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  April 19, 2004

Education, Business Fare Well In
U.S. News Grad School Rankings

The Neag School of Education has received its highest ranking ever - 31 - by U.S. News & World Report, which ranks the country's best graduate schools and specialty programs within those schools.

In addition, the School of Business jumped 21 places over last year's ranking to 55; and UConn's public finance and budgeting program, a subset of the magazine's rankings for public administration/ public policy programs, was ranked seventh in the nation.

The U.S. News rankings are based on two types of data: expert opinion about program quality, and statistical indicators that measure the quality of a school's faculty, research, and students.

The Neag School tied for 31st among the top schools of education, and was ranked 17th in a four-way tie for elementary education programs.

Rankings do not wholly represent the strengths and weaknesses of any program, and should be used only as a barometer, cautions Richard Schwab, dean. But he says he is "extremely gratified the U.S. News rankings are finally beginning to reflect the successes of our programs, faculty, staff, and students."

Until now, says Schwab, the rankings have lagged reality. "We've been frustrated that the rankings were not keeping up with our growing national reputation for preparing high quality educators," he says, "and with the increased productivity of our faculty."

The school's climb in reputation is attributed, in part, to the overhaul of its teacher-education program some years ago. The five-year integrated bachelor's/master's is unlike most others in the country and received acclaim in the U.S. News Best Graduate Schools guidebook for being "one of three innovative schools grooming grads for the long haul by requiring lengthy in-classroom internships."

In 1998, the faculty spent six months hammering out a strategic initiative that would be used as a road map for the school's future. A year later that plan helped secure a $21 million gift from UConn alum, Ray Neag, that became an important source of funding for strengthening academic programs, increasing student scholarships, and boosting faculty research.

A push to aggressively pursue outside research funding helped buoy the school's reputation as well. During the last couple of years, the school has been awarded a $3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and a $5 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which designated the Neag School as one of its 11 "Teachers for a New Era" schools.

"We're moving in the right direction," says Schwab. "The ranking documents UConn's academic strengths in its classrooms and research labs."

Also in the U.S. News & World Report Best Graduate Schools issue, UConn's School of Business was ranked at 55, a 21-place leap from last year's ranking of 76.

In addition, the school's graduate specialty of information systems, not previously listed, came in at 22.

"The ranking reflects on the tremendous hard work and motivation of our fine faculty," said James Marsden, head of the Department of Operations and Information Management in the School of Business.

"The fact that our program deserves such note is not news to us here at UConn," Marsden added. "But what's happening is that the perceptions nationwide, which have been lagging, are now bearing fruit."

The U.S. News rating comes on the heels of a recent article in OR/MS Today, a widely respected industry journal, that ranked UConn's operations and information management department 7th in the world for research productivity in key journals.

Other programs that were ranked in U.S. News & World Report's survey include the Business School's part-time MBA program (62) and Executive MBA program (75).

The UConn School of Business was previously listed as a "Best B-School" by Business Week; its MBA program placed in the Forbes Top 50 for Best Return on Investment; and the school was named a "Top Pick" by The Wall Street Journal.

UConn's public finance and budgeting program, a subset of the magazine's rankings for public administration/public policy programs, was ranked seventh, ahead of schools such as SUNY-Albany (ninth), and Harvard and the University of California-Berkeley (tied for 10th). Duke and the University of Michigan tied for 12th, while Princeton was ranked 19th.

"This is significant national recognition for the public finance strength area we have built over the past three years and is a testament to our high quality faculty and finance program," says William Simonsen, director of the Master of Public Administration program.

Simonsen says the accomplishment was especially significant because UConn is one of the few programs ranked in the top 30 that does not have a doctoral program in the field.

Overall, UConn's Master of Public Administration program ranked 57th out of 253 programs, 39th among public institutions nationwide and first among public institutions in New England. Simonsen adds that the move to the Tri-Campus, where the MPA will be offered as a major beginning in September, and the creation of the Department of Public Policy puts UConn in a position to improve the ranking in the future.