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March 10, 2015

MSU graduate programs top the charts

Michigan State University continues to reign supreme in a diverse group of graduate fields.

U.S. News & World Report’s annual Best Graduate Schools publication on Tuesday bestowed No. 1 rankings on five graduate programs: elementary education, secondary education, rehabilitation counseling, organizational psychology and nuclear physics.

It’s the 21st year in a row at No. 1 for both elementary and secondary education. Organizational psychology has held the top spot every year since 1998, while nuclear physics has maintained the premier ranking since 2010. Rehabilitation counseling claimed No. 1 this year after ranking No. 2 last year.

Here’s a closer look at the top-ranked programs:

Organizational psychology

Organizational psychology, No. 1 for nearly 20 straight years, focuses on the effectiveness and well-being of today’s worker.

The program has an excellent record of placing graduate students in jobs with companies such as Google and Ford Motor Co., and in faculty positions with academic institutions such as the Universities of Maryland, Minnesota and South Florida, said Chu-Hsiang Chang, director of the organizational psychology program and associate professor of psychology at MSU.

Impactful research is the backbone of the program; scholars collaborate on projects with agencies ranging from NASA to the U.S. Army.

“We are well-connected with various organizations and companies here in Michigan, nationally and internationally,” Chang said. “Our faculty and graduate students routinely work with these organizations to help them solve real-world problems.”

As an example of the program’s cutting-edge research, a new study co-authored by Chang explores how work-family conflict may lead to verbal abuse and what workers and employers can do to avert the problem.

Nuclear physics

The nuclear physics graduate program wrested the top spot from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010.

Phillip Duxbury, chairperson of the MSU Department of Physics and Astronomy, said it’s the ability of the faculty to cross disciplines that contributes to MSU’s success and enhanced reputation.

“It’s the close collaboration of nuclear physicists, astronomers and astrophysicists, particularly in the study of the origin of elements in the universe, that contributes to the leading international reputation of the MSU nuclear physics group,” Duxbury said.

Also serving to bolster the university’s reputation is the construction of the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a new scientific user facility for nuclear science funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science and operated by MSU.

“The future looks very bright with the construction of FRIB and the expansion of the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory/FRIB science into new areas, providing further evidence of MSU leadership in nuclear physics and related areas,” Duxbury said.

Elementary education, secondary education, rehabilitation counseling

All three programs reside in MSU’s College of Education. The No. 1 ranking for elementary and secondary education reflects the university’s long-standing reputation as a place where internationally respected professors and highly accomplished doctoral students transform K-12 education.

MSU has become known for improving the practice of teaching and learning in schools through innovative research, graduate study and programs that prepare new teachers for careers in elementary and secondary classrooms, which include a yearlong internship.

The Office of Rehabilitation and Disability Studies prepares students to become leaders in the field of rehabilitation counseling and conducts research that improves lives for people with disabilities. Graduates develop expertise in counseling; the social, medical and psychological aspects of disability; employment; independent living; transition from school to work; and other issues.

Director Michael Leahy said the faculty continues to expand cross-disciplinary projects to solve problems for individuals with autism and intellectual disabilities. Leahy and colleagues established an international research coalition of U.S. and Irish institutions (the DOCTRID Research Institute) that led to the creation of the Institute for Research in Autism, Intellectual and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities at MSU.

In total, the College of Education has six programs ranked in the top 5. The overall college ranking increased two spots this year to No. 13.

“The foundation of any college is made up of the faculty, staff and students who contribute to the teaching, learning and research,” said Dean Donald E. Heller. “I am gratified to see the wonderful work being done by people here in our college recognized by our peers around the country. Having six programs ranked in the top 5 in the nation – and three ranked first – is a wonderful accomplishment of which we are immensely proud.”

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