Interview with Sam Hanna, Ph.D. - Associate Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at American University's School of Professional and Extended Studies
About Sam Hanna, Ph.D.: Sam Hanna is the Associate Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies (GPS), an Executive in Residence, and the Program Director of the M.S. in Healthcare Management at American University. He teaches multiple courses in the Healthcare program, along with providing leadership with stakeholders and partners of the School of Professional and Extended Studies.
Dr. Hanna holds a Ph.D. in Translational Health Sciences from The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences. He also earned a graduate degree (MBA) from Babson College with a focus in Entrepreneurship and a dual degree from Christian Brothers University in Accounting and Information Technology Management. In addition, he holds a certificate of leadership and management from Harvard Business School. Dr. Hanna has earned many certifications and credentials including Six Sigma Green Belt Certification, Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA), Certified Business Continuity Professional (CBCP), and Certified in Risk and Information Systems Controls (CRISC). He is active in the local chapters of the following organizations: ACHE, HIMSS, HFMA, DRII, The IIA and ISACA.
Prior to his role at American University, he was a Professor in the field of Healthcare Management, Policy & Strategy and the Program Director of the Master of Science in Management of Healthcare Informatics and Analytics (MHIA) at The George Washington University’s School of Public Health.
[GraduateCertificates.com] May we have more information on American University’s graduate certificate programs in Healthcare Management, Human Resource Analytics and Management, Project Monitoring & Evaluation, and Sports Analytics and Management? What is the structure of the curriculum for these programs, and what student and professional populations do they serve in particular?
[Dr. Hanna] Each graduate certificate is designed with a series of four content specific courses to address the most current and compelling issue in each of the industries they represent, by focusing on use of data in decision-making. Sports Analytics focuses on emerging trends in technology and how to build on intercultural client/stakeholder relationships. Human Resources focuses on the latest HR technologies and how to increase organizational effectiveness. Healthcare Management focuses on ever-changing technology in the healthcare field and how to best utilize these technologies to increase productivity and efficiency. Measurement and Evaluation addresses multiple principles, skills, and topics in evaluation design, data collection, and analysis. Students who complete the certificate programs have used their newly acquired skills to advance their careers and some have continued on to get their Master’s degree.
[GraduateCertificates.com] As these programs are delivered online, what is the delivery/instruction method, and how does it facilitate interactions between course instructors and students in the online environment?
[Dr. Hanna] Each of our graduate certificate programs is 12 credits, asynchronous, and can be completed in just 12-15 months. The instructors for each course are experts in their field and have previous online teaching experience. Students are required to participate in discussions online each week and in many classes they will do group work. All instructors hold virtual office hours each week and are available by appointment.
Also, during the year, GPS hosts DCX, a DC Experience @ AU. This event is held on campus and gives students a chance to interact and network with other students, faculty, and staff in person. A highlight of DCX is the site visit to a local organization. We have visited places like the Special Olympics HQ and Microsoft. DCX also features career development workshops, a special guest speaker, and a panel of experts in each field of study. It has proven to be a great way to get students interacting with each other. Every year students return, even as alumni.
[GraduateCertificates.com] American University’s School of Professional and Extended Studies also offers master’s degrees in these same four fields. Can you explain the difference between the master’s and graduate certificate programs in terms of both the curriculum and the target audience?
[Dr. Hanna] We know that each prospective student has different goals, professional needs, financial considerations, and available time to balance when making grad school decisions. The fact that we offer both a 12-credit graduate certificate and a 30-credit Master’s degree highlights the flexibility American University offers to its students. Prospective students work with an advisor to determine the best fit for them, based on their individual professional goals.
We know there are multiple reasons a student may chose the graduate certificate. They may be dipping their toe into a new career; they may already have a Master’s degree and this program is a chance to add needed skills to their portfolio, or they may not be ready to commit to the full Master’s degree. The courses that are taken as part of the graduate certificate are applicable to the Master’s degree and if a student would like to transfer into the Master’s program, it is an easy process, working with our advising team.
[GraduateCertificates.com] How are the graduate certificate programs offered through the School of Professional and Extended Studies at American University different from professional development programs and training seminars offered through employers and professional associations? What are the advantages of a graduate certificate program offered at a university, relative to these other options?
[Dr. Hanna] Our greatest asset in the program is the faculty we recruit to teach our courses. All of our faculty are experts in the field they teach. We have a professor from NASA, a professor who has worked with the NHL, WNBA, and the NCAA, along with many other accomplished professionals. We have a strong team and continue to grow that team as our programs grow.
The credits students earn can be added into a Master’s degree going forward, something many of our students take advantage of when they complete the certificate. The 12 credits in each of the programs focus both on the subject matter of the program and on analytics. Each program requires a course in data driven decision making, building off those concepts to inform the other courses they take. These courses are not prerecorded, and they are not a one and done course from a professional organization. Our graduate certificate programs include teamwork and interaction with classmates and the instructor. Based on input from our advisory board of industry experts, each program regularly reviews their program content to ensure the learning outcomes are relevant to trends and professional development opportunities.
[GraduateCertificates.com] What are the admissions requirements for the graduate certificate programs offered through American University’s School of Professional and Extended Studies? How do you recommend students put forth a competitive application to their desired graduate certificate program?
[Dr. Hanna] Each applicant is required to submit official transcripts from all universities or colleges they have attended, a resume, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement that reflects why they are a good fit for our programs as well as what they hope to gain from the program. We require a 3.0 GPA, but we review each application as a sum of its parts, and do not focus disproportionately on any single point of information. We are looking for individuals who have experience in their prospective field of study, who understand the benefits of an online program, and who are ready to commit to being an active part of a vibrant online learning experience.
[GraduateCertificates.com] Outside of faculty guidance and support in classes and office hours, what support structures are in place for students of American University’s graduate certificate programs?
[Dr. Hanna] We know student support is a key aspect to the success of any academic program. This is another way our programs are different from professional organization courses. Our programs have an advisor who works with students on registration, course access, program completion plans, and any necessary paperwork required for their program of study. Also, the Assistant Director oversees student access to resources on campus. Online students have access to the same services on campus as other graduate students, including the library, writing center, counseling center, and the career center.
The Assistant Director creates networking opportunities for current students and alumni by bringing in guest speakers for informal discussions. Most important is the work the Assistant Director does to ensure all students are successful in their studies, which includes things like reminders of best practices for how to be successful with online learning, supporting students who are struggling in their classes, and frequently checking in with students to provide encouragement and accountability.
[GraduateCertificates.com] May we have more information on the School of Professional and Extended Studies’ mission statement, and how the graduate certificate programs fit into its overall mission? How do the graduate certificate programs offered help further the School’s objective to help business, health, sports, and project management professionals excel in their respective fields of practice?
[Dr. Hanna] The School of Professional & Extended Studies is the hub of life-long learning at American University. As the Interim Dean Jill Klein says, “What is truly exciting about the School of Professional & Extended Studies is our innovative and nimble approach to scholarship.” The graduate certificates are designed to meet each learner where they are in their career as life-long learners. As an example, if a prospective student is already involved in Human Resources and already has a Master’s degree, but needs to familiarize themselves with current technology or how best to present data to their leadership team, our certificates will provide them with those skills. To stay relevant, our courses are continually evaluated and adjusted to provide the most up-to-date information.
[GraduateCertificates.com] In your opinion, where do you see graduate certificate programs in the overall post-baccalaureate education landscape, and how do you see graduate certificate programs as a graduate education option evolving as various industries from health care to technology, business, and creative design continue to expand and evolve?
[Dr. Hanna] The purpose of the graduate certificate is to give adult learners more than one option as they work to gain skills in their career. As a school whose mission is to support life-long learning, our graduate certificates meet that goal. We know learning to collect, assess, and synthesize data is a skill set needed by every company and organization. Enabling students to take asynchronous courses that feature strong interaction with classmates, expert faculty, and content that can enhance their current resume will continue to be a goal of American University. The world around us is changing at a rapid pace, and we work to change with it. Graduate certificates are a strong part of our academic portfolio and will continue to be so.
Thank you, Dr. Hanna, for your excellent insight into American University’s graduate certificate programs in Healthcare Management, Human Resource Analytics and Management, Project Monitoring & Evaluation, and Sports Analytics and Management!
Transparency and accuracy form the foundation of all the resources we create. For more details on our sources of data, program classifications, and other important information, please review our Sources and Disclaimers page.