GVSU graduate programs awarded top honors

Moments from Grand Valleys graduation ceremonies on Saturday, April 30, 2016.

Kevin Sielaff

Moments from Grand Valley’s graduation ceremonies on Saturday, April 30, 2016.

Bennett Slavsky

Earlier this summer, GraduatePrograms.com released its annual rankings of the top 50 graduate programs over an array of subjects from graduate schools coast to coast. On the 2016 list, Grand Valley State University’s physical therapy program and social work program landed in 22nd and 33rd place, respectively.

The rankings are based off feedback from 51,000 alumni nationwide with over 1,700 schools considered. For a school to qualify, at least 20 students from that program must submit feedback. These rankings were based almost entirely off of student feedback, as opposed to other organizations that rely solely on prestige and reputation.

While other factors are still considered, such as affordability, graduation rates, etc., what GraduatePrograms.com is mainly concerned with is creating an avenue for alumni to express what they wish they had known before deciding on a school.

Director of physical therapy, Dan Vaughn, and the director of social work, Diane Green-Smith, were both thrilled to hear of their departments’ rankings, but have no intentions of stagnation.

“I thought, ‘22 is pretty good, but we can do better,’” Vaughn said. “When you’re 22, all you can do is try harder. We want to continue to foster and develop our excellent reputation.”

With the Mary Freebed Rehabilitation Center within walking distance of Pew Campus, GVSU’s physical therapy program is highly interwoven with real world experience and practice.

“We have a strong relationship with Mary Freebed,” Vaughn said. “Our longstanding neurological and pediatric residency allows us to conduct extensive research there. I am unaware of any other programs at GVSU that have such a relationship.”

Looking to the future, the main goal for the department is to become established as a leader in research and to further intertwine that research with scholarly endeavors. They want to attract the top faculty that will be good instructors and good researchers. Publishing scholarly articles and gaining national recognition through clinical practice with students and faculty is how GVSU hopes to stand as a frontrunner in physical therapy research.

Both the physical therapy and social work programs have shown drastic improvement and momentum over the last few years. A 2013 student review of the social work program on GraduatePrograms.com complained that there was not a wide enough variety of classes to choose from. On the contrary, a review written in 2015 stated that there was such a wide variety of classes that students could really narrow their focus.

The reason for this radical shift in just two short years is on account of the introduction of ‘hot topics.’ Hot topics are one-credit courses that are based off of current issues in society such as suicide and incarceration. This gives students the opportunity to hone in on what interests them most, while still maintaining a strong education across the board.

“What makes our program so effective is the generalist model,” Green-Smith said. “Our graduates can work in any area of social work—clinical, hospice, administration.”

Not only is the program reaching all academic areas of social work, but it is also trying to reach all potential social workers. Green-Smith sees the future of this program offering more hybrid and online classes, while still maintaining the integrity of the program, to meet the needs of all graduate students with work, and families, and life constricting their timeframe.

To see the full list of schools and programs, visit www.graduateprograms.com/school-rankings.