Science program offers interdisciplinary depth

The launch of a unique-to-Canada professional program will build a much-needed bridge from the classroom to employment for Science students, according to Western officials.

Next fall, the university will launch a Master’s in Management of Applied Science (MMASc), a new three-term professional program bringing together the faculties of Science, Social Science, Arts & Humanities, Information and Media Studies and Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.

Students enrol in a specialty field, such as Biological Sciences, Computer Science or Water Sciences, while taking core courses in management and communications. The course model has been dubbed a ‘hub and spoke,’ with communications and management courses at the core. Faculty members also hope to forge industry partnerships offering internships to students.

“I don’t think the program will be unique forever,” said Mitch Rothstein, chair and professor in Western’s DAN Management program. “It will be a high-value program and other universities will jump in with their versions of this.

“A large number of science grads are left on their own to seek employment. Science students find themselves in a difficult position in bridging that gap in employment and this program is that bridge.”

A two-term diploma program in professional communications and management would also be available to students.

The program is just what students – and their potential employers – have been demanding, according to Carol Beynon, acting vice-provost in the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

“We find a lot of the employers are saying, ‘We want people coming out with marketing and management skills and better communication skills,’” Beynon said. “This is a program that will combine graduate level sciences with graduate-level oral and written communication, as well as marketing project management and leadership courses.”

In terms of what kinds of career opportunities the program would present, Beynon noted the possibilities for students are limitless.

“It’s meant to be a transformative piece of education,” she said.

The MMASc will provide Science graduates with an essential skillset not traditionally incorporated into science classrooms, said Mark Bernards, chair and professor of Biology.

“Our students can communicate, but not outside the scientific realm. The skills they will gain will speak to a wide range of audiences, talking to the public, technicians, etc., and a wide range of people with different scientific understanding. That will be a very important added skill,” he said.

“We anticipate students will be better equipped for jobs in government and non-government agencies, in private companies, and one of the targets would be small companies, where somebody with a solid science background, and an ability to integrate without being highly specialized, would be highly versatile,” Bernards added.

Program administrators surveyed local businesses and industry partners and found most employers favorably viewed the program as a ‘leg up’ for potential employees.

Science Dean Charmaine Dean said the MMASc will provide students options beyond medical school.

“What other opportunities are there for (Science graduates), in terms of working at a government agency or a sector in the industry?” she said. “In (the new program), students will learn to sit as an expert member of a team, bring their context to bear and be able to speak the language of a variety of disciplines to advance a team-based project.

“We’ve got a heads up here at Western. We’re well along the way; we have all these professional programs and not many universities have the wide reach we do.”

Applications for the master’s program open Feb. 1; the diploma program is now accepting applications. The program begins September 2014.