CLEMSON — Physics students at South Carolina State University will be able to earn their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in just five years as part of a new dual-degree program with Clemson University.
Undergraduate physics students will study at S.C. State for three years, then transfer to Clemson University, earning a bachelor’s degree from S.C. State and their master’s degree from Clemson by the end of the fifth year thanks to a new agreement between the schools that leaders signed Thursday.
The dual-degree program gives students a cost-effective way to receive the personalized support available in a smaller program at S.C. State and benefit from the resources available at Clemson, a top research university, according to Sean Brittain, chair of Clemson’s physics and astronomy department.
The agreement was signed by South Carolina State Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Learie B. Luke; College of Science, Mathematics and Technology Dean Stanley Ihekweazu; Clemson University Executive Vice President and Provost Robert Jones; and College of Science Dean Cynthia Young. S.C. State President James Clark traveled to Clemson for the signing and to have additional collaborative discussions.
“This partnership benefits South Carolina State students who can earn an advanced degree in five years and conduct research at Clemson,” Jones said. “Clemson will benefit from the experiences and contributions of a more diverse group of students. It’s a win all the way around.”
“We are excited about the endless possibilities that exist through this partnership. It represents yet another step along the way for our ‘Transformation Through Collaboration’ Initiative at S.C. State,” Clark said. “Our students will have an opportunity to receive both their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in just five years taking courses from both land-grant institutions. The agreement is a win-win for both universities and will certainly assist with increasing the number of students interested in physics."
He added, “I look forward to this and future partnerships with Clemson that benefit our students, our state and beyond."
“This collaboration extends the longstanding partnership S.C. State has had with Clemson, which has welcomed our graduates to pursue graduate degrees in engineering and other fields in the past," Luke said. "The goodwill between Provost Jones and me will undoubtedly lead to many more mutually beneficial collaborative initiatives between our institutions.”
The dual-degree program will lessen the economic burden on students because it shortens the time required to secure a graduate degree.
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Brittain and S.C. State physics professor Donald Walter came up with the idea for the dual-degree program a few years ago.
“We have a partnership for undergraduate research with them, and we were looking for ways to build a closer connection between our institutions, find better ways to recruit students into physics – particularly from under-represented minorities – and provide a pathway from S.C. State to Clemson for their majors,” Brittain said.
Once the courses for their bachelor’s degree are completed, the participants will be eligible to serve as graduate teaching assistants, he said.
Julia Frugoli, associate dean for inclusive excellence and graduate education in the College of Science, said the first students can join the program at S.C. State this fall and arrive at Clemson in the fall of 2019.
“This is one of those things where everybody benefits because we get good students who add to our diversity and their students get experiences they wouldn’t get otherwise,” she said.
More dual-degree programs with S.C. State in the STEM fields could follow, Frugoli said.
“We believe that this program will be a valuable recruitment tool for our colleagues at South Carolina State because it provides added value to their students, and it will bring needed diversity to our profession generally and Clemson in particular,” Brittain said.
“This is the most recent product of a decade-long partnership between our two physics programs, and we have others in the works,” Walter said.