When you think of SUNY Potsdam, you may think of the Crane School of Music and the arts. Its reputation as an institution of creative expression is earned, but the young master of science in management graduate program is beginning to shine more light on the school’s business side.
The program, which began in 2016, was developed by Anthony K. Betrus, professor of instructional design and management. Mr. Betrus graduated from SUNY Potsdam in 1993 with a bachelor of arts in math and education. The following year, he stayed at Potsdam for his master of science in education, and went on to earn his doctorate in instructional systems technology at Indiana University.
His experience in both management and education allowed him to develop the management program at Potsdam.
The program offers three distinct tracks: organizational leadership; information technology; and training and human capital development.
Mr. Betrus said the organizational leadership track is the closest program to a Master of business administration since many of the courses are in leadership, problem solving, and conflict resolution, as well as some mathematical financial management. The difference, Mr. Betrus said, is that organizational leadership courses “emphasize managing people.”
Information technology, he said, “is meant to make you a manager of technicians.” Courses include topics on cybersecurity, network management and information architecture.
Training and human capital development focuses on adult learning. Mr. Betrus said this is probably the best track for someone who wants to be on the ground in a human resources department. Coursework includes staff development, critical issues in leadership and program evaluation.
“But the truth of the matter,” Mr. Betrus said, “is that we don’t pigeonhole people into specific courses within the tracks. We try to individualize the track selection based on their current situation and future aspirations.”
The program requires six core courses, four track-specific courses and a “culminating experience” course. The culminating experience, along with some of the essential coursework, involves authentic interactions with clients.
“So they’re doing real-world projects,” Mr. Betrus said. “We might do a program evaluation of the tutoring program on campus, or the students might go out and do a needs-assessment for the international division at Clarkson.”
This focus on real-world application permeates the graduate program’s philosophy.
“Everything we do is applied,” Mr. Betrus. “If we have any theory, it will be applied theory. There’s no theory for theory’s sake, so that’s a theme that runs through all our courses.”
The program can be completed entirely online. The online option became available in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The program can be completed either fully online with some synchronous and asynchronous classes, or hybrid with most of the coursework digital and some in person. For those who choose the hybrid option, many of the courses are offered at Jefferson Community College in Watertown, where those who want can join virtually through video.
Mr. Betrus said the program will be fully online in an asynchronous format by the spring semester, with the option to take in-person classes in Watertown.
“We previously did night classes — since our program has been and continues to be mostly working professionals — which was the only option because they work during the day,” Mr. Betrus said. “However, you have to figure in their commute, which in the north country is terrible, especially in the winter.”
As a result, he said, people were constantly unable to make it to class. Locals searching for similar master’s programs were looking elsewhere for fully online options.
“We had to capture the north country audience, so we had to adapt and serve the population,” he said. “After a while, we tested the waters and developed a few online courses, and it grew from there.”
Mr. Betrus said early career professionals who graduate from the program often move into higher management positions within their workplace.
“For people coming raw out of undergrad,” he said, “they go into all sorts of fields, including higher education, human resources and business management positions.”
Rafael Villa, who graduated in 2020 through the organizational leadership track, is now the New York City regional admissions counselor for SUNY Potsdam as well as marketing and communications coordinator at the DreamYard Project.
“The program was outstanding,” Mr. Villa said. “The more time I spent on it, the more I learned. The professors in the program truly knew what they were doing — but Amanda LeDesma and Karen Caldwell were two who not only taught me a great deal about business management, but also about the real world. I personally feel more matured and capable of tackling life’s challenges.”
Nsundidi Jorge, who also graduated in 2020 from the information technology track, is a growth associate at DLIVE.TV, a video streaming service.
“My experience on this program was definitely valuable,” Mr. Jorge said. “The M.S. management program at Potsdam is very flexible, which means the candidate can adjust according to their interests. I use that flexibility to explore not only the area I was specializing in, which was IT, but also to explore other areas such as human development and teaching.”
“To me personally,” he said, “this program opened new avenues for my professional career and provided me skills that can be applied in the STEM fields. So, I highly recommend it to those interested in pursuing a masters degree.”
Mr. Betrus attributes much of the success of the program to its faculty.
“We take our mentoring and training very seriously, and we have a highly talented group of faculty that I would put up against any graduate program,” he said. “And the courses themselves are some of the highest quality online courses you can find anywhere, and that’s not by accident.”
Application requirements don’t include standardized tests, but GPA is considered. The threshold for admission is a 3.0 GPA from an accredited four-year university.
“Our basic philosophy is, if you were a successful undergraduate student, then you’ll be a successful graduate student,” Mr. Betrus said.
For more information about the program, visit wdt.me/management0921.