Linfield University announced three new graduate programs Thursday slated to start this fall. This comes as some other Oregon universities and colleges have been forced to make program cuts during the pandemic.

Linfield announced its first graduate program since transitioning from a college to a university — a Master of Science in Nursing, specializing in healthcare leadership — less than a year ago.

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“The introduction of graduate programs is an important part of our evolution from a college to a university,” Linfield President Miles K. Davis said in a statement. “But we didn’t want just any graduate programs. We wanted them to be distinctively Linfield, and to represent the interdisciplinary history and culture of this 163-year-old institution.”

The three new graduate programs are a Master of Science in business, a Master of Science in sports science and analytics and a Special Education Generalist Endorsement. The programs will be offered online and on the university’s McMinnville campus.

Linfield said the new programs were proposed by faculty, and they were approved by the university’s board of trustees last week.

Susan Agre-Kippenhan, Linfield’s Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said the new graduate programs retain Linfield’s liberal arts values.

“Linfield has for many years been a really strong, focused undergraduate institution and we would say our core is the liberal arts, but over the years really our program growth has been in many areas that are pre-professional — in education, in nursing, in health and human performance and business — and that’s kind of a typical profile of what traditional liberal arts institutions look like,” Agre-Kippenhan said.

“Linfield has, I think, really parlayed those interconnections really well at the undergraduate level. We’ve said, ‘Look, you will be a better student in business if you’re taking philosophy, if you’re taking anatomy, if you’re taking music,’” she said. “When we think about the graduate level, we want to keep those core values.”

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As other Oregon colleges and university have seen declining enrollment, layoffs and program cuts during the pandemic, Agre-Kippenhan said she expects the new and innovative nature of programs will draw students to Linfield.

“We anticipate that there will be some of our undergrads who will want to stay and do graduate work, but we also really feel that these programs are going to be really exciting for people who aren’t currently at Linfield,” she said.

For example, Linfield said in a news release Thursday, the new Master of Science in business can accommodate people who already have a degree in business, but can works equally well for people who do not.

The program’s curriculum includes “design thinking, high performing teams, critical thinking and emotional and cultural intelligence,” the university said. The business program also includes a “multi-national capstone” in which students will work with a global client and could travel internationally.

The sports science and analytics program will combine an exercise science program with data science, Agre-Kippenhan said, and the Special Education Generalist Endorsement creates a new licensure for teachers.

“It’s really about building on the smart kinds of thinking we’ve always had in our liberal arts core,” Agre-Kippenhan said. “We’re looking at what’s being offered by competitors. We’re looking at the needs of people in our communities, our region and beyond — What are people looking for at this moment, and how does Linfield step into that space?”

Elsewhere in Oregon, nearly all of the state’s community colleges and public universities had to deal with falling enrollment in the current school year, though some are seeing reason for optimism, with application numbers rising.

Agre-Kippenhan said the growth at Linfield, including planning for new graduate programs, has been in the works since the school community began discussing the switch from a college to a university — way before the pandemic.

“We have looked with as clear eyes as we possibly can about what the future is looking like for higher education,” she said. “And part of what we’ve realized is that what has made you successful in your past is not always going to be what makes you successful in your future.”

“I often think about education and say we’re in this strange spot between where the students were before they got here and where they are going, so we have to be wiling to change in that spot, because where they came from and where they’re going is changing all the time.”

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