Middle States approves first Ph.D. program

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All systems are go for the launch of Mercyhurst University’s first Ph.D. program – a doctor of philosophy degree in anthropology – thanks to yesterday’s approval from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

The program, which represents a natural extension of the university’s existing master’s degree in anthropology, expects to begin enrolling students immediately.

“I am very pleased that Middle States concurs that Mercyhurst University is ready and able to launch its first-ever Ph.D. program, and further gratified that it is in the liberal arts,” said Mercyhurst President Thomas J. Gamble, Ph.D., in acknowledging what will certainly be viewed as a hallmark of his career. “A new doctoral program following on the heels of our transition to university status, a successful Middle States review and the creation of an Irish corporation to facilitate our efforts abroad all point to an institution on the move.”

James M. Adovasio, Ph.D., director of the Mercyhurst Archaeological Institute, is at the helm of the latest pioneering development at Mercyhurst. The boutique program, as he calls it, will admit only six students, two each in three tracks: archaeology, geoarchaeology and forensic anthropology.

In developing the new program, Adovasio had noted, “I am relatively certain that we are the only small to medium-sized university in the entire country offering a Ph.D. in archaeology; I know we are the only one in Pennsylvania. Most are far larger universities. Additionally, we will become the only school in the nation – large or small – to offer a Ph.D. with a track in forensic anthropology.”

What makes Mercyhurst’s new doctoral program even more distinctive is that it will provide students the opportunity to do high-end research in a very personal setting. Students will have access to laboratories that are among the best equipped in the country and will work directly alongside full-time faculty with international reputations.

Adovasio said the reason Mercyhurst has chosen to build a doctoral program in anthropology is simple. “We’re ready. We have a stellar faculty. We’ve put a lot of money into our facilities over the past two decades and our labs and equipment are among the best.”

Adovasio credited Phil Belfiore, Ph.D., vice president for academic affairs; Missy Breckenridge, Ed.D., associate professor of business; Lori Hamblin, office manager/anthropology; and Amy Danzer, director of assessment; for their work in securing Middle States approval.

“They threaded their way through the maze of requirements and crafted the necessary documentation in great detail, without which we would not be where we are today,” he said. “This was a team effort and we are grateful to everyone who brought their capabilities to this important process.”
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