The South Dakota Board of Regents approved a master’s of science in physics and doctoral of nursing practice (DNP) degree for SDSU at its December meeting.
“All new programs approved for SDSU are in response to demands in the marketplace and requirements of the profession,” said Mary Kay Helling, SDSU associate vice president for academic affairs. “Both of these programs contribute to the governor’s and SDSU’s plans to increase the number of graduate programs offered by South Dakota institutions of higher education. The physics program supports the focus on science and technology, and the DNP program will help meet the need for highly qualified health professionals.”
The degree in physics, a cooperative plan with the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, University of South Dakota and SDSU, will start in the fall of 2009. Each of these colleges and universities could award a master’s degree in physics, but they would share responsibility for course delivery. Students enrolled at one institution would take courses regularly taught by faculty from the other universities.
The DNP degree, also starting in the fall of 2009, may become the national entry degree for nurse practitioners in the future. The program was approved for delivery on campus in Brookings and at off-campus centers in Sioux Falls and Rapid City as the demand for the degree warrants.
“I believe that the doctorate in nursing program will be a great addition to South Dakota State University,” said Dixie Kittelson, a junior nursing major. “Since there are a select few programs across the United States, it may entice students to come enroll in this program.”
The program requires completion of 80 credit hours for new nurse practitioners. SDSU estimates it may be graduating 20 new nurse practitioners a year by the program’s fifth year.
As part of the state’s ongoing health care workforce initiative, this degree will focus on increasing the number of highly trained nurse practitioners in order to meet a growing demand of health care workers across South Dakota
“The higher education will expand nurses’ knowledge and therefore improve patient care,” Kittelson said. “Personally, the doctorate program is far off for my career, but it may be an appealing program for nurses prepared to return to school.”
The process of approving a degree begins at the university level. There are several committees, including officials on campus that work on it before it is even sent to the BOR.
Paul Gough, director of policy and planning at the BOR, said that once the Regents approve a degree, it is not automatically available at a university. The rate of availability depends on how prepared the institution is for the degree program. The university may have to create classes or recruit students to the program before a degree can be offered.
“Minors go through quickly, but graduate programs are a slower process,” Gough said.
The Board of Regents will hold six scheduled meetings in 2009. Every meeting is at one of the six public colleges or universities in the state. The BOR holds special meetings beside the original six if a need arises.