Students participate in a suture clinic as part of Transy's pre-health program.

Graduate partnerships are pathways to success for Transylvania students

by Alexandria Lopez

Transylvania has long been committed to helping its students find the path that is right for them — and that journey doesn’t stop at graduation. In recent years, the university has developed a slate of graduate partnerships intended to give Transy undergraduates an advantage as they prepare for their next step.

These partnerships — which particularly target students interested in careers in engineering, medicine and business — offer perks such as accelerated pathways, financial incentives and personalized attention for students who plan to pursue a graduate degree after their time at Transylvania comes to an end.

Engineering a faster route to a career

One of the ever-popular STEM fields, the road to becoming an engineer is notoriously long and arduous. At a liberal arts institution like Transylvania, most future engineers opt to major in challenging disciplines like physics, math and computer science before specializing in a particular form of engineering in graduate school. Many students can benefit from smaller classes to master the fundamentals of the profession before moving on to graduate work in the field. Transylvania’s long-standing connection with the University of Kentucky College of Engineering offers Pioneers multiple options to experience a Transylvania education while also having access to the state’s flagship institution for undergraduate or graduate coursework.

Transylvania Professor of Physics Jamie Day has served as the pre‑engineering adviser since 2014. Day oversees both the 3+2 dual degree program, in which students earn bachelor’s degrees from Transy and from UK, and the pre‑engineering pathway, colloquially known as “4-1” in reference to the number of years spent at each institution. 

In addition to the amount of time spent at each institution, the pathways differ in outcomes — the pre‑engineering pathway, which allows Transylvania undergraduates to take up to six UK engineering courses at no additional cost, culminates in a bachelor’s degree from Transylvania and a master’s degree from UK — typically completed in a single year post-graduation.

“The 3+2 program has been around for decades — at least back to the 1980s,” Day reflected. “The first students for the newer program matriculated in 2014.”

The 3+2 program has been around for decades — at least back to the 1980s. The first students for the newer program matriculated in 2014.

Jamie Day, professor of physics

Day noted that, while the 3+2 program was initially popular, it has fallen out of favor due to the necessity of switching schools prior to graduation. “The newer program started because our 3+2 students didn’t want to leave Transy before their senior year,” he said. 

Anna Detherage and Carter McIntire
First-year medical students and Transy alumni Anna Detherage and Carter McIntire. They pursued the Early Assurance Program with the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Northern Kentucky campus.

Since its creation, the pre‑engineering pathway has become nearly de rigueur for students interested in engineering. “Almost all of our students who eventually become engineers participate in the program and take at least a few engineering courses at UK while they are at Transy, and almost all attend UK for their masters degree,” Day said, noting that occasionally a Transylvania physics major will also decide to attend engineering school post-graduation without going through the pathway.

Whether a student pursues the pre‑engineering pathway or selects the 3+2 dual degree option, both programs offer similar benefits. 

Students in these programs “have a broader background — including the liberal arts courses — which has been demonstrated to result in better performance as engineers, including faster promotions,” Day said, adding, “They take their core science courses in smaller classes with Ph.D.-holding faculty who are primarily interested in teaching rather than research.”

Transylvania graduate Andrew Meyer ’17 took advantage of the pre‑engineering pathway, ultimately receiving free tuition from UK and the opportunity to go directly into its Ph.D. engineering program. He believes that the education he received at Transylvania was pivotal to his success.

“Being able to work as a team with others outside of your area of expertise, and being able to effectively communicate, is crucial,” Meyer said. “This is where a liberal arts education really gave me an advantage. It helped me to become a team player and gave me opportunities to develop my soft skills such as communication and leadership.”

Prichard in her office
Pre‑health adviser Robin Prichard

Caring for their communities

Another burgeoning Transylvania population is students interested in a career in health care. “Nearly a quarter of the student population is pre‑health,” said Robin Prichard, the university’s pre‑health adviser, noting that pre‑health incorporates many popular career tracks, such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, physician assistants and physical and occupational therapy. 

Quenton Turley
Quenton Turley is attending pharmacy school through the 3+4 Pre‑Pharmacy and Pharm.D. partnership between Transy and UK.

Prichard added that interest in physical therapy has been skyrocketing recently — due in part to the university’s growing percentage of student-athletes — as well as interest in a career as a physician assistant.

“PA programs are some of the most competitive programs for students to get into — they can be even more competitive than medical school,” she said, adding that current students are often seeking work-life balance that can be more easily achieved as a PA. 

That’s where Transylvania’s graduate partnerships come in. Students interested in becoming a PA can apply for a spot in Lincoln Memorial University’s Master of Medical Science program. Based in Harrogate, Tennessee, the institution holds three spots annually for qualifying Transylvania graduates who have earned a competitive GPA in their prerequisite courses and have experience working with patients. 

Students who want to pursue a career in physical therapy can vie for one of three reserved seats in Bellarmine University’s PT program. This recent partnership between two of the Commonwealth’s pre‑eminent liberal arts institutions allows Transy alumni to further their education without leaving Kentucky and while continuing to learn in a “small school” environment. 

This is a golden partnership. It’s a smaller cohort, with more of a Transy feel. And — because it’s a smaller cohort — they have more opportunities for hands-on experience.

Robin Prichard, pre‑health advisor

The desire for smaller class sizes and deeper relationships with peers and faculty is also part of what prompts many of Transylvania’s future doctors to pursue the university’s Early Assurance Program with the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Northern Kentucky campus. “This is a golden partnership,” Prichard enthused about the program, which holds three seats annually for pre‑med Pioneers. “It’s a smaller cohort, with more of a Transy feel. And — because it’s a smaller cohort — they have more opportunities for hands-on experience.” 

Additional perks of this program include exposure to hospital and office practice, shadowing and mentoring from physicians, MCAT preparation and a one-week boot camp to prepare students for the rigors of medical school.

While many of the university’s pre‑health partnerships have been established in recent years, the relationship between Transylvania and the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy is long standing. Through the Lexington universities’ 3+4 Pre‑Pharmacy and Pharm.D. program, students can spend three years earning their pharmacy school prerequisites at Transylvania and then complete their bachelor’s degree while working on their doctorate in pharmacy at UK — giving students an edge by allowing them to complete both degrees in a compact time frame.

Spencer Hemmerich and Colton Hartig
Third-year medical students and Transy alumni Spencer Hemmerich and Colton Hartig also pursued the Early Assurance Program with the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s Northern Kentucky campus.

This program is particularly close to Prichard’s heart as a Transylvania alumna who earned her doctorate in pharmacy at UK prior to the establishment of the agreement. “I didn’t graduate from Transy because I went on to pharmacy school,” Prichard said. “I would love to have a Transy degree, and this partnership allows you to earn one.” 

As more students continue to express interest in a career in health care post-pandemic, Pritchard hopes to be able to build on current partnerships to meet these needs while potentially expanding into additional fields, such as nursing and public health. “There’s a shortage of health care in the state,” she said. “I’m very interested in building relationships in our community so we can partner together to combat some of these needs in Kentucky.”

No matter the pathway selected, the relationship between the partner university and Transylvania is mutually beneficial. “Having pathways and pipelines to these programs is such a huge advantage to our students,” said Pritchard. “They alleviate stress for students and show them opportunities that they never knew existed. And the schools want our students because of their success rate in graduate programs.”

MBA options add up to success

As business majors have grown in popularity, even among liberal arts graduates, Transylvania has worked to ensure that its students have regional connections to MBA programs. In 2018, the university established a 4+1 MBA partnership with UK Gatton College of Business and Economics and a partnership with Marshall University’s MBA program. 

The UK partnership guarantees admission for four Transylvania graduates into the one-year Gatton College of Business and Economics and provides two $20,000 scholarships to graduates who meet specific criteria, including a GMAT score of 670 or GRE score of 325 and an undergraduate GPA of 3.5.

These partnerships create pipelines to graduate programs that we believed would be attractive to prospective and current students.

Rebecca Thomas, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the university

Transylvania undergraduates may also apply for conditional admission to Marshall University’s MBA program, allowing them to enroll in online courses at the Marshall University College of Business while still an undergraduate, accelerating their graduate study.

As with many of the other pathways, the impetus to develop these programs was to provide options for Transylvania students to get a head start on graduate-level work while completing their undergraduate education. “These partnerships create pipelines to graduate programs that we believed would be attractive to prospective and current students and would offer our Transy students an advantage if they chose to continue their business administration education,” said Rebecca Thomas, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the university. 

Thomas hopes to develop additional partnerships in the future, both with current institutional partners and with new universities. “We always want to support our students’ success,” she said. “We think that making graduate school more accessible for those who choose to pursue graduate study can only help.”

Partnership opens doors for Transylvania graduates to further their education at Bellarmine

A new partnership between Transylvania University and Bellarmine University ensures Transy graduates can remain in Kentucky to pursue graduate school through guaranteed admission at Bellarmine.

The collaboration between the two premier independent Kentucky universities includes discounted tuition for many of Bellarmine’s graduate programs, along with opportunities for scholarships and financial aid intended to make graduate school affordable.

“A Transylvania degree has always given our students a strong foundation heading into graduate school programs across the country. With our Transylvania-to-Bellarmine partnership, our students and employees can take advantage of a wide range of degree programs right here in Kentucky,” said President Brien Lewis. “I’m excited by the opportunities this provides to educate the next generation of Kentucky’s leaders and the potential to keep them engaged in our communities.”

A Transylvania degree has always given our students a strong foundation heading into graduate school programs across the country.

Brien Lewis, president

The partnership is available to current and future students enrolled at Transylvania, as well as to Transylvania alumni who have completed their most recent degree at the Lexington campus. Transylvania employees are also eligible to participate, with access to the many available professional development benefits.

Bellarmine offers more than 30 graduate and accelerated second-degree programs in a variety of disciplines, including business, communication, data engineering, digital media, education, nursing, physical therapy, health professions and clinical sciences.

“We are pleased to partner with Transylvania to offer their graduating students a preferred pathway to pursue advanced degrees here in the Commonwealth of Kentucky,” said Bellarmine President Susan M. Donovan. “Whether they are studying online or on our campus in Louisville, this collaboration will help us educate and retain talented future leaders who will be well equipped for lives of leadership and service in our Kentucky communities.”

Transylvania students interested in pursuing the partnership program with Bellarmine must meet all requirements for admission eligibility and verify that all criteria have been satisfied with a partnership liaison.

Get more information about the available programs. 

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