Northwestern's joint academic programs save students time, money

Rob Karwath | August 14, 2015

Students are the focus of partnerships with colleges across the country.

Nathan Jung wasn’t sure which career path to pursue. But when a friend and fellow student at South Dakota State University went off to Northwestern Health Sciences University to become a chiropractor, Jung’s interest grew.

“He used to come back and tell me about it,” Jung said. “What made it fascinating was the passion he drew from chiropractic. I finally figured out chiropractic is what I wanted to do.”

It got better when Jung learned, a year before completing his bachelor’s degree, that he could move immediately to Northwestern Health Sciences University and begin his studies toward his doctor of chiropractic degree through a collaborative academic partnership between the two schools.

The 3-plus-3 partnership allows students who have completed prerequisite courses and who have excelled academically to finish their bachelor’s degrees in the first year of graduate studies at Northwestern Health Sciences University. Instead of taking seven years to complete their educations, students can graduate with both degrees in six, moving ahead quicker to their areas of academic and career interest.

“Knowing I could finish up my undergrad a year earlier and pursue chiropractic a year earlier, it was a no-brainer,” Jung said. “It’s a unique opportunity to really zero in on what [students] want to do versus doing all of the undergraduate courses and then exploring options after that.”

When Jung completes his studies at Northwestern Health Sciences University, the 3-plus-3 partnership also will allow him to replace a year of college tuition and living expenses with a year of career earning, a substantial financial benefit.

The program with South Dakota State University is one of several strategic partnerships that Northwestern Health Sciences University has developed with other colleges and universities, including two- and four-year schools. Most of the partnerships allow students to reduce the time and expense of completing their educations while still finishing with desired degrees.

“Our partnerships are about helping students accomplish their academic and career goals while saving time and money,” said Kim Tamble, executive director of partnerships at Northwestern Health Sciences University. “As a student, you have a well-defined pathway to what you want to study and the career you want to pursue. It’s about maximizing educational credits for students so they can get where they want to go faster.”

When picking partners, Tamble said, Northwestern Health Sciences University focuses on schools with undergraduate programs that fit well with its graduate and other programs in chiropractic and the health sciences, including acupuncture, massage therapy, oriental medicine and nutrition.

Northwestern Health Sciences University had long partnered with South Dakota State University, but the schools “renewed and reinvigorated” the partnership in 2014, said Greg Heiberger, the undergraduate program manager and a lecturer in the Biology and Microbiology Department at SDSU.

“It was a mutually beneficial way to create a pathway for student success in chiropractic education,” Heiberger said. “It started because of our institutions’ shared values in high-quality, rigorous, research-based education in the sciences and health care. Both institutions have high regard for each other. The fit was mutually beneficial.”

Tamble said Northwestern Health Sciences University has worked to find partner schools that are academic and cultural fits, realizing that students seek institutions with the same approach to learning and a similar classroom and campus feel.

“Both of our schools are committed to small class sizes, and we both believe in hands-on learning—the value of learning by doing,” said Ann Parsons, a professor and director of the Applied Sciences Program at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. Northwestern Health Sciences University and UW-Stout recently began a 3-plus-3 program in which students can complete a bachelor’s degree in applied science from UW-Stout and a doctor of chiropractic degree from Northwestern Health Sciences University in six years instead of seven.

Because UW-Stout, in Menomonie, WI, is only about 75 miles away, Parsons hopes to introduce more of her school’s undergraduates to Northwestern Health Sciences University by taking them on tours and allowing them to attend classes with and shadow graduate students.

“Early-on, we hope to be able to identify our students who would be interested in this program so we can begin working them,” she said.

Colleges and universities must create unique value to be attractive to students, said Kristin Vogel, associate vice president for enrollment management at Concordia University St. Paul, which also operates academic partnerships with Northwestern Health Sciences University.

“A big part of the future of higher education is partnerships,” she said. “When we partner, we’re looking for schools that have a similar mission and ethos and offer an education with solid career options. On all of those fronts, we have so much confidence in our partners at Northwestern.”

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