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College of Continuing Education News

Professionally Powered: Interdisciplinary classroom work is career relevant for Master of Biological Science graduate Stephanie Fettig-Scholl

Master of Biological Science Student Stephanie Fettig-Scholl.jpg

"Science intrigues me; it keeps me interested. There's always something different to explore every day. It's never the same," says Stephanie Fettig-Scholl, a 2010 graduate of the Master of Biological Science (MBS) degree program.

The MBS degree is one of several new professional master's degrees offered through the College. Says Sherry Wagner-Henry, the College's director of graduate studies, "The market is changing. The workforce is becoming more competitive, and for many people, a bachelor's degree is no longer enough. These are very much advanced degrees for people looking to get ahead in their careers."

Janet Schottel, faculty director for the MBS program concurs. "The MBS program can be used to support many different career goals. In some cases, promotions require an advanced degree. Or, students who are interested in science instruction may decide to pursue a teaching position at a community college, which requires an MS degree.

Students may want to purse a different career direction such as beginning their own biotech company, move to a different division within their current company, prepare for a different job, enhance their credentials for professional schools (medical, dental, pharmacy, etc.), or prepare for doctoral. programs. The MBS can be tailored to the individual student's interests."

Which is exactly the type of program Fettig-Scholl was looking for. As a research and design scientist at Synovis, a Twin-Cities-based company specializing in tissue technology and innovative surgical tools, she plays a key role in the development of the company's line of biological repair patches. "My work focuses on treating bovine pericardium [a particular type of heart tissue] to make implantable biomaterial devices--surgeons then use the patches in a variety of situations including hernia and vascular repair."

Fettig-Scholl's degree focused on bioethics and pharmacy--both key pieces of her work at Synovis. "Working in a research field, on products that will be used in humans, and, of course, using animal tissue for our devices...ethics is a big concern."

Her pharmacy studies "directly apply to my work here. Our products are prescribed by doctors, and we have to work with insurance regulations, prescription regulations, etc. Understanding where doctors, pharmacists, and other companies we work with are coming from is key."

In addition to the ability to tailor her course of study to match her career path and interests, Fettig-Scholl was intrigued by the program's flexibility. "I was working full-time. I'm married, and we're starting a family. I needed something where I could go part-time, have evening and weekend course options, and to be able to take some of my classes online, as well."

That flexibility is a hallmark of the College of Continuing Education's professional master's degrees. "CCE is uniquely situated in the University to handle the specific demands of this type of degree program," says Wagner-Henry. "We are a home to inter-college, interdisciplinary education. We already have extensive faculty contacts throughout the University, and experience working with interdisciplinary degrees, such as our particular professional master's degrees.

"Our niche is in working with adults; we are able to offer a wide variety of courses online, on the weekends, and in the evenings so that they can complete their degree while balancing work, their families, and other commitments."

Says Schottel, "The MBS program's flexibility, both in terms of curricula and in schedule, is an important advantage. So much of the work in science today is interdisciplinary. Projects require foundational knowledge in several fields and ways to access and utilize diverse types of information. In addition, project teams are typically composed of individuals from a variety of disciplines, and being able to communicate across discipline boundaries is essential."

For Fettig-Scholl, the impact was immediate: "Graduate school opened up my thought process so much. I learned to think outside of the box, to bring new and creative perspectives to my work. I learned an immense amount about the biopharm industry...[and] made some great professional contacts. I've met several people in the medical device and research industries I can keep in touch with, network with. The degree was hard work, but very inspiring. And definitely worth it; I'm so excited to see where it leads."

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