Graduate School’s Launch PAAD Program Ready for Liftoff

Program offers courses to advanced UM undergraduate students

The Graduate School has created Launch PAAD, a new program that offers undergraduates an opportunity to begin earning credit toward a graduate degree in participating programs. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Graduate School has launched a new program that offers outstanding Ole Miss undergraduates an opportunity to begin earning credit toward a graduate degree in participating programs.

The GradSHARK Launch Program for Accelerated Advanced Degrees, or GradSHARK Launch PAAD, includes more than a dozen participating programs, from civil engineering to exercise science to special education.

The program, which starts with the 2020-21 academic year, is intended to save students time and money as they start on an advanced degree while completing the final requirements for their undergraduate degree, paying undergraduate tuition for these graduate courses.

“We have a lot of extremely talented undergraduates here at UM,” Annette Kluck, dean of the Graduate School and professor of leadership and counselor education. “Many of them double and triple major because they bring in a lot of credits and enjoy the challenge.

“With this program, our undergraduates can take up to 15 hours of a graduate degree program before graduating with their bachelor’s degree. That means that they could earn a master’s degree in as little as one year after completion of their bachelor’s degree. And earning a year of graduate credits while completing the bachelor’s degree can save our students and their families money.”

The program is open to undergraduate students with at least a 3.0 GPA and 90 undergraduate credit hours completed; some programs have additional criteria. Students must be accepted into a Launch PAAD program and complete a required form, which includes approval from their undergraduate adviser and the graduate program coordinator for their specific course of study.

Participation in Launch PAAD is not a guarantee of admission into Graduate School, and the admission process is not automatic, Kluck said.

Annette Kluck

“We designed the Launch PAAD to ensure that undergraduate students do not lose flexibility,” she said. “A student can start in the Launch PAAD without feeling pressure to finish the graduate degree. We have established some minimum requirements for undergraduate students who wish to participate because we believe those requirements would make these undergraduate students competitive applicants for Graduate School.

“Launch PAAD participants who want to attend the graduate program at the University of Mississippi would apply for admission during their senior year just as any other applicant. The difference is that they will begin graduate school with several graduate credit-hours completed.”

Many members of the UM campus have supported the program’s development. Last fall, the Graduate School identified a process that would work for the university, and this spring, faculty and administrators worked to identify ways to attract highly talented Ole Miss undergraduate students.

Noah Hubbard, a sophomore from Memphis majoring in accountancy, international studies and Spanish, is an Associated Student Body senator who is a big advocate of the program.

“The Launch PAAD is vitally important to the future growth and health of the university’s graduate programs,” he said. “It will make our university’s graduate programs more affordable, reduce degree completion time and ensure our programs are competitive with other SEC schools. It’s a no-brainer for students to begin working on their graduate degrees as undergrads because it saves them valuable time and money.

“The Graduate School and administration have been diligently working with students to design these programs to ensure they are manageable for students, while also boosting graduate retention rates. With many employers now looking for graduate degrees, the Launch PAAD will allow our students to be more sought-after as well.”

Graduate degrees can give students an important competitive advantage in the job market and set them up for careers that require specialized skills, Kluck said.

“We know these opportunities will be popular for our undergraduate students and their families,” Kluck said. “We will base growth on the interest of our undergraduate students and the alignment between demand and graduate degree programs poised to offer such a unique opportunity to our undergraduate students.”