Minot State offers new Master of Science in Disability Human Services

MINOT, N.D. – Minot State University’s Department of Special Education is offering a new online master’s degree in disability human services where graduates will be able to attain the knowledge and skills necessary to strategically create and nurture the environment and culture of learning in a human services agency.

The degree blends coursework from a variety of fields including education, human services, management, and human resources. Topical areas include a firm grounding in strategic management, disability law and policy, human resources, and accounting. Students will also receive high-quality instruction in the latest trends related to serving people with severe disabilities across the lifespan and will learn research skills to allow them to be effective problem solvers.

While Minot State’s Master of Science in Disability Human Services is new, the University has been at the forefront in offering programs for intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) for decades. The degree it replaces had been offered by the Department of Special Education for the last 30 years in a variety of formats, including face-to-face and an array of online options.

“During the last couple of years, MSU faculty collaborated with industry leaders to update and reconceptualize the program to effectively prepare students to take on administrative leadership positions in private and public human service organizations and state agencies,” said Holly Pedersen, special education department chair. “These leadership positions require professionals who can problem solve and be strategic based on how services are delivered at a time when resources are often limited.”

Faculty consulted with Melody Baker, agency training director at Kalix, which provides residential and vocational services for people with IDD in Minot. Baker provided insight into what constitutes effective leadership at a human services agency and offered many important philosophical and practical suggestions for developing a human services organization into a learning organization.

This sentiment was critical in that it echoed and helped reaffirm Judge Bruce Van Sickle’s 1982 orders that changed how North Dakota supported citizens with disabilities.

“What was very forward thinking was not just saying, yes, we will have people with disabilities live in their communities, but also recognizing the very systematic way of training and building capacities for supports that enable them to live self-determined lives,” said Brent Askvig, executive director of the North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities (NDCPD, North Dakota’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities).

Pedersen added, “We’ve been very blessed in our state to have had those systems in place for 35 years, and it started here with partnerships between Minot State, NDCPD, and the Department of Human Services in Bismarck to create high-quality curricula and community staff programming to build capacity in the facilities that are supporting individuals.”

Today, the Department of Special Education, in partnership with NDCPD, offers a full career ladder model for individuals advancing in an IDD career. Starting with a certificate, the ladder moves up to an academic concentration, two-year associate degree, bachelor’s degree, and the newly minted master’s degree.

“Compared to other universities, our academic department is small, but we are mighty. We have continued to compete with much larger programs and facilities, and I commonly hear people say, I want to hire a Minot State grad,” Pedersen said. “We prepare professionals who know what they’re doing and who are equipped to provide exceptional services in their field as confident leaders. That doesn’t happen by accident.”

For more information about the new Master of Science in Disability Human Services, Pedersen can be reached via email at holly.pedersen@MinotStateU.edu.

About Minot State University
Minot State University is a public university dedicated to excellence in education, scholarship, and community engagement achieved through rigorous academic experiences, active learning environments, commitment to public service, and a vibrant campus life.

Published: 04/14/20   

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