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Graduate School
Graduate School

Quality Graduate Education

Graduate education represents mastery of an academic discipline. Distinct from undergraduate education, graduate education provides advanced knowledge in a field of study that is characterized by specialized training in the discipline's theory, research methodology and critical analysis. Specialization, however, is not narrow or limited. Specialized training means concentrated learning in the depth and breadth of the discipline.

Since graduate education is concentrated, learning is more self-directed, and involves more individualized instruction and mentoring. A master's provides you with the skills necessary to generate new and apply existing knowledge. It also provides you with your discipline's professional ethics and values.

Master's degrees can have a variety of orientations or goals. Some degree programs stress the traditional orientation of emphasizing theory and basic research. Other programs are designed to meet professional goals and emphasize theory, skills and applied research. Regardless of the purpose and goals of a master's degree, all graduate programs share common characteristics. The following characteristics help define a quality program:

Clarity of Purpose

A high-quality master's program is centered on the collective understanding among faculty and students of the purpose and goals of the program. This engenders a sense of ownership and commitment to the program, shaping values and customs, and building effective professional relationships.

Supportive Learning Environment

High-quality programs and institutional support are essential for creating and maintaining a supportive learning environment.

  • High-quality programs nurture an ethic of cooperation and substantially enrich the learning experience for faculty and students through shared expectations for intellectual rigor. As a student, you are encouraged to challenge the limits of your knowledge.
  • Institutional support is critical to support facilities and equipment, including labs, computers, library resources and supplies. The institutional commitment to a supportive learning environment establishes and sets high academic standards and expectations, including those for accreditation.

Academic Experiences

Core knowledge, course content, immersion, critical dialogue, application, mentoring and what the student produces are what comprise your academic experience as a graduate student.

  • Core knowledge means more than just taking a collection of courses. It is the foundation for advanced knowledge in your discipline. It supports your entire learning experience. It provides you with the theoretical underpinnings, research practices and methodologies of your discipline. It helps you define and understand the knowledge, skills and practices that faculty expect you to learn.
  • Course content leads to specialized knowledge within your discipline. It should teach you essential skills, tools and methods. You will develop your oral and written communication skills through courses that are intellectually rigorous and contain advanced disciplinary content. You will learn how new knowledge is created; how existing knowledge is applied and how to evaluate the issues and literature in your field of study.
  • Immersion in curriculum that is designed to create intense learning experiences, an SIUE graduate education deeply engages you in your chosen discipline. Whether you are a part-time or full-time student, your experiences will engender within you a spirit of creativity, dedication, cooperation and collegiality.
  • Critical Dialogue encourages you to criticially engage with faculty and your fellow students to discuss the assumptive foundations, structure and consequences of the knowledge you are learning, applying and creating. You will take a dialectical approach to learning that emphasizes the necessity of collegial and collaborative confrontation about ideas, methods and skills.
  • The application of knowledge you have gained through internships, practica, theses, papers, fieldwork, laboratory assignments, assistantships and more will help promote and foster an effective learning experience.
  • Mentoring opportunities teach you the ethics and conventions of your discipline. These opportunities help to ensure your individual learning needs are met and that you can effectively acquire, create and apply knowledge independently.
  • What is produced by you during your studies, whether a thesis, a project, a recital, an exhibit or an internship, allows you to apply the theory, skills and methods you have learned. The final product is an example of your culminating experience.


Faculty that actively engage in research and learning themselves are essential in the establishment and execution of a high-quality graduate program. By being practitioners in the profession, faculty members engage you in active learning and are able to demonstrate how new knowledge is generated.

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