The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools today cleared the way for Jacksonville State University to begin offering its first doctoral degree, the Doctor of Science in Emergency Management, in Fall 2011. This marks the final step in the move to SACS Level 5 accreditation and comes nearly six months after the Alabama Commission on Higher Education gave its own blessing to the program on June 18.
JSU President Dr. Bill Meehan relayed today's announcement via telephone from Louisville, Ky., where he is attending the SACS Annual Meeting. He called the accomplishment "the academic equivalent of winning the playoffs."
"Our report read very well. SACS said we have a good product and an excellent program, and they offered rave reviews," Dr. Meehan said. Following ACHE's support last June he described the move as "the biggest change in the university's role since we became a university in 1967."
According to Dr. Jane Kushma, director of the new doctoral program, ACHE's consideration was based on the merit of the proposal itself. To receive SACS' blessing, JSU had to show that it has the institutional resources to offer and support the program.
The university will begin accepting applications next summer for the program and classes will commence in Fall 2011. The program will be primarily online but will include an integrative seminar where the student will come to campus for one week, according to Dr. Kushma. She adds that with SACS' blessing, JSU can now officially advertise the program. She said that the department has seen significant interest in the program since ACHE's approval and averages 10-15 inquiries per week.
According to Dr. Rebecca Turner, JSU provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, SACS will send a follow-up, on-site review team in Spring 2012 to gauge the program's progress and interview students, faculty and administrators.
"We had a great team working on that proposal for substantive change at JSU. They made sure that we were putting forward a good solid product," she said.
"I think we worked very hard to fully prepare that application to deliver a high quality doctoral program that showed our capacity to implement it and sustain it over time.
"It does change our institution status within the higher education world, and it makes us very proud to be able to do that."
According to the SACS website, with Level 5 accreditation a university can offer up to three doctoral degrees.