By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

A new concentration in Old Dominion University's master's degree in international studies is designed to give U.S. Naval officers an education that combines important leadership skills and a civilian perspective.

The strategic leadership concentration is open to anyone interested in pursuing the graduate degree and was developed with the Navy to broaden the skill set of officers.

The Graduate Program in International Studies (GPIS) was chosen as the pilot site for this program after a nationwide search, GPIS Director Regina Karp said. This contract with the Navy's Chief Learning Office recognizes the excellence of graduate education in GPIS and follows its earlier accreditation with NATO, the only civilian graduate program in the United States granted this status, Karp said.

The GPIS already has many students seeking to supplement their military education with a civilian graduate degree. The strategic leadership track was something the GPIS had wanted to develop for some time, and the team efforts of the program, the Graduate School and ODU's Military Activities office take the next step toward solidifying ODU's mission to serve military students.

"I am very excited about this opportunity as our Navy officers are learning about strategic leadership from a civilian, academic perspective that will complement their background and introduce them to the complexities of policymaking," Karp said.

The program is "low-residency," meaning students do most of their learning online but are required to travel to campus once or twice a month to attend lectures or events. That requirement is currently waived due to COVID-19 restrictions, but when in-person classes resume, students can be involved from almost anywhere. In its first year, the program has two students enrolled, but can accommodate up to 15.

Robert Wojtowicz, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, views the new concentration as a significant milestone in GPIS's ongoing relationship with the military.

"For more than two decades, officers from all branches of the military stationed in Hampton Roads have numbered among GPIS's very best students," he said. "Because of the way the contract is structured, this new concentration will allow us to reach a truly national cohort."

Along with ODU, other institutions partnering in low-residency graduate programs with the Navy are the College of William & Mary, American University, Johns Hopkins University, UCLA, University of California San Diego, University of Washington and the Naval Postgraduate School.

"Old Dominion University is proud to be a strong partner in the growing Navy University System," said Robert Clark, director military activities liaison and retired Navy captain. "The GPIS program that Dr. Karp and her team have developed allows Naval officers the opportunity to achieve their higher education goals and enhance their ability to reach career milestones within the Navy. We are excited about the prospect of partnering with the remaining services so they can take advantage of this incredible program."

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