Students, educators laud SRU's online masters' degree programs


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Nick DeWitt, a student in the Slippery Rock University online master's degree program in history who teaches civics in Brookville, wasn't surprised to learn SRU's online graduate history program has been named fourth best in the nation in the 2015 Best Online Master's Program by

SRU's criminal justice and special education programs were also ranked nationally.

2015 Best Online Master's Program

"The history program is good because of the people and because they've worked hard to create an online environment that still allows for the same kind of debate and discussion that is key to historical study," DeWitt said. "The professors are some of the most knowledgeable historians I've know and some of the finest educators I've worked with."

The online group ranked SRU's masters in criminal justice as the 10th best in the country and online masters in special education as 11th best.

SRU is one of five Pennsylvania schools to receive multiple awards. used government and intuitional data to evaluate thousands of online graduate programs in a wide range of fields. SRU's offers 30 graduate and two doctorate programs, with 25 offered online.

The ranking organization said SRU excels at showing dedication to online education, a

commitment to graduate-level education and provides academic and career services. It applauded SRU's Desire2Learn course management system that connects students to discussion boards, class syllabi and educational multimedia.

"I was excited and proud to learn that SRU's graduate online programs in criminal justice, history, and special education were recognized by as among the nation's best, but not surprised. SRU's graduate programs offer high-quality education and our faculty are dedicated to helping students and committed to teaching excellence," said Brandi Weber-Mortimer, SRU director of graduate admissions.

DeWitt, who teaches seven classes of eighth grade civics at Brookville Area Junior-Senior High School, described SRU's history curriculum as engaging, interesting and educational. He said the education has made him a better teacher.

"It is everything an online program should be because it still retains the interaction of a regular class while allowing me to work from home largely at times of day that fit my schedule," he said. The other thing that makes this program exceptional is that the faculty and the department are constantly asking for and utilizing feedback, both to improve courses on the fly and to make the program more acceptable to specific needs."

DeWitt said he plans to pursue a doctorate in history so that he can teach history and conduct Civil War research.

The ranking organization ranked 22 history programs in the nation, noting SRU's 30-credit, master of arts emphasizes world, European and U.S. history. The organization said masters-degree history graduates could find work as historians, government researchers, writers and editors, and in media and communication.

"The history department is very pleased that the quality of its online master's degree has been recognized," Lia Paradis, SRU associate professor of history and department chair, said. "Our graduate director, Dr. Paula Rieder, and all of the graduate faculty are dedicated to providing an online experience that encourages intellectual engagement. SRU's online history program was designed to help a wide variety of students pursue their educational goals. We're gratified that our program and two other programs at SRU have been noticed in this way."

Robert Imbrogno of Johnsonburg, said he enrolled in SRU's history program in the fall.

"SRU truly helps students with any needs or issues that may arise," he said. "Even though the courses are online, the course load is definitely graduate level work. And though the scholarly work is still graduate level work, having online courses allows for more freedom for work as well as time for studying, reading and writing.

"I am planning on working toward a doctorate in my life and feel the knowledge I am gaining and have already gained from SRU master's in history online degree program is preparing me to take on that monumental task," Imbrogno said.

The SRU criminology program was one of 49 cited. The ranking organization said SRU's program is organized, easy to access and comparable to on-campus programs.

SRU's master of arts in criminal justice is a 30-credit program that can be completed in 15 to 18 months. With thesis and non-thesis options, students study criminal justice theory and other topics pertaining to the field.

"We are pleased to be among the SRU online graduate programs to be recognized for this honor," said David Champion, SRU assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice. "Distance education provides its own challenges but also its own rewards for both our students and faculty. We strive to offer quality education in a flexible format to allow our students, many of whom work part-or full-time in the field, the tools and opportunities to enhance their careers and further their education at the graduate level.

Champion said department faculty work to provide online learning in a clear, rigorous, and student-centered manner, using the best practices from the evidence-based principles and standards of distance education and the criminal justice field.

Forty-five programs in the nation made the special education ranking. SRU's program received accolades for offering a master of education in special education with concentration of birth through eighth grade, grades 7-12 and autism. The 36-credit program emphasizes teaching children with disabilities age birth to grade eight in school environments. The program will be offered to students that already have an Instructional I or II Certification in special education, early childhood Education or elementary education from Pennsylvania or other states.

"Being named one of the top online master's programs in the country is quite an honor," said Joseph Merhaut, SRU associate professor of special education and department chair. "I owe this to our dedicated faculty who have worked endless hours to not only develop, but to continuously improve, the program. I would be remiss also if I did not mention the outstanding students we select and who participate in our programs. The vision of Dr. Dennis Fair, professor emeritus, is what led us to where we are today."

Karl E. Schwab