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July 7, 2000


LA CROSSE, Wis.—July 14 will be a memorable, record-setting day for the 375 K-12 teachers who will participate in one of the largest Master of Arts in Education commencements offered anywhere in the U.S.

The majority of the graduates are elementary and secondary school teachers from Iowa and Wisconsin communities who are on campus July 9-14 for a final week of classes.

"What makes the number of graduates and the growth of our program remarkable is that our Masters of Arts in Education program is relatively new and the dramatic increases have occurred over a very short period of time. We only graduated our first class of 41 in 1990. Now a decade later, the program is one of the largest in the nation, said John Schroeder, director of Viterbo’s graduate program.

Although enrollment statistics are not compiled nationally for individual graduate programs, Viterbo’s enrollment surpasses all of the largest public and private colleges and universities he has reviewed. "I haven’t seen a larger one yet," Schroeder said.
In addition to the coursework offered on the Viterbo campus, thousands of teachers are taking classes in locations throughout Wisconsin and Iowa. Some school districts are even sponsoring the program, which allows for the courses to be offered locally.

Despite the tremendous success of the program, the unprecedented growth has not
stymied  innovation or reduced quality, Schroeder said.

"Our graduates are our biggest promoters and they share their experiences here at Viterbo and ‘sell’ the program to other teachers," Schroeder said. "This master’s program really requires teachers to take a hard look at themselves and their profession. Teaching is a very hard and demanding job, which can lead to burnout. We recognize that and try to build into the program, opportunities for teachers to renew and energize themselves."

Several 1999 graduates shared their thoughts in a critique of the program:

  • "The quality of instruction was at its best. I’ve never met so many dynamic people all involved in one program," said Annette Ihde, a teacher at Grant Elementary School in Waterloo, Iowa.
  • An elementary teacher from Suamico agreed. "Viterbo is a terrific college dedicated to improving the whole person. The professors were extremely educated and warmhearted. They are wonderful role models," said Lisa Joseph.

For Viterbo educators, the goal is to continue in the strong commitment to graduate education, which is an extension of the early work of the Franciscan sisters who staffed the elementary schools in the region throughout much of the 20th century.

"Think about 375 teachers…multiply that times the 100 or so children each teaches every day. The total is staggering. And to think that Viterbo is instilling its sense of mission and purpose into all these graduate students is an awesome responsibility and privilege," Schroeder said.

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