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March 14, 2017

Seven MSU graduate programs rank No. 1 nationally

Two more Michigan State University graduate programs – African history and supply chain – claimed top spots in the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings, giving MSU seven No. 1 programs across a broad range of disciplines.

Anchored by the College of Education’s programs in elementary and secondary education – each No. 1 for 23 years in a row – MSU’s standing in the 2018 Best Graduate Schools reflects a hard-working yet influential group of faculty members and graduate students that help make “Spartans Will” more than a tagline.

Consider the African history program, which moved up from No. 3 last year. Although the graduate program is well known for its connections to the Africana library collection, African language faculty, Matrix digital research center and African Studies Center on campus, it is the people involved in the program that ultimately make the difference.

“The African history program at MSU is successful because it is the home of some of the top researchers in the world and because it has long had terrific institutional support – from the president to the provost to deans to faculty,” said Walter Hawthorne, an Africanist scholar and chairperson of MSU’s Department of History, which houses African history. “At the end of the day, success results from having smart, dedicated people who partner with one another and forge meaningful connections in their research areas in Africa. We have that at MSU. It’s all about the people.”

Here are the top-ranked graduate programs:

Elementary and secondary education. The two programs started their incredible run of 23 consecutive years at No. 1 in 1995, when Bill Clinton was serving his first year as president, Google was three years from reality and gas was $1.15 a gallon.

Rehabilitation counseling. Also housed in the College of Education, this program prepares students to become leaders in the field of rehabilitation counseling and conduct research that improves the lives of people with disabilities.

Overall, the College of Education has eight programs ranked in the top 10 in their respective fields, including curriculum/instruction at No. 2 and higher education administration at No. 3. “Our college takes great pride in the continued high rankings of our graduate programs,” said Robert Floden, dean of the College of Education. “These results are a testament to the leading role so many of our faculty and alumni play in improving education research, policy and practice."

Industrial and organizational psychology. This program is another mainstay in the graduate rankings, coming in at No. 1 every year for two decades straight. Housed in the College of Social Science, researchers in the program explore worker performance and satisfaction as a function of training, performance evaluation and other issues.

African history. The program, which granted its first Ph.D. in 1967, has the highest job-placement rate for doctoral graduates among similar programs in the Big Ten, Hawthorne said, and in recent years has placed 100 percent of graduates in academic jobs. Assan Sarr, a 2010 graduate of the doctoral program who is now an assistant history professor at Ohio University, said the program is truly committed to Africa and makes the effort to recruit students from Africa, the United States and beyond. “The Africanists in the department are on top of the scholarship and they pushed me very hard to be grounded in the field,” said Sarr, a native of Gambia. “The department was also quite generous in its funding of graduate students and their research and language training, and even gave resources to graduate students for summer research.” (Read more about the program in Hawthorne's Faculty Voice.)

Nuclear physics. Housed in the College of Natural Science, the program wrested the top spot from MIT in 2010 and continues to set the national standard. Further bolstering MSU’s reputation in the field, the university is building the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams, a new national-user facility for nuclear science funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, MSU and the state of Michigan.

Supply chain/logistics. Housed in the Eli Broad College of Business, this program improved from No. 2, taking over the top spot this year from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In addition, MSU’s undergraduate supply chain program also ranks No. 1 in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges, which ranks undergraduate programs every fall.

Dave Closs, chairperson of MSU’s Department of Supply Chain Management and a renowned expert on supply chain issues, said MSU’s curriculum takes a balanced “end-to-end view” of the supply chain, meaning graduates understand the complexities of moving products from the source of raw material to the consumer (for example, the farm to the table). Ultimately, employers view MSU’s supply chain graduates and faculty expertise as the “voice of the industry,” Closs said, adding that the business college’s production/operations graduate program ranked No. 8 this year in a tie with Harvard.

“Our position as the No. 1 supply chain/logistics program in the country, joined with a top 10 production/operations specialty, is a true testament to the innovation of our faculty, students and alumni who put us on the map,” said Closs. “We collectively set the standard for excellence in the supply chain management industry that connects business to the rest of the world.”