to talk a little bit about the areas of competence that are developed in I-O programs as outlined by SIOP, that professional organization that we mentioned earlier, and how that is relevant to the offerings we have here at Mason.

KEVIN STAGL: OK. So this is the areas of competence to be developed during the 18 month slightly longer experience now. And we have 26, 24 plus 2 I like to call it. There is these initial six, the set of quasi competencies slash knowledge, skill mixtures that are what we consider the professional set. And we cover each of these during the first six, seven weeks of– six weeks of the first course. But you will also have specific courses in some of these domains, such as research methods and stats.

Then there’s the core set. I study groups and teams and more generally human performance and some team leadership and management. And along with that, a bit of performance appraisal and training and development. And you will likewise probably gravitate to a subset of these and not be– you’ll start out more as a universal generalist and then you’ll move towards becoming a deep generalist perhaps. And then ultimately, you’ll specialize in some areas as your career progresses.

But you’re going to get full coverage of all of these, including some additional ancillary coverage of the supporting disciplines, such as consumer behavior and human factors. Many more. You’re going to learn about management theory and economics and social psychology. And so if you study groups and teams, you’re also going to study social psychology to some extent. If you’re going to study behavior in the workplace, you’re also going to understand management theory. And so there are other related disciplines that you’re also going to study to some extent.

And I-O has always been a multidisciplinary endeavor pursued by interdisciplinary teams. And so there’s a lot to learn beyond this. But this will give you some sense of the core educational courses, build and then progress from basic to more advanced acumen or proficiency in these core sets. And then ultimately, core and general sets. And then ultimately, there are other activities that you’re going to engage in besides the coursework. There’s just a complete spectrum of experiences here.

There are opportunities for you to participate in the fall and spring where the PhD students complete a course. And you’re allowed to sit in on their course. I mean, that’s just amazing and unheard of for master’s, especially online master’s students. And that course involves them hosting a series and delivering a series of colloquia talks that are from outside external speakers such as world renowned academicians and these amazing consultants from top companies and research institutes, researchers and scientists from top research institutes.

And they come in and they speak about their thoughts and research on the latest, on these core competencies and other related areas. And they share their greatest thoughts with us and the PhD students. And you get to attend those and interact and learn and you get to network with other experts and the other students in the program, both the MA students and the PhD. And they’re in a top five program.

So these are top, top students. And they do some amazing presentations in their own. We invite them in, in fact, into the courses, including my first two courses with you. And they come speak about some incredible topics. We’ve had them come in and talk about artificial intelligence and machine learning. And so there are other experiences besides the core courses that you’re going to get access to. There’s a business school version of this learning series that we host in the fall and the spring. And you’ll get access to that as well.

And just the guest speakers and the other opportunities. There are events at conferences, at national and global conferences. And there are events that are hosted if you’re in the DMV area or you want to come in. Some of our students fly in for these events that are live in Fairfax. And so there’s this blended learning experience going on that’s much greater than just this classroom environment. And all of those interlocked experiences, the integrated learning events, that’s where your learning signature– that’s what is driving your learning signature over time.

And moreover, it’s not just while you’re here. It’s almost more valuable, if you think about it, over your period of your career, 20 or 30 years. You’re going to get access to the learning series from now on. So 15 or 20 speakers come in I guess in the fall and 15 in the spring and that’s 30 opportunities, multi-hour opportunities, to hear the thinking of some of the world’s best experts at this and just the value of that over– you multiply that times 10 or 20 or 30 years that you’ll practice or port this to your workplace and it’s just incredible value. I can’t emphasize that enough. So it’s enduring value, not just an immediate impact.

AFRA AHMAD: Absolutely. And we do have students, and again, just like we mentioned that they come in with a variety of educational and work experiences, they come in with a variety of capacity to take advantage of these opportunities. So this is what we’re telling you everything we’re going to be offering in terms of these opportunities.

And you have students that based on their work life demands are making those decisions and choices on how much to engage. But we remind students that it’s all about how much you put in is going to be how much you’re able to take out. And if you’re able to put in more, you will really be able to take out a lot of value from this degree and time with us here at Mason.

I know we’re looking at the time. Was there anything you wanted to highlight here before we turn over to the student guest speakers, Dr. Stagl?

KEVIN STAGL: No, these are the activities. This is a part of your first week one project. You’re going to read this technical report from SIOP, guidelines for education and training, and you’re going to apply that during an assignment to study the world of work and understand how this education and training experience will then transfer to practical expertise that you can either apply as an I-O practitioner or scientist practitioner.

Although some of our students might consider themselves practitioner scientists. Or just port to your work as a leader of an accountancy or a lot of students are working in some kind of medical setting. And so these are the kinds of activities that will reinforce the development of these core competencies.

AFRA AHMAD: I mean, just to give you an example, today I received an email an hour ago. As I mentioned, I’m teaching research methods and practicum. And students, they have now drafted their introduction section and they have a partnering group who they have to give feedback on. They exchange their introductions. So they have to give feedback to each other.

And one of the group members said kudos to the other group three. Because I read about neurodivergent, how the topology and how to be able to collect data on neurodivergent, neurotypical individuals, this was mentioned in the DEI initiative at work today, and I was able to share those best practices at work for survey that we’re collecting. So it was really neat to just, as Dr. Stagl says, it’s so amazing to just hear on day to day.

We hear it all the time when we’re teaching the course about how students are able to translate something they’re learning that week into the work that they’re doing and make an impact and a difference. And so now that individual has impacted the way the questionnaire is going to be administered in their workspace. So it’s really neat to be able to have that opportunity to see that through all the exchanges and interactions.

Highlighting a little bit about career outcomes. As several of you, I’m sure, are thinking about the outcomes, outcomes, outcomes. I’m not going to cover all this in detail. But of course, based on the Bureau of Labor statistics, I-O psychologists has a lot of growth projections. But one place you might want to look at is we have an I-O newsletter. And at the end of the I-O newsletter, you can just literally Google it, GMU I-O newsletter, and we’ll try to drop a link in there.

At the end, you can go to the good news corner and see all of the job promotions and opportunities or new jobs that our students are getting. And it does include both all PhD and MPS students, but you can even focus on the ones that MPS students are attaining to give you a sense of the type of positions and organizations our students are receiving jobs.

We talked a little bit about this already, about all the professional development opportunities. So yes, you have the coursework that’s building your core knowledge and competencies. You’re taking advantage of those live office hours and engaging with your peers and faculty. We host monthly calls and for you to connect with program leadership with Dr. Stagl and I. We invite guests. We have the I-O learning series he mentioned where we invite prominent guest speakers. That’s open to our PhD and MPS programs.

As a result of the pandemic, there are several that are hosted virtually, whereas previously there were only open to students on ground. We provide access to university career services. Our students typically get their resumes reviewed or practice interview skills as needed. And then we share several external opportunities with jobs, internships, and competitions and more. Dr. Stagl.

KEVIN STAGL: I just wanted to say that our last monthly meeting we just hosted, it was the end of May, and we had a senior person from LinkedIn advising people on how to package their work media and be better applicants and attractive employees for succession management purposes. But at the same time, we had a guest speaker the same night, they were actually working on a panel, who’s working in industry. And she’s helping venture capitalists study their decision making processes.

So that’s the amazing thought mixture that we’re talking about here is that you have someone who’s working at LinkedIn trying to help you get promoted and then someone else telling you about their research and these two would work together for a while. And that’s why they were in the panel together. But telling you about the research on the latest thinking of Silicon Valley VCs and what their decision processes are and how to apply I-O decision theory and other forms of decision theory to understand those processes.

So just really rich. And that’s a very exceptional experience. It doesn’t happen every single month. But we do have people come in from Accenture and other people recruit, Deloitte, recruiting. And so there are wonderful opportunities each month to engage, again, with your peers. That’s more MPS centric, but other people are invited as well. And engage with your peers, meet people from different cohorts, and make terrific connections outside the program.

AFRA AHMAD: Absolutely. So now that’s just a student testimonial. But I want you to turn it over to the student representatives here with us this evening. And I’d like to introduce Victoria is it Frerichs? I want to make sure I pronounce it correctly, Victoria.

VICTORIA FRERICHS: It’s Frerichs. Like Fredericks without a D in the middle.


VICTORIA FRERICHS: Everybody has to ask.

AFRA AHMAD: Thank you. And Jessica Fox. I knew would get it, Victoria, next semester when I’d have you as a student, but thank you for that reminder. Now I’d like to turn it over to them to introduce themselves, a little bit about the work they do, and talk a little bit about their experiences in the program.

And please feel free to drop some questions in the chat, because they’re here to support your process and learning more about the program. We’ve heard a lot from Dr. Stagl and I tonight, but we want to make sure that you get any questions answered from either them or us this evening. So please feel free to drop some of those questions in. Can I get, Victoria, can I get you to get us started?

VICTORIA FRERICHS: Sure. So I’m Victoria Frerichs. I am director of research for a small consulting firm called Cambridge Professional Insights. I’ve been with them since 2016, and I’ve been the director of research for about four years now. We do research with global clients generally and specifically pharmaceutical industry most typically. That’s our most frequent clients are in the pharmaceutical industry.

I decided to return to school as an adult to get my MPS with Mason because I was finding myself very passionate about all the employer research we were doing with these companies and specifically the things that inspired positive behaviors from employees and how to get employers to do the things that made employees happy. And that was the best way, in my opinion, to do that was to switch a little bit of a pivot from just pure research to doing more with employees and DE&I. So that is why I am here, and it is nice to meet all of you. Jessica.

JESSICA FOX: OK. Hi, I’m Jessica Fox. I’m currently a human resources pathways intern at NASA. I began that in January. So for the past six months, I’ve been in my rotation of program management. I’ll switch over soon to human resource business partners, then after that into employee relations and selection type of rotation. Before that, I worked in a talent acquisition, but I’m loving what I’m doing at NASA.

I actually came straight from undergrad to grad school, and I chose I-O psychology online through Mason because my brother goes to Mason, first. And second, because I liked the different like options you had in careers. While going through this program, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do at first. Obviously I’m still deciding since I’m in a rotational internship, but I like to be exposed to as much as I can before really settling down on one career.

KEVIN STAGL: And there are other amazing I-Os at NASA doing awesome work on team– I got to plug the team research all the time. On team and multi-team system research. So there’s a whole career path ahead if Jessica wants it. I don’t speak for them obviously. But there’s awesome human performance and range space exploration performance and just amazing stuff going on down there. And this all could be for you as well.

AFRA AHMAD: So Victoria and Jessica, can you tell us a little bit about some of the things that you– as an applicant, thinking back to when you were an applicant, what were some things you’d want to know or you think that you’d like to share with them in terms of your experiences with coursework and your peers and highlight any challenges as well that you may have and how those have been overcome with your experiences with us?

JESSICA FOX: I can kick this off. I know that one thing that I struggled with especially changing jobs and companies and hours and everything like that was finding a good balance. But I think one thing that I would have to share with everyone, which I hope that they can implement too, is have time for yourself. If you spend every waking minute looking at your computer, you’re not going to be as productive as if you just sit down and enjoy a day of yourself.

So like I know that I work two jobs sometimes. I’m also in school. I give myself at least a day to have a day for myself, because it helps me to be more productive in the time that I’m working on school. I think that’s one big thing that I’ve learned. Just really focus on time management and it’ll be a lot more productive.

AFRA AHMAD: That’s great advice to share. Victoria?

VICTORIA FRERICHS: Yeah. I would agree with that. I usually my week with work is front loaded. So my Monday, Tuesday, Wednesdays are just slammed. So I usually do not engage with my schoolwork until maybe the Thursday of the week. And that might not work for other people, but for me I have to front load my work week so that I can spend the time on Thursday, Friday, and usually into Saturday on my coursework. And it does.

I try to keep Sunday for my family. So I try to get everything done within those three days. It usually works out. I might find myself engaging on a Monday or Tuesday if I’m not working late hours that week. But you have to be flexible with that and you have to understand if you’ve got obligations in other areas that you’re budgeting your time properly.

AFRA AHMAD: Absolutely. And you’re going to figure out your own individual styles. We have students that talk about they like to spread it out throughout the week. So they’ll do all their readings Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, start doing discussion posts, submit it on Thursday. I mean, everyone has their own working style that works best for them. Jessica and Victoria, what are some of your favorite experiences so far in terms of related projects or coursework or faculty that you’d like to highlight and share with the group? Because I know that time management can be a challenge. So we highlighted some of the challenge. But what are some of those positive experiences you’d like to highlight?

VICTORIA FRERICHS: I think I can start. So our cohort is really, really close. We’re really tight. Dr. Stagl will attest to the fact that about 20 of us descended upon him at SIOP. We have made a really tight, cohesive group. We study. We trust each other. If we are confused, we know that we can hash it out with each other in the group chat that we have going.

My positive experience is the networking that Mason has given me and that I have with my cohort and that we experienced at SIOP. I honestly believe that they always say that part of what you pay for with your university degrees is your networking opportunities. And I am an advocate for GMU alumni for sure.

JESSICA FOX: Yeah, I definitely agree with Victoria on that. I love the dynamic that our cohort does have. It can be personal. It can be like, oh my gosh, academic. I can’t speak right now. But it’s a very good dynamic and it’s super close knit. I wasn’t able to attend SIOP unfortunately this year, but I plan to next year. But I think that that is a great aspect of this program is definitely the networking.

I think I’ll also say seeing that applicability to my position, even past coursework or any other more I guess informal jobs you could say, but I still waitress. So jobs like that you can still see what you’re learning being applied to much of what you do in life. And I think that just helps it feel very worth it. Because within the first two weeks, you’re applying it to any experience that you’ve had.

AFRA AHMAD: Jessica, I love that you highlighted that. In the world of work, we can always identify ways that all the theories and concepts that we talk about can be applicable. My son actually started his first job ever last Monday as a swim coach for the mini stingrays. And my entire drive, he’s a 14-year-old, so it’s his first job and it’s a summer job. My entire way I was so excited for him. You’re entering the world of work. And we’re having these conversations and he’ll be excited talking about team dynamics because he’s working with a team of other coaches and all of that. So very much applicable to everything no matter what the level it is.

But that’s great. So you guys mentioned those things in terms of those collaborations. And we encourage that. We encourage those collaborations. We encourage that networking opportunity with your peers. And you will be connecting with your peers, not just those that are coming in with you if you’re applying in the fall or the spring or the summer. You’ll be connecting with people across all different levels. And so for example, Dr. Stagl invites students that have matriculated a little bit through the program. They’ll come back and speak.

And it’s really nice, Dr. Stagl, that you do that. Because by the time that they come into my course and I invite the students who just completed research methods practicum, they’re coming in as guest speakers. And everyone’s familiar and they’re like, Hi [? Shayna, ?] hi so-and-so. They’re very much familiar with each other. And that’s really nice, because they’re broadening their network. They’re adding all of those connections on LinkedIn. Dr. Stagl.

KEVIN STAGL: And both Victoria and Jessica have spoke and they’re coming back again hope and they’re going to speak again to their peers. And that’s how this works. And that’s a great way to connect with new people from the program. And there’s a whole new cohort of people. And so you kind of pay it forward and people are going to be building in your community of practice the whole time. We have hundreds of alumni at this point and current students. And so that’s an amazing network just to start out with.

And then you’re going to be MA students in the on the ground program as well as the PhD students. There are students in other programs you can potentially meet. Like I mentioned, you’ll be invited to the B school learning series. And so there’s just an incredible opportunity here. You’ll be at SIOP. And Victoria can tell you, SIOP is a little overwhelming the first time you go, especially at a big place like Boston if you’re not from there. And you get to meet thousands of I-O psychologists. And just it’s incredible the spectrum of different ideas and different research projects that they’re working on, different consulting initiatives.

SIOP doesn’t just host this one annual conference. They have in the fall a very seasoned for very senior practitioners a leading edge consortium meeting as well. And many representatives of Fortune 500 companies are there. And that’s SIOP as its entity. We’re also connected, we mentioned the interdisciplinary nature of this, we’re connected with the Academy of Management and Society of Human Resource Management and the Association of Psychological Science and all of these different entities that are related kind of sister societies and professional organizations. You can attend their conferences. And they’re going to want you to present at their conferences. And you’re going to be able to network with their vast networks and communities of practice. So many opportunities to learn and connect with others.

AFRA AHMAD: Hopefully. All right. I know I want to be mindful of the time. So please let us know. Are there any questions, thoughts, comments that we can address? So one reason why we do it Zoom instead of doing the webinar, so we like to be able to see you all and hear from you all. So if you have any questions, feel free to raise your hand, unmute yourselves. We’d be happy to answer them. Victoria, you have a question or a thought? sorry.

VICTORIA FRERICHS: I have a thought. And I just want to reassure everyone that is not a natural data scientist that ADA1 and ADA2 will not kill you. We are getting through those courses. I will say that I am a researcher in a consulting company, and the data analysis that I’m learning is very different than what I do in my business work, but it is not inaccessible. It’s so well explained by our instructors. We have great office hours. I highly encourage you to attend office hours. And it’s not as scary as you think it is. So don’t let that be a discouragement for you if you are not a natural data scientist.

JESSICA FOX: I 100% agree. I’ve had no experience in the programs that we use. And it’s doable. And I’ll also agree with Victoria that office hours are such a great resource for any course, but especially helping out a lot in the ADA courses.

AFRA AHMAD: That’s great. Thank you so much for reiterating that, because you often do have applicants who are a little worried coming into the program because they may not have as much of the data analysis experience or coursework. Or a lot of them say the last time we took a math or stats class was 20 years ago. And so it’s really reassuring for folks to be able to hear that we do walk you step by step.

And my biggest advice I tell students is take it one course at a time and one week at a time. And you’ll see one step forward and you’ll see yourself progressing each step of the way.

KEVIN STAGL: You also have access to LinkedIn Learning for free. So in addition to your courses and your instructors and your assistants, you’re going to have all these modules that you can access for free that are normally restricted. And you can learn about– in addition, you pair those modules to the virtual computing lab that Mason has. And you can learn well beyond the software suites that we cover. You can learn coding languages and machine programming languages and many, many different software suites, dozens of them that you can access for free. And you’ll have tutorials through LinkedIn Learning to use. So you pair those with the access to the VCL and it’s just an incredible toolkit.

PRESENTER: I did get a private question to me that said, does one need to complete MPS before getting into the PhD program?

AFRA AHMAD: So the PhD program, it’s not like the MPS is necessarily a pathway to the PhD program. So for students if you’re talking about George Mason University, you can get into the PhD program directly after an undergrad. But you would need to have– the criteria is different. They do look at your GPA. They look at the GRE scores and they look at your research experience. And so if you are interested in coming to George Mason’s PhD program, then you need to be thinking about that. And you can apply with just an undergrad degree.

Now, we have students who have completed the MPS program and have gone on to PhD programs elsewhere. And they have gone on to prestigious PhD programs in I-O and in business schools. And so that is another pathway. And they leverage their experiences here and they get involved with research and apply to those PhD programs. Dr. Stagl?

KEVIN STAGL: And we have a student who’s going to be a very competitive applicant for the upcoming PhD core class. Now, that doesn’t mean they’ll be selected, because it’s a very competitive process. They receive hundreds of applications for very few slots, a handful. But we do have a student who is already at a top program at UConn working with one of the world’s foremost teams and multiteam system scholars, Dr. John Matthew.

And another student who’s also in a PhD program– that’s in the management department. But we have another student in the psychology department who just graduated from our MPS program in Uconn’s PhD program in the psych department. But as I mentioned, we do have a third student out there pursuing a PhD as well. But we have a new fourth student who’s going to be a very competitive applicant coming up.

So there is no reason why if you invest in yourself properly from the beginning, and we’d have to demarcate that as a beginning in the first few months, not from day one. And the first few months, we’d have to start setting up additional learning opportunities for you to pursue, both independently and through other engagements. There’s many kinds of research webinars and research sessions and events you can attend online. And if you do those things, then you can build your vitae and ultimately you can be a competitive candidate yourself.

AFRA AHMAD: Victoria, did you have something to add to that [INAUDIBLE]?

VICTORIA FRERICHS: When I first investigated the program, I was interested in pursuing my PhD. And as time went on, I decided that that wasn’t a great use of my remaining career time. So I was just nodding because I was aware that when I investigated, the MPS credits don’t technically– I think I just had my hand up all this time. I didn’t really mean for it to be up. But I was nodding because I knew that the MPS wasn’t a direct pathway to the PhD program but that, as you said, they had told me that I could possibly pursue it elsewhere or attend additional events to get that PhD pathway open.

AFRA AHMAD: And that’s a great point that individuals have their unique goals. And I see there’s a question that came up and it says is the PhD needed in this field in order for advancement? And my answer is no. We have a lot of individuals successful with a master’s degree that matriculate and progress in their careers and oftentimes make more than PhDs.


So it’s all about the experiences that one can have after obtaining a master’s. So MA, MPS, I mean, sometimes Dr. Stagl’s laughing because– I chuckle, I just learned about another student who got a great job at Booz Allen Hamilton and was amazed at how much they were making. And will tell you that professor salaries are not up there like some of these practitioners. Remember teaching, you do it for the love of teaching, right? But yeah, so that is not a necessary requirement to be successful and progress in one’s career.

KEVIN STAGL: We get paid in your accomplishments.

AFRA AHMAD: All right. Other questions, thoughts, or comments from any of our participants?

KEVIN STAGL: Someone have some questions. It’s not a very high pressure situation here. You can ask anything that comes to mind. No worries.

PRESENTER: I do have actually a question from a student that was not able to attend. For students that are applying with an under 3.0, what do you recommend for students with lower GPAs?

AFRA AHMAD: You want to take that, Dr. Stagl?

KEVIN STAGL: Yes. Prep. Get involved in that LinkedIn Learning or some other stats course that you can take, module that you can complete for at least a few hours and provide a supplementary statement about those experiences that you engaged in. Let us know that you’ve been pursuing additional learning opportunities and be specific about the knowledge and proficiency you’ve obtained from those experiences. And we’ll be able to discern whether or not you’re actually learning from that description. But be very granular and detailed. And that’s one way of supplementing your application.

AFRA AHMAD: You know, it’s a good reminder that we are– the things the selection committee is looking at is your GPA, your work experience, those personal statements, those statements about your experiences. So if you’re able to translate the things you’re doing on the job and the supplemental learning, LinkedIn Learning, or courses that you’re taking. And if you have an explanation or reason as to perhaps why your GPA is not meeting the threshold or minimum requirement. We do take a look at all these statements. We do try to look at the application as a whole.

All right we have a comment saying we presented and told you all everything you needed to know. Maybe that’s why the questions aren’t coming. So that’s wonderful. If there’s no more questions, thank you all so much for joining us this evening. We were really excited to be able to see your names and some of your faces. And if you have any remaining questions, please reach out to the admissions team. And they typically are well versed in answering any questions related to our program. But if not, they always reach out to Dr. Stagl and I to get any clarity and make sure that they can get back to you with a response.

So with that, as we wrap up, I wanted to show you all this picture. This is the spring 2023 graduation. So this is where you all could be with us in a year and a half if you choose to join us. But it is a lot of fun. Students came from all over and were able to join and celebrate their accomplishments. And so with that, we talked a little bit about it, the admissions process. Make sure you get all those requirements in with identifying your bachelor’s degree with the undergrad GPA and your transcripts, your resume, those two letters of recommendations. Be mindful of who you’re asking for those two letters of recommendations. And your personal statement.

And while we are hoping you have some prerequisite courses related to research methods, stats, or I-O or other related areas, again, highlight that if some of those experiences are coming from your undergrad degree. Make those connections for us to see. And if you don’t, what are supplemental things that you’re doing to show that, as Dr. Stagl mentioned, that you have learned or picked up on some of those knowledge, skills, and competencies?

KEVIN STAGL: Just search YouTube when someone asks that question. There are thousands of videos about R, RStudio, SPSS, Excel. Learn something and show us that you’ve made progress.

AFRA AHMAD: Absolutely. Thank you, Casey. I saw you left all of the contact information with email, phone numbers, and texts. So you can get in touch with one of our representatives.

PRESENTER: Yeah. And thank you to the presenters, Dr. Ahmad, Dr. Stagl, thank you. And our guest speakers, Victoria and Jessica. Like I mentioned in the beginning, this is really helpful for students, whether they’re here or we recorded it. But we can’t always answer everything. So doing these little sessions really help, like I said, myself and these students as well. So thank you for taking the time and joining us. And everyone, thank you. Great turnout as well.

KEVIN STAGL: See you in August.

AFRA AHMAD: I know. We’d love to see you in August. I do want to make sure– Jordan asked one question. So if we can close off with one piece of advice for the personal statement. I’m going to start with our student guest speakers. Jessica, one piece of advice for crafting that personal statement.

JESSICA FOX: Oh my gosh, it feels like forever ago that I wrote it, even though it wasn’t. Almost a year though. I would just say be authentic with who you are and what you want to experience and accomplish. Dig deep. It doesn’t need to be surface level. You can kind get into the nitty gritty. Because one advice that I’ve gotten from people in cohorts above me, people that Dr. Stagl has connected me with, is you don’t always have to fit the prompt as long as you’re answering the question. Make sure that you are just being creative, authentic, and yourself.

AFRA AHMAD: That’s great, Jessica. Thank you. Victoria?

VICTORIA FRERICHS: I absolutely agree with Jessica. So what I did with– how I approached my personal statement was I explained why I was pivoting my career. And that had some very personal underpinnings to it. So it doesn’t always have to be about your academics. It can also be about what influences you in your life, what influenced your behaviors and your choices, and why it’s important for you to learn and grow in a new way. So just think about that when you’re writing your statement. And just make sure that you leave a piece of yourself in it.

AFRA AHMAD: That’s great. Dr. Stagl, anything to add for one piece of advice for the applicants crafting their personal statement?

KEVIN STAGL: I’ll just add I’m looking for what energizes you and what you’re seeking to accomplish. I want to know what impact you’re wanting– in the multi-level open system, how do you intend to change organizations and teams and people? But also what energizes you? What gets you out of bed at 4:00 AM to get to work to find this critical problem that you have to solve? The answer you have to generate for this important research question. What really motivates your energy each day?

AFRA AHMAD: And I’d like to– those are all great pieces of advice, and I’d like to just close out with by telling us what energizes you and how you’re going to be bridging your learning to your experiences and work experiences and your personal stories, the authenticity and humanness comes through. And that’s something we pride ourselves.

A lot of individuals may steer away. I would say that’s a myth about steering away from online programs. As you heard from Jessica and Victoria, cohorts are very close. They’re close to each other. They’re close with faculty. And these connections are being made, whether it’s in person and online. We have come a long way. And so we can even see that through your personal statements.

So remember that it’s human beings connecting on both sides, whether it’s the instructor with the students and whether students with peers. And we here at George Mason University have created a culture and climate that really makes us unique and a lot of students find a lot of value to that where they would not find that elsewhere. So I would like to close with that, that we look forward to having you all apply to our program and joining the George Mason University community. So again, thank you all for joining us this evening.

PRESENTER: Thank you all. Thank you guys.

AFRA AHMAD: All right. Bye bye.

Master of Public Health Transcript

GINA: So I am Gina I am one of the admissions advisors here at George Mason University. We’re here to talk about the online Masters of Public Health. So let’s talk about a couple of different things for tonight. So on the agenda, we’re going to meet our presenters. We’re going to talk about a couple of different things of why you should be choosing Mason, such as learning outcomes, curriculum details, career outlooks. And then we’re going to also be talking about admission requirements, excuse me, and then also some questions and answers at the end.

OK, so if you guys have any questions or concerns during this time, you can do chat instructions. You can raise your hand if you have a question. Or you can simply type in your question in the Q&A. OK, so our presenters tonight, we have Dr. Marybeth Mitcham. And then we have our assistant director of academic programs– excuse me, Kelly Beckwith. And then if Kelly or Marybeth want to take away,

MB MITCHAM: Perfect, thank you very much, Gina. So I’m Dr. MB Mitcham. And I am an assistant professor at the first college of public health in the state of Virginia, George Mason University in the Department of Community and Global Health, or Global and Community Health. And I’m really happy that you’ve decided to join us tonight and learn a little bit more about this new program.

So although Mason’s Master of Public Health program has been in existence for some time, and Kelly can speak more about that at the end if you have questions about the general MPH program, our online only program is new. As of this fall, we’re very excited about it. So we’ll be talking a little bit tonight about the specifics of the program, what makes it unique. And then there will be time, as Gina mentioned, for questions and answers If you have any program specific questions or want to learn more about Mason’s program in general.

So again, we are the first college of public health in the state of Virginia. That’s a very exciting thing. And why does that matter? Well, it matters for a few reasons. First of all, our status as a first college of public health in the state of Virginia means that we have a unique opportunity to leverage our interdisciplinary opportunities for learning.

So in the online program, our Masters of Public Health program at Mason, we have one course in particular, GCH 500 that you’ll see in a few minutes that actually is taken by every single graduate student in the college. So students will have the opportunity to learn alongside students from other disciplines, like nursing, and social work, and nutrition, not only more about the field of public health, but also how different the disciplines and how different departments address public health programs.

So that interdisciplinary work that happens as a result of us being a college of public health really gives us a unique opportunity to look at problems within that context of working with other departments and other disciplines. We have a fabulous mentor program headed by the amazing Kelly Beckwith that allows people who have already graduated from Mason’s MPH programs to share their experiences on what they learned from the program, what they valued, some things that now that they’re in the public health field, they wish they could tell themselves when they were working through their coursework, things like that.

So there are those opportunities to learn from somebody who’s gone through the MPH program at Mason, but then also maybe get some vantage points into what types of jobs are available, or what are some tips and tricks from leveraging your graduate degree into becoming a working professional.

We are CEEPH accredited, so Council on Education for Public Health Accreditation, meaning that the courses that we are offering are reviewed by that accrediting board. The program is a part of that accrediting board. So our department is accredited. The program is accredited. And then of course, we are now also an accredited college of public health.

And then for the online MPH degree, like our other MPH programs at Mason, there is a practicum component, where you will be expected to complete 200 hours of field work, which is fabulous because then you get to implement all of the learning that you’ve taken from your classes and then put it into actual practice in the field.

And not only learn how those skills directly translate into your field work, but then also get some experience that you can put on your resume or your CV. And then hopefully also get some experience working in the field. So that you can have those connections that will hopefully result in future jobs.

And then also with those practicum hours is the opportunity, like I just mentioned, for internships. We also have opportunities in the department for GPAs, Graduate Professional Assistants, or GRAs, Graduate Research Assistants. So our students are uniquely positioned to be able to not only complete a fantastic degree at a fantastic institution, but also have those opportunities to actively work alongside faculty members. Next slide, please.

Thank you. So here, you can see an overview of the courses. And if you’ve asked for any information about this program, you’ve probably seen this spreadsheet. So as part of an accredited program, all of the courses in each of our concentrations have a combination of those core courses and then concentration specific courses.

So the core courses for our MPH programs, all of the MPH programs at Mason in our Department of Global and Community Health have GCH 500, Foundations of Public Health, which is that course to which I referred earlier that all of our college students in the college have to take, or all of our graduate students in the college have to take.

So whether you’re a nursing student, whether you’re a nutrition student, if you are a student in the College of Public Health, you will have to take GCH 500. There’s also GCH 604, Fundamentals of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, GCH 609, Community Assessment and Partnerships, GCH 611, Health Program Planning and Evaluations, GCH 645, US and Global Public Health Systems, HAP 635, Role of Government in Healthcare and Public Health, and HGAP 680, Applied Public Health Leadership and Management.

So again, all of our MPH students take those core courses. What makes our concentrations a little bit different are the courses that are offered for the concentration. So if you look on the right hand side bottom section, concentration specific courses are GCH 535, Public Health Preparedness and Response, GCH 607, Evidence-based Public Health Practice. GCH 655, Public Health Equity and Justice. GCH 691, Project Management and Public Health. And GCH 720, Public Health Problems in a Changing Society.

So in addition to those, you also have the opportunity to choose from two electives. The electives are either Environmental Health, GCH 560, or a new course that is being offered with a launch of this program, GCH 551, which is Rural Health. So looking at public health problems specifically within the context of rural environments. And then of course, there’s the practicum component, the practicum seminar, GCH 780 and then GCH 790, which will be your actual practicum. Next slide, please.

All right, so why on Earth should you potentially consider a public health graduate degree? Well, as we all know, over the last several years, there was something called a pandemic. And the pandemic, although, had many adverse outcomes, one benefit of it was that it really launched public health into the forefront of people’s minds. People who had no clue that public health existed five years ago now know that it exists.

As a result of the pandemic and just other things as well, because as we know, public health is very diverse and has a lot of different ways to be able to make a practical impact on improving health of people, there’s a projection for public health jobs to become increasingly available. There’s going to be a continued need for that. So an MPH degree will allow you, once you’re completed with that degree, to be very well placed for employment in a field that is going to be continuing to grow.

Mason’s MPH programs, as I had mentioned before, solid, very well established. And our graduates have been able to be placed in working environments, such as at the CDC, Booz Allen Hamilton, the FDA, and in a variety of different health offices in state and territorial regions. So it’s not just that we’re helping you get that degree. But we know from our graduate experience and from hearing from our alums that that degree from Mason uniquely puts you in a position to be able to be working in some very fantastic organizations as well. All right, next slide, please.

All right, so admissions process, and I will turn this back to Gina. And right now, if she would like to please cover the admissions process.

GINA: That’s no problem. So during the admissions process, these are going to be the items that you need to fill out your application. So you’re going to have to have a bachelor’s degree with a regionally– from a regionally accredited institution, excuse me, with at least a 3.0 GPA. And then you’re going to have your official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose, and then your updated resume.

So these are all items that you are going to need, like I said, for your application. Depending on your region, where you are, if you got your degree from out of the country, there might be some other items that are needed. But these are going to be the direct items that are needed specifically for this program.

MB MITCHAM: Thank you very much, Gina. So before we open it up for questions, I just wanted to give one little tiny explanation as to the other reason why I find this program so valuable. I live in the boonies. I currently live in the middle of nowhere. However, because I live in the middle of nowhere, that means that it’s difficult for me, when I was completing my degree, to be able to access excellent education like at George Mason University.

As such, online education became the tool that enabled me to complete my coursework. And then because the online MPH program is so fabulous, you can still complete your practicum in person near where you live. I love the flexibility of this program for those very reasons because I’ve gone through it as a student. And now, I’m able to be part of it as a faculty member and the director of this program.

I know that this is a fantastic opportunity for military families that move around a lot, for families that may be like me, living very far away from George Mason University at the time of me completing my MPH. Families that have weird working schedules or if you have other tasks that require you to not have the most flexibility in your schedule, all of the courses in this program are completely asynchronous, meaning you can complete your coursework in your own time within, of course, the week course requirements.

But there aren’t any required, from 1:00 to 3:00 PM, you have lecture components. The coursework will be laid out. And there will be very interactive direction with each faculty member during the course. But you’ll be able to complete the work without that additional pressure of having to show up in person at a specific time. So if you have any questions, we’d love to be able to answer them. I can give you specific answers on the program. If you have questions specifically about the MPH program in general at Mason, Kelly can answer those. And if you have any admissions questions, Gina can answer those. But thank you again for coming.

GINA: So we do have some questions right now. One specific question we have is, is there assistance when locating a practicum?

MB MITCHAM: Kelly is this something that you would like to answer? Or would you like me to answer this one?

KELLY BECKWITH: No, I’d be happy to answer it. Hi, everyone. Welcome. The GCH 780 course that MB mentioned is practicum seminar. It is a zero credit class, meaning you don’t have to pay tuition for it, which is fabulous. GCH 780 is called practicum seminar. And students take it the semester before they go out and do their practicum.

All students must meet with the practicum coordinator and talk about what they are interested in, and what they want out of a practicum. Now, this will be new for us having an online degree program, where people could be anywhere in the world. But she might recommend organizations or people to talk to.

We have had students do practicums in remote places– or virtual practicums. So we’ve had students do practicum at organizations in Chicago, even though they were physically located in Virginia. So the practicum coordinator knows a lot of people in a lot of places. And so we’ll definitely work with all students to figure out what might be a good placement for them.

Ultimately, for any student, it is their responsibility for securing that placement. So it’s not– it’s not a matching program. It is maybe you want to talk to this person and figure out if this was a good match for you. So I hope that answers the question.

GINA: Thank you. Right now, I don’t see any other questions coming up. Does anybody have any specific questions? OK, can we talk more about the assistantship program– about the assistantship program?

MB MITCHAM: So assistantship as an– let me try to frame this. So there are ways that students can apply for tuition support through any programs that you would normally do. So for financial assistance, there are also opportunities– and this kind of answers that question and the one that just came up in the chat, the professional researchers within the university while studying.

So yes, those benefits would apply to online students. And that would also be an opportunity for students who are completing their coursework to also function as a graduate research assistant or graduate professional assistant, as long as there were those positions available for online students.

So some faculty members do require in-person work. There are other faculties, like for example, I am currently in the middle of interviewing graduate professional assistants to help me this summer. And that job is going to be entirely remote. So those opportunities, if remote, will be available to online students just as they would be to our in-person students.

And for the– excellent question, if you live down the road from GMU, absolutely. You would be able to– if you’re within commuting distance of the university, then you would be able to be participating in those in-person opportunities. But for those of you who are not just down the road from GMU, then yes, you would be able to be participating in any other opportunity that any other student would be, as long as it met that requirement.

Typical workload in a week, is it realistic to complete while working full time? Well, I would say yes from my own example of having done that very thing. And granted, I didn’t complete my– coursework from Mason because the program didn’t exist at that time. But yeah, so a full-time course load can be– so you can either take part time or full time.

Part time coursework, you can take two courses per semester. You can take three courses per semester. And the courses are spread out over 15 weeks, which is one thing that’s a little bit different from a lot of other public health masters programs that have those eight week kind of condensed sessions.

So that 15 week format makes it very feasible to complete coursework during that time. The courses do have work, of course, that’s going to be part and parcel with learning. But they’re not busywork heavy. So the material that you will have as part of your coursework will directly reflect to what you’re learning and be delivered in a manageable package.

Should I apply to the program if I have a bachelor’s degree in nursing? How would the degrees fit together? What type of jobs would be available to me after I graduate? Kelly Beckwith, I just saw you.

KELLY BECKWITH: I want to answer this one. Christie, this is such a good question. It was– National Public Health week was about a month ago. And we had a session specifically on the differences and similarities between nursing and public health. It was so good.

I’m going to put my email in chat. And I’ll send you the link to the recording. It was so interesting to hear what people had to say. So nursing and public health are interrelated, but not the same, of course. And we had three people who– on the panel, who all got their nursing degrees first and then ended up getting an MPH. One was in a PhD program. The other was working as a community– a public health nurse for Arlington County in Virginia. And the third decided she didn’t want to be a nurse anymore and was working in health promotion.

So they all said how helpful it is understanding the concepts of Public Health and understanding specific diseases and disease etiology through their nursing practice. So I noticed when I graduated with my MPH in health education how a lot of health education jobs required an RN because they happen in hospitals.

So I always encourage people to look at job descriptions of jobs they really want to get because that will help you see which degree and what type of knowledge you need to be able to do the job you aspire to have.

MB MITCHAM: Thank you, Kelly. Fantastic answer. And if you do join our program, I will tell you, Kelly is the most fabulous person on the face of this planet. She is fantastic. So if you have very specific Mason MPH questions, definitely reach out to her. Anna asked, is the curriculum fix? I saw online that there are many types of specializations. There’s a possibility to transfer credits. I have a MHA from GM.

So the curriculum, at this point, is fixed with the context of can choose between rural health or environmental health for the electives. Right now, this is the program of study for the public health practice concentration, which is the only concentration being currently offered asynchronously online.

Yes, you may transfer credits. And to do that, it’s up to 12 credits can be transferred. And it’s the masters program director’s purview as to what will be able to transfer or not. So what we will do is if you have interest in transferring credits, you will submit your transcript and say, hey– and this is something you can talk with us if you would like before you apply to the program.

And say, hey, these are the courses that I’ve taken. Do you think that these would fit with x, y, and z course in the program? So that’s something I know Kelly has done often with students. So please definitely reach out with that too. You have a Bachelor of Science in biology. Can you do an MPH? Well strangely enough, my undergrad degree was in biology. So I would say yes, you probably could do your MPH degree with a background in biology.

KELLY BECKWITH: Biology– biology is a very common undergraduate degree to go into public health.

MB MITCHAM: We’re a wonderful undergraduate people. Undergraduate was a little low. But I have three plus years working full time in public health. How much weight does admissions put on professional experience? Excellent question so if you’re a bachelor’s degree GPA was a little bit on the low side but you have professional experience since then, and you can eloquently articulate why you feel that you would be successful at completing a masters degree, that does carry weight.

Also if you’ve taken any coursework since then and have better grades with that, that also carries weight. So each student who applies who has a lower than 3.0 GPA are considered on a case-by-case basis. And we do factor in all of those issues. Do you– Christy asked, do you take the classes one at a time? Or do you have to take more than one at a time?

You may take one at a time. However, if you would like to have financial assistance, you will need to take two at a time. But you absolutely can take one course at a time. I know that there are some students who prefer to complete their coursework. You have up to seven years to complete your entire MPH. So if you would like to take one course at a time for the duration of most of your MPH, you absolutely can do that. If you decide that you would like to do more than one, you can also do that as well.

Do you see a lot of older students or recent grads? Kelly can probably speak to this a little bit better than I can. But I would say in my experience at Mason, I’ve seen a mix of both. Kelly?

KELLY BECKWITH: Yeah, it is a wide range. Our program is very diverse age wise for sure. I would say normally of all the students in the MPH program who come in each fall, which is usually about 70 students, it’s between the ages of 22 and 60. It really is a very wide range of students who are in our programs.

MB MITCHAM: I’ve just put my email address in the chat box. I know Kelly has put hers in too. Can you touch– thank you, Kelly. Again, Kelly is the best. Question was can you touch more on what the public health practice concentration would entail?

So the courses that are in the public health concentration are the ones that we covered earlier. And again, if you have any questions about that, you can look at the handout provided when you submitted your interest. We also do have that information online on our website as well. But basically, public health practice is a practical application of public health knowledge in the field.

And what I really love about this concentration is it’s diverse. Where some public health concentrations are very specific in the type of work that can be completed, the public health practice can be applied in a variety of different work settings. So like Kelly mentioned before, there are some nursing students who have decided to follow into public health learning. And then they’re able to take that knowledge back and then maybe teach some health education courses at a hospital setting.

That would be applicable in public health practice. I’ve also known other students who have been able to work in health education fields or for local health departments. So it’s really an excellent concentration that provides a wide background of knowledge and skill sets to be able to take public health knowledge and then use it practically in the workforce.

Is in-state tuition more affordable? Kelly, would you like to touch on that one?

KELLY BECKWITH: So I believe the price– the tuition for the online MPH is a little higher than in-state tuition, but much lower than out-of-state tuition. So the pricing of the online MPH in public health practice is just a little bit different than the pricing of all the other MPH concentrations.

MB MITCHAM: All right, thank you. I do know that the– I believe the online MPH tuition is $725 per credit hour. And again, if you complete more than two or more courses per semester, you’re eligible for financial aid. How long do you have to complete the practicum? The practicum is completed in one semester. So it is 200 hours that are required. But it is required within that one semester setting.

So it is a hands-on, wonderful learning opportunity. And again, because you have seven years, ultimately, to complete your MPH program, some students want to just kind of get it all done within two to two and a half years. And they’re able to just go through all of their coursework. And then they complete their practicum as part of that end bit.

Other students who like to take that one course at a time end up taking a little bit longer to find their practicum setting and then complete it again in that one semester length. Can you complete the practicum at work if you work in the field? Kelly?

KELLY BECKWITH: Yes, you can. It cannot be part of your regular job duties. And it can’t be with your current supervisor. But students complete their practicums at their workplaces every semester.

MB MITCHAM: Thank you. I think we caught up to the questions. Are there any others that I did not answer, or we did not answer, or are there any additional questions? Well, thank you guys very much. If you didn’t want to be that person asking during the session and you’d like to reach out afterwards, you have our contact information. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re really honestly very happy to answer any questions that you might have.

KELLY BECKWITH: There is one more question. How much time per week do you have to devote to classwork?

MB MITCHAM: Excellent question. That depends on how you study and who you are. I have known– each syllabus that we create has a plan on devoting five to seven hours per week to your coursework. It really depends on how you like to study. And it also depends on the course, honestly.

I would say for the courses that I teach, probably between five and seven hours for my course would be on average. But again, some students take a lot less and still have really good grades. Some students take a lot more and still really have good grades. So it really is up to you. Again, the asynchronous portion means that there might be a little bit more work on your end to complete readings and to complete assignments because you’re not sitting in class– in class for lecture.

But we will still have lecture videos and things like that for you to be able to learn from. So it’s not just going to be reading out of a textbook. It’s still going to be very interactive learning opportunity that will be part of that time you spend each week.

Is a mentorship available to online students as well? With this being new, would we be connected with campus students? Kelly, sorry to throw it back to you again. But could throw it back to you again, please?

KELLY BECKWITH: Yeah, absolutely, I put out an article about the first year of the mentorship program in the chat. We have made the mentorship program completely virtual for everyone. So yes, absolutely. We are so proud of this program. It’s a small program. It’s for students generally who are newer to the workforce.

And they get to work one on one with a Mason alum who’s been there, done that, been part of this already, and can provide really great advice, and support, and ideas for what it’s like to work in public health. Our online students are not any different than our in-seat students. Except they don’t come to class– or come to campus. They come to class.

They don’t come to campus. And I mean, we’ve sort of had fully online students for two years. And we consider all of our students our students. And so we have a graduate student group called Graduate Students for Public Health. And they do both online and in-person events. And some of our students who are just down the road only come to the online events. So yeah, you would be fully a Mason student.

MB MITCHAM: Thank you, Kelly. All right, did you do full time or part time while working a 40 hour workweek? Can you please touch on your experience working and going to school?

So I did work a 40 hour workweek and was taking care of family stuff, like with kiddos and things like that. So if any of you are parents, you know that sometimes, kiddo stuff can be a full time job in and of itself. But yes, I did work full time. And I completed my public health degree full time. I’m not going to lie, there were times where it was challenging to figure out how to prioritize everything, still do an excellent job, but not lose sight of any of the tasks that I needed to do during that time.

But it was doable. I just had to learn to prioritize my time during that time. And my kids knew and were supportive. My husband knew and was supportive. And friends knew that I might not be able to go to as many events as I would have liked during that time. But the flexibility of the online degree made it so I could get up early in the morning before work, look at the coursework.

I could bring stuff with me to work or access my assignments during lunch break or during breaks at work, just kind of think through my assignments and think through my work during the day. After I got home from work, taking care of dinner or whatever, kids go to bed, instead of watching TV, I did my coursework.

So my TV watching and my recreational time definitely was lower during those years. But you spend time doing something every day. So instead of spending time sitting in front of the television or going through YouTube videos, , I did coursework. So completely 100%, totally doable. It just takes some intentionality of how am I going to do this, I want to do this, and I will get it done well.

So I hope that answers the question. And if you ever want to chat more about that, anyone, OK, how did it work for you? Can you give me some specifics of recommendations, or things that you wish you knew, reach out. I’d be happy to chat about that. Will there be office hours? How can online students connect with faculty?

Excellent question. So each course is going to have faculty information embedded in the course. So there are going to be office hours. And it will depend on the faculty member how they have that set up. So for example, because I am an online asynchronous instructor, my office hours are per student request.

And then we’ll work together to make that time happen. So I understand that my students have working schedules and school schedules. So sometimes, we’ll meet in the evening. Sometimes I will meet with them on the weekends. And that’s atypical for most faculty members. But I try to work with my students.

So I do know that all the faculty who will be teaching in this program will have office hours and be available to students. But exactly how they frame that out will depend on that faculty member’s preference. But their contact information, their policies for how frequently or how quickly they’ll respond to emails, when they will respond to emails, when their office hours will be very clearly visible on their faculty information page on their course.

What kinds of coursework is there besides writing papers? What else is there? I’m so glad that you asked. I personally love papers. But I– that’s probably why I do what I do now. But there are other assignments depending on the type of course that you’re going to be taking. So for example, in the Epi and Biostats course, there will be a lot of working through how exactly do you tackle a problem?

OK, what do you need to know in this problem? How do you go about choosing the type of study for this problem? How do you choose the correct statistical approach to address this problem? So working through things like that. I was talking with another instructor who is currently developing a course for the fall launch. And she’s working on an online mapping assignment to help teach some global health concepts.

There is also going to be an online wiki assignment that she’s working on as well. So these aren’t just going to be paper based. They’re going to be a combination of, for some courses, discussion boards, for some courses, projects. One of the courses that I will be developing for the online space, we actually do little mini grant writing assignments. And then we do some qualitative research. So it really will depend on the instructor’s preference. But it’s not just going to be paper writing.

Oh, you’re welcome. And again, if anyone has any other questions about how did it work for you, what do you think works well, what do you wish you knew, please reach out. Because obviously, sometimes it just helps to hear from somebody else who’s been there. So that you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.

Are you able to show us a syllabus for a class just to get an idea of how much work it is? Excellent question. So the syllabi for the classes, as of their final format, are currently in development. But if you would like to have a meeting with me at some point, just reach out. And then I could do a quick Zoom meeting and then show you a screenshot of the syllabus and then talk you through– so I’d be happy to do that.

For the courses that I teach, typically, there might be one assignment per week. But the assignment would either be something like a discussion board, where you have to post an original response, or original post, and then one response. Or it might be a two page essay. All right, what that assignment will depend on the faculty member.

But again, it’s definitely not excessive. One thing I love about this department, in addition to just how amazing the faculty are with their wealth of knowledge, is that they don’t have students do work just for the sake of doing work. So they tend to be assignment– most of them, tend to be assignment light. Not all of them, but most of them, tend to be assignment light.

But the assignments that you do in a lot of these courses will build off of each other. So once you’ve gotten your references down for some of the assignments. And you’ll be able to build on that for future assignments. Excellent questions.

KELLY BECKWITH: Yeah, can I say one more thing going back to the whole full time work, full time school? I never recommend full time work, full time school. People do it anyway. Who listens to me? But in general, I think managing, keeping all those balls in the air of school, work, life, family, eating healthy meals, perhaps, sleeping, all of those different things. I generally, if you work full time, I recommend to all students to go to school part time.

Just because we want you to be able to learn this material. So that you can go out and be a good public health practitioner. And so if– I say this to students all the time. If you’re doing this trying, to get that A, and then all of that information is just leaving your brain because you don’t have any space to actually process it, what’s the point?

Really consider– I do understand the desire to get that degree done. I do. But if the difference is two years or three years, and you are truly learning the material in three, it might be– it might be a better go. The other thing that I hear from students all the time is the absolute critical importance of figuring out what type of time management works while you’re in school.

I am always amazed at how well organized our students are in terms of some of them have paper planners. Some of them use their Google Calendar. Some of them have funny ways of managing their time and knowing what is due for the entire semester. But they do it so well of like– OK, so I’m taking two classes. I have the syllabus at the beginning of the semester.

I put everything that’s in the syllabus on my calendar. So I am certain I’m not going to miss anything. And so figuring out, as quickly as possible, what type of time management is going to work for you by adding this big important thing into your life is really, really useful. So one of the things we do at the beginning of the semester is try to have online advice sessions between first-year students and second-year students. And so little listening to them talk about what type of time management works for them will be pretty important for you all.

MB MITCHAM: Thank you, Kelly. Kelly’s the voice of reason. No, it’s true. So again, Kelly’s amazing. If you are part of this program, Kelly is so well loved that she gets gifts of cupcakes on a regular basis because she is that awesome. The other thing that might help with that time management is every syllabus does– contains more than just, here’s a textbook that you need. Here are the instructor’s expectations.

They actually outline the entire course. So week one, what’s due, or module 1, what’s due, module 2, what’s due. So even if you don’t go through the online course on that first day and look through and see exactly what the layout is going to be, you’re going to see in that syllabus what is due and when it’s due. And that might help you also plan out.

So that if you know, OK, well, I have an event coming up in a couple of weeks, I really don’t feel like spending my entire weekend doing nothing but coursework, maybe you can start working on that assignment a little bit earlier. So that’s one thing that I’ve also found about our courses that are helpful that I wish I had had when I was taking my MPH. Thank you, everyone. And thank you, Kelly. And thank you, Gina.

GINA: Thank you for coming and sharing with everyone and especially me, definitely, was learning a lot here also. So thank you guys for coming. Definitely appreciate it. If you guys have any questions, I also put my email in the chat. So feel free to reach out to me also. But we appreciate you coming and hope we answered most of your questions.

MB MITCHAM: Thank you, everyone. I hope to hear from you soon.

GINA: All right, have a good night.

Master of Social Work Transcript

GINA: OK, so on the agenda– we’re going to be talking about– we’re going to meet our professors, like I said, so introducing professor Booth and professor King. We’re going to talk about why Mason’s Masters of Social Work is the social work program you want to go with, talking specifically about curriculum details, career outlooks, admissions requirements, and any questions and answer– any questions that you may have afterwards.

And then Dr. booth or Dr. King. If you want to take it away.

DAPHNE KING: OK, can we click to the next slide?

GINA: Of course.

DAPHNE KING: Perfect. So I am Dr. King. I am the program director for our MSW online program, as well as an assistant professor here in the Department of Social Work. I teach classes primarily in the online program. But I have taught some courses on campus. So many of you may see me as your instructor for courses like Foundations of Social Work and Social Welfare, Foundations of Direct Practice, Program Evaluation for Social Workers, and Clinical Practice in Forensic Settings, just to name a few. My research interest is with treatment modalities for women of color, as well as looking at self-esteem issues for teenagers.

JEANNE BOOTH: And hi, everyone, my– excuse me– my name is Professor Booth. And I am also an assistant professor here and the director of field education for the department. I teach a lot of classes on campus. I have taught a few classes online. And I will be teaching some practicum seminar sections going forward. But I have taught forensic social work, a lot of different policy courses, and just other second year– or specialization year clinical programs, courses. So that’s who I am.

I don’t have a research interest, necessarily. But I do come with about 30 years of professional experience in local government, where I held various leadership roles over housing programs, employment programs, benefits programs, mental health– CSB mental health programs, and developmental disability services programs. But that’s who I am.

GINA: Thank you.

DAPHNE KING: So our MSW program here at Mason, I consider it to be one of the best MSW programs, especially online, as you can see by our ranking in Forbes Magazine as one of the top 10 best online programs of 2022. Our MSW program here at Mason really is preparing social workers to work at an advanced level in the community, to advocate for social justice issues, as well as to be involved on a micro and macro level of impacting our communities and the well-being and safety of all individuals that we serve.

Our faculty come with a variety of experience and expertise within the field of social work, as well as within research. Our faculty in the online program are also currently practicing social workers. So they also bring that practical application of many of the concepts and theories that you will dive into with the curriculum here in the Social Work department.

We do have an advanced standing option for any students or applicants that have a BSW from an accredited university that has been received within the last five years. And that advanced standing option still gives you the same rigor of coursework and caliber of courses as our traditional part time online program.

And here just– this slide features a little bit of our curriculum. We have for our traditional online program, or traditional MSW program, is 60 credit hours or 20 courses over the course of 10 semesters. For the advanced standing option, it’s 33 credit hours. And advanced standing really means that, again, you have obtained a BSW. And you’re ready to start the MSW program without having to take many of our generalist courses. The only generalist course that advanced standing students would take is psychopathology.

As you can see here, our generalist courses, which gives just a general basic knowledge of the field of social work, and engaging with clients. A variety of courses are featured here. Focusing on understanding individuals within their environment or their systems, such as the human behavior course, as well as the community practice across the life course, organizing and advocating for change provides that introduction into policy, advocacy, and that macro social work. And I will let Professor Booth talk a little bit about the generalist field practicum courses.

JEANNE BOOTH: OK, so in both the generalist year and then in your specialization year also, you will have an opportunity to engage in field practicum seminars. So you will be placed in a field site to complete your bridge between what you learn in the classroom and how it shows up, and how it’s experienced in the profession. And so you have a seminar course that you’ll also be a part of– engaged in, where you’ll have a lot of different opportunities to communicate with your colleagues, with your cohort, and as well as with a field liaison who is the professor who’s teaching that course. That person is also a resource between you and your field site. I don’t know if now’s the time to talk about what your field–

DAPHNE KING: We have a later slide for that.

JEANNE BOOTH: So you have that– you have that seminar. And it is really an opportunity for a lot of engaged conversations through discussion board posts, through some case presentations and things like that. It’s really an interactive course. There are two or three required synchronous sessions that you should know about. And that just gives you an opportunity to talk in real time with one another. But those are usually scheduled at different times of the day. So that it can be more accessible by everyone with different life responsibilities. So we try to be responsive to that.

DAPHNE KING: And also on this slide, as you can see, we have two specializations that students can declare, either Children, Youth, and Families, or Adults and Healthy Aging. And these two specializations really just encompass populations that you may work with. I do like to tell students that regardless of which specialization you declare, you inadvertently end up working with a variety of individuals. Because all of us, and even the clients that we serve, are in multigenerational families.

So even if you say your focus is on children and youth, you are inadvertently, throughout your career, going to end up working with adults because of course children are in families with adults and with older adults. So again, regardless of your specialization, you will get a well-rounded experience here in our program.

And just to point out with the two specializations, as you can see, there are two courses that overlap each of the specializations and that is Social Work 650, our advanced social work policy practice course. And 688, which is program evaluation for social workers. So those two courses cross both of the specializations. And it does give you an opportunity to be in courses with students who may have a specialization different from your own and learn from your colleagues in that way. And we can go to the next slide.

So again, our online program is primarily asynchronous. And as Professor Booth discussed, there are some synchronous components with the field practicum seminar. I do just want to point out on this page, and just make sure that any prospective students or applicants understand that with an asynchronous program, it is self-directed.

You won’t have the traditional in-person face-to-face time that you would have with an on-campus class. So you really want to make sure that you understand who you are as a student and if you are able to learn in that more self-directed pace. Even though the program is primarily asynchronous, faculty in the program will post pre-recorded lecture videos. Faculties will have a set time for virtual office hours that occur via Zoom. And some instructors will hold an optional synchronous class session.

It’s not a requirement. But they do offer that to students. Again, to help foster engagement and connection. But I just want to make sure you understand that with asynchronous, there will not be an in-person traditional face-to-face component. We do encourage students, as they are able to, to come visit the campus. And to come on campus for certain events within our department, the Department of Social Work, and our college, the College of Public Health at George Mason. So you are encouraged to come on campus as you’re able to. But the program itself does not have an in-person, face-to-face component because of the nature of it being asynchronous.

JEANNE BOOTH: So I can jump in here and talk a little bit about field education– thank you. So field practicums, however, are not asynchronous. And so you are matched with an agency where you’ll perform either your 450 hours or 600 hours. And we can talk about that more in other sessions. But you’ll be performing those in whatever modality the agency requires you to engage with the client.

And so most often, it’s traditionally in person, in the locality where you are residing. And it’s during traditional business hours for that particular agency. So some agencies have evening hours. They have groups in the evenings, after school, depending on what population they’re working with. And there are some agencies that have sort of a hybrid opportunity where students come in and see clients. And they may actually do some work from home as well.

We have some, very limited number of agencies, that have alternative hours. And so it’s important for us to be really clear about the fact that most agencies work between 9:00 and 7:00 PM, and some variation of that. There are a few that might have some weekend events where you can engage in that. But overnight opportunities are rare. I don’t believe we have any except for some that are violence interrupters. Where you go out with police. And it’s a whole different experience.

But we have one or two of those. Most are during traditional business hours, some extended hours into the evenings. But we don’t have overnight shifts. And we don’t have agencies that will allow students to only do alternative hours. So you will need to engage with your supervisor and with your team members at your practicum during traditional business hours.

So that’s something that requires some thinking and some planning. And you can work with, again, a member of the field education team will be assigned to each of you and help you work through some of those things. So it’s important to– it just takes some planning. It can be done.

DAPHNE KING: So this slide just features a very few of the fields and areas of practice that social workers can go into. And there are so many numerous job opportunities, fields of social work, and areas to practice as social workers. Keep in mind that– I think you all may have heard that the field of social work is expected to grow at a rate at more than double that of other positions.

And I think you all know that through the news, through various other sources. That they are saying that we have a quote, unquote, mental health crisis. And that there’s a shortage of mental health workers. And that social workers are positioned to fill that need because of our focus on the person in their environment. And how we approach working with individuals.

And so again here, they’re too numerous to mention. But these are just a few of the fields where social workers practice. I can tell you from my personal experience, I have worked within family services. I’ve worked within child protection as an investigative social worker. I also worked for a homelessness program that serviced adult men who are also involved with the criminal justice system.

I’ve worked at a community mental health agency. I worked as a school social worker. I’m currently a licensed clinical social worker that I also work part time in private practice, seeing clients because I do teach a lot of clinical practice courses. And seeing clients in private practice helps me to keep those skills. So that I’m able to offer that kind of real world experience as it relates to the field of social work.

But this is just a small portion of the types of careers in areas that you can practice in as a social worker. And I know Professor Booth has also had a variety of experiences– work experiences within the field.

JEANNE BOOTH: Yeah, I would say the only thing I haven’t done is international government social work. That’s the only one I have not done. But just a fun fact, I just want to point out that the picture that you’re seeing right here is actually the Johnson Center, which is sort of like the hub– the Student Center. It has most of the restaurants, and a theater in there. It’s just a really cool place.

So if you’re able to come to campus, that’s one of the places you want to make sure to see because it’s fun. People also like to take pictures with that statue. But that’s a really cool building. So I just– I just happened to notice that that’s on this slide. And it’s a cool place. So hopefully you’re able to swing by and visit us.

DAPHNE KING: And the campus is a beautiful campus. So I concur with Professor Booth that if you’re able to get to campus, it is a great place to come visit, very beautiful campus. Right in the heart of Fairfax, Virginia. Not far from DC.

So within our department, we now have some unique opportunities for students to engage with the field of social work and gain some very– I think, specific skills within the field of social work through two stipend programs. One is our child welfare stipend program. This program does require that you reside in the state of Virginia because there is a work component to receive the stipend. Once you graduate from the program, you have to work for a certain number of years in a Virginia Department of Social Services.

Each recipient does receive a $10,000 stipend per academic year that they are– that they are in our MSW program. Keep in mind that once you are a part of the stipend program and you end up not working within the state of Virginia, you do have to pay that money back. So keep that in mind that there is a work component with the stipend program. With the behavioral health, the CAP-BH program, it does not have a work requirement.

But you can only apply for this stipend program once you start your specialization courses. And that would be after you’ve completed all of your generalist courses. You can apply for the child welfare stipend program while you’re in your generalist courses. With the CAP-BH program, it really is working to provide some specialized training in behavioral health for students that really will address some of the gaps in services within the behavioral health community.

You will focus on areas such as untreated trauma, exposure to violence, the CAP-BH also has a $10,000 stipend during the year that the student is involved with the CAP-BH program. Both of these stipend programs have specific electives that students have to take as part of the program. And both of these programs also have in-person components that students have to adhere to.

So even though you’re in the online program, if you decide to apply for either one of these stipend programs, then you have to be OK with adhering to the requirements that may require you to come to campus in person. I don’t know if Professor Booth has any additional information to add about either program.

JEANNE BOOTH: Well, I would just encourage you also to– if you’re interested in either of those, to be sure that you’re paying attention to the deadlines and the requirements. So if you’re interested in CAP-BH just know when– the deadline is usually mid-year, mid-academic year, like around December or so. And so it’s– and there’s limited slots for both of these programs.

So if you’re interested, pay attention. Put it on your calendar. Do your reminder, whatever it is. So that you don’t miss the opportunity because I know that does happen sometimes when people are like, oh I forgot, is it too late? And many times, it is. They’re both really great programs. They’re run by a great team of people. And students really love it.

DAPHNE KING: I would agree. Students that I know that have participated in both programs really love both programs. I think having worked in child welfare, just having that opportunity as part of your MSW program is really a great opportunity. So I do recommend to take advantage of any of the programs that you can once you are admitted into the online program.

And so with the admissions process, this slide just features the requirements for admissions. Of course, the minimum GPA is a 3.0. It is a very competitive program. You want to make sure a bachelor’s degree is required. Your transcripts and resume are also required as part of the application process. Two letters of recommendation and your personal statement. Your personal statement should discuss what your definition of social work is, as well as a social justice issue that you would like to address.

Prerequisites that you also have to meet in order to be admitted into the program is a statistics course, as well as English Composition, a government or history course, and a social science course. And while we’re talking about the admissions process, I know that there was a question about advanced standing. You would also apply for advanced standing through the same system that you will apply for the regular part time program.

You just want to make sure that your application specifically states that you’re applying for advanced standing. Advanced standing does have a few different requirements. For advanced standing, you have to have earned a BSW within the last five years. The minimum GPA for advanced standing is 3.2. In addition to your letters of recommendation and personal statement for advanced standing, you also have to submit your BSW field evaluation. And with advanced standing, when you apply, you also have to go through an interview process. So advanced standing has a few more steps than the regular part time program.

JEANNE BOOTH: And the field evaluation may be called learning agreements. It may be named different things. But it’s the competency assessment that every student has received. So that’s what that is.

GINA: All right, so I know we had a couple of questions going on. So let’s go through that real quick. I’m going to stop sharing my screen. OK, so one of the questions we have– what steps do we have to take to get into advanced standing, so we just answered that. Are employee based approved? Employment based approved?

JEANNE BOOTH: So that’s– I assumed and I started to make an answer for that. But I’m assuming you mean employment-based practicums, are they approved? And so yes, we have a process for that. And it requires a application that needs to be completed by you, the student, as well as your employment supervisor or your proposed practicum supervisor, just verifying that they have the appropriate degrees.

And that they can confirm that you will have the opportunities to demonstrate the competencies that you may be familiar with if you have a BSW. So there’s a process. But generally speaking, most agencies meet the requirements. And so it can happen, yes.

GINA: Thank you. And then next question, how much time is normally required for the in-person stipend programs?

DAPHNE KING: So that varies by program. Now, for the child welfare stipend program, you have to live in the state of Virginia. That’s just a requirement for that program because of the work component. But for the CAP-BH stipend program, it just varies. I know that this past academic year, they were doing some sort of specialized training at least once a week on Fridays. And so that is something to keep in mind if you do decide. But again, it varies.

JEANNE BOOTH: I can speak to that a little bit too. So the brunch and learns, those are the Friday trainings. They have– there is a schedule. And it is typically every other Friday. And then there– you ahve an enhanced two-day DBT training and a two-day motivational interviewing training that requires participation. But they happen at different times of the year, depending on people’s schedules and things like that. There’s a couple of required longer trainings that people tend to drive in for and–

DAPHNE KING: And just to put it in some perspective there was a student that participated in the program that was a student in the online program. And she lived, I think, in Chicago. And she made the decision that she would fly in every other week or however often for those trainings for CAP-BH. So again, it would be up to you if you decided to apply for those programs to make sure that you met the requirements of attending in person.

There was a question before that that asked about a bachelor’s degree in sociology. The only way that you can apply for advanced standing is if your bachelor’s degree is in social work. So if your bachelor’s degree is in anything else other than social work, you would just be applying to the traditional part-time program and not advanced standing.

GINA: Thank you. Next question here. When can we expect to hear back after applying? Usually, you hear back within anywhere from two to six weeks. It really kind of is up to the final admissions team on that decision. But usually, it takes two to six weeks after applying and sending in your application. Application process is no more than a week or two long and getting everything done. So it’s a fairly quick process to get everything done and then hear back from the final admissions team.

DAPHNE KING: And I can tell you that our admissions team did review applications today. So for some of you that have already applied, you may get that notification either today or tomorrow because I know the admissions team did review applications today.

GINA: Here we go, what is the process of evaluation for transfer students from another MSW program?

DAPHNE KING: So there is specific information that transfer students would need to submit. But we don’t consider transfer credits or information until after the initial admissions application is reviewed and the student is going to be admitted. Then we would look at those credits. And it is a form that you have to fill out. And there are certain classes that we don’t accept as transfers. And your admissions rep can assist you with that process for transferring credits.

GINA: Thank you. All right, one more question here so far. If you apply for advanced standing and don’t get accepted, would you still be accepted into the traditional program? Or do you have to reapply?

DAPHNE KING: So if you apply for advanced standing, the process is kind of twofold. First, the admissions team will go through their rating. And if you are invited to interview for advanced standing, that does mean that you’ve already been accepted into the traditional part-time program. There are some students– or some applicants, when their application for events standing is reviewed, they may automatically be admitted into the regular part-time MSW program.

GINA: Thank you. All right, here we go. Is there any funding available to students other than the stipend programs?

DAPHNE KING: So other than the stipend programs, those are what we offer as far as if you’re talking about financial assistance I will say, having gone through it myself, there generally is not as much scholarship money available for graduate education. I would recommend looking at different organizations that may provide scholarships outside of the university. Our college, the College of Public Health, also does have scholarships available. But you would need to go directly to the website.

As well as once you are admitted, we also have graduate teaching assistant positions as well as graduate research assistant positions that you can apply to once you are admitted into the program. Also for students, we send out– our department, the Social Work Department, sends out a weekly newsletter to MSW students.

And often in those newsletters, there are job opportunities and scholarship opportunities available. So that goes out every week to students. But I will say that graduate school, generally, is not a lot of scholarship money available as it is for undergraduate. I don’t know if Professor Booth has a different perspective.

JEANNE BOOTH: I agree with you 100%. And I know that there’s a movement nationally about practicums and stipends that are connected to practicums. And so Mason is looking at that. But we don’t have paid practicums at this point. We have– let me rephrase that.

So we have about 10% to 12% of our practicum sites offer a stipend. And those stipends could be gas reimbursement to MetroCards to sometimes $100 or more a month. And so– and those are, as you can imagine, incredibly competitive. And we are competing with other programs in the area. And all of them right now are in the DMV.

So there’s some in Montgomery County or Prince George’s County, Maryland, a few in DC, and then a few here in Northern Virginia. But at this point, that’s all we have as far as practicum goes. We are– there’s movement at the state level, but it’s several years out to have that be expanded.

So just for full transparency, if you have been looking around, I just want to let you know that that’s what we have, about 10% to 12% of our practicum sites offer some sort of financial assistance. And the other thing is that we, as a department and as a college, have some emergency funds.

So we try to support success whenever possible. So when students have a challenge, it’s really important to talk to your– whoever your source of support is in the department. So you can talk to your instructor. You could talk to your success coach. You can talk to your field education folks. And we will try to connect you to emergency funding that you can access usually a couple of times a semester. But that does exist. So we don’t want people to just not reach out when there’s a challenge. So I’ll say that too.

DAPHNE KING: And some employers do provide reimburse– tuition reimbursement. So you may also want to check with your employer for tuition reimbursement. And just look at what’s available for you and look at other sources. I know some fraternities and sororities offer scholarships for graduate education. So this may be the time to start doing your research on that, as well as– I know it’s not ideal, but for some employers after working, they do offer loan forgiveness, student loan forgiveness. So those are other options as well.

GINA: Thank you. I appreciate that. One more question here. Do most students work full time, especially during semesters without practicum? Does that seem manageable? Or do you suggest part time employment?

DAPHNE KING: Honestly, it really depends on the student. I have seen some students who have worked full time this entire time. They’ve taken a little bit of an increased course load. So instead of taking more of a part time course load, they took a more accelerated option and took three classes a semester, and still worked full time, still did their practicum, was even a graduate teaching assistant, and they were fine, and maintained well above a 3.8 or 4 point GPA.

And then there are some students who felt like, hey, I need to take a little bit more of a slower pace. I’m only going to work part time. Or I’m not going to work at all. Or I’m only going to take one or two classes a semester. It really depends on the student and them understanding where they are and what their capacity is.

I would say that this is the time for you to evaluate what’s happening in your life, what your future plans are, and how you may need to adjust your lifestyle to graduate school because it is a rigorous program. Again, going into the field of social work, you’re working with, many times, vulnerable populations, many times communities that have been oppressed or marginalized.

And so you want to make sure that you are really engaging in your coursework and classes to be able to work with those communities and help advocate for those particular clients. And so you want to make sure that you’ve given yourself adequate time to really be able to focus on that. So I think this is a time to think about what your lifestyle looks like and what things you may need to adjust about your lifestyle before starting graduate school.

JEANNE BOOTH: And really be realistic about your personal life flow. I am not a night person. So for me, I would not be able to work full time and do classes, work another six hours every evening. That would be really difficult for me. So it’s just being honest with yourself about what your life flow is like, what your energy level is, where it peaks, and where there are valleys. And just make the best decision for you. We’re not going anywhere. So it could take as long as you want it to take. We’re going to be here.

DAPHNE KING: And with the exception of summer semester, your courses are taken in eight week sessions. And generally, students on a more traditional part time track will take one course in each of those eight week sessions. So our semesters are divided into two eight week sessions with the exception of summer.

Summer semester, we only offer courses during one session. So students are taking two classes at a time during that summer semester. But you want to think about that as well that, typically, you’re taking one eight week class, or one class per eight week session. And for some students, that is manageable.

And I have some students that decide that they only want to take one class of semester. And they give themselves that other eight week session off. Or they give themselves summer off. So it really is going to be dependent upon you understanding who you are, and how you work, and what your flow is, as Professor Booth said.

GINA: Right, awesome. So right now, I don’t see any more questions. I’ll leave it up a couple more minutes to see if there’s anything else. But other than that, if you guys don’t have any more questions or anything like that, feel free to email any of us with any specific questions that you may have or email the admissions team at George Mason specifically. And we’ll be able to get in touch and follow up with any specific questions or concerns you may have.

All right, perfect. All right, all right, let’s leave it up a couple more minutes see if anything else comes in.

DAPHNE KING: I would also recommend, as we are closing out, this is a good time to maybe also review the website for the National Association of Social Workers. That gives you a little bit more information about the profession, about connecting with a professional organization. NASW also has information out there about many of the topics that are being discussed currently in our national climate.

I would also recommend looking at the website for the Council on Social Work Education. They are the organization that provides accreditation for schools of social work. They also have information on the nine competencies that are encompassed in our curriculum that is a requirement. So this may be the time to also start doing a little bit of research on some of the professional organizations, as well as George Mason University, to look at the university as a whole, what our mission and vision is for the university, and how the university may be a fit for you, and your plans for graduate education.

All right, if you all have any additional questions, you can feel free to reach out to your admissions representative, as well as looking at the website for George Mason University and the Department of Social Work here at GMU. But other than that, hope you all have a great rest of your evening.

Master of Education in Special Education and Graduate Certificates Transcript

PAM: –everyone for joining us this evening. As I say, we are excited to get started here. My name is Pam, and I am an Admissions Representative for the program here at Mason. And I’m here as a resource to give information, answer questions, and walk through the admissions application process if this is indeed something that you decide to move forward with.

Here is our agenda for the evening. In a moment, we’re going to meet the presenters who will obviously explore why George Mason is a great choice. We’ll be focusing on the Master of Education in Special Education, looking at curriculum details, ASD and ABA included. There’ll also be a focus on hearing from a previous graduate’s experience, Ben Felson, and, of course, learning a bit more about the faculty, the online classroom admission requirements, and next steps. And there will also be a time at the very end for a Q&A portion as well.

And a few housekeeping items here that I want to review before we jump in. Feel free to use any of these features this evening. Obviously the chat instructions that you’ve already started to utilize here. You may be able to raise your hand.

Obviously wait please for the hosts and the presenters to notify you that you can unmute yourself and share any questions that you have. But we can also share a lot of questions towards the end of the webinar as well. So you might want to wait till the end because your question might be answered during the duration of the webinar.

All right, without further delay, I would like to hand over to our presenters this evening. We have Dr. Jodi Duke, and we have Dr. Christine Barthold. Over to you, guys.

JODI DUKE: Hi I’m Jodi Duke. I’m an Associate Professor here at Mason, and I’m the Academic Program Coordinator for the Autism program. I’ve been here since 2008, which is a long time, so it’s too long to do the math. But been here a while and I’m excited to be here tonight to talk with you all.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Barthold. I am the Academic Program Coordinator for Applied Behavioral Analysis. I have been at Mason since January of 2014 and have been a practicing behavioral– well, practicing BCBA, I should say, since 2001. I started much earlier than that. So hopefully you’ll get some good information tonight from both of us, and we’re happy to answer any questions you might have.

Jodi, would you like me to take this one?

JODI DUKE: Sure. Why don’t you start? And then I’ll pick up whatever you leave.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: OK. So this slide is pretty self-explanatory. Our format is part-time. We’ll be getting into a little bit more of the specifics of that as the presentation goes on.

And it is high-quality, and it’s high-intensity. We are really committed to giving you the best education possible as well as the best experience possible. So if you’re interested in something to that effect, then this is for you.

We are ranked. I think number 7 is correct. We just got brand-new rankings from US News & World Report for online special education programs. We’re one of the top special education programs in the country according to US News & World Report.

And we have two tracks that you can choose from. You can either have a track in Autism Spectrum Disorders or Applied Behavior Analysis. And we’ll explain what that means in a little bit.

Both of our programs– I would say both look at education from a lifespan perspective and that we’re not just preparing people to work in schools or clinics, but really to work anywhere they want to work with learners with disabilities, autistic learners, and in the ABA program– really, anybody at all. So yes, we have a unique, innovative approach to inclusive education. And when we say inclusive, we do mean everybody. So I’m going to turn the next slide over to Jodi.

JODI DUKE: All right. So this is a look at our curriculum. Because we have two different tracks, we’ll talk to you about each. But regardless of whether you choose the Autism track or the ABA track, you will be a part of some core courses that we feel are really important for everyone to have some foundational knowledge.

So you start with introduction to Special Education. And that course really– it’s a huge overview of the history of disability and the history of special education. Even though these two programs are not teacher preparation or teacher focused, we do want you to have that knowledge.

517 is a course people really like. It’s the computer Applications for Special Populations– so a lot of technology options here. You learn about high-tech things and low-tech options that you can create yourself and how to use all of these different pieces of technology for individuals that you’ll be working with.

We include a UDL course, Universal Design for Learning. The idea behind UDL is very much like the universal design that you see out in the community all the time where it’s about access to buildings and things like that in the community. UDL is the same notion. The idea is that we design instruction and learning opportunities so that everyone can access them, regardless of their neurodiversity or anything else that’s going on with their learning. And so in that course, you will learn all about how to do that.

There’s a research course. And I believe you can do that, or there’s a capstone option. Then when you go into the Autism program– and so, Dr. Barthold, make sure I’m saying this right– but I believe what happens is if you choose just the certificate, then you do the courses that are in the tracks. But if you choose to do the master’s, then you add on those core.

So in autism, we have six courses. I am just building the last one to launch in a couple of weeks here. 620 is a course that I teach. It’s Supporting Behavior and Sensory Needs. And it’s my favorite to do because we really dig into what can we learn? What are people trying to communicate through their behaviors? And how can we do some analysis of that and then develop supportive plans– and really looking at sensory causation as well.

634 is actually the first course, that most people take, and that’s our characteristics course. And so in that one, you get a very detailed overview of every level of autism diagnosis of a lot of the different considerations related to autism and really get to dig into all of that. We have an Interventions course, a Communication and Literacy course. 637 is a cool one. It’s a lifespan-focused collaboration course that’s broken up into modules that focus on different phases of life– so birth and early childhood, school age, all the way through aging– because we really are preparing professionals to work through such a variety of service delivery models and service agencies, and so we want to make sure that you are able to both collaborate and locate resources when you get to those settings.

And then the new one we’re building, I’m really excited about. It’s going to focus on assessment and with special attention to intersectionality of things like gender, race, language, ethnicity. So that one is a really cool course that we’re doing a lot of technical information that you need to know about assessment and diagnosis, but looking at it also through these interesting lenses that are so critical and doing a lot of person first-lived experiences where we’re really trying to bring the autistic voice to that course. Dr. Barthold, do you want to talk about the ABA courses? Or do you want me to roll?

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: Sure I can talk a little bit about ABA. I think this is a good time to talk about the fact that we’ve been very intentional about being very distinct programs– the Autism program and the ABA program– in that in the ABA program what you’re going to learn about is the foundations of behavior analysis. It’s not going to be so much about applications to specific populations, although we do talk about different populations.

I would say one of the decision points if you’re on the fence– do you want to do ASD, do you want to do ABA– if you’re coming to this wanting to really learn more about autism and the applications to autism, Dr. Duke’s program really is the way for you to go. If you’re looking to learn more about the science of behavior and how behavior analysis can be applied to do just about anything you can think of, then the ABA track is the way to go. Or there’s nothing stopping you from doing both. It’d be a long set of courses, but definitely you would get a really good well-rounded education if you were to do so.

So let’s talk a little bit about ABA. The first course is your foundational course. It’s about behavior analytic principles. It’s where you learn to talk like a behavior analyst because a lot of the things that mean one thing to the rest of the world mean something very different to behavior analysts, and we really teach you how to do that.

EDSE 621 is our data collection research course. This is where you learn to read behavior analytic literature, be able to learn how to take data, use those data to make decisions.

EDSE 622 is my favorite. We’ll talk a little bit more about this one, and it is one of our newest courses and it is really about philosophical and conceptual issues. And in this course, you get to work with a virtual rat and do some experiments with a virtual rat. And it’s just super cool.

The EDSE 623, you will learn how to do functional assessments, assessments of problem behavior, assessments of appropriate behavior from a behavior analytic lens. In applications, I like to call this course, the kitchen sink course because this is where you’re going to learn all the different ways that behavior analysis can be applied throughout the world.

Verbal behavior is exactly what it is. It’s a behavior analytic look at language and communication. And our ethics course.

And I do want to mention that our ABA course is an approved verified course sequence through the Association for Behavior Analysis International for the most recent task list. So your courses, if you also get your field work, will allow you to sit for the BACB exam. I’ll turn it over to Dr. Duke.

JODI DUKE: All right. So here are the graduate certificate tracks that we were just talking about. And in autism, we are really preparing professionals for a wide range of careers working with autistic individuals. So we do get some folks who are educators, but we also get adult service providers, people who are employers who want to figure out how to really maximize the potential of those that they’re working with. We get family members– just about everyone you can imagine.

We actually– I think now am looking. I need to update this because I believe that this month that’s come out is 1 in 36. But it is a lot of children that we are seeing as diagnosed with autism. The need is tremendous. The career outlook is bright, preparing professionals to work with these children and to prepare everyone to work with them as adults because we have this lifespan focus.

And we do that because there has been traditionally a child and school-aged focus in autism education. And we really want to make sure that we’re equipping professionals for all fields and all age ranges. And so you will learn just about everything from birth all the way through aging, as I said, and prepare you with knowledge and experience.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: And just want to piggyback on that with ABI. Dr. Duke and her team do an amazing job of teaching about autism, teaching about the characteristics, teaching about interventions across the lifespan in just about every environment that you would encounter autistic people. And on the flip side, what we try to do is immerse you in the behavior analysis piece. So we’re not necessarily as much talking about therapy as we are about the application of these principles. It does allow you to sit for your Board Certified Behavior Analyst credential.

You do also need field work, which we do not provide, but I’m happy to answer any questions about that once we’re done here. And the one thing that you can count on from us is that we’ve been around for a while, and we’ve been working at this and refining our craft. And we have one of the oldest ABA programs out there.

The BCBA credential has only been around since 1999, and this program was started in the early 2000s. So our faculty have a wealth of experience, and we’ve been doing this a while. So you can count on us in that way.

JODI DUKE: There is a quick question in the Q&A, Dr. Barthold, about who are the clients that would be served if someone went with the ABA program.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: That’s a great question. It all depends on what you’re looking for. So we’re not teaching toward specific clientele.

When we get to the faculty, I’ll talk a little bit about some of our areas of study and expertise. But working with autistic kids is certainly something that you could do, and a lot of our graduates do go that route. But there’s also other ways.

You can work in– I work in Health and Fitness. Other places, it might be working– one of our faculty works in Psychotherapy. Another one of our faculty works with businesses.

And we’re starting to create a partnership actually with the Virginia prisons to have field work working in adult correctional facilities. So I wouldn’t say that there’s a specific population that you could work with. I think it’s really up to you and up to what you would like to do.

JODI DUKE: I see a couple other questions. I’m going to keep going through this, and then we’ll make sure that at the end– does that work, Dr. Barthold? Should we address those all at the end?


JODI DUKE: OK, I had jumped the gun. I will do this slide because Beth was one of my students, and I’m excited to see this slide. So we always want you to hear from our students.

So Beth was a student in the Autism program. She now owns her own consulting coaching business, Spectrum Transition Coaching. And she works with young adults as they’re preparing to leave high school and coaches them on what’s next and works with some who are in college and some who are working on finding work.

So she said, “The faculty were very engaged with the students and clearly interested in our success. They were very knowledgeable in the subject area and clearly passionate about their field. They were incredibly responsive to questions as well.” So that’s very complimentary.

All right, so here, I’ll talk about the autism faculty, and then we will talk about– Dr. Barthold will talk about the ABA. Dr. Grace Francis works with me in the Autism program. She’s a leading researcher in all things related to family and family and professional partnership. And she is just one of the, I would say, coolest, down-to-earth professors you’ll ever have.

And then Dr. Linn Jorgensen is also teaching in our program. She is currently directing our Mason Life program, which is a post-secondary program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And she’s been in the field for a really long time and has a lot of amazing knowledge that she shares, but is also incredibly compassionate and relates really well to all of the students. You want to do ABA?

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: Sure. My mouse is dead, so I keep reaching for it, and then I have to go to my track pad. So you can’t go wrong with the faculty at Mason, quite frankly, if I do say so myself. There’s so many high-quality, compassionate people who are really dedicated to making sure that you’re well prepared for wherever you want to go. And I think I can say that about both Autism and ABA.

But for ABA, let me tell you about our core faculty. Dr. Ted Hoch actually founded this program in the early 2000s. And when I was talking about people who do psychotherapy, he is a licensed marriage and family counselor, I think, is what his license is. And he has worked with people with developmental disabilities. He’s worked all over the place. But he is our original ABA faculty, and he’s taught all of the courses in this sequence.

Dr. Kristy Park is working in more school-based supports but also home programming as well for autistic kids, and we partner quite a bit on that. And Dr. Lisa Tullo is working in what’s called organizational Behavior Management, and it’s not quite industrial organizational psychology, but it’s the application of behavioral principles to business and increasing productivity, reducing workplace accidents, that type of thing.

We also have really top-notch adjunct faculty who work with our students who also have a wealth of knowledge. And we all have worked in some way or another in the DD field or in the Autism field. Like I said, I work also with Health and Fitness.

I do personal training and health coaching. And I think the one thing that we can say about the ABA faculty is that we are all also engaged in the field. So not only are we professors, but we are practitioners as well.

So sometimes people say, oh, well, when was the last time you worked with a client? And I can say, about three hours ago– not even, actually– about an hour ago. That’s why I was running late. So we are all engaged in the field and working as well as teaching you what you need to know. So you’ll definitely get a well-rounded education from all of us. These look like mine. Should I take those, Dr. Duke?

JODI DUKE: I think it is, yes.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: OK. All right, so to show you a little bit about what the online learning environment looks like, if you’ve never done online learning before, you might think, oh, it’s watching a ton of videos and then taking a bunch of multiple-choice quizzes. And we’ve been really intentional that that would not be your experience because that’s not the best way to learn. You’re going to be doing a lot of stuff with simulations. And hopefully Dr. Duke will jump in and talk about some of the wonderful experiences that you can have with her program.

I talked about when you’re in ABA, you can work with a virtual rat. The rat is cyberneticus, which students get a lot out of. At first, they’re a little wary, but they do get a lot out of this. And this is from our EDSE 623 course, where you actually watch a behavioral assessment take place with a simulated client, take data, and actually write a behavior plan with it.

There are places where you will collaborate with your group members. You won’t be going through this alone. We’ve been also very intentional about creating community amongst our students and making sure that you know who you’re taking classes with because that’s not always the case in online learning. So, Dr. Duke, do you want to talk a little bit about your case studies?

JODI DUKE: Yeah. Thank you. In the Autism program, there isn’t any field experience because we have students from all over the world, and it would be really challenging for us to supervise everyone in their different locations. And so we had the opportunity to create video case studies that are incredibly comprehensive. When we started this program a few years ago, we identified four different people with autism at different age ranges who allowed us to basically follow them around with the entire video crew for several days.

And so you get to see these folks at home, at school, at work. You talk to families. You talk to ABA therapists who work with them.

You talk to teachers, just about everyone you can imagine. And then we have used these four folks to give you practice taking the concepts that we’re teaching and putting them into practice. So your assignments very, very heavily involve these four case studies.

The students that I’m working with right now are doing different behavior plans, and so they had to– we give them clips of a very specific behavior issue, and they do a lot of analysis and then figuring out what’s causing the behavior or what the behavior is trying to communicate. And so it’s been an amazing part of the program. The students that we’ve had really say it’s a valuable way to learn because you don’t just get a quick clip. It’s this really deep insight into the individual and their family systems and everything around them.

So that’s the big piece with ours. And again, just like with ABA, you might have a reading quiz, but that’s about the only multiple choice you’ll see. Everything else is activity-based collaboration. You definitely will get to know your peers and your faculty

OK, I think this is where we turn it over for you to talk about admissions.

PAM: Yeah, definitely. Before we jump into the Q&A portion here, I’d just like to review a few of the admissions processes. So if you have any questions regarding these steps that appear on your screen here as far as start dates, the application materials, anything like that, please do reach out to your admissions representative.

If you don’t know who your advisor is or your representative is, I will be sharing contact details to the main office on the last slide. So please take note of that and reach out to the office, and we’ll be able to partner you up with someone. Your advisor will be able to address everything that you’re missing in terms of application materials, as I’ve said, start dates, things like that.

So a quick overview here– one of the requirements is, of course, a bachelor’s degree. We do ask for a minimum of 3.0 GPA. If your GPA is slightly lower than that 3.0, we typically do recommend including a GPA addendum, a short statement in your application, just to help you explain what happened if anything happened, what you might have learned from your experience during your bachelor’s. And that will add value to your application and just help us to fill those gaps in.

We also do require transcripts. We are able to get decisions using unofficials as long as they have key bits of details included on them. And then we can always request your officials if you’re accepted. Of course, you can always request officials from the get go as well. That’s totally fine.

We also do require a professional resume, two letters of recommendation as well, one of which must be from a current or previous supervisor. And of course, we don’t accept personal recommendations from family and friends. So the second one can be a colleague, for example, or even an additional supervisor if you have that.

And then a personal statement is the final requirement. And that word count would be from 750 to 1,000. And the prompt will be shared with you, again, by your advisor.

So those are the main components of the admissions process. And again, if you have any questions about that, please do reach out to your admissions advisor, or reach out to the main office. And those details will be shared with you on the very last slide.

All right, we’re going to jump into the Q&A portion here. So I’ll go ahead and read out the questions, I guess, or would you guys like to view the questions yourselves and pick out questions? How would you like to move forwards?

JODI DUKE: We can try to go through them. That’s fine. I’ll start with the ones that I see in the chat, and then we can move to the Q&A maybe. So how many hours of fieldwork do we need? I think that’s an ABA question. We do not have field work in autism, so zero if that’s an autism question.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: Yes, yes. And I see a bunch of questions about field work. And I also see a bunch of questions about teacher licensure. So do you mind, Dr. Duke, if I take those two?

OK. So these programs do not– they are not teacher prep programs. So you would not be able to get teacher licensure through these programs.

If you already have teacher licensure and your state happens to have an autism endorsement, you may want to check and see if Dr. Duke’s program does qualify you for that autism endorsement. I know that Delaware does. I believe Maryland has one, but I’m not sure if they would qualify. You’d have to check with your state.

As far as field work is concerned, there are two different paths to get field work. I’m going to talk about the general one, and then there’s a more intensive field work. They are not practicum at this point. A lot of employers do provide that field work. I see someone asked if they’re registered behavior technician, can they get field work from their job?

Yes, but you have to do extra work. And you should have a supervisor who knows what type of work you need to do on the job. You need 2000 hours of behavior analytic field work in order to sit for the exam.

And those hours need to be supervised by a qualified BCBA. And those sometimes happen in schools. If you have access to someone who is a BCBA, you might want to ask them a bit more information about that.

That can get a little bit more involved. So I would feel more comfortable– if you all want to contact me directly, I’m happy to answer any specific questions about field work. I don’t want to take up everybody’s time.

JODI DUKE: OK, I see a question from Asma about the programs and what they qualify you for. And I did see one, I think, in the Q&A that was similar. So the Autism program does not have any teacher licensure component.

We are in Virginia here. And in Virginia, there is no licensure for autism. We do have special education licensure that we could talk with you about that you can put together with autism programs. But this program alone does not prepare you to be a teacher.

The Autism program and the ABA program are both completely online. And they are asynchronous online, which means that you log in, and the coursework is there each week. And you engage, and there are certainly deadlines and things that you have to meet in terms of timeline, at least for the Autism program. I shouldn’t speak for yours. But in Autism, any synchronous time where we’re on together like we are right now would be optional because it is considered asynchronous.

It is an 18-credit graduate certificate for Autism and a 30-credit master’s. Dr. Barthold, do you want to address those questions for your program too?

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: Sure, sure. The same number of credits apply for the master’s in special education with Applied Behavior Analysis. We have seven courses.

Dr. Duke has six, which means it’s one less of the Special Education courses. But our synchronous meetings work a little bit differently than Dr. Duke’s in that ours are required, but they are most likely scheduled on your time. So there isn’t a set time where you have to meet Tuesday nights at 7 o’clock or anything like that.

But you do need to meet with your group members throughout courses. And that was designed because one thing that’s often missing from ABA programs is that collaboration piece. And so we really wanted you to work with others and learn some of those key collaboration skills that you’re going to need just about every single day. So ours are not optional, but they are flexible, probably the best way to put it.

JODI DUKE: All right, I’m seeing in the Q&A working with students with special disabilities for two and a half years as well as ASD. Can you combine these two tracks, ASD and ABA? We have definitely had students who’ve gone through both tracks, absolutely. And so the Admissions folks are great at working with you to individualize whatever kind of program you would like.

ABA program– how many classes are educational, and how many are ABA? I think maybe you’re thinking about those core– that sounds like it’s asking about those core. So if you do the master’s rather than just the certificate track, you would take those five core courses and then take the remaining ABA. Yeah, there’s a graphic that’s easier, isn’t it? Thank you.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: We actually do one less core course because we have the seven courses. And I’m blanking, actually, on which one that is, unfortunately.

JODI DUKE: No, you’re right because the 590– someone asked the other thing. I believe, both programs, if you do the master’s, it’s four courses. I misspoke because 590 is either the Research or the Capstone. You do not take both of those, so it would be just the four. I’m the one who misspoke there.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: I believe that ABA does not take the Universal Design for Learning course. However, please talk to the advisors about that because I may be wrong about that. So you would take seven courses for us. If you’re with Dr. Duke, you would take six courses and get your master’s degree. But the majority of what you’ll be working on is either ABA or ASD.

JODI DUKE: Yeah, and there’s a question while we’re on this topic. The capstone is a research opportunity, so you can come up with a project of your own if you have an advisor who is willing to take you on. So that one almost becomes more of a student-guided project of some kind. The majority of our students do take the Special Education Research course.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: And I did see a question I think I can answer. As far as the capstone is concerned, I saw somebody ask about the sixth edition test content list– and I know that fifth edition task list, test content list. I will say this, the board’s requirements are very confusing, and they change very rapidly for ABA. And so rest assured we’re on top of it, is the thing that I would say. And these requirements are going to change, and there is going to be some more additional requirements coming down the pike in a couple of years.

But for right now, if you go through this program and you get your 2,000 hours in a timely manner, you’ll be able to sit for the exam. And if, for some reason, you need more time or you need to change things around, we work with people all the time about that. So if you’re worried, oh, what if I can’t sit for the exam because they change something, we are so on top of that, and we will make sure that you are in the best shape possible to sit for your exam.

JODI DUKE: It looks like most of these questions are ABA. Do you want me to read them off, or would that be helpful, or are you seeing them?


JODI DUKE: All right, people want to know how much your books cost.

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: Oh, that’s a good question. And I will say that we try to keep things as reasonable as possible, but the publishers sometimes, they do what they do. But typically a lot of our books are available as e-books, which brings the cost down quite a bit. There’s a couple of books that you can actually get for free through the B.F Skinner Foundation and things like that.

So we do try to keep things as reasonable as possible. And you can actually– if you want to, you can go on to the GMU website and look at the syllabi for all of these courses. We do have them listed online. So if you want to look up the books and see how much they cost, that might be a good idea for you.

So let’s see here. I think I answered all the– oh, and then someone asks, does your master’s in special ed cover the core classes? Yes, it does. For ABA, it absolutely does. All right, which one should I take next, Dr. Duke?

JODI DUKE: All right, how about, are your synchronous sessions for ABA weekly?

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: Yes. If there are synchronous sessions and a course, you will be required to meet with your group weekly.

JODI DUKE: All right, and how many hours a week should a full-time working adult set aside for ABA classes and studying?

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: That is a great question. We usually say about eight to 10 hours a week. So that sounds like a ton, and you’re like, oh, my gosh. I’m working, or whatever. But there’s a ton of content that we have to prepare you for for the exam.

And so I tell my students, if we made it simpler or we reduce the response requirement, or pass rates wouldn’t be as high on the exam. And the average pass rate on the BACB exam is about 65%. So we’re really taking this seriously and making sure that you’re as prepared as possible.

JODI DUKE: And is it best to complete the– did you answer this one already, I think– the RBT certification prior to taking the ABA track course, or can I apply for the BCBA track while working towards my RBT? That’s a lot of acronyms. Did you get that?

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: I did, I did. RBT is the Registered Behavior Technician. A lot of our students come in as techs, but just as many do not. So it’s not necessary.

You don’t have to have your technician– it’s not a certification, it’s registration– before you start. That’s not necessary. And some people just jump in, and you’re welcome to.

JODI DUKE: OK, this is from a student who’s interested in the ABA track, has a master’s in SPED and was told that the seven courses would be required. Is that true? Does the master’s in SPED cover the core courses?

CHRISTINE BARTHOLD: So the master’s in SPED will cover those core courses, the education courses. But unless you have taken ABA courses in another university, it can’t be the classroom management courses it has to be BACB-approved– or actually, ABAI-approved courses. So you have to take those seven, and we can’t really waive those because you wouldn’t be able to sit for your exam.

And then, I’m just going to jump in with, do I have to pay for my supervisory hours? Yes. So the supervisory hours are going to be on your own. Now, if you work for an agency who provides supervised experience or maybe you’re working in a school with a BCBA and the principal has approved you getting your supervised hours in the school, You may be able to get it as part of your duties as assigned. If you hire a supervisor, if you’re working in another realm and you have to hire a supervisor, I can’t say that I have a going rate for supervision. It’s really all over the place, and it depends on who you want to work with.

I will say that there are some quality controls in selecting a supervisor if you need a supervisor. And I would encourage you to reach out to me or Dr. Hoch. Dr. Hoch knows everything about the board– or Dr. Tullo or Dr. Park– about how to identify a quality supervisor so that you’re not stuck.

You thought you had your supervision hours, and you really didn’t, which sometimes happens to students. And we really don’t want that to happen to you because that’s just devastating. So if you have questions about that, I would suggest reaching out to one of us, and we’ll answer those questions as much as we can.

PAM: OK. Thank you so much to Dr. Duke and Dr. Barthold for going through all of those questions. I do believe every one of them has been answered, so thank you so much.

And to our participants, if you have any last questions, now is your last moment here to share those questions with us before we sign off. And as you’re thinking there, just please do also jot down the contact details that I mentioned earlier. If you are unaware of who your admissions advisor is, you have the telephone number here for the main office.

If you’d rather send an email in, that’s also absolutely fine. You can send an email in with your queries, and we can correspond with you via email. And also, I’ve shared here the website for Mason Online, so you can go ahead and explore that before you call, before you email if you would like. So that’s there for you to just jot down here.

And any last questions before we sign off here? Brian’s saying Thank you for all the information. You’re so welcome. I think everyone’s been great in terms of participating. It really does help when you guys ask those questions, so we appreciate that.

All right. We’ve got one more question here from Tracy. For the ASD track, what does a semester look like? Can you take more than one class?

JODI DUKE: That’s a great question. We actually have shortened semesters. So you can take two autism courses or ABA courses during the length of a typical semester. So we take a 15-week semester, and we break it down. So courses run, I think, just around seven and a half weeks in the summer.

I think we’re going to seven weeks. So they move quickly, and you have modules that are weekly in most courses. So you take one class at a time, and you tend to move through the same sequence with your peers, which can create a nice community, I think. And so, yes, you do two a semester.

PAM: Fantastic. Thank you. All right, last call for questions. We’ve got one more, I think. No, we’re all good.

All right. Well, I think we’ll end it there. Thank you again, Dr. Duke and Dr. Barthold, for your time this evening. Very much appreciated. It’s been lovely spending this time with you.

JODI DUKE: Thank you all so much. Have a good night.

TESOL (MEd Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction) Transcript

KATHLEEN RAMOS: Ready for joining and welcome to this virtual open house for our Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction in TESOL, pre-K-12 to adult non licensure program. So this evening, you will meet the faculty leaders. At least me and one other person– just her picture, I’ll tell you a little bit about her. We’re going to talk about our program, share some details of it and how it all works. Introduce you to the faculty, at least by their pictures so you know who are the core faculty, who planned and created this program. And then, as a special treat tonight, we have two current students in the program. One who’s going to graduate this semester, and one who is about midway through– Christina and Fatima– who are going to share a little bit about their experience and positive outcomes or aspects of the program from their perspective. We have a quote to share with you. And then we will share how to apply to the program. And then we’ll have a Q&A. OK? OK, next slide, Miriam, please. OK, so I am Dr. Kathy Ramos. There you see me with short hair. And now, post COVID, for the first time in a long time, I have longer hair. I’m an associate professor in the School of Education, full-time faculty member at Mason in the Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse and Exceptional Learners, otherwise known as TCLDEL program. I came to Mason in 2016. And this is my 10th year as a teacher educator, or 11th year, but my 31st year as an educator, as I began my career as a middle school Spanish teacher for 10 years, followed by 10 years of ESL instruction, a secondary ESL teacher. The other program leader, who is actually teaching a class tonight and couldn’t join us, is Dr. Joan Kang Shin. She’s a professor of education. She’s also the division director of APDIE, Advanced Professional Development in International Education. She’s the co-academic program coordinator of TCLDEL. OK, so I’m going to stick on this slide for a little while so I can just share a bit about our program and what makes it unique. So I’m just going to start by saying that Mason, itself, is a very unique university, in that it’s the most diverse and largest university in Virginia. It is also a designated Research 1 institute, which it earned about five years ago. And it’s not something that is automatic or that you get to keep as a university. You have to be rated through a rigorous process to maintain an R1 university status. But it does mean for graduate students that they are receiving their graduate degree from a very high-caliber, high-quality university that does a significant amount of research in many fields and is renowned for that. And so it is a stepping stone. If people aspire to move past their graduate– their master’s work, having done your master’s work at a university such as Mason is always a good choice, as it is a Research 1 university. This program, the TESOL concentration, PK-12 to adult, is a program that is fully online. The courses are eight weeks in length. And so you get to dedicate your time to one course at a time. You would take, typically– sometimes people vary from this, but typically, to finish in five semesters, including the summer, you would take two eight-week courses, one after the other. So two in each semester, one in the first half of the semester, followed by the next one in the second half of the semester. Moving around the calendar, you can finish your master’s degree in five semesters. So if you started in the fall, you have two courses in the fall, two in the spring, two in the summer, two in the fall, and the next spring then you have your final two courses and are finished. We put a great deal of time, and thinking, and creativity into the design of this program three years ago. This is our third year. We began in spring 2020– was the launch of this program. And we’re very proud of the courses that we have created, along with instructional designers who have supported us as content area experts, and as faculty with online teaching expertise. In fact, several of our faculty have won Mason Teaching Awards, university-wide awards for their expertise in online teaching. And so we have carefully designed it so that it’s innovative, and engaging, and reflects the multiliteracies and multimodal practices that we want you to use as instructors– as TESOL professionals, in whatever context you teach. And in whatever context you teach, I think a principal idea in this program is that you gain the expertise to design and deliver engaging culturally and linguistically responsive and sustaining instruction. So to just say a little bit about that, another central belief is the idea that bilingual and multilingual learners bring many strengths to the table. And that we, as TESOL professionals, have to recognize value, invite their cultural and linguistic strengths, their identities into the classroom as learning resources, as valuable learning resources that makes instruction richer, and that makes learning English, and also, in some cases, depending on the context you teach, advancing their first language and literacy development along with English. So we’re going to hear a little bit more about the learning about that and maybe some takeaways from the program from our students, who will be sharing. OK? As I said, it is beneficial to– we know that there are many options out there. Some may be a little bit more affordable than this program. Although, this is an affordable master’s program, I believe, for the quality and the caliber of the program that you will receive. We are also currently the only accredited– TESOL accredited program in the state of Virginia. And we have high rankings in US News and World Report. Mason’s programs– online teacher education programs– this one, and many others, have a great reputation. So when you choose us, you’re in good hands. And you can count on us to be partners in learning with you. You will find that the instructors in the courses are engaged in the courses. They’re present in the courses, sharing also their thinking and experiences. And I know sometimes people are a little hesitant– can be– about asynchronous instruction. But we have worked hard to build a community of learners and a community of practice with other students and with your instructors as well. OK, Miriam, let’s go on to the next slide, please. OK, so as I said, we have designed the courses to be innovative, and creative, and interactive. So this is just a snapshot from one course. I believe this is from the foundations in language, and literacy course, which is one that Dr. Shin designed. And so she actually based one of the activities on an experience that she had as an Asian-American, who was going to school with her nephew on a family literacy night. And her mom came too. Her mom speaks Korean. And her mom was so excited to read this folktale, both in Korean and English. And at the last minute, when the event came, the ESL teacher felt that because– I believe it was a grandma who died in the little Korean folktale that they were reading– she felt that it was not appropriate, that it was a little violent for the audience. And so she created an activity to think about that with some reflection and considering what could be the reasons that the ESL teacher had that particular stance. Because there could be reasons why she felt like that. Or why, perhaps, her stance was something that could be rethought. Or just how the– all of the people in that scenario felt, and how they might approach that scenario differently if they had a little more knowledge about culture, and language, and the invitation to bring other cultures into the classroom. Another activity is the choice board, where, for example, you would have an opportunity to choose the kind of representation of your own understanding that you would want to make. And so that is not just true in this course, foundations of language and literacy, but in all of the courses. We have tried to incorporate many different modalities for learning, including videos, and webinars, and podcasts, and things of that nature– slide decks, and some things for you to consider, along with the readings that you would do. So we’ll be straight forward to tell you that this is a master’s program from a reputable university. So it is a rigorous program. It is not something to enter into lightly. The assignments in the courses are performance-based assessments that are based on your work with multilingual learners in any setting that you choose across the lifespan. So you will have engaging content and options in how to represent your understanding, along with reading graduate textbooks and sharing graduate presentations and papers. All right, Miriam, let’s go to the next slide just so everybody can get a quick glance at the 10 courses. So it’s a 30credit master’s program. And as I said, you take, typically, two per semester. In that way, you do finish in five semesters, including the summer. If you don’t take two, you may delay yourself a little bit, having to wait until that class is offered again. Currently, we have a fall start and a spring start, not a summer start. So we have courses through the summer– fall, spring, summer, fall, spring. Or if you start in the spring, you would then go spring, summer, fall, spring, summer. So you would have courses in two summers if you’re a spring start, and in one summer if you are a fall start. So here you can see the names of the courses that really include all of the current theoretical and practical knowledge, up-to-date research-based learning, and practice that you would want to have in earning a TESOL master’s. Every course includes fieldwork. We don’t place you. Many of our students– I do want to emphasize this point– many of our students are already practicing educators, whether that is in a PK-12 context, or whether it is an adult teaching context with adult learners. We have people who work in adult immigrant and refugee education. We have students who are instructors at community colleges. And we have students who are also instructors in PK-12 schools. And we have those who are aspiring to enter those fields. But it is important to know that if you want to be, and you are not yet a licensed teacher, and you want to be a licensed teacher, PK-12, who can teach in a public school in Virginia or another state, you would need to enter a licensure program. This is not a licensure program. I also want to point out that we have many students in Virginia and in other states who already are teachers, who want to add on the ESL endorsement through taking the Praxis test. In many states, including Virginia, you can add on the ESL endorsement by taking the Praxis test if you already have a teaching license. So you are well prepared to do that. And it doesn’t mean that you are electing to be an ESL teacher. We have had several content area teachers from Virginia and other states who simply want to do justice by the multilingual learners who are in their classrooms. But the important thing is that the field work is very flexible. It is connected to the performance-based assessments in the course. So we know from our experience and research as teacher educators that it’s imperative to have hands-on learning with multilingual learners, whether you already are an educator or whether you are aspiring to be an educator, whether in the United States or abroad. And we’ll talk a little bit more about the kind of settings that this program can prepare you for. OK, Marion, we’ll go to the next slide. OK, yes, so the beauty of this program is, opposed to just a straight-out licensure program that has a student teaching experience and all of that, this program really is very flexible. It can be for those teachers who want to become ESL teachers in the pre-K-12 setting. It can be for people who are not interested in working in the public school system, who are interested in working in private or international schools around the world, or for those who are interested in working in higher education, in community college programs, or in adult learning programs, even for governmental agencies, or NGOs, non-profit organizations, private language institutes, corporate language training programs for English for academic purposes, such as one that we have at Mason. So really, it’s a way to prepare yourself as a TESOL professional for working in many different contexts. And each of the courses that I mentioned before, I do want to emphasize, because you might be thinking, well, that’s a pretty big span– PK to adult. Each of the courses has content and resources that are geared towards either the PK-12 world or the adult higher education or adult education world. Although, many of the basic concepts, such as viewing multilingual learners from a strengths-based lens, from an asset-based lens, and appreciating their cultural and language identities, and inviting them into the classroom space, that idea carries across all of the age groups. Miriam, thank you. OK, so this is just a quick look at the faculty who designed this program, as I said, three years ago. I already told you a little bit about Dr. Joan Kang Shin. My other colleague, Dr. April Matix Foster, is an educator who has taught all over the world in many international schools. She has expertise in international baccalaureate education and elementary education. And my colleague, Dr. Sujin Kim, also works– so we’re all in TCLDEL. She is a scholar– an emerging scholar in translingual pedagogies and multiliteracies, work with multilingual learners. And you can look all of us up on Mason’s website if you’d like to learn a little bit more about the faculty. We also have a great number of wonderful adjunct faculty, who have been working with us for a very long time, who also may be instructors in some of the courses. OK, so now for the best part, I’d like to welcome our two student guests, who are current students in this master’s program. And I will just let them decide what they would like to share. So if you want to introduce yourself, and either one of you can start. I guess we’ll start with you Christina, since you’re on the left, and we’ll move that way to Fatima. And go ahead, Christina. CHRISTINA RIENHOFF: OK, thank you, Dr. Ramos. I am Christina Rienhoff. And it says there I’ve been an educator for 15 years. That’s 15 years of lots of different types of teaching positions. I think I’ve taught everything from pre-K through community college at this point. And I got into this program because I really felt like I needed to do a better job in my practice of recognizing the strengths of language learners and to just, in a content teacher’s perspective, honor their work more strongly. And I actually got to speak with Dr. Shin in the beginning to see if this would be a good fit for me. And I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go into ESL. And I’ve really found that this program has just really hit the mark. So anyway, that’s my introduction. KATHLEEN RAMOS: OK, thank you. Do you want to introduce yourself, Fatima? FATIMA BERENJI TEHRANI: Sure. Well, my name is Fatima. And I’ve been teaching ESL for almost 13 years now. I actually learned English as a foreign language. And I taught it for eight years as a foreign language as well. Then I moved to the US. And then it’s been almost five years that I’ve been teaching English as a second language. And the reason I chose the program was that my school actually has a lifetime learning policy. And I believe it was one of the wisest choices I’ve ever made. Because the program actually gives me the opportunity to delve deeper in the field. And it also gives me the opportunity to have better perspective, and insight, and see the world from my students’ point of view. And it also learns me how to– it also teaches me how to appreciate their background knowledge, their identity. And yep, sometimes– something that I want to add is the support that we receive from the faculty. Because sometimes it’s just hard to juggle all the tasks at the same time, studying, working full time. But it’s the moment that I think that, OK, I might fall short, I cannot achieve all these. But that’s the miraculous moment that we receive an email that the deadline is extended or some tasks are just removed to focus on the major assignments. So I believe it’s– it’s actually the best choice I’ve ever made. So, yep, thank you. KATHLEEN RAMOS: Thank you so much. Miriam, can we just go back one second? Because I’m not sure if either had anything else to say. I wasn’t sure, Christina, if you were finished, or you wanted to share something else? CHRISTINA RIENHOFF: I wasn’t really sure how much you wanted us to go on, and I didn’t want to take over for Fatima’s time either. KATHLEEN RAMOS: OK. Yeah, I think you can share a little bit more, if you like. Maybe just some way that– whatever you want to share. Yeah. CHRISTINA RIENHOFF: Yeah, I’d love to. I love this program. And I am almost done, I have to say. And I’m really excited. One great thing about this program is that it is asynchronous. And I think for those of us who are older, and have a family, and all the obligations that come with a family, and then full-time work, I think Fatima talked about there’s a lot of consideration in that with the professors. And they are very personable. They understand that we all live very, very busy lives. And they are really excellent at connecting and listening. And if you’ve got just one of those weeks where everything’s coming at you at once, they are there to listen and to take that into consideration. That said, it is a top-notch research institution. And there’s a lot of research to read. And that can be a little daunting, I think, in the beginning. But I have found that all the research is just very relevant. And they do a good job of putting in research that is– if you’re working with younger students, or you’re working where I work, more like in secondary, or if you’re working with adult learners, each of the courses is very good at trying to put in research that is really relevant to those different field areas. So it makes it really worthwhile. So, yeah, you’re reading pages of research, but at the end of the day, you’re really hearing from people who have spent a lot of time on those concepts and ideas, and they’re peer reviewed. It’s all top notch. So you don’t feel like you’re wasting your time just reading some dry research that doesn’t really apply. There’s application for it. And each module– so each course has modules. And they’re all laid out so nice that it’s really– I’m a type A person, and I appreciate how it’s very– it starts the same pattern each time. And it really helps help you organize your work. And you know what’s going to be required. You know there’s always some sort of application that you’re going to work with in that concept. And sometimes, those are hard because you’re not really fully sure if what you’ve felt is really what they want. But there’s such a broad array of ideas that come from everybody. And those get discussed on the discussion boards. And so you really feel like a community of learners happening. And it strengthens your own ideas and broadens them. And so I just– I could go on forever. And I don’t want to take over everybody’s time. So I’m happy to talk more if people have questions. Like I said, I’m secondary content mainstream classroom teacher, who just– I don’t even speak another language. I’m a monolingual, who’s just working in a multilingual world. KATHLEEN RAMOS: Well, thank you. Thank you, Christina, for sharing all of that. And I do want to see if Fatima has anything else she wants to share. So Fatima is in the other world, in adult education. She’s a multilingual learner, who knows four languages, if I’m remembering correctly. FATIMA BERENJI TEHRANI: Yes, yeah. The only thing that came to mind when Christina was mentioning different points is that we have this opportunity. The resources are all categorized for adults and also for kids. So I really appreciate that opportunity that we have. We can choose between different resources. And also, as Christina was mentioning, that you never feel like you’re wasting your time. I think we can just put everything into practice and apply it to our field that we are working in. KATHLEEN RAMOS: Thank you. Thank you both so much. OK, Miriam, we can go to the next slide, which I think is just giving them an idea– oh, OK, yeah. So this one– I love to share this one. This educator was in our first group that began in the spring of 2020, or maybe it was 2021. And she is an educator in Hong Kong, fourth grade– third and fourth grade teacher. And she sent me this email after the graduation to just share how much she also enjoyed the program. OK, so soon we will pause and take some questions. But the admission process is pretty straightforward. You need to have an earned bachelor’s degree and should have a minimum of 3.0 GPA. You need to upload your transcripts from your bachelor’s degree. If you’re an international student, that can take a bit longer. So you want to leave yourself some time. You want to have an updated resume or CV, two letters of recommendation. And you will also be asked to write a short personal statement or goal statement about what your goals are for entering this master’s program, and why you think that Mason would be a good fit for you, and why you think it would be a good fit in this master’s program. There are people to support you as you apply if you have questions. I will tell you that it does take some time. So our fall applications are open. I always think it’s a good idea to begin sooner than later, especially as you may have to wait on letters of recommendation or transcript verification. All of those kinds of things take time. And once you are– your application is considered, when you are accepted, you receive a letter of acceptance, a welcome letter from Mason. And within that letter is an important link for you to declare your intent to enroll. So it’s like saying, yes, I accept my acceptance so that we know that you’re going to enroll. And then when you do that, you receive your Mason email, and you have a G number, and you will be instructed on how to register for the fall classes. And I think– yes, there’s the website there of support and also an email if you have some questions while you’re doing your application. But I think now we can pause. And is there a question already in the chat, Miriam? That’s just a message that your laptop froze up. OK. If there are questions now, we’re happy to take any questions that you might have. You can open your mic, or you can put it in the chat, or use the Q&A. I think we do see one question in there. INTERVIEWER: One question just came in. It says, typically what’s the time commitment weekly? KATHLEEN RAMOS: OK, so we like to base that on the idea that if you were an in-person– in an in-person graduate program, you would spend three hours per week in the classroom, and then you would spend really what is typically eight to 10 hours during the course of the week working on your graduate work. So that includes reading, and doing assignments, preparing your discussion board, doing any application activities. Another thing I wanted to mention is that in eight-week courses, we’re careful to really chunk the major assignments into small pieces or to give you a timeline. I see Christina nodding her head. It’s really suggested to follow that timeline so that you don’t have to do a big assignment in a crunch at the end. But maybe Christina or Fatima, you could say on a typical week– let’s say, it’s not the week that a major assignment is due– about how much time you spend on reading, or engaging with the other content resources beyond readings, preparing your discussion board, doing application activities, responding to your peers. CHRISTINA RIENHOFF: Yeah, I think that’s– what you’ve suggested is pretty spot on. And it really depends on what your life is set up– if you’re working full time. I probably spend a lot of time on the weekend organizing for the coming week. Because I don’t have as much time, necessarily, in the evening that I– that I spend during the week. So I’d say I probably spend about eight hours a week working. And sometimes that’s in chunks on a Sunday and a Monday. And then sometimes– then normally, again on a Thursday and a Friday. The timelines, as I was nodding, are really, really helpful. And the biggest suggestion I always make for anybody who’s in the program as a new student is to really pay attention to those timelines. They really are set up for your success. And you won’t be crazed when you do get to those larger assignments that are due and have to do everything at once. KATHLEEN RAMOS: Thank you, Christina. Fatima, would you agree with that time frame? FATIMA BERENJI TEHRANI: Yeah, I would say the same here for me, but with the difference that I’m a very slow reader. So I usually spend two hours a day reading and going through different resources, so let’s say, Monday through Thursday. And then I try to work on the assignments on Friday and Saturday. So, yeah, roughly eight to 10 hours per week. Yeah. KATHLEEN RAMOS: OK, thank you. I see we have another question. This is from– I’m not sure if it’s Kali or Kaleigh, so forgive me if I’m not saying that right. But you work as a freelance ESL educator abroad. You travel to the US quite a bit. Is the fieldwork flexible? Yes, it is. That’s one of the beautiful aspects of this program. Because it’s not licensure, you’re not being placed by our Teacher Preparation Education Office, where you have to be in an accredited school, and certain number of hours, and have somebody verifying those hours. It’s very flexible. So as long as you locate your field experience and you’re working with multilingual learners, I think that’s actually kind of cool. Because from course to course, you may focus on different multilingual learners, or even different context, or age levels if you wish to do that. So in this program, yes, definitely there is flexibility to complete the field work wherever you are located. Other questions that we can answer? As we have a little bit of time, and it’s– I know I’m always a person who thinks of a question right afterwards that I wanted to know the answer to. So we’ll just give it a moment. Maybe we did a great job between the three of us describing everything. OK. INTERVIEWER: It says, I do not need licensure at this point in my career. However, I can complete– can I complete the licensure at a different point in time? KATHLEEN RAMOS: OK, so that is a very good question. And I’m going to say that if you think you’re going to– you can, but you will find yourself at the beginning. So these courses will not transfer into a licensure program. Licensure is very State Department of Education driven with very specific requirements. And so I think if you feel that you are going to want to teach in a public school with a license, it probably would be good to consider the licensure program, which is also a fully online program, but it has a different format, of 15-week courses, and a requirement for the Student Internship, which is a semester-long experience at the end as part of the Department of Education requirements. INTERVIEWER: And then we have another question. Do you have to live domestically to participate in the program? KATHLEEN RAMOS: Oh, no, absolutely not. So that’s another beautiful aspect of this program. The quote that I shared with you, that student has been in Hong Kong for years. That’s where she lives and works. We have had students who have lived in the Philippines, in Ecuador. I’m trying to think where other– where other places are– in Canada, and then in many states in the United States, but of course, that’s domestic. But, yes, so because it’s asynchronous, you are not required to be online live at any time. Although, you are welcome to make an appointment with a professor to meet by Zoom if there’s something you want to discuss that maybe is hard to iron out on email. But you can work whenever you have time, as Christina was saying. So I, myself, am still– I love to work very, very early in the morning, every morning, all seven days. That’s just how I do it. I really like to work early in the morning. And then maybe take a little break in the afternoon and do some more work after that. But it’s flexible. You may be a night owl. I’m a person who rarely sees past 9:30 PM. I don’t work at that time of the night, ever. But some people do. I see students turning things in at 11:00 PM, 2:00 in the morning. People have different time clocks. But, yeah, you can be anywhere in the world and participate in this program. INTERVIEWER: All righty. KATHLEEN RAMOS: Good question. INTERVIEWER: We’ve got another question. Do I need an admissions advisor to complete my application, and I guess I can answer that. KATHLEEN RAMOS: OK. INTERVIEWER: Yes. So the way that the admissions side, I guess, works when it comes to applications is that we do maintain communication between the advisor and the student to ensure that the application is 100% ready to go to be reviewed. So we will not send through applications that are not 100% complete. So you do need to connect with an admissions advisor. You can call the phone number that’s on the screen. And then you can connect with one to help you finish an application. KATHLEEN RAMOS: Yeah, and we’ve heard from several students how much they appreciated having that admissions advisor. So take advantage of it, and everything else that, as a Mason student, you have access to, all of the resources. And become a Mason alumni, who is connected to the university, and as long as you keep up your Mason email to the databases and to your– hopefully, to your colleagues, to your professors for years to come. Anything else coming to mind? Well, then, Miriam, if other questions come up, is the the place to ask those questions? INTERVIEWER: Absolutely. You can either send an email to us or call in. KATHLEEN RAMOS: OK. INTERVIEWER: All righty. Well, thank you so much, everybody. And faculty, and students, thank you so much for attending our virtual open house. Dr. Ramos, did you have anything else to say? KATHLEEN RAMOS: No, I just want to thank the prospective students, interested applicants, for attending, for taking their time, for considering Mason. And also, a very, very special thank you to the two students, to Christina and Fatima, who joined us tonight, taking time after busy workdays, and lots of studying going on, and major assignments being done to share with you. So it’s really deeply appreciated. Thanks so much.

MHA Health Systems Management Transcript

STEPHANIE RACINE: Just want to welcome everyone. My name is Stephanie Racine. I’m an admissions representative here with George Mason. And I’m joined tonight by Dr. Brenda Sheingold, our program director.

And we actually have a recent graduate of the program, Cindy Miller. So thank you all so much for joining us tonight. So just to give you an idea of tonight’s agenda, we’re going to cover several exciting things. For example, we’re going to start by meeting our program director.

Then we’ll learn a little bit about why people choose George Mason’s MHA program, including the learning outcomes, curriculum details, the capstone project, and how to network and make the most of the program outside of the classroom. And then we’ll have the pleasure of hearing about Cindy Miller’s experience in the program.

Then we’ll go over the admissions requirements, and then most people’s favorite part of the program. That’s where you all will get the chance to type in all of your questions. I can see that everyone’s figured out how to use the webinar chat it looks like. So I am going to go ahead and let Dr. Sheingold tell us a little bit about herself.

And then if you hear anything during the program that you want to know more about, please go ahead and type in the question. And then like I said, at the end, we’ll read those. And we’ll go ahead and get those answers for you. So Dr. Sheingold, tell us about you, your background, and just what you love about the MHA program.

BRENDA SHEINGOLD: Well, first of all, thanks to all of you for taking time this evening to spend with us. I really appreciate that. All of us at George Mason appreciate it.

I’m here this evening representing my colleague, Dr. Maria Uriyo, as well as myself. And she’s the online program coordinator. So I’ve been at George Mason since December of 2018. And I work in partnership with Dr. Uriyo for advising and managing the online students, as well as the traditional students.

And those are on-campus students. We often refer to them as traditional students. So you’ll hear that. I’m very happy to work at George Mason. It’s a wonderful program. We just won a national award in sustainability. So I’m very proud about that.

This was a competitive award with other MHA programs. And we were selected by a blue ribbon panel to win that. So it’s really elevated the visibility of our program even more than it was before. So I’m looking forward to all of your questions this evening.

And I live in Burke. I see somebody is here this evening from Burke. So I’m happy about that, and Rice, and Harrisonburg. And there’s probably other places I didn’t catch in the chat box. But welcome to all of you.

So what makes our program unique is that it’s a CAHME accredited. And I’m sure that all of you are only evaluating and assessing programs that are CAHME accredited. That’s the national accreditation similar to Joint Commission. You may be more familiar with that for hospital accreditation.

But it raises the bar and elevates the expectations from us by external reviewers, and external programs, and students like yourself because it helps keep us on our toes to be a top drawer program. Just last week, our ranking actually increased in US News and World Report to number 32. So we’ve moved up in the rankings. And we’re very happy about that.

The rankings were just released literally a week ago. So we’re moving up. And I’m proud of that. The flexible format is something that’s also different for online students in terms of being asynchronous and fitting in with your schedule.

So the classes are offered completely online, so that you can log on and log off and complete the work around your other busy life demands. We do have synchronous sessions often during the course of a class. And we’ll record them and post the Zoom link in the class, so that you can go back and listen to it if you’re not able to attend in person.

There’s also a lot of opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom. And Cindy can give you an up close and personal look at that because she took advantage of that and was involved in quite a bit. So I’ll let her talk about that from a personal perspective.

But we do have a very active student organization, where we’re committed to have two officers in place, the vice president and the community liaison from the online program. And they partner with the president and a treasurer from the traditional on-campus program. So we have equal representation from both pathways because it’s the same exact program.

There’s no difference in the classes. The faculty teaches in both pathways. And we’re very careful to say pathways because we have one CAHME accreditation for both. It’s unusual to have a mirror image for both online and traditional students. But we do. And we pull it off with precision, I must say, because we’re very careful to be inclusive of online students and offer the exact same opportunities.

So we can go to the next slide if you want, Stephanie. So we have competencies that are embedded in every single class. And they meet the CAHME and AUPHA, the Association for University Programs in Healthcare Education. And we’re very careful to meet those competencies. We’re required to measure them.

We measure when you come in to see what your baseline is. We measure them again midway through the program. And then we do one final measurement right before you graduate, so that we can adjust the classes and the courses to meet the needs of the market, and to meet your needs, and to see where we might have to fine tune and change a class or change a course.

These were very organic. None of our curriculum is stagnant. And we seek to stay cutting edge all the time. So we can go to the next slide.

OK, don’t worry about the busyness of this slide. It’s a representation, it’s a snapshot of the classes that we offer. So on the left-hand column are the core classes that everybody takes regardless of which of the two concentrations you choose. Healthcare quality is a new concentration we just started offering this year.

And it’s because we are advisory board for the MHA program. And the employers have said this is a direction that they would like to see students go in. Value-based purchasing is becoming more and more important in the market. And this focuses on that to give you the skills you need to operate in that dynamic.

The executive concentration is more for administration and high-level management. It focuses less on the dashboards and the value-based purchasing that the healthcare quality concentration focuses on. So this one is more traditional in terms of what previous executive education has been. So we’ve upcycled this to also meet the market.

And so you have one of these two choices to make, not right away. but after you have some of the core classes under your belt, you can choose. We can go to the next– oh, I want to mention the sunset on this slide because this is actually from our campus. And this is really what the sunset looks like.

I just last week was walking down a path along George Mason. And two students were struggling to take a selfie with the sunset because it’s beautiful on campus at George Mason. And I stopped and put all my stuff down and said, let me just take a picture of the two of you. So this is real and just represents the beauty of our campus in Virginia.

So now we can go to the next slide. So the capstone class is one of the things that you work towards at the very end. Everything leads up to that. And this is when you network to find a preceptor. We give you lots of tools and opportunities to network with executives in the DMV in this area. We’re in the backyard of Washington DC.

So we’re well connected in the healthcare community with other executives and organizations. And we bring a lot of people to campus through Zoom and if you live close by in person, so that you have the opportunity to develop those network skills which are required for this degree. You can’t really graduate in an administrative role without being able to do that.

So we give you lots of opportunity and coaching. And we have a wonderful relationship with our community partners. So they seek out opportunities to work with our students. And we just had someone who is an alumni who is the president of 10 hospitals in West Virginia. And he just did a Zoom session on value-based purchasing two weeks ago.

So we bring a lot to the table for you in terms of finding a preceptor. So this is a strategic plan, or a quality improvement, or a process improvement, or a population health project that really allows you to deploy the skills that you’ve gotten under your belt from two years with us and apply it to an organization. It’s a service project and help them resolve something that they may not have had the opportunity or time to spend on. And it certainly often saves a lot of money for consultants when you do your capstone project.

So we can go to the next slide. So I mentioned rising healthcare leaders at Mason. That’s our student organization. We just seated a brand new bench of officers for that last week because we have to rotate out officers every year. And two of them were graduating. So we just have brand new officers that are coming in that you’ll have the opportunity to meet in August.

We also network with the National Capital Healthcare Executives Association. And they came in March in force during a spring symposium our students hosted. And they did a lot of resume reviews with the students and gave feedback on their resumes and what they look for when they interview for jobs after graduation.

We have a Honor Society and a nationally recognized Academy Health Student chapter. We also offer a health policy seminar series. As you can imagine, we attract the top people in policy because of where we’re located, and then national case competitions, which we fund completely to national case competitions annually, which Cindy can speak to personally because she was the captain of one of those teams.

And we went to New Orleans for four days for that particular competition. And that same competition will be held in Atlanta this year. And that’s the National Association for Health Service Executives, NAHSE, if you’ve heard of that before. We can go to the next slide.

Here is Cindy with her team. And as you can see, they were strong. They did a great job. And we’re so proud of them. And we were so pleased with how they– the work they did for this was phenomenal. And they really presented themselves professionally. And I just love this picture. I think it really just represents the program in every way.

So I think the next slide is Cindy. Oh, the admissions process. So the admissions process is spelled out on this slide. You have to have a bachelor’s degree. And increasingly, we’re seeing more students that don’t have work experience in the field. So I know someone I saw in the chat is here from our undergrad program and is interested I believe in the accelerated bachelor’s to master’s.

So we’re increasingly not requiring work experience because we give you so much in the master’s program in terms of being able to function in healthcare. You need a resume and a statement of purpose. The statement of purpose should explain why you want to get a master’s degree and what you think you might want to do with it.

Of course, we want you to come in with an open mind and be able to explore and feel comfortable being exposed to anything in healthcare and make that decision after you have some courses under your belt. You need two letters of recommendation, professional letters, not from your mother. They have to be an employer, or a former professor, or someone that has some relationship with you professionally.

And then there’s a video interview at the very end. As you go through these other three steps, the very last thing is a video interview with the admissions specialist, like Stephanie. And then the admissions committee makes a decision about admission to the program. So we make it very easy. And it’s very prescribed. It’s difficult to make an error. And we make sure that you’re supported through the entire process.

We can go to the next slide. So here we have questions. And what– I’d like to give Cindy the opportunity and we can maybe go back to her slide with her team to introduce herself. She just got a new job. Since she has her new credential, she can tell you about that too. And then her experience at George Mason. And then we’ll open it up to questions to anything you’d like to ask.

STEPHANIE RACINE: For anyone that joined us late Cindy Miller is a recent graduate of the program. So I know a lot of times people say during the admissions process, hey, can I talk to a current or former student? So now’s your chance to get those questions ready. Cindy, can you hear us OK?

CINDY MILLER: I can. I can. How are you, everyone? Can you hear me OK?


STEPHANIE RACINE: Yes. We can hear you well. Yes.

CINDY MILLER: Wonderful. Well, hello, good evening, everyone. My name is Cindy Miller. And I am a recent graduate at George Mason University. And what an honor and what a wonderful journey it’s been. I remember being exactly where you’re at right now.

When I started, it was 2020, in the summer of 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic. And coming to a point where I’m, like, OK, would right now would be a good time to go to school? Because I’ve always wanted to.

But a little bit about my background is that I am also a licensed practical nurse. So I’m an LPN. I’m a active duty spouse in the Air Force. Well, actually now my husband has officially retired as of December. So we’ve traveled the world.

So I was able to be a student at George Mason, being the fact that I traveled from place to place, I’m also a mother. So being able to multitask was one of the key decisions that I made in wanting to be a student at George Mason University because it’s supported, it allowed me to support my family, be there for my family, be actively involved in my children’s extracurricular activity and also being a military spouse.

So I was able to multitask all of that, while also being very well supported with everyone at George Mason University. It’s been really a joy. So if you’re thinking, OK, I have a busy schedule, will I be able to take on classes, take on courses? Yes, you can do it. You can absolutely do it. I did it. You can do it. And [INAUDIBLE]. It’s just such an honor to be here with you guys tonight that I’m on this side of talking to students, when just two years ago, I was exactly where you are at right now.

And I still remember the job interview aspect of it as well. I was really nervous. I was nervous. And yet, two years later, here I am. And also on top of being a licensed practical nurse, I also have my bachelor’s degree in health care administration with a minor in organizational management.

And what I will say is this. As I navigated through health care, through the health care sector as a nurse, part of the difficulty that I had just personally speaking being a licensed practical nurse, when I navigated through the health care realm, I wanted to break away from the bedside. And I wanted to go into a more administrative role.

And the problem or the challenges that I ran into was that the millisecond I presented my resume, every single place that I went into, they immediately went straight for my clinical background and they focused in and they honed in on my clinical background. And I was not really able to break into the more administrative aspect of health care for that particular reason. And what George Mason did, because of the fact that they are so well connected with higher ups in the health care industries, executive director, CEO, CFOs, you name it, they’re in connection with almost everyone within the Northern Virginia area.

I was able to finally break into the more administrative role for the first time throughout my entire medical history. For the first time this December. So I am happy to announce that I am a health care manager with United Health Care.

And I’ve been a nurse for about 15 years. And I’ve had my bachelor’s degree for nine years. And during the course of that time, because of the fact that the University that I went to previously did not foster the professional connections that would warrant an environment that would be conducive for me to break into the more administrative role, I wasn’t able to do that.

But with George Mason, with the reputation that they have and the partnerships that they have with health care industries, I was able to break in the week of graduation. The week of graduation. That’s unheard of. It’s been a wonderful journey. And I felt very supported along the way. And it’s just an honor to be here tonight. It really is. It really is.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Well congratulations, Cindy. That is so impressive. Congratulations on that new job. I know a lot of students tend to ask, well, what is it about this degree that you were able to leverage to be able to get this job? Would you say it was the hands-on experiences that you had during the program, where maybe you had to showcase something to an employer? Or do you believe it was just the resume and credential? Did the employer, when you were interviewing, say anything in particular that stood out about your resume this time around?

CINDY MILLER: Well, it was all of it. Everything that you said. Absolutely all of it. So I was able to make connections with individuals that I would not have been able to make connections with before. Perfect example. I was able to build a connection with Audrey Smith. Audrey Smith is a senior policy advisor for Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. I would not have been able to make that connection with her.

And I was able to make that connection with her more so towards the end of our classes when we’re trying to find a preceptorships towards the end. Miss Smith is also a George Mason University alumni. So I was first introduced to her during that time. And then was able to then connect with her after classes as well via email. She was so open, willing to help. And we even scheduled in a coffee date.

So it’s just like to arrange a coffee date with a senior advisor of West Virginia’s Senator, that’s pretty impressive. I also had a wonderful opportunity to interact with, and actually get a lot of financial corporate advice from Mr. Ron Ewald. He’s a senior vice president for Inova Health Care Systems. COO, CFO for Inova Fairfax Hospital. That’s pretty impressive.

It’s the connection that you’re able to build and the network that you’re able to build with– well, actually through George Mason because they’re so well connected. And even meeting with individuals or tapping into organizations that would have never have known existed. I had the opportunity to meet with Melissa Monbouquette. She’s the deputy director for BUILD Health Challenge. And what she does is that she meets with other organizations, non-profit organizations, to help tackle social determinants of health.

And that is something that is very dear to my heart. And she actually motivated me to actually tackle into that as well because that is also my focal point with United health Care, is that I do deal with social determinants of health for individuals that are on Medicaid. So what George Mason was able to allow me to do is to tap into the passions that I’ve always wanted to tap into, but didn’t necessarily have the connections or the network to do that.

And George Mason University allowed me the opportunity to have that network in order to make that happen, which was an absolute honor. And what I really am– what I really had the opportunity to do, which is so exciting, I’m so proud of it. During the interviewing process, I was able to talk about being nominated and being selected by Dr. Sheingold and Dr. Uriyo to represent George Mason University at the NAHSE competition. And for those of you do not know what NAHSE is, it is the National Association for Health Services Executives.

We had the wonderful opportunity, along with my– well, they’re my friends, my dear friends, Khadijah and Brittany to represent George Mason University to tackle the challenges of nursing shortages in Louisiana. And just coming up with strategies in order to tackle that. It was a wonderful opportunity.

George Mason paid for all of it. I felt like I have to mention that. George Mason University paid for all of it. The flight, the hotel, our meals, they paid for all of it. It was just such an honor to be able to represent a University that I hold very dear to my heart. And to represent them the way that I, hopefully, was able to make them proud. So yes. Yes. Go for George Mason. You’re not going to lose. It’s a wonderful opportunity. Go. Go, go, go, go, run. Do it.

BRENDA SHEINGOLD: Thank you so much, Cindy. And you did represent us well. We’re so proud of you. And I want to point out in this picture of Cindy, on the left hand side, Brittany is also an online student. So out of the team of three that we sent to this competition in New Orleans, two were online students. The other one, Khadijah, that she mentioned was the president of the Student Association. Brittany and Khadijah are both graduating in 10 days. So soon, everybody will be an alumni that’s in this picture. Thank you for that wonderful– relating that wonderful experience, Cindy. That was very heartwarming.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Yes. Thank you so much, Cindy. And while you were giving an overview, we did have a question come in from one of our attendees, who was asking, what advice would you give to a student in managing work in the field, motherhood and school? Were there any strategies that you could share for success in the program?

CINDY MILLER: That is a wonderful question. I have a wonderful team. I’m just going to be honest with you. I have a wonderful team. I have a very supportive husband. I take the help, take the help. The best advice that I can give as a mother, as an active duty spouse is take the help.

And if mom is able to give you help, if your friends, if your siblings is able to give you help, take the help. I was able to take on being a full time student online because I did have a very supportive team around me. And I accepted the help. So set a schedule. Be very organized.

In order for me to do some of the assignments that I was able to do, the projects, I had to delegate tasks off to family members. And I had to just manage my time and set time aside for yourself and stick to that time. That was really how I was able to get through, is that we’ve had many pizzas. There’s been many a nights where I didn’t cook.

We pizza’d out, or had some cereal for dinner. There’s going to be times laundry is probably going to have to wait till the end of the week. And just being OK with that. And you know, it’s OK. It’s OK. And just being able to just pull in the help when you need it. When you need the help, say, ask for help. Don’t just balance it all.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Thank you. And we did have another question. There’s an ongoing dialogue of experience versus education in relation to what prepares individuals more for challenges in the workforce. Now that you’ve settled into your health care management position, congratulations by the way, the student says, do you feel that Mason prepared and increased your ability to be a better leader? Or maybe you could give us a couple of examples of how that was accomplished?

CINDY MILLER: Absolutely. Absolutely. You have a force behind you when you are a student or an alumni of George Mason. You have a force behind you. Before coming to George Mason, it’s a mandate that you have to have your bachelor’s degree. So although I had my bachelor’s degree, I didn’t have that backing. I didn’t have that backing. I didn’t have the support. I didn’t have the network.

So after I graduated, although I had the education, although I did have a background in health care, I didn’t have that necessary support to push me through– to push me through the door so I can tap into the more administrative aspect of everything. But George Mason not only prepared me through the network that there, but the classes. The classes challenge you every step of the way. And they force you to think outside the box through different scenarios. Tons of case studies, tons of case studies, tons of case studies.

And through those case studies, you’re able to work through and facilitate through some of the issues that we combat through health care. Rather it is issues of social determinants of health, which is my favorite, or just like corporate financing and how to manage the health care system, health insurance and all the finances and everything like that entails. So you are equipped with a lot of tools to help navigate, to also give you the self esteem to navigate through those spaces.

So you’re not alone. And even after you graduate, I’m an alumni. I could still call doctor Sheingold, I could still call doctor Uriel. I’m not alone. You’re not alone. And you can still tap into those resources. If I have any questions or any issues about, let’s just say, corporate financing or anything like that, I can call can call Mr. Ron Ewald. And I can ask a senior advisor for Nova any corporate questions that I have. You have literally an army of health executives that are literally at your fingertips that you can tap into at any time. It’s a family at George Mason. And once you graduate, you can still tap into those resources.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Yes. And it sounds like a common thread here is in the online format, for students to really take the initiative and get involved in activities to build these relationships. And it’s so wonderful to have an online program that offers students so many opportunities to get involved and make these connections. But you do have to be self-motivated and learn to not be shy about reaching out for help or to make these connections. So thank you so much, Cindy.

And this next question, Dr. Sheingold, it may be a good one for you to answer. A student is asking if they ended with a pretty good grade point average, but earlier on in the college career, family issues happened and the GPA wasn’t as high, resulting in being asked to leave the University early on in the career. But then they went back and had a higher GPA, well above a 3.0. What advice would you have for people in that situation who maybe they didn’t start off with the best grade point average, but they managed to pull it up in their major or closer toward the end? How can someone build a strong file for admission in your eyes?

BRENDA SHEINGOLD: That’s a great question and it happens more often than you’d think. Many people that end up applying for a master’s in health care administration start out clinically in pre-med and in other– physical therapy, for example. Even chemistry, a lot is coming to mind about how they start out. And they end up having a poor fit and they don’t get good grades because it’s a poor fit.

They’re still in the process of struggling to understand where they belong. So the grades reflect that. But the best way to handle it, and congratulations for pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and coming and finishing strong because that’s not easy to do. But you did it, which really demonstrates resilience and is a trait that you have to have– you have to have it as a leader and to succeed in health care administration, especially nowadays post pandemic.

The challenges are enormous. So what I suggest is that you discuss exactly what you just did tonight in your purpose statement so that it lays the foundation of understanding for the committee reading your application of what happened. And we’ve heard it before. It’s not unique. What is unique is that you overcame it and that you finish strong and you found your way. And we hope you find your way to George Mason because that’s the kind of person we want.

CINDY MILLER: If it’s OK, can I piggyback a little bit off of what you said, Dr. Sheingold?


CINDY MILLER: While I was a student at George Mason, I lost my sister. My sister passed away of cancer. And it was very hard. It was extremely difficult for me and my family at that time. And I was supported every step of the way. There were times where I couldn’t even bring myself to look at my studies. I just I couldn’t. But I kept an open line of communication with my professors and that is key.

If you are going through a rough time or if there’s any types of situations that is going on, to keep an open line of communication with your professors and let them know what’s going on so that they can help you. If you’re having a hard time, don’t just stay quiet and allow your grades to slip. Have an open line of communication with your advisor as well. And I was able to navigate through my studies. I was able to navigate through exams and my coursework. And here I am today.

So it’s possible. You can do it. It’s possible. You can do it even through hardships. You have a team behind you. When I say that you have a team behind you, you have a team behind you that will help you. And their goal is for you to succeed. So tap into that.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Thank you, Cindy. And I’m so sorry about your sister. And it sounds like you were able to hang in there and communicate with your instructors and finish up something to really be proud of. And I know our time together is coming to a close here soon. I’m going to give just another minute or two for any last questions to trickle in.

But while I do that, I did promise the student earlier on in the week that I spoke with that, I would ask this question for him. I’m not sure if he’s on the line today. But I’ve noticed that we have, as you mentioned earlier, a lot of former nurses, sometimes even some doctors or physical therapists or medical assistants that apply to the program that are coming over from more of a clinical role, or they may even still be in those positions while pursuing this degree. And one of them asked if this degree could satisfy any continuing education credits or is that completely separate?

BRENDA SHEINGOLD: Continuing education credits, I’m assuming to renew a license. I’m guessing that’s what it’s for. And that depends on the state and it depends on the specific continuing education requirements. Because it’s very prescribed. And they spell it out. For example, for myself, because I’m a nurse and I renew my license every other year in the state of Virginia. Well, it’s a multi-pack license. But because I teach in a University in health care, that counts as continuing education for me in Virginia.

So you have to look at the statutes that are involved for license renewal state by state to see if taking courses in health system management qualify you for renewal. So that’s the best I can answer that. And Cindy’s probably had to redo her license also. So you really have to look at the statutes and the requirements in detail to make sure. But usually, they’re pretty flexible about it.

STEPHANIE RACINE: Of course. Thank you so much, Dr. Sheingold. Well, it looks like everyone is very satisfied with all of these answers. We had some great questions tonight. I so appreciate you, Dr. Sheingold and also Cindy for joining us with your very thorough detailed explanations about what to expect in this program. And I did want to point out that we are still accepting applications for the August 24th start date. You’re right on time. You’re not late If you are considering that start date.

On this slide, you’ll see our admissions phone number. If you are just lying awake tonight in bed and think, oh, I should have asked that question and I forgot to, please give us a call tomorrow. Our admissions team will be happy to assist you, send out the list of courses, all of the breakdown of everything you need, the tuition, the courses themselves and the admissions requirements.

You can also send us an email And it will be fielded out to one of us in admissions. And if you’re ready to apply to the program, just visit to start on that application. And we hope to hear from you all soon. So thank you all for joining us. And I will go ahead and is there anyone else that would like to share before I close this out?

OK. Well, thank you again so much. We’re getting some thank you’s from the participants. So thank you again and I will go ahead and stop the recording. Have a great night, everyone.

MS Computer Science Transcript

HEATHER BRYANT: Thank you all for joining us this evening. If you’re just joining us, welcome to the Fall Virtual Open House for the online Master of Science and Computer Science program here at George Mason University.

My name is Heather Bryant. I’m an admissions representative for the online graduate programs here at Mason. I’m here as a resource to give information, answer questions, and walk you through the admissions process if you do decide to move forward with an application.

This event is set up so that we’ll answer questions at the end, so feel free to put any questions you have into the chat. You can also put them in the Q&A feature. I will be checking that as well. But we will answer them later on in the evening. So feel free to just put your questions in there now if you have them or at any point throughout the presentation.

So we are joined this evening by the program director, Dr. Pettit, and he will be sharing information about the program. And Dr. Pettit will be talking about curriculum details and career outlook information as well. And we will also discuss admissions requirements. And at the end, we will answer questions that you have. So again, please feel free to put those in the chat or the Q&A feature.

So in your controls at the bottom window, you can click Chat for the chat window to appear and type your questions in there. You can also select who you would like to send the message to. So if you’d like to just send it to me, that’s fine. You can do that. Or you can send it to everybody in the chat.

There’s also the Raise Hand feature as well. And if you would prefer to put your questions in the Q&A, you can do that as well. Just click Q&A in your webinar controls to see the Q&A window, and then type your question in the text box to ask a question. I’ll be checking both the Q&A in the Chat. And without further ado, I’ll turn this over to you Dr. Pettit.

ROB PETTIT: All right. Welcome, everybody. I am Rob Pettit. I am the program director for the online Master’s of Science and Computer Science. Officially, I am a Professor of Practice in the Computer Science Department and Director of New Graduate Programs.

The background picture that you see is not in Virginia, although I am located in Virginia, but trying to think positively about our smoke-filled skies right now and put up a picture of the clearer Austrian Alps. So if you’re in the DC metro, you know exactly what I’m talking about today with the smoke from Canada.

Anyway, I am, as I said Professor of Practice in the Computer Science Department. I spent 30 years as a practicing software engineer before joining George Mason full time in the fall of I think it was 2021, although I taught as an adjunct for probably 15 to 18 years before that. I am also a Mason alumni. So I do have my master’s in Software Engineering from Mason and my PhD in Computer Science. So that’s me. Next slide, please.

So a little bit about what makes our program different and why you would want to choose ours versus others that are out there. There are many choices at different price points and different locations. And one of the things that I really like to highlight with our program is that every one of our courses that you have the option of taking fully online, asynchronously, are developed and taught by George Mason faculty.

These are the same classes that you would have in person– maybe a different instructor. But our traditional full-time, normal instructors are the ones that are developing these courses and teaching them. We’re not farming this out to somebody else. So if you take CS 530 online, you’re going to get the same content out of it as CS 530 in person, and we try to make sure that.

We don’t have massively large courses. Right now, you’re looking at about maybe 100 in a class. We may at some point go up to 200. We haven’t seen that happen, though. But we’re not talking these massively large classes that you might see in other programs. So that’s really one of the things that truly sets us apart.

We are also a very recognized computer science department in the United States and within the world. US News and World Report does put us in the top 100. The CS department actually prefers the metrics-based If you go there, that’s based on our research and our teaching and our faculty. And in that, we’re actually number 30 in the US and the top ranking institution in Virginia and one of the top in the mid-Atlantic.

So you have all the resources of George Mason at your hand. We try to be responsive. We try to keep the curriculum aligned. And you do get courses taught by our actual professors. All right. Next slide.

So the fully online asynchronous MSCS degree is a subset of what you would see if you were taking classes on the Fairfax campus. So we tried to simplify this a little bit, that if you look at the– if you go to George Mason’s website and look at the catalog for the MSCS, it’s kind of like putting puzzle pieces together, that there’s a certain set of core requirements and a certain set of advanced requirements.

But with our subset of classes that we offer for the online master’s, you would have these required core courses– so CSS 530, which is your Mathematical Foundations, your CSS 583, which is your Algorithms, 531 which is Systems Programming, and CSS 580, which is Introduction to Artificial intelligence.

Those are all three-credit hour courses. Every course you will take here is three credit hours. So that’s the core level that you would take, followed by a required set of four advanced courses.

And the advanced courses that we offer are the ones that you can see– I’m pointing with my mouse, realizing you can’t see it– SWE 642, Software Engineer for the World Wide Web, 632, which is User Interface Design and Development, 637 for Software Testing, and then CS 682, Computer Vision. That then leaves you with six credits or two classes that you can choose as electives, and those are shown over here on the right-hand side.

So this is a subset of our rather large class offering that we would offer in total in Fairfax. But all of these can be taken completely online, completely asynchronous. And by asynchronous, we mean that you would have a weekly schedule, weekly modules to complete guided by the professor. But within that week, you choose when you do that.

Now, some classes have certain deadlines for assignments. My apologies. My cat got stuck in the room– [LAUGHS]– just jumped up on me. So you would complete assignments based on the deadlines for those assignments. So some might be on Wednesdays, or some might be on Sundays, but you know that ahead of time. And aside from that, everything else is done at your pace within that week.

I would also mention that– I believe all of our professors– I know I do, and I think all of the other professors do this as well, where we would offer some set office hours. And those would be at a particular day and time, but attendance is not mandatory. So if those are offered they would always be recorded. But it’s an option for you to join in and ask questions face-to-face with a professor if you wish.

Generally speaking, the TAs that serve the class also have their office hours and offer something similar. So you’re not just left to learn on your own online. There’s always a professor that is assigned to the course that is guiding it and offering office hours and other additional instruction.

And you do have to be fairly diligent with your own calendar just to make sure that you’re meeting the deadlines for the assignments. But other than that, it’s really trying to be convenient to you during your week with whatever your own schedule is. All right. Next slide, please.

In terms of learning outcomes, why would you want a master’s in computer science? I would say, why would you not want a master’s in computer science? Almost all companies are really starting to emphasize the need for advanced degrees in computer science.

Particularly, if you get into any of the advanced architecture, any of the systems dealing with artificial intelligence, advanced algorithms. They’re really using the bachelor’s as a starting point. And as you advance in your career, most companies in the CS field are expecting you to get a master’s degree these days from my experience.

The salaries are really all over the place. So we ended up using the top 10% salary data that we could pull because most of the data that you pull is averaging across the country.

And it looks like almost all of you, if not all of you that are attending live here, are from Virginia, maybe even the DC metro, where our salaries are much larger. So these top 10% salaries in the CS field do represent some expectations for what you can achieve with a master’s in Computer Science. All right. Next slide.

So the admissions process– we need you to have a bachelor’s degree, preferably in computer science. Although, if you have something related– if you have a bachelor’s in computer engineering, sometimes those have enough classes that qualify.

The BSCS is really the standard that we’re looking for. But specifically, what we’re looking for in your bachelor’s is that you have had courses in data structures and algorithms; automata theory and formal languages; computer architecture and assembly language– so your basic undergraduate systems programming; discrete math– that’s a must; and calculus through calc two.

So, say– I know there’s situations where you might have had calc one and then moved to calc three. That’s perfectly fine. So we would count that. So your bachelor’s degree just needs to include those prerequisite courses. Most any accredited bachelor’s in Computer Science would have those, at least in the US.

So after completing that, you send us the transcripts. Send us a resume. Send a goal statement– doesn’t have to be too detailed, just maybe a couple of paragraphs or one page on why you’re going for the master’s in Computer Science and why George Mason. So give us enough information to learn a little bit about you that is maybe not on this transcript.

And then the MSCS does require two letters of recommendation. So make sure you get those in. The application would not be complete without those. And that’s it.

So if you meet all of those criteria, then generally, you are admissible. We’re not really capping admission at this point. So if you meet the standards, then you should be pretty good. So let’s see. Do we have another slide after this, or do we go into Q&A? OK, go into Q&A.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah. So I have the Q&A slide up here, but there’s also the contact information here for admissions. If you are interested in moving forward with an application, you can give us a call at (703) 348-5006. We will be in tomorrow if you’d like to give us a call. You can also email us at And the website is if you’d like to go there to see more information.

So let me just check the chat and see if any questions have come in. So we don’t have any questions in the chat just yet. Please don’t be shy. If you have questions, please put them in.

I do have some that were sent in earlier, so I can start out with those. But please feel free to put any questions you have in the chat right now.

ROB PETTIT: And I just–

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah, go ahead.

ROB PETTIT: I would just add, I just saw Lance had a question about can you begin in the spring or fall semesters or just fall? Yes, you can begin in either. And actually, right now we’re admitting in three semesters. So you could start in the summer if you wanted to.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. Oh, OK. And so there’s another question coming in as well. On average, what percent of class assignments are practical or project-based?

ROB PETTIT: Oh, goodness. That would entail me knowing all of the instructors and how they teach. I can generalize that to say that we put a pretty big emphasis on practical, project-based assignments throughout our curriculum at George Mason.

Now, some of the more theoretical courses, maybe not. Some of the lower level courses, maybe not. So like the mathematical course, that’s probably not quite as practical or project-based.

But I can tell you that SWE 621, for example, software design– I have taught that class– that’s quite heavily practical and project-based. So it is a big part of many classes across the entire curriculum in the computer science department. So yeah.

And you can also search and find syllabi for these courses. If you go to the CS department’s website–– I forget where it is in the dropdowns– maybe for current students I think. And then you can look at the syllabi from current and previous semesters of these courses and get a feeling for what they’re like.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, great. Thank you for sharing. That’s very helpful to know. All right. So we have someone else asking what if my bachelor’s is from a foreign country and not in computer science but in business.

ROB PETTIT: So foreign country doesn’t matter. We admit plenty of students with degrees from a foreign country. But if it’s not in computer science, we would need to make sure that you had those prerequisite courses.

So if your degree offered them, great. We’ll look at that. We won’t look and just say, oh, no. You had a bachelor’s in something else. I think you said business. But if you minored in computer science or just took those computer science courses on the side, that would work.

Alternatively, we don’t have it online yet, but we did just start offering a graduate certificate in Computing Foundations at our main Fairfax campus. So if you are local, and you can take a few classes in person right now, we do have bridge courses available. And we’re discussing whether it makes sense to put those online at some point.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. I was going to ask about that, too, because I had a question that came in beforehand about that. So I’m glad you answered that. So no current plans to put that online just yet, but it is something you’re considering?



ROB PETTIT: And some of them have been offered synchronously online. So you just kind of have to watch the schedule for that.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. All right. Thank you We have a few more questions coming in, so let me just scroll up. And so someone asked, are there textbooks available for the online courses just like on-campus courses? Are the materials and standards the same for the online courses as on-campus courses.

ROB PETTIT: I’ll answer that sort of in reverse. The materials and standards are the same. That is something we have– I hate to say put our foot down on because nobody has argued against it. But that’s something that we wanted to ensure for this entire program.

The standards are the same for admissions. The standards are same for the courses. So this online MSCS for George Mason is no different in quality, no different in content, no different in learning objectives than if you were in person in Fairfax.

So we– I’ve taken a pretty hard line on that. And we’re continually looking at these online courses to see where we need to maybe adjust or improve. But the learning objectives and the standards are the same as our regular courses.

Now, in terms of textbooks, if there are textbooks for the classes, then you would be able to order them either through the bookstore or go to Amazon. I believe our bookstore matches Amazon, if I’m not too badly mistaken.

But most of the courses have tried to go to supplying the material that you need online. I know my class does that. I put everything in Blackboard that you would need to read. So if you’re OK with that, then you’re good.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. Let’s see. We have a few more questions here. Is there a possibility to meet with professors in person, or is the online office hours the only possibility?

ROB PETTIT: That’s really up to the professors. The professors that we have teaching– I’m trying to think. We might have one, maybe two that are strictly online for us right now. But most teach classes both in person and online. I’m trying to memorize who I have teaching for me at the moment.

So it’s really up to the professor. If one of my online students wanted to meet me in person, I’m perfectly fine with that. And I think that as long as the professor has availability and it matches your availability, then, yeah, no problem.

And that actually led me to something else, too. So it’s not just meeting a professor in person. If you’re local, and, say, you want to come use the library, that’s fine. If you’re local and want to come to Fairfax and get an ID card so that you can use anything on campus that students can use, that’s fine. We don’t restrict that.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, great. Yeah, I do get questions from students about that, too, if there’s opportunities to meet in person. So thank you for addressing that.

A couple other questions coming in here. Is there an operating systems course in the curriculum? Is that what CS 531 covers?

ROB PETTIT: So there is an operating systems course in our overall curriculum. We don’t have the OS specific course online, but 531 does overlap somewhat with that. So it will get into some lower-level operating system material. It will get into threading and the low-level programming aspects without going deep on the operating system side.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. For a bachelor’s degree from outside of the United States is the GPA of 3.0 or 4.0 minimal to have? This student has a bachelor’s degree from India in chemical engineering from 2006. They’re asking– they’re asking this question. They say they have 17 years of IT development experience. And also, is GRE or English test required?

ROB PETTIT: All right. So the easy one– GRE– not required. And I’m personally not a fan of standardized tests. So I’m going to, as long as I have power, make sure the GRE is optional.

As far as the Indian, or really just open it up to any foreign, non-US institution, we estimate GPAs, if they’re not in the US 4.0 standard. We used to use a service, but I don’t think we use that anymore. So we just try to basically make a judgment call. And honestly, we will look heavily at the last semesters.

So if you had a rocky start, eh. As long as your CS classes are OK, then you’re going to be OK. So really, as long as you’ve had those prerequisites, you’ve got good grades in those equivalent to a C or above, or preferably a B or above on the CS courses.

If you have the random C, it’s not a deal-breaker. We do look at the whole package. But that’s really what we’re looking for is your performance in those prerequisite courses. Did I answer everything on that?

HEATHER BRYANT: I believe so. They were also asking if an English proficiency test is required?

ROB PETTIT: Oh. So that is based on George Mason policies. If you are– I forget what the rules are. If you’re a– do you know the rules?

HEATHER BRYANT: Yes. I can step in and help answer that if you don’t mind. Yeah. So typically– so there is a list of countries that are exempt from that, and that’s updated every so often. So we– it’s on the George Mason website that we have that listed. But basically, if you got your degree from one of those countries, typically you would not have to take the English proficiency exam, or if your highest degree was earned in the United States.

So, for example, if you got your bachelor’s in India, but you got a master’s degree in the United States, then you typically would not need to take the English proficiency exam. Otherwise, you typically do need to take it. And they are pretty strict about that from my understanding. It’s Mason policy. It’s not based on any department’s policy. So George Mason just is pretty strict about that.

In order to waive that exam, you would either need to have all your degrees earned from one of those waiver countries, or your highest degree earned from the United States. Those are the only real ways to waive it that I’m aware of.

ROB PETTIT: And we do offer several options. So there’s the TOEFL, which is the traditional one. But then we also accept the IELTS right now. We had been accepting Duolingo. I think that’s on a temporary basis. I don’t know when that expires.

HEATHER BRYANT: I believe that’s expiring in spring of 2024, I believe. That’s off the top of my head. Take it with a grain of salt, but I’m pretty sure that’s when they’re–

ROB PETTIT: That sounds right to me.

HEATHER BRYANT: –that Duolingo. OK. All right. And I think that was everything in that question. Let me– if the student who asked that question, if there’s anything that we didn’t answer there, please feel free to clarify in the chat or the Q&A if you have more questions.

I have a couple other questions coming in now as well. How well does the material prepare students for emerging technologies? How will the courses prepare students for a future that’s moving so fast in this field?

ROB PETTIT: [LAUGHS]. We are always evaluating the content of these courses, trying to make sure that we incorporate any of the new technology that comes in. Like, for instance, over the summer, I am trying to figure out– actually, I’ve got some solid plans for how to incorporate ChatGPT into my undergraduate courses. So we’re always looking at those things.

But then a lot of what you will get is the critical thinking that goes with this, that how do we adapt our thoughts on, say, software architecture to the changing world that now includes cloud, and all these moving parts, and internet of things. So we do constantly look at the content of these courses, and your professors will inject some of their own background into this as well.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. A couple other questions coming in. I know that we answered this earlier, but I know we have a couple people who joined later. Do TAs provide additional support for study in courses in this program?

ROB PETTIT: Yes. Almost all of our courses– actually, I think all of our courses– have an assigned graduate teaching assistant that typically has some experience with the course. And so they’re also a secondary resource.

So with my course that I’m teaching this summer, SWE 621, the software architecture and design course, the GTA that I have was one of my former students who has now TA’s twice for the course. And he can often answer things faster than I can. But he’s always keeping me in the loop, as do our TAs, in general. They would make sure that we’re cc’d on everything so that everything is consistent.

They don’t teach the course, but they are certainly resources that you can call upon and often have their own separate office hours. So if you need something extra, or you just simply couldn’t come to my office hours, then maybe the TA’s office hours work better.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. A couple more questions coming in. So based on what you have seen from students entering the program, are there any refresher courses that a student should take before starting? So, for example, if a student took calculus two a few years back, is it worth completing it again before starting or taking any kind of refresher course?

ROB PETTIT: I don’t think so. The courses that would use more of the calculus we don’t have in the online program. So your higher, advanced machine learning courses or those type that we do offer in Fairfax, that it might be good to refresh your calculus knowledge on.

But in general, the reason that we want you to have math through calculus two is not so much for the calculus knowledge itself, but that practice of learning what you went through to learn calculus prepares your brain to be better at computer science.

So that’s really the primary reason we require all the math for computer science is not so much for the math itself, as for the mathematical thinking, the problem solving. So as long as you haven’t lost that ability, then no, you wouldn’t need to retake calc II.

HEATHER BRYANT: Thank you so much for that clarification. That’s very interesting and something that I’ll make sure to talk to prospective students about too if they’re asking that question. All right. Let’s see. So this student is asking if the program has any partnerships with any companies who are doing research currently?

ROB PETTIT: All right. Say that again.

HEATHER BRYANT: Does the program have any partnerships with any companies that are doing research?

ROB PETTIT: Several in Fairfax. The online program does not at the moment, but we are certainly open to that.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. All right. Thank you. So this person is asking, does this program help to provide a foundation for those interested in embedded systems and low-level work?

ROB PETTIT: Well, that’s my specialty domain. [LAUGHS] 531 would certainly help you with that. Then– I’ll toss this out there not to open [LAUGHS] a can of worms. There– I do have a brand new class approved in Fairfax, SWE 660, which is specifically on real-time embedded systems.

So if you found yourself wanting to take that at some point, if it’s a one-time thing, we can probably set you up if you’re local, where you could come in and take it. I caveat that with there’s a huge wait list for that particular class at the moment. But yes, 531 would certainly give you the foundations. 531 is what I would require for my specific advanced real-time embedded class.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. Are there any hiring alliances with companies that assist with job allocation possibly after graduation?

ROB PETTIT: We do have companies that specifically recruit from George Mason. One of the things that you would have access to as a George Mason student, you would get access to an online tool called Handshake. Some of you may have seen it from your undergrad, where it’s basically a job application site, job search site, where companies can specifically target that university. And so we have our own at George Mason.

We do have an in-person career fair that is heavily attended fall and spring. And within the College of Engineering, we also have our own career services beyond even that of what the university offers. And so, again, you might be an online student, but you have full access to everything that we offer any student.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Great. Thank you for letting us know that. So I have a question coming in through here about the cost of the program. Those are questions I can answer if you don’t have that information right now, but you can certainly answer it if you have it too.

ROB PETTIT: I don’t have it up in front of me. So if you–

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. OK. I have it here if you’d like me to just tackle this one.


HEATHER BRYANT: All right. So this student is asking, what would be the fee for a master’s course? Is that per credit or semester? The person who’s asking this just wants to understand how much it would amount to for a two-year course for 30 credits.

So the specifics of that is something I definitely recommend you reaching out to admissions directly about at the contact information that’s on the screen right now, and we can walk you through the specifics of all of those numbers. But I will tell you that the general cost per credit hour is $950 for the online program.

There’s also a $35 distance learning fee that’s added on to that. That’s to account for creating the digital learning materials, and also to make up the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition because there is no difference for online programs.

And there’s also a $60 one-time new student fee that’s added to the beginning of your first semester. So in total– and you can find these numbers online as well. But in total for the whole program cost is $29,610 including all fees.

OK. So that’s that question.


All right. And then– and again, I do recommend if you have more questions about specifics like that, about the credit hours, about the cost, anything like that, please do reach out to us– 703-348-5006, We’ll be happy to talk with you more about that in detail here in admissions.

So this person here is asking, what are the key differences between the online program versus on-site program? I know we touched on this earlier. But, again, we have folks who joined later. So would you mind addressing that again, Dr. Pettit?

ROB PETTIT: Sure. So I’m not sure in which way you’re asking about the differences, but I’ll give you a couple of different spins on it, that first of all, the online– the fully online– and I separate that because we do offer some of our courses as occasionally synchronously online through the Fairfax programs.

This program is 100% asynchronous online. So– and it’s asynchronous within a week. So you can’t just blow off the semester and two weeks before the deadline try to finish everything. It’s asynchronous within a week. So within each week, you have a set amount of material that you are scheduled to cover, but you can do that on your own time within that week.

The topics class to class, the learning objectives per classes are the same as the learning objectives for those same classes if you were in person in Fairfax. We just have a smaller number of those available for this fully online program.

So you have 13 classes, 13 choices of CS and software engineering courses to choose from, as opposed to many more. I don’t even know what our total is these days for– the total number of different courses in Fairfax.

We are the largest CS department in the state of Virginia and one of the largest in the country. So it gets a little difficult to keep track of the total number of courses that we offer as a department. But that’s really the big difference with the online is that you do get a subset of these courses.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. Someone asked earlier, what kind of opportunity is there for a leadership role through this program?

ROB PETTIT: Hmm. Good question. I really hadn’t thought of that one. A lot of the courses do have team projects. So you can naturally rise to leadership positions within those. And then depending on the professor, that can take different forms, depending on the assignments and the projects and so forth. But that that’s really where your leadership opportunities would mostly be manifested.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. This person just put in the chat, is it possible to work a full-time job and do on-site program? So I’m assuming they’re asking about the campus program. But is it possible? Do students typically work full-time while they’re in the online program or in the campus program through your experience?

ROB PETTIT: We have a mix. And I can’t tell you it’s impossible because that’s what I did. I worked full-time through my master’s and PhD at George Mason.

I didn’t work at George Mason. I took classes at George Mason while working full time in industry. So it is possible. The master’s certainly more possible– more easy to do that than the PhD. But yes, it is possible. It would typically be a slower pace.

With the online program, we typically recommend that you go ahead and do two classes per semester, and most people seem to be comfortable with that. So that gets you through faster.

If you’re working full-time, two classes while having to come to campus one to two evenings a week, depending on how you scheduled your classes, that can limit you on what you’re able to achieve, but it’s not impossible. For my master’s, I did typically take two classes in person while working. I don’t know exactly when I slept, but I did do it.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. And then just to clarify too. The courses in the computer science program online are for the entire semester, correct? Two classes at once that you’d be taking.



ROB PETTIT: And even during the summer we don’t use the shortened summer session. So this summer is– actually, we do have one that was a special exception that got– that was shortened just because of the professor need. But generally, they’re the entire summer.

So my SWE 621 is 12 weeks for the summer. I believe starting next year, Mason will go to the 14-week session. So it’s not that super compressed summer session that you might normally think of.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you for clarifying that. So I need a little bit of clarification for this question, but maybe you understand. So this person says, are classes offered after office hours for FTE? I’m not sure what that stands for.

ROB PETTIT: Are you talking about the in-person classes on Fairfax? If so, the traditional master’s classes or graduate classes for computer science are offered in two time slots– 4:30 PM and 7:20 PM once a week. There are a few exceptions to that, one being the real-time class that I’ve offered, which is actually offered before work for the early birds at 7:30 AM.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you. If we didn’t answer your question fully, please just clarify in the chat. I have another student asking– oh, it does answer the question. OK, great. Thank you. I’m glad.

Somebody else is asking– this is tangentially related to computer science, but they’re asking, does GMU have a robotics program or something similar?

ROB PETTIT: In Fairfax on campus, yes.


ROB PETTIT: [LAUGHS] That’s a hard one to put online.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah. I would imagine that would be very application–

ROB PETTIT: You need the hardware.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah. OK. If anybody else has any questions, please– oh, I see another one coming in. How many hours a week does a three-credit course consume? So how much time can students expect to spend completing the coursework, and then outside of the course as well each week?

ROB PETTIT: Oh, goodness. That’s going to be course-specific. For my software design class, I estimate that it’s maybe 15 hours per the three-credit hour course per week.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you for clarifying that.

ROB PETTIT: And that is really on the guess side of it. [LAUGHS]

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah. I’d imagine it might have some variance too, depending on the student as well.

OK. So I have a few other questions that I got before this started that I can ask as well. But if you have any additional questions, please feel free to put them in the chat. Please feel free to put them in the Q&A. Don’t be shy. We do have a little bit of time left.

So is it possible in any circumstance for students to substitute work experience for the prerequisites that are required?

ROB PETTIT: No. George Mason does not, as a university, allow that. I think it’s a university policy. I know it’s at least a College of Engineering policy.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you for clarifying that. Do you have any insight that you can share for a student who’s deciding between this program, the computer science master’s program, and the software engineering master’s program?

I’ve had students in the past who are kind of confused about the differences between each one, and I know that we offer the software engineering as part of this. So do you have any information you could provide to clarify that?

ROB PETTIT: Look at the courses and see which ones interest you the most. Both are absolutely viable degrees. As I said, my master’s was in software engineering. My PhD was geared more towards computer science. So there’s no wrong answer.

The computer science offerings do tend to offer, I guess, lower-level in many cases. So let’s look at your CS 531. That would go deep into more computer architecture and systems programming. Or CS 580, the Intro to Artificial Intelligence, would certainly go into a little more theory with AI. Whereas, the software engineering courses tend to be more applied. That’s giving a big generalization, but that that’s often where I see the difference.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. That makes sense. Are you find– do you find that certain professions require a software engineering degree versus a computer science degree?

ROB PETTIT: They seem to be interchangeable.


ROB PETTIT: Yeah. We have not seen any real difference. Maybe if you wanted to do software project management, the software engineering degree might be a better fit for that. But we really haven’t seen companies preferring one over the other.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. Thank you for clarifying that. It’s a question I’ve been getting recently from students. If a student is admitted, can they defer for a semester? For example, if admitted for Fall 2023, could they wait until Spring 2024 to begin? I know the answer to this, but if you’d like to address it–

ROB PETTIT: No, please.

HEATHER BRYANT: –feel free. OK. All right. So you are allowed to defer your admission from one year from your original acceptance date. So, for example, if you were admitted for Fall 2023, but you had to defer admission, the last semester start date that you could possibly start without having to reapply would Fall 2024. So it’s a year from your initial start date.

So you could not– let me see. Yes, to answer your question directly, you could defer to Spring 2024 because you do have a whole year to defer. Does anybody else have any questions they’d like to ask? We have a few more minutes. Don’t be shy.

Are there any internships offered by this program? That’s a question I get from students frequently as well.

ROB PETTIT: Not specifically. I know several companies in the area do hire master’s students as interns. But you would have to go and do that job search either through our career services or on your own. Most people just quite honestly go to LinkedIn and sites like that and find them.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. That makes sense. Thank you. So this student is asking is it acceptable to take one course each semester to finish the program? So I know typically students take two courses at a time. Is it possible for students to only take one?

ROB PETTIT: Yes. Yeah. We don’t restrict that.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. And is there a certain time that students need to complete the program? I know for a lot of our online programs you have to complete within six years. Is there a limit for that for computer science?

ROB PETTIT: Oh, goodness. I don’t have that in front of me. But there is a limit. I don’t know what it is. Six years sounds right, but don’t quote me on that. It’s most likely on the catalog page for the degree.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. All right. Great. Thank you. So this person is asking what is the deadline to submit applications for Fall 2023.

ROB PETTIT: I don’t have that memorized either. [LAUGHS]


ROB PETTIT: It’s on the website.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yep. Yes, I have– so that– well, that’s a question that if you call us, 703-348-5006, we can answer that for you because there are some guidelines in addition to the official deadlines of when it’s good to get everything in by. So please call us if you have questions about deadlines, or email us at

Also, it should be on the website. Just make sure that you’re looking at the information for the online program not the campus program because sometimes those do have different deadlines. And the website for the online program is

ROB PETTIT: We generally have later deadlines for the online program.


ROB PETTIT: Although, I will say that the earlier that you apply, the earlier you will get a decision. And that means the earlier that you can enroll and get your preferred choice of classes. [LAUGHS]

HEATHER BRYANT: Yes. That’s definitely true from our end as well. Also, because fall is our biggest start. We have a lot of students applying for fall. It will also decrease the chances of having any delays with your decision or registration if you are accepted. So definitely better to get everything in as soon as you can.

I do have the official deadline pulled up. So this is the deadline for the fall is August 1. I definitely recommend getting everything in before that though. Definitely at least a week before that, so that if there’s anything missing from your application, there’s about a week of wiggle room to get that all squared away before the final deadline.

And this person is asking, can admissions assist with accreditation and prerequisites financing? So I’m not actually sure–

ROB PETTIT: I don’t know. [LAUGHS]

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah. I’m not actually sure about that. But we will be able to help you out with that. Oh, I’m so sorry. This– are you seeing the slides OK now because it just messed up for me?

ROB PETTIT: I’m seeing your PowerPoint.

HEATHER BRYANT: Oh, there we go. OK. I don’t know what– OK. There we go. One second. Here we go. OK. So if you give us a call, 703-348-5006, if you have specific detailed questions about the admissions process or anything like that, please feel free to contact us there.

I have a whole team of folks who I work with who will definitely be able to answer that question in more detail. So please feel free to reach out to us with any questions like that.

Any other questions before we wrap up? We still do have a few minutes. Let’ see. I’m going to give it a minute. Oh, you’re very welcome. Person saying thank you. I’m going to give it a minute because sometimes the chat has a little lag, and I don’t want to miss anybody’s questions.

So I have another question I got before this too. So I know that the lectures in this program are pre-recorded. How long is each lecture approximately?

ROB PETTIT: We have tried to keep those pretty short. So one of the things that we didn’t want to have you all suffer through is to have a one-hour or a three-hour– one big block of recorded lecture. So it varies per class, but we’ve tried to break them up into much smaller, manageable chunks.

So for the class that I’m currently teaching, there are, I don’t know, maybe 15, 20-minute sections that you can play as you have time.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK, great. That’s helpful to know. I have been getting that question a lot as well. All right. Any more questions before we wrap up here? We have about five minutes left. Any final questions?

OK. So if you do decide to move forward with an application, please give us a call at 703-348-5006, or send us an email at We will be in the office tomorrow if you’d like to reach out. If there’s anything we haven’t answered tonight, please feel free to email us at that address. We’ll be happy to answer your questions, or give us a call.

And again the website for the program is So do make sure that that is the website you’re looking at if you’re interested in the online program, so that you’re getting the correct information about the online program not the campus program.

Any final questions before we wrap up? Anything we haven’t answered, anything we haven’t covered? I think that we’ve answered even all the questions that I had from beforehand. So–

ROB PETTIT: Sorry. My cat again. [LAUGHS]



What is your cat’s name?

ROB PETTIT: Oh, Bella– short for Bellatrix.

HEATHER BRYANT: Oh, I love that.

ROB PETTIT: [LAUGHS] She’s a black cat. [LAUGHS]

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah. That’s great. I love that. OK. Great. Just a couple more minutes. Oh, this person in the chat is saying that’s so cute about Bellatrix.


HEATHER BRYANT: We’ll give it a couple more minutes in case anybody has any final questions. Let me go back through the chat, see if there’s anything I missed. I think I got them all.

ROB PETTIT: I think you did.

HEATHER BRYANT: Again, if there’s anything we haven’t answered, please feel free to reach out at the contact information that’s on the screen right now, especially anything involving the admissions process, or any specific questions you have about the cost of the program, or how many courses are required. Anything like that, please feel free to reach out to us.

Checking the Q&A box again as well to see if there’s anything.

ROB PETTIT: Yep, I think we got it all.

HEATHER BRYANT: OK. I’ll give it one more minute and then we can wrap up. Thank you so much, everybody, for attending this evening. It was great talking with all of you.

Again, if you are interested in moving forward, please reach out to us. Either myself or one of my colleagues would be happy to help you through the application process if you do decide to apply. 703-348-5006 is the phone number. is the email address where you can reach us as well. And the website for the online program is

Thank you so much, everybody, for attending this evening. Thank you so much, Dr. Pettit, for the presentation and for joining us this evening. Again, if anybody has any other questions we didn’t get to, please feel free to email them at the address listed, and please feel free to call us if you’re interested in moving forward. All right.

ROB PETTIT: Great questions, everybody.

HEATHER BRYANT: Yeah. Thank you so much for your questions. OK. Have a great evening, everybody.

Need to learn more?

Have questions about online learning, enrollment, or degree programs?

Request Info