SFU graduate programs in education engage students from nontraditional backgrounds

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      To Robin Brayne, SFU's vision of becoming Canada's leading engaged research university is far more than just a marketing slogan.

      As the director of SFU’s graduate programs in education, Brayne, is keen to attract students who don’t fit the traditional profile of a master’s student.

      "There's a reason why we're the largest purveyor of graduate programs and graduate studies in the university," he told the Straight. "We take seriously all that stuff you see on buses."

      Brayne said that under certain circumstances, some can be accepted even if they don’t have an undergraduate degree. That’s because these “nontraditional admits” are assessed more holistically.

      “If someone has been in a leadership capacity in a community college for a number of years and is viewed as instrumental or effective in their particular context, we want them to have an opportunity to get advanced credentials,” he said. “They’re basically judged at application time in terms of whether or not they would likely succeed in graduate programs.”

      An introductory course in academic literacy can help prepare students for a graduate program. It’s also possible to enroll in a graduate certificate program as part of a laddering process.

      “Most of the people in our graduate programs are working professionals,” Brayne said. “We try to remove access problems as an obstacle.”

      Classes are often offered on Friday nights and Saturday. This makes it possible to get through a program in two years by taking one course per semester. There are also opportunities to learn online.

      Brayne said that of the 1,090 students enrolled in SFU’s graduate programs in education, only 318 go to the Burnaby Mountain campus. Another 284 are at SFU’s Surrey campus, Vancouver Community College, or Camosun College in Victoria. Others are at SFU’s Harbour Centre campus.

      There are three streams to an SFU graduate degree in education. According to Brayne, the “research-intensive pathway” has less focus on course work and a much greater emphasis on conducting original research. This is the route chosen by aspiring academics.

      The “professional-practice pathway” appeals to teachers with a specific goal, be it a pay raise, an opportunity to learn about educational theory, or a springboard to further graduate studies.

      The “professional-specialist pathway” is designed for career-oriented professionals hoping to enhance their knowledge in a specific area. They could already be working in health care, the justice system, the nonprofit sector, or other fields.

      “It’s becoming less and less a K-12 [kindergarten to Grade 12] focus,” Brayne said. “Our variety of programs reflect this diversity in the students who look for advanced study.”

      He also mentioned that with around 70 faculty members, SFU graduate programs in education is "very diverse in terms of areas of scholarship".

      "There are very few areas of interest that a potential student might have that could not be accommodated in particular porgrams that are here," Brayne said. "We have faculty in ed psych, math ed, technology, language and culture, and we have a very, very large presence, if you like, in French education."

      He added that anyone interested in obtaining more information can visit the website or contact anyone in the department.