New master’s-level program at UMPI is first in county

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With a novel approach to advancing careers, the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s new master’s-level program in organizational leadership offers students an opportunity to advance at their own pace.

“It’s a little different than a standard online course, allowing the students to work at their own pace, ” Ron Biron, UMPI assistant professor of business leadership said. “Some work at a faster pace, some stay up late at night.”

This first master’s-level program at Presque Isle — Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership — is a competency-based program through YourPace that began in October and now has 16 enrolled students. 

“We have removed all deadlines, no weekly or daily assignments. They hand in a final in the last week,” Jessica Winslow, UMPI interim director of YourPace operations said, explaining that the program works well for students already working or with families. “In The County, there is an increasing demand for graduate-level programs.”

Similar to the university’s undergraduate YourPace offering, a competency-based program allows students to move through coursework at times convenient to the student. And instead of following a prescribed syllabus with due dates for assignments, students can skip assignments if they are already familiar with the material.

“This allows students to focus on what they don’t know,” Winslow said, adding that students complete competency activities instead. “This is based strictly on their [student] knowledge and mastering learning outcomes.” 

In addition to faculty, students are assigned an academic success coach. 

Each course runs for eight weeks and students who complete several courses in each eight-week session could complete a master’s degree in one year instead of the traditional two.

Some of the courses include data driven decision making, team leadership and collaboration, conflict and negotiations, organizational leadership capstone course.

And this coursework fits in with a national demand for leadership education, Winslow said.

Fifty-eight percent of U.S. companies say it is important to close the leadership skills gap, according to Northeastern University. 

Biron, one of seven faculty members teaching in the program, helps students discover their leadership styles. 

“I want students of every age to identify their strengths in leadership,” he said. “There are some adult learners, some younger, some who have been in their careers longer … it is fascinating to discuss leadership and ethics with multiple generations.”

Under the admission requirements of the program, students with a bachelor’s degree and 3.0 GPA or higher will be asked to submit an application, send official transcripts and one letter of recommendation. Students with a bachelor’s degree and 2.9 GPA or lower will be considered on a case-by-case basis and students must submit an application, send official transcripts, two letters of recommendation and a resume or CV.

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