The McKendrean Magazine - Summer 2022

The Best is Yet to Come

A Look at the Past, Present ad Future of McKendree's Immersive Graduate Programs

Feature by Tina (Napper) Tebbe ’08

Old School Mac Computer
The early 2000s were a special time. Before the dawn of smartphones, Facebook and YouTube, Bearcats who arrived at McKendree in the year 2000 were busy debating about which boy band was the best, tuning into the first season of reality TV game show “Big Brother,” and testing out the myriad of sports games on the all-new PlayStation 2. McKendree in the early 2000s was also changing and growing to meet students’ needs. As the University began drumming up plans to create and unveil the gorgeous Russel E. and Fern M. Hettenhausen Center for the Arts as a premier performing arts venue, McKendree was also preparing to take another large step: offering graduate degrees to anyone wishing to further their education. The Class of 2004 was the very first class of Bearcats in 99 years to be able to take these courses at their alma mater. Since its launch in 2004, the graduate programs at McKendree have grown to include nine unique paths for adult learners to tread.



MAED Students
The Start of Something Good:

School of Education

When Dr. George Fero served as the chair of the Division of Education, Health and Human Performance at McKendree University, he remembers the faculty deciding to pursue a single graduate degree in education in 2002. A survey conducted during the 2001-2002 school year showed a large demand for a graduate program at McKendree. “A primary reason for seeking graduate studies at McKendree was the reputation and excellence of the undergraduate education programs,” he said. Thus, after several months of conversations and sessions, McKendree began offering classes for an accredited master’s degree program in education beginning in January 2004, starting with the Masters of Arts in Teaching (MAT).

During the spring 2004 semester, 25 students had enrolled in the first two graduate courses. By the next semester, there were over 100 new students, and more than 300 students enrolled themselves in the program the following year. The program only continued to grow with the authority to offer a graduate program leading to principal licensure in 2006 and a track for Specialist in Education (Ed.S.) and Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) programs in 2011. “The McK framework of preparing educators to be lifelong learners, caring practitioners and knowledgeable professionals permeated the profession throughout southern Illinois,” Dr. George Fero said. “Our graduates are in high demand in the region.”

But why do these adult Bearcats, who are mostly full-time educators with families of their own, seek an advanced degree from McKendree? Elementary, dear readers: it’s the flexibility of the courses, the quality of the programs themselves and the excellence of McKendree’s faculty. “Our classes are offered when and where our students can take them, and our faculty are caring practitioners – we practice what we preach,” George said. “Faculty here are always available for advice and direction.”



Getting Students Ahead of the Pack:

School of Business

The Master of Business Administration (MBA) program arrived hot on the heels of the new education program in 2005 when the late Dr. Frank Spreng, former MBA director, and Dr. Gerald Duff, former provost and dean of McKendree, noticed a need to offer this new degree at the University. What began as a general MBA program with an emphasis on general management and decision making later evolved into a proliferate curriculum that now includes concentrations in human resources (added in 2009), cyber defense (added in 2019) and corporate finance and digital marketing (added in 2020).

Uniquely crafted to meet the needs of business-minded Bearcats, the MBA also has a 4+1 program option, which enables undergraduate seniors to enroll directly into graduate courses, allowing them to complete an MBA in just five years. “Our program is tailored to the working adult, offering 8-week classes that meet either online or once a week in person,” said Dr. Tim Ros, MBA program director at McKendree. “This program is also advantageous for those students that have a fifth year of eligibility under NCAA rules.”

So who are the Bearcats pursuing an MBA from McKendree? They’re almost in equal proportions on-campus and online learners who are already on a reasonable career path. Six in 10 students have received their undergraduate degree from McKendree, and they continue to enjoy the campus community they loved as undergrads, although that isn’t unique to on-campus learners. Even with a total online experience, faculty and staff are available for interaction and feedback. “It is a point of pride that faculty respond quickly to the needs of our graduate students via a variety of communication needs,” Tim said. “Our career services are available to graduate students studying on campus or online. There is also an office to facilitate student services including registration, financial aid and more.”

Of course, what draws graduate students to the University’s MBA program is multi-faceted yet simple: a low student-to-teacher ratio, auspicious rankings as one of the top MBA programs in Illinois by U.S. News and World Report, flexible course formats, a challenging program that emphasizes applied learning and, of course, McKendree’s outstanding list of caring, knowledgeable faculty members.



Mastering Mind and Body:

Division of Health Professions

In the spring of 2005, McKendree began offering the all-new Master of Arts Degree in Professional Counseling, now known as Master of Arts in Clinical and Mental Health Counseling (CMHC), to answer the needs of the University’s psychology majors seeking a master’s degree. “A small group of faculty in the psychology program found that many of our McKendree psychology majors wanted or needed a master’s degree that would lead to licensure. We wanted to provide a highquality program that would allow students to pursue a career in counseling,” said Dr. Tami Eggleston, provost of McKendree.

The CMHC program has always emphasized both professional and personal development, recognizing that well-prepared professionals are those who possess relevant academic training, as well as the self-understanding and awareness needed to facilitate growth, development and healing, among others. The program itself continues to be updated in order to stay in compliance with the licensure requirements for the state of Illinois, which boasts very high standards. Additionally, many of the classes offered are evening classes so individuals can work and gain experience during the day while expanding their knowledge after the sun sets.

“The counseling graduate program at McKendree will continue to grow and stay relevant. We will head in the direction that society needs us, and I am hopeful we will add more specialty areas such as substance abuse and maybe even sport psychology,” Tami said.

As McKendree’s CMHC program continues to grow, students keep choosing the home of the Bearcats for many of the same reasons undergraduates do. “McKendree is a very friendly campus and appealing to many students seeking a program that is very personal in the delivery of services,” said Dr. Julie Smirl, assistant professor of counseling at McKendree. “Access to instructors and small class sizes for more one-on-one training is available in our program.”

On the opposite end, McKendree also offers a Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT), an entry-level post baccalaureate program for anyone wishing to enter the profession of athletic training. The rigorous, challenging and fulfilling program lasts for two years and extends over six semesters in a sequential order involving two eight-week summer sessions and four 16-week sessions. This program combines academic coursework and diverse clinical experience, providing the foundation to prepare students to be successful athletic trainers in just about any applicable work setting they could imagine. Sometimes, undergraduates arrive at McKendree knowing deep down that their calling lies in exercise science or athletic training.

McKendree answers this call and helps fulfill students’ dreams faster by offering a 3+2 Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Exercise Science and Sport Performance and Master of Science in Athletic Training. This allows an undergraduate or transfer student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and sport performance to attain their bachelor’s degree in three years and then their master’s degree in athletic training in only two years.



DNP Graduates and Faculty
Shaping the Heart of Healthcare:

Division of Nursing

Before the trees on campus were adorned in layers of autumnal gold, russet and ruby, the Higher Learning Commission granted McKendree approval to begin offering a Master of Science (MSN) degree in nursing starting in 2005. This program began with two tracks: education and management/administration. McKendree welcomed its first RN to MSN students in the fall of 2010 with courses initially offered at two Illinois hospital locations and the Kentucky center. Today, the program is offered in a fully online format, with an addition of the ever-popular population health track, a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Ethical Leadership program and a Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA), whose first cohort of 21 students graduated this May.

The nursing program has enjoyed great growth since its inception in 2005. Presently, the population health track boasts the highest enrollment rates and doesn’t show signs of stopping, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic. The DNP in Ethical Leadership also continues to expand with plans of launching a second Kentucky healthcare system cohort in the fall of 2022.

“With healthcare changing so rapidly and with more individuals recognizing the need for advanced degrees within the healthcare arena, our graduate programs are on target for growth,” said Dr. Richelle Rennegarbe ’92, director of DNP programs, chair of the Division of Nursing, and professor of nursing at McKendree. “We are very fortunate to have strong academic partnerships, which provide us opportunities for working with our partners to address healthcare issues and serve as an excellent recruiting source for all of our graduate degree programs. In addition, the practicums that our graduate students complete make a substantial positive impact on their healthcare organizations and the communities they serve. Our graduates are the best recruiters for our graduate program!”

The students who make up the master’s programs are busy healthcare providers who value the need for advancing their practice to become leaders within their healthcare organizations. They work tirelessly in the Midwest, across the nation and, of course, in your own neighborhood to improve their places of work with the knowledge and unique skillsets they attain while earning their degree, making them experienced, successful leaders in their healthcare organizations. McKendree is there to help them thrive and make a true difference with their gifts, knowledge and caring hearts.

“We are always exploring opportunities to enhance our current programs or add additional programs to meet the changing needs within healthcare,” Richelle said. “We are exploring adding a school nurse certification to meet the needs of the school districts within our Illinois communities. This is particularly important based on the recent impact of COVID-19 on our children within schools. In addition, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) recently released new essential competencies that will be driving nursing programs at all levels; we have already begun aligning our mission statement, student learning outcomes and curriculum to align with these new competencies.”

Mastering Your Future is Possible at McKendree

McKendree has come a long way since the beginning of the new millennium. The oldest college on campus is still committed to its mission of providing a high-quality educational experience to outstanding students while meeting their needs in the current world. As time progresses and needs continue to change, McKendree will still be there, guiding its students and preparing them for leadership roles to help shape tomorrow. For more information or to begin your story as a Bearcat, please visit our Admission page.