School of Professional Studies

History of School of Professional Studies and its Departments: The Past and Present

The School of Professional Studies had its origins in the Danbury Normal School in 1903, later renamed in 1937 as the Danbury State Teacher’s College. The College awarded the first teacher education degree in 1938. In 1977 under the Presidency of Dr. Robert Bersi, then known as Western Connecticut State College, he organized the College into three schools: the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Professional Studies, and the School of Business Administration and Public Administration.

Under the leadership of Dr. Fred O’Neill who served as the first dean of the School of Professional Studies, the School’s Departments first comprised of: Education, Health Sciences, Music and Nursing. At this time, the Counselor Education Program transferred from Psychology Department in the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences to Professional Studies. In the late 1970’s, the Department of Social Work moved from the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences to Professional Studies. In 1985, the Physical Education Department amicably separated from the Athletic Department, forming its own department within the School of Professional Studies. In January 2003, the Physical Education Department merged with the Health Sciences Department, now known as the Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences Department.

In 1983, when Western Connecticut State College became a university renamed as Western Connecticut State University, Dr. Walter Bernstein was appointed as the second dean in the history of the School, and served as Dean for the next 17 years until he assumed in 2000 his current position as the University’s Vice President for Student Affairs. Following Dr. Bernstein’s deanship, Dr. Lawrence Huntley, Chair of Music, served as the Interim Dean from 2000-2001. In August 2001, Dr. Lynne W. Clark was appointed as the School’s third dean.

During Dr. Bernstein’s deanship a number of important accomplishments within the School were achieved. Beginning in 1989, the Education Department received full accreditation with commendations from Connecticut’s State Department of Education and thereafter for every five-year cycle. The Teacher Education degree programs became noted for their high level of teaching quality and outreach to school districts with the creation of the Center for Professional Development. After the 1983 Education Enhancement Act was passed, many of the Education and Educational Psychology department’s faculty became actively involved in numerous statewide committees designed to enhance teacher preparation. In 1995, the graduate Counselor Education Program received CACREP accreditation for the first time in its history. In 1990, the Health Education program (today known as the Health Sciences Department) was able to achieve full degree status for its Community Health undergraduate degree program, which previously had only been a “program option”. The Music Department began to grow with new faculty bringing strong leadership to the Jazz Performance Major, the Voice Major and Music Education. A new electronic music lab was established, and the Ives Concert Hall was completely refurbished with a new state of the art sound system installed to enhance recording and live performances. The annual Jazz Festival was established along with a revived Concert Choir and Symphonic Band. The Manhattan String Quartet was in-residence during those years as well. The Nursing Department added a Master’s of Science degree program (MSN) and ultimately programs for the Advanced Nurse Practitioner. During this time, the undergraduate Nursing program underwent two major revisions. Nursing students exceeded by large margins on the scores needed to pass the N-CLEX Nursing Board Exams. The Social Work Department strengthened its curriculum, brought the AIDS quilt to the campus with close to five thousand people viewing this exhibit over the course of a weekend in 1985 and continued to meet rigorous national accreditation standards. The Social Work Department also launched the Executive Forum, which continues today to serve as a clearinghouse for not-for-profit sector throughout the region. The Physical Education Department, in offering its service courses for general education, continued to offer new courses of interest to WCSU students. It introduced a minor in fitness, health and leisure, and the Coaching package of courses to assist those seeking certification as public school coaches.

Under the leadership of Dean Clark, the Music Department became accredited in 2002 by the National Schools of Music (NASM) and the new Ed. D. Programs admitted its first cohort of students; in January 2003 the Health Sciences and Physical Education Programs merged to become the Health Promotion & Exercise Sciences Department; the Counselor Education Program received reaccreditation from Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Education Programs (CACREP) in Fall 2003; the new Advanced Post-Baccalaureate Certificate Program in Gerontological Studies received University curriculum approval in 2003;  WCSU’s Teacher Education Programs received CSDE Reaccreditation in 2004; and the Social Work Department became fully reaccredited by the Council of Social Work Programs (CSW) in 2005; in Fall 2005 the Nursing Department began offering a joint MS Nurse Educators Program with Southern Connecticut State University; in January 2006, the Connecticut Department of Higher Education approved of WCSU offering a new BS degree program in Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences with options in Community Health and Wellness Management, admitting students as of Fall 2006.

As of Fall 2006, WCSU established its fourth school, the School of Visual and Performing Arts.  Thus, the Departments of Music (formally in the School of Professional Studies), Art and Theater (formally in the Macricostas School of Arts and Sciences) will now be housed in the new School of the Visual and Performing Arts.

Today the School of Professional Studies consists of four major departments: Education and Educational Psychology, Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences, Nursing, and Social Work, offering eight bachelor’s degree programs in various areas of teacher preparation, health promotion, social work and nursing, including an RN-BSN Program, and a minor in fitness, health and leisure. At the graduate level, five master’s degree programs are offered in various areas of teacher preparation (i.e., MS Education, MS Music Education, M.S. Counselor Education with options in school and community counseling) and MS in Nursing with options in Nurse Educator and Clinical Specialist. The new Master’s in Arts teaching program (M.A.T.) in Secondary Education — Biology, Mathematics and Spanish will begin its first cohort in June 2009. The M.A.T. Program in Elementary Education along with a joint WCSU/SCSU 14 credit Special Education option which has been approved by the Connecticut State Department of Education is awaiting final approval from the Connecticut Department of Higher Education. Additionally, a post master’s certification program in Adult Nurse Practitioner is offered. At the doctoral level, an Ed.D.Program in Instructional Leadership is offered along with a Certificate Program in Intermediate Administration and Supervision. A joint WCSU/SCSU Ed.D. program in Nursing is currently being developed.

In the 2007-2008 academic year, the School’s faculty was comprised of 44 full-time members and some 30 part-time faculty. During this same time period, current student enrollment in the School was 1,535 with the undergraduate matriculant student enrollment totaling 1,191 and the graduate matriculant student enrollment totaling 344. The mean age of students was 22 and 38 years old at the undergraduate and graduate levels, respectively. The School is comprised of a diverse student body (i.e., undergraduate 20%; graduate 13%). In 2007-2008, 403 degrees (138 undergraduate; 265 graduate degrees) were awarded. Of the 1,545 applicants who applied for admission to the undergraduate degree programs in the School for Fall 2008, 54% were accepted. In 2008-2009, the School’s students received a collective total of $92,750 in scholarships and awards.

Today, many of the degree programs in the School are nationally and/or state accredited:

  • Counselor Education – Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related
    Education Programs (CACREP)
  • Social Work – The Council on Social Work (CSW)
  • Professional Education Programs– Connecticut State Department of Education
  • The University and its professional education programs is being jointly site visited in April 2009 by the National Council of American Teacher Education (NCATE) for national accreditation and the Connecticut State Department of Education for State accreditation.
  • The following WCSU’s Professional Education Programs are nationally recognized as quality programs by their respective specialty professional national associations: Elementary Education, Health Education, Intermediate Administration and Supervision, and Secondary Education — Biology, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Spanish, History, Social Sciences, English, and Mathematics.
  • Health Promotions and Exercise Department’s BS Health Promotion Studies Program is in the process of applying for SAPAC approval.

The student enrollment in the School’s departments continues to grow, as do their respective reputations for providing a quality education; for the development of successful partnerships with nonprofit, educational and health organizations in the western region of Connecticut, and for the high caliber of the faculty and students. Students continue to receive high passing rates on state licensing and national certification exams. The School continues to be known for its dedication to health and human service areas, and the preparation of future teachers and educational leaders (P-12), as well as for embracing the new technologies as they impact the respective programs areas.

Today, the Dean’s Office along with its departments of Nursing and Social Work are located in White Hall on the Midtown Campus. Originally, White Hall served as the former home of the Danbury High School which was purchased by the State in 1964. The building was re-named in 1967 as White Hall after Alexander White, a Danbury native. In 2003, the Nursing Offices and Nursing Lab in White Hall were remodeled, and in August 2006, the Nursing Department acquired two more nursing labs in Higgins Hall. In August 2004 the Social Work Department moved to a newly removed suite area located on the first floor of White Hall. The Education and Educational Psychology Department (E&EPY) was originally housed in Old Main on the Midtown Campus. In April 1982, the E&EPY Department moved to its current site in the Classroom Building at the Westside Campus. The Health Promotion and Exercise Sciences Department is currently housed in a newly renovated office area in Berkshire Hall on the Midtown Campus.

With indebted thanks for assistance from:
Dr. Walter Bernstein, Past Dean of the SPS & current Vice President of Student Services
Ms. Dawn Fletcher, former SPS Dean’s Administrative Assistant
Ms. Meg Moughan, Haas Library Archivist
Ms. Peggy Stewart, University Publication & Design Photographer