Reimagining the university experience the Messiah way

24/7 classes, early graduation, teacher certification, bachelor's to master's and more

Reimagining the university experience the Messiah way

It’s your first day as a first-year college student. You brought your laptop, your phone and 25 credits. How? In today’s world, students are getting a jump on college credits in ways that would’ve been impossible only a few years ago. Work toward a master’s while getting your bachelor’s. Take an online class any time day or night to accommodate your sports schedule. Here’s how Messiah University helps its students earn credit on their own time, start their careers or graduate school earlier and save money in the process.

Dual enrollment

In Pennsylvania, a student who is still enrolled in high school can also enroll in college courses–and secure credit in both.

Finance major Kaitlyn Naylor ’26 began dual enrollment courses at Messiah the summer before her junior year of high school.

“I took mainly online asynchronous courses, because those are the most flexible and it allowed me to work around my high school schedule,” said Naylor.

In total, Naylor earned 25 college credits through dual enrollment. While the bulk of those were taken online, she also took an on-campus class, Principles of Management (BUSA 120), in person during her senior year of high school.

“I was able to experience the college classroom by interacting with the professor and working on projects with college students as if I were a full-time student on campus,” Naylor said.

While other colleges and universities offer dual enrollment, Messiah’s courses are, of course, faith-based.

“I appreciated how the professors openly talked about their faith and the learning passion that the students had. Also, by spending time on campus as a dual enrollment student at Messiah, it reinforced and confirmed my decision to attend Messiah University because of the community and friendliness of people on campus,” said Naylor.

Dual enrolled students are allowed to take two courses a semester at the highly reduced rate of $150 per hour.

“They apply in the spring of their sophomore year, and they register for classes typically in July, and they come to orientation in August,” said John Chopka, vice president for enrollment management.

The classes that are popular and/or necessary for high school seniors include offerings such as history, English literature, psychology, Spanish, Chinese, among others. About 140 high school students are opting for dual enrollment this fall.

“We worked with guidance counselors from feeder schools, they helped us draft a curriculum. These are the courses students are looking for,” explained Chopka.

For Kaylee Enck ’23, public relations major with a psychology minor, as a senior at Big Spring High School, she needed only 1-2 classes to graduate and that left a lot of space in her schedule. Her guidance counselor suggested dual enrolling at Messiah. She took Intro to Psychology in the fall 2019 semester along with Fundamentals of Oral Communication, Problems in Philosophy and Statistics for spring 2020.

“The chance to take classes at Messiah, and at a discounted price, was too much to pass up,” said Enck. “The professors and students I got to interact with daily were some of the best people I’ve ever met.”

Dual enrollment is also a great recruiting tool, as 25 percent of those who participate end up staying at Messiah to get their bachelor’s–and, sometimes, even their master’s.

Cori Galbraith ’22, a human development and family science major, took several Messiah courses as a high school student, which included a combination of in-person and online classes, such as Financial Accounting, Introduction to World Literature, Spanish I and U.S. History before 1865. This fall, she started her studies in the master’s in school counseling program at Messiah.

“The credits I earned through dual enrollment allowed me to graduate in three years, rather than four,” said Galbraith. “Messiah professors and other faculty truly want students to succeed. An interesting aspect of my dual enrollment experience is that it prepared me well for online courses during the COVID lockdowns, since I took four Messiah courses online during summers for dual enrollment.”

Dual enrollment allows high school students to build on success.

“When a student does well in a dual enrollment course, they build on their belief that they can complete college-level work. Often, this means that they are less overwhelmed right away in the fall of their first year with managing college-level courses and figuring out expectations at the college-level,” said Rob Pepper ’92, associate provost for graduate and professional studies and university partnerships. “We’ll get you ready, we’ll have a seat.”

Online classes

24/7 classes, early graduation, teacher certification, bachelor's to master's and more

Whether you’re a dual enrolled high school student or a traditional college student, online classes are a great way to satisfy general education requirements for almost anyone attending Messiah. While Messiah always offered some online classes, the number of classes increased greatly as a result of the pandemic.

“We try to offer at least one online section in the most general ed categories, though typically not in areas with hands-on requirements like the lab sciences,” said Alison Noble, interim provost. “Online actually worked really well for our language courses. Languages got a big bump in the online space, since there are no masks via Zoom.”

Student athletes especially can benefit from the flexibility that online courses offer during a particular sports season. As a student tries to put together a complicated class schedule around practices and games, an online class can be the answer. For example, a full semester, in-person class lasts 16 weeks, but an online spring semester class is typically only eight weeks.

“If a student is competing during the first half of the semester, they are looking for flexibility and can take the 8-week online course during the second half of the semester, and still maintain full-time status as a student. They can get an in-person, residential education with an occasional online class. It’s asynchronous, so they can manage the competing demands on their time.”

Post-bacc option

Those who already have a bachelor’s degree in any discipline can take classes at Messiah to become a Pennsylvania certified teacher.

“An exciting aspect of working with post-bacc teacher certification candidates is the wide range of experiences that brought them to pursue teaching when they originally thought they wanted to do something else,” said Jennifer Fisler ’94, dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies. “Every situation is unique, so we tailor our programs to work with students’ needs and goals.”

Courses are offered primarily online with an in-person summer intensive. Students then have the opportunity to complete field experiences and student teaching in a school setting near one’s home.

“We focus on helping our students become excellent teachers. They come to us with content knowledge and life experience. We help them bring that into a classroom of their own,” said Fisler.

Since most of the classes are offered at the graduate level, students can pursue the full master’s degree by completing just a few more courses. “The teacher shortage across the country is well-documented. Our post-bacc certification program is one way we’re working with students and schools to try to address it,” said Fisler.

Accelerated programs

If a high school student is certain about majoring in occupational therapy or athletic training, he/she can opt for an accelerated program, reducing the stress and uncertainty of standardized tests and applications.

“You lock in at 18 and say I’m going to Messiah for this long and I’m going to walk away with my bachelor’s and my master’s,” said Pepper.

Much the same way that dual enrollment courses can count for credit in both high school and college, accelerated programs allow students to earn credits in undergraduate and graduate school simultaneously.

In the accelerated program for Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT), students pick one of two undergraduate majors: applied health sciences or psychology. In the Master of Science in Athletic Training, students choose applied health science as an undergraduate major.

“In Pennsylvania, you need to have 30 standalone credits beyond the 120 to get a master’s degree. Since our master’s in OT is much more than 30, in your senior year [of undergraduate work], you start taking your graduate courses,” said Pepper. “They count for the undergraduate degree. You earn an undergraduate degree and seamlessly continue on to complete the graduate degree coursework. Programs like this typically reduce the time to completion by 1 year.”

In other words, the first 30 credits of the master’s degree count toward the bachelor’s degree, too. The degree is accelerated in that one doesn’t have to get the 120 credits for a bachelor’s and then earn an extra 60-80 credits for a master’s.

What if a student realizes halfway through that he’s not cut out for this program?

“You can still earn an undergraduate degree in the curriculum that we have designed (psychology or applied health science) or change your major,” said Pepper. “There are multiple on-ramps and off-ramps within the Messiah degree offerings.”

Early assurance

Students who want to be physical or occupational therapists can opt for the Doctor of Physical Therapist Early Assurance Program (DPT EAP) or Master of Occupational Therapy Early Assurance Program (MOT EAP). These programs provide flexibility as students can complete an undergraduate degree in any major. As long as they successfully complete the program pre-requisites, they are admitted into either the DPT or MOT program.

“When you’re doing the early assurance program, you know there are certain benchmarks along the way. As long as you meet them, you can have a full-fledged, four-year experience, and you’re assured a seat in the program. Admittance to these programs is very competitive, and the EAP provides students with some flexibility with what they want to study [as undergraduates]. They can still play a sport, study abroad, participate in the arts or even complete a major with a minor,” said Pepper.

Today’s Messiah students have no shortage of degree options. They are limited only by their imagination in charting their university experience.