Lenoir-Rhyne University has announced plans for launching the Graduate School of Lenoir-Rhyne University on its main campus in Hickory, North Carolina.
The graduate school, slated to open in June, will more effectively accommodate the growing number of graduate programs offered across LR's three campuses in Hickory and Asheville, North Carolina, and Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia is also home to LR's Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS).
LR began offering its first graduate degree programs in counseling and education in the 1970s, and has since expanded to over 30 master and doctorate degree program offerings with more than 900 students enrolled. Total undergraduate and graduate enrollment at LR across the three campuses is over 2,700.
"Establishing a graduate school at Lenoir-Rhyne University is a necessary and timely response to the success we've had in starting and growing graduate programs at all three campus locations," said Gary Johnson, Ph.D., provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. "Graduate programs and students have their own culture and their own needs. Dedicated staff members and space will allow us to give them the focus and the attention they deserve."
Growth in the area of health sciences has been especially significant as the University works to become the preferred provider of health care professionals in the region and beyond. In January 2016, the Wayne B. Powell Health Sciences Complex, a state-of-the-art facility offering advanced, graduate-level training for medical and health care professionals, opened its doors to the inaugural class of students in LR's Physician Assistant Studies program.
In fall 2016, LR opened an additional health sciences center on the Columbia campus. The 24,000-square-foot building houses students in LR's Occupational Therapy program, which is also offered on the Hickory campus. Most recently, LR launched an additional Master of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice track to the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP)/Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) program, which launched fall 2018.
"Health sciences clearly have been important to Lenoir-Rhyne and that will not change as we continue to charge forward," Johnson said. "However, we don't want to limit ourselves to just those types of programs and we are really open to graduate programs that are in sync with our mission."
The graduate school will be housed in the building that previously served as the president's home. The space, which is undergoing extensive renovations, will provide a central meeting location for graduate faculty, staff, and both current and prospective students. According to Amy Wood, Ph.D., assistant provost and dean of graduate and adult education, having a physical location to house graduate-related matters will aid the University in creating stronger connections with the growing number of students.
"We are now enrolling a significant number of students who move here from other regions to pursue graduate studies through Lenoir-Rhyne," Wood said. "As we grow into a destination for graduate education, it's vital to provide the necessary resources for this particular population of students who differ from our traditional undergraduate students."
Programs such as Bridges to Dreams enable qualified LR students to begin graduate courses while completing an undergraduate degree. Additional programs include LR Partners, which provides tuition discounts to employees of partnering businesses, and the Alumni Advantage program, which provides discounts to alumni based on credit hours earned at LR.
"The addition of graduate program offerings facilitates enrollment growth, but it is also accomplished through programs which enable our undergraduate population to obtain a master's degree quicker and at discounted rates," said Mary Ann Gosnell, director of graduate admission. "We have been very intentional about adding pathways for our undergraduate population and that has resulted in an increase of students who continue their education at Lenoir-Rhyne."
In 2018, LR's Carnegie Classification, the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in United States higher education, was changed to Master's Colleges and Universities: Larger Programs from its previous classification of Master's Colleges & Universities: Smaller Programs. The change came due to an increase in graduate degrees conferred during the 2016-2017 academic year in which LR awarded 249 graduate degrees.
To learn more about LR's graduate studies programs visit lr.edu/graduate.