Cohort Delivery Continues

Shortly after the Murray Institute was established in 1992, focus groups were held with the graduates of Cohorts 1 and 2, and a second call went out for Catholic school teachers interested in graduate study. Over 150 teachers responded, and Murray Institute’s Cohorts 3 and 4 were established. The Faculty Committee had reshaped the curriculum slightly to include more theology, adding "Sacred Scripture and the Covenant Community" and "Worship and the Life or the Church" to the MACI curriculum, and the Murray Institute was off to a great start! Twenty-nine students graduated from Cohort 3 and twenty-seven graduated from
Cohort 4.

During these early years, Murray degree programs were also delivered to teachers at St. Thomas Academy/Visitation School and teachers at Totino Grace High School and its feeder schools, as well as a group of teachers from the St. Cloud and Crookston dioceses. Although Murray-delivered, these programs were paid for by their respective schools and dioceses, not by the Murray endowment fund, which was too small at the time to meet the immediate needs of the Archdiocese. However, the success of the early out-of-Archdiocese degree programs fueled many discussions among Murray Institute Faculty Committee members about the possibility of setting up Murray-delivered degree programs for Catholic educators on the regional or national level. The chief deterrent for endeavors of this sort in other dioceses is the lack of funding. In this regard, the Murray Institute is exceptional.

Another hallmark of the Murray Institute is its ability to adapt quickly to changing needs. For example, in 1995, the Murray Institute Faculty Committee developed a program that was considered quite innovative at the time. Its Cohort 5 brought together religious educators who were pursuing a Master of Arts in Religious Education (MARE) degree with principals and prospective principals who were pursuing the Education Specialist (Ed.S.) degree as a step toward principal licensure. The hope was that, by studying together over a period of three years, principals and directors of religious education would develop networking bonds that would be mutually beneficial to their work in the schools and parish programs. The students took their core education leadership courses together, and then split off into two groups for their degree-specific coursework but continued to meet in the same location so they could socialize and network across their programs of study. Cohort 5 graduated 29 students in Spring 1997.

As testimony to the success of this blended cohort model, the curriculum for the Ed.S./MARE degree was repeated in Cohorts 6, 9 and 11. Cohort 6 graduated 25 students in Spring 2000, Cohort 9 graduated 18 students in Spring 2003, and Cohort 11 graduated 19 students in Summer 2004. Cohort 13 was another first for the Murray Institute; it was a cohort entirely dedicated to parish ministers and religion teachers pursuing the MARE degree. Previously it was assumed that only teachers wanted or needed advanced education to do their work. Nineteen students completed their MARE degrees in summer 2006.

Even as the Murray Institute branched out to offer the Ed.S/MARE blended cohort, it continued to offer the Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction (MACI) but always with an eye toward the emerging needs of our Catholic schools. Cohort 7 was an MACI program that graduated twenty-four students in Summer 2000. Cohort 10, another MACI degree program, graduated 19 students in Summer 2003. However, Cohort 8 was developed as an MACI program with a concentration in Special Education. The goal was to enable inner city Catholic schools to address an emerging need. Two teachers from each participating school were admitted to the program with the expectation that they would “pay it forward” by developing strategies for their respective schools to support special needs students who were mainstreamed in Catholic school classrooms. Cohort 8 graduated twenty-five students in Summer 2001.

Cohort 12 was another effort to respond to evolving needs of the Archdiocese and seed leadership for the future. It was an MA in Educational Leadership for teachers and parish ministers (youth ministers, directors of religious education, development directors, and teachers of religion). Its goal was two-fold: (1) to give parish and schools people an opportunity to network across their programs of study; (2) to prepare a group of teachers to pursue advanced studies in the Ed.S. program as a step toward principalship. Cohort 12 graduated 24 students in Summer 2004.

Likewise, Cohorts 14 and 15 were MACI degree programs with a concentration in Critical Pedagogy. Designed to help Catholic school teachers explore new approaches to teaching, particularly in the development of critical thinking skills, the original plan was to offer only one cohort, but the response was so overwhelming that the Murray Faculty Institute Committee decided to launch two. These two cohorts together graduated 37 students in Fall 2007.

Cohort 16 was an Ed.S. cohort. It graduated 19 students in December 2008, giving the Archdiocese a fresh supply of potential principals to replace those expected to retire in the near future.

Cohort 17 was an MACI degree program with a concentration in K-12 Reading Instruction. This cohort was launched in response to a change in Minnesota state education requirements that teachers of reading have specialized training in Reading Instruction. Cohort 17, which graduated in Fall 2009, boasts the largest intact class to come through the Murray Institute—30 members. Congratulations, Cohort 17!

Cohort 18 is an MARE degree program. The curriculum for the MARE degree has undergone significant development since Cohort 13 completed its studies in 2006. Originally this degree was essentially an education leadership degree with some additional graduate-level theology courses. When the national certification standards for lay ecclesial ministers were approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2003, the faculty of The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity had already been working on a revision of their MA in Pastoral Ministry (MAPM), which would eventually include the MA in Religious Education. These standards became the driving force for a thoroughly integrated program of Catholic pastoral theology and professional skill development directed toward the parish setting. In its final form, each newly designed course of the MARE program is keyed to one of the certification standards, and the capstone provides an opportunity for students to synthesize their learning and set new goals as they come to the end of their studies. Cohort 18, which will graduate in Spring 2010, is the first group to study under this new curriculum.

Cohorts 19 and 20 began in February 2008. Another first for the Murray Institute, both are one and a half year graduate certificate programs. Designed to meet the changing needs of educational ministers of the Archdiocese, Cohort 19 focused on English as a Second Language Education (ESL) to help our Catholic school teachers improve the language acquisition skills of our rapidly growing Hispanic/Latino populations and make our schools more welcoming places for persons of diverse cultures. Cohort 20 focused on Gifted, Creative and Talented Education (GCT) to better position our schools to compete in an educational market that calls for specialized programs for advanced learners. Cohort 19 graduated 13 students and Cohort 20 graduated 19 students, both in Spring 2009.

Cohort 21 began in February of 2009 with 27 members. It is a Master of Arts degree program in K-12 Reading Instruction. At the conclusion of their program in Spring 2011, these students will be able to obtain the Reading Endorsement to accompany their state teaching licenses.

Cohort 22 began in Fall 2009 with 27 members. It is a Master of Arts program in Curriculum and Instruction and includes several members of Cohorts 19 and 20. Students who are new to the program may choose a concentration in either Multicultural Education or Advanced Curriculum Design for the Differentiated Classroom to complete their degrees.

Cohorts 23 and 24 began in Spring 2010. Cohort 23 is a graduate certificate in English as a Second Language Education (ESL) and has 18 students. Cohort 24 is a graduate certificate in Gifted, Creative and Talented Education (GCT) and has 14 students. Cohort 25, a graduate certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorders, is scheduled to begin in Fall 2010.