University programs receive U.S. News and World Report acclaim

After the University’s football team became second best in the country, empty seats in Raymond James Stadium were scarce.

William Quillen, director of the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences, said he hopes the latest graduate program rankings in U.S. News & World Report will produce a similar effect.

A handful of graduate programs in the University were ranked within “America’s Best Graduate Schools 2009.” U.S. News collected data from more than 12,000 graduate programs to compile the list.

Graduate programs in physical therapy, nursing, education, and industrial and organizational psychology made the cut.

Rankings were partly based on reputations among faculty at accredited programs in the country. Rankings were also based on outcome measurements, such as the rates of students receiving their licenses, and student-to-faculty ratios.

The School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitative Sciences became ranked for the first time ever at No. 69 in the nation. The school opened in 1998 and received accreditation in 2001.

Quillen said the ranking could help the program and USF as a whole gain the national recognition he thinks they deserve.

“Here we are, barely 10 years old,” Quillen said. “Look at our University and as an analogy, look at where our football program has gone in its 10 years.”

According the School of Physical Therapy’s Web site, nearly all graduates in the school pass their licensing exams. That puts it first in the state for licensure pass rates.

Quillen said he’s been a faculty member at several institutions with top 10 programs. While it will take time for the University’s program to be ranked that high, he said that’s the excitement of being at a newer school.

“I would rather be green and growing than overly mature,” he said. “I like our direction.”

The College of Nursing – also part of USF Health – continues to hold on to its No. 72 national ranking.

The college is one of two public colleges of nursing in Florida to be ranked in the top 100. The University of Florida was ranked No. 32.

Colleen Kennedy, dean of the College of Education, said she was thrilled when she found out that its graduate program moved up to No. 45 from last year’s No. 48 ranking.

The college, which has been ranked for the last five years, is the only one in the University to be ranked among the top 50 in U.S. News & World Report for two consecutive years.

In terms of generating external funding, the program is ranked ninth in the nation. Kennedy said the program needs to continue to excel in that area.

“One of the goals of the College of Education is to undertake research and scholarship that directly impacts the lives of children, family and adults,” Kennedy said. “We’ve been fortunate that our faculty has been able to obtain external funding, both from the state and federal government.”

Right now the doctoral education program is ranked at No. 98 in terms of student-to-faculty ratio. Kennedy said lowering the doctoral student-to-faculty ratio is an area in which the program needs to improve.

“I think that kind of underscores the fact of how well our faculty is doing despite our rather high ratio of faculty to doctoral students,” Kennedy said.

With budgets and hiring freezes at Florida’s public universities in full effect, Kennedy said she hopes the program can serve as a model of how important resources are to building successful programs.

While the psychology department was ranked No. 136 in the nation, one graduate program within it stands out.

The Industrial and Organizational Psychology program was ranked 10th in the nation and first in the state. The program, founded in 1972, has nine faculty members and 40 doctoral students. Industrial Organizational Psychology studies psychology in the context of the workplace.

Paul Spector, director of the Industrial and Organizational Program, was part of the first graduating class of the program in 1975. He said the program has been ranked for about 13 years.

A recent study published in The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist in 2005 said the program was the second most research productive in the nation.

Spector said schools that don’t make the list may not attract students even if they’re just as good as the ranked ones. He said the rankings are important because students use the lists to decide where they want to go.

“The more USF programs that can get on these kinds of lists, the better the University will do,” he said.