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Week of December 5, 2011

New online master’s degree dental hygiene program offered

A new online learning program leading to a Master of Science degree in dental hygiene will be offered by U-M beginning next September. The program, offered by the Rackham School of Graduate Studies in conjunction with the School of Dentistry, will be a two-year, six-semester program totaling 36 credit hours.

Wendy Kerschbaum, associate professor of dental hygiene and director of the Dental Hygiene program, says the new online master’s degree program builds on the success of the school’s E-Learning bachelor’s degree completion program launched in January 2008.

Dental hygiene faculty members who will teach the online master’s degree are (front row, left to right): Anne Gwozdek, Janet Kinney and Susan Taichman, and (back row) Karen Ridley and Wendy Kerschbaum. Photo by Jerry Mastey.

“The online bachelor’s program gave us a solid foundation that helped us to develop the master’s program,” she says. “In addition, the online master’s program is consistent with U-M President Mary Sue Coleman’s challenge to us as educators to be innovative in our approach to education.”

The new online program will help prepare students for careers in dental hygiene education as a growing number of dental hygiene faculty will be retiring in the next few years. In a 2004 study published in the Journal of Dental Education, 68 percent of responding dental hygiene program directors cited a need to replace faculty primarily due to retirement.

Kerschbaum says the U-M online learning program will fulfill a real need. “Many who already have a bachelor’s degree have expressed an interest in pursuing coursework leading to a master’s degree, but are reluctant to give up their jobs, move and be on campus for two years,” she says. “The online program will offer these students the best of both worlds — an opportunity for a quality education without having to relocate.”

Kerschbaum emphasized the quality of the online master’s program will equal that of the on-campus program that has been offered for more than 40 years.

Karen Ridley, an assistant professor of dental hygiene and director of the online master’s program, says, “today’s students are looking for new, nontraditional ways of advancing themselves personally and professionally. This program offers the same content as our on-campus program. But how that information is delivered to students will be different.”

Students will register for six contiguous semesters and take six credit hours of courses each semester. The online program will begin with a three-day on-campus orientation in July. “Students will meet our dental hygiene faculty members who will teach the 12 courses and also meet their colleagues,” Kerschbaum says. “Meeting their online colleagues face-to-face is an important part of developing a sense of community.”

Dr. Carol Anne Murdoch-Kinch, associate dean for academic affairs, says, “The new online master’s program, which was rigorously reviewed by the Rackham Graduate School, shows how creative and innovative our dental hygiene faculty are in developing new ways of learning and reaching potential students.” She added the new program “will provide opportunities for qualified candidates to receive a University of Michigan education that will prepare them to become future leaders in dental hygiene education.”

For additional information about the Master of Science degree in dental hygiene online program, contact Ridley at



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