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Programs give WKU students ‘JUMP’ start on graduate work, careers

New programs at WKU are helping some undergraduate students get a JUMP start on their graduate degrees and professional careers.

The Joint Undergraduate Masters Programs (JUMP) offer students an option to concurrently complete bachelor’s and master’s degrees during a five-year program.

This weekend, Levi Dopierala of Summer Shade will become the first Chemistry JUMP graduate, the first from the Ogden College of Science and Engineering and the first to publish a research-based graduate thesis. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

This weekend, Levi Dopierala of Summer Shade will become the first Chemistry JUMP (Joint Undergraduate Masters Program) graduate, the first from the Ogden College of Science and Engineering and the first to publish a research-based graduate thesis. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

This weekend, Hilary Mishler of Crawfordsville, Ind., will become the eighth student in the WKU Department of Accounting to complete the Professional Program in Accountancy option in the Gordon Ford College of Business, while Levi Dopierala of Summer Shade will become the first Department of Chemistry JUMP graduate as well as the first from the Ogden College of Science and Engineering and the first to publish a research-based graduate thesis.

During the spring 2014 semester, 25 JUMP students were enrolled in the programs in chemistry, accountancy, applied economics, organizational communication, engineering technology management and religious studies.

The JUMP programs are helping prepare students for professional careers and postgraduate work.

“Our joint undergraduate masters programs offer our students well-defined educational paths toward the completion of undergraduate and graduate degrees in high-demand professions, such as accounting and economics,” said Dr. Jeffrey Katz, dean of the Gordon Ford College of Business. “Our world-class faculty members educate, mentor and guide our students to highly successful careers.”

In the Department of Chemistry, “we envision that many students who are pursuing an American Chemical Society-certified major, most of whom are planning to obtain a doctorate in chemistry, will be interested in this program because the students can earn both the B.S. and M.S. degrees simultaneously with just one additional year of study,” said Dr. Kevin Williams, professor and architect of the Chemistry JUMP program.

Dr. Cheryl Stevens, dean of Ogden College of Science and Engineering, said the chemistry program “serves as an excellent model as other Ogden departments are developing their own JUMP programs in various disciplines. These programs are especially attractive to our strongest students who can then capitalize on their experiences and ‘jump’ to PhD programs or professional positions.”

Chemistry JUMP’s inaugural graduate

Dopierala said he was honored to be the first graduate of Chemistry JUMP program and plans to participate in Friday night’s graduate ceremony and Saturday morning’s undergraduate ceremony,

“The JUMP program has provided me with an excellent opportunity to better myself as well as establishing a solid foundation upon which to further my career,” he said. “The experience gained while working for my master’s degree in the JUMP program has allowed for many more opportunities after graduation and all within a shorter time-span versus traditional master’s students. I feel that this program is an outstanding path to take for those serious about careers in chemistry. I am honored that the WKU Chemistry Department allowed me to join this program.”

“Levi has set the standard for Chemistry JUMP students by navigating through procedures and processes that were developed, literally, semester by semester, as he moved through this academically challenging program,” said Dr. Cathleen Webb, head of the Department of Chemistry and Associate Dean of Research for Ogden College.

Dopierala’s research has focused on the synthesis and characterization of several organic and organometallic complexes that are potential candidates for consumer electronic device screens and displays.

“Levi has had a successful undergraduate and graduate research career in my lab,” said Dr. Chad Snyder, associate professor and research advisor. “The JUMP program allowed him to make excellent research progress since his graduate thesis builds directly from his undergraduate research. His productivity is on a scale of many Ph.D. students.”

Dopierala is a co-author on two peer-reviewed publications, a co-author on a third paper that has been submitted and presented his research at the 2013 National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. He also received the Outstanding Chemistry Major award and the Nell Skean Award for Outstanding Laboratory Assistant at the 2014 Ogden College awards ceremony.

Dr. Matthew Nee, assistant professor and the Chemistry JUMP academic advisor, helped Dopierala navigate the system and helped establish the standards for the program.

“At each step in the graduate process, we found new challenges to the way approvals were done,” Dr. Nee said. “By working closely with the Graduate School and the Registrar, Levi was able to help develop procedures for those JUMP students who will follow him. Levi was tremendously patient and helpful with this process, and the result has been the establishment of standard guidelines for all JUMP students to follow.”

The JUMP program was designed to utilize the core coursework of the ACS-certified chemistry major, with up to 12 hours of the courses taken at the graduate level, along with at least 18 hours of graduate coursework. A Chemistry JUMP student must complete all 120 hours of undergraduate work and 30 hours of graduate work.

“The undergraduate and graduate courses are blended starting in the sixth semester of the program; the entire program can be completed in 10 semesters. However, there is no double counting of credits,” Dr. Williams said.

Dr. Raja Dakshinamurthy, associate professor, said Chemistry JUMP reflects the increasing research emphasis at WKU.

“WKU Chemistry JUMP students are able to spend significant and productive time in the research laboratory and also serve as an inspiration in our teaching laboratories as a graduate teaching assistant,” Dr. Dakshinamurthy said. “This increase in research training incorporated across the curriculum allows WKU graduates to be more competitive both nationally and internationally.”

Accounting JUMP graduates find success

The Accounting JUMP program, which was WKU’s first, is already proving successful as graduates have a 100 percent success rate in employment, according to Dr. Steve Wells, chair of the Department of Accounting.

“Some students are receiving more than one job offer, and that’s a good problem – deciding which offer to accept,” Dr. Wells said.

The first three graduates of WKU’s Accounting JUMP – Morgan Johnson of Evansville, Ind.; Austin Perkins of Franklin; and Corey Vincent of Bowling Green — were offered jobs with accounting firms in the fall semester of their fifth year and passed the Certified Public Accountant exam after graduation in May 2013.

Four more students – Brandi Capps of Hopkinsville, Minton Brooke Vincent of Bowling Green, Taylor Hatfield of Philpot and Melina Piric of Bowling Green — completed the Accounting JUMP in the summer and fall of 2013.

“Our JUMP Program is designed to assist our students in attaining their master’s in accounting,” said Sheri Henson, program coordinator. “While 150 credit hours are required to become a CPA, the Commonwealth of Kentucky does not stipulate any requirements for these ‘extra’ hours of college credit. As a faculty, we feel that the attainment of a second degree, the Master of Accountancy, is the most beneficial way to attain these additional hours. The Professional Program of Accountancy provides qualified students with a way to begin their graduate degree while pursuing their undergraduate degree. Our students enjoy the flexibility offered by this program.”

The program has 10 students participating and enrollment should continue to grow, Dr. Wells said.

“The Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts a strong job growth for accountants for the next 10 years and at a much faster growth than most professions,” Dr. Wells said. “Students entering the job market with a professional certification and a graduate degree have the best prospect of securing a position as they enter the market. They also position themselves with the best prospect for upward mobility in the firm or business organization throughout their career.”

Morgan Johnson May 2013 Accounting JUMP graduate

Morgan Johnson
May 2013 Accounting JUMP graduate

Dr. Wells noted that BKD, a large regional accounting firm, hired two of the first Accounting JUMP graduates last year. “The accounting firms who hire accounting graduates are excited about the program because it provides them a pool of potential employees who already meet the 150-hour educational requirements for the CPA exam,” he said. “It’s especially good to know our graduates will be positive contributors to the local and regional economy and good for economic development in the area.”

Johnson, one of the other three May 2013 graduates, was hired by McGladrey in Indianapolis. “The WKU Accounting Program prepared me with the necessary technical and personal skills needed to be successful in the career of public accounting,” she said. “As early as sophomore year, I was being exposed to the Big Four accounting firms through recommendations from professors for their leadership programs.

“As one of the first graduates of the Accounting JUMP Program and Masters in Accountancy Program, I highly recommend taking this path. Choosing WKU for my education was not only a great decision, it was a blessing!”

Dr. Wells credits Henson and other accounting faculty members with making the program a success. “Accounting is a challenging academic major,” he said. “The members of the accounting faculty at WKU are professionals who are excellent in the classroom and also as career mentors to many of our students.”

The program also benefits from support of the Graduate School, Dean Katz and Provost Gordon Emslie, who introduced the idea when he arrived at WKU in 2010, Dr. Wells said.

The Department of Economics expects the first graduates from its JUMP program in Applied Economics in the spring of 2016, according to Dr. Catherine Carey, department chair.

The program allows dedicated students in any of three undergraduate programs (B.S. in Mathematical Economics, B.S. in Business Economics, and B.A. in Economics) to follow an accelerated path to an M.A. in Applied Economics. “Unlike the Accounting JUMP program, our program allows undergraduate students to enroll in up to 12 hours of graduate level courses during their senior year and count those courses toward both their undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Much like the high school dual credit program applies to both high school and college,” Dr. Carey said.

Master of Applied Economics students seek careers as applied economists, statisticians and analysts in business, banking and government and many seek doctoral degrees as well, she said.

“We are really excited about our JUMP program,” Dr. Carey said. “This is an exciting opportunity that retains and engages some our brightest students and gives them in ‘jump start’ toward even more career opportunities in economics.”

“At the Gordon Ford College of Business,” Dr. Katz said, “we are very proud to be an ‘applied’ college of business that is fully accredited in business and accounting programs by AACSB International, providing our students with the highest quality real-world educational programs focused on innovation, impact, and engagement of the business disciplines.”

Contact: Cathleen Webb, (270) 745-3457; or Steve Wells, (270) 745-3895.

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