By: Ellie Parker | Features  | 

Graduate Program Spotlight: Offerings At The Katz School

The Katz School at Yeshiva University gives students the opportunity to further their intellectual and professional pursuits in courses focused on science, technology and health. In an effort to enhance its grasp of these core programs, the Katz School has developed four new graduate programs over the past few years, namely speech-language pathology (SLP), cybersecurity, data analytics and visualization and biotechnology management and entrepreneurship (BME).

“Our faculty design graduate programs that make students market ready for high growth, high wage careers in science, technology and health,” said Paul Russo, Dean of the Katz School and vice provost at YU. “It is a joy for me every time I meet with students — they are doers, intent on making an impact on the world, whether it’s protecting sensitive data and networks as a cybersecurity analyst or bringing life-saving drugs to market as a biotech manager.”

Established in 2016, the speech-language pathology track is a medically focused graduate program catered to a niche field of students, specifically those who are interested in working in the medical field but don’t necessarily want to go onto medical school. The program is one of only two medically-focused speech programs in New York City, but what makes this program even more impressive is its breadth of course options. “A typical Speech program has one class on swallowing. We have three and they span every kind of patient, from infants to the elderly,” said Marissa Berrera, the speech-language pathology Department Chair. “This isn’t only an offering, it is actually a part of our core curriculum. The program is intensive — 66 credits over 5 semesters — which allows students to have a comprehensive understanding of their focus as whole by graduation.”

“The medical Speech-Language Pathology program at the Katz School provides students with a clinical toolbelt of knowledge to treat and diagnose every disorder within a Speech-Language pathologist’s scope of practice,” said Marsha Pinto, a second-year SLP student currently completing her clinical placement at a District 75 school setting treating medically fragile children. “With this degree, I’d like to combine my developed skills with the mission of my non-profit organization, and change the way schools evaluate and treat students with communicative disorders. The ability to communicate is something we often take for granted. My goal is to amplify every voice because we all deserve to be heard.”

Speech and language pathology is a highly in-demand career choice, “with projected job growth at 21% through 2024,” according to healthcare staffing service AMN Healthcare. There is reportedly a huge need for professionals in the field, and the career itself is very flexible. “Most speech pathologists have multiple jobs and can choose their own hours, which makes it very appealing to young families,” commented Berrera.

Now in its third year of operation, the Katz program currently has 70 students across the two cohorts enrolled, with approximately 30 students graduating this fall. The speech students hail from countries all over the world, including America, Canada, the Philippines and Russia. When asked what types of careers graduates go on to pursue, Berrera responded that the opportunities are endless. “While most graduates go on to work in hospitals and nursing homes, some choose to work from home while others go on to teach in preschools. Students who graduate from this program leave with the advanced training necessary to work in almost any setting.” She also noted that the medical focus allows students to gain “a greater skillset.”

The biotechnology management and entrepreneurship graduate program has met similar success since its launch in Fall 2018. Dr. Rana Khan, the founding director of the BME graduate program, joined the Katz team at the beginning of the year after having spent 15 years as Vice Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Maryland. “The Mayor of New York invested $1.5 billion in biotechnology in an effort to make New York a hub for the life science industry,” Dr. Khan explained. “Based off of this investment and conversations with professionals in the field, we understood that there is a need for graduates who can turn an idea into a business venture. We do this by enhancing their scientific knowledge and building a structure of business and management and ethics and commercialization.”

Course offerings for BME range from biology to marketing to patenting to financial management. This wide array of classes teaches students how to capture an idea and turn it into a business model.

“While BME students delve into the coursework, we also immerse them in the biotechnology industry through internships and our Israeli Biotech project,” explained Khan. Students in the BME project are also given the opportunity to collaborate with Israeli biotech companies. Students work with these companies to help them integrate into the American biotechnology industry and then team up with them to solve real-world business and technical problems. Once the project is complete, it is sent back to Israel for feedback from the student’s Israeli partners or “coworkers,” as Khan put it.

Avi Strauss (YC ‘18) is currently pursuing his master’s degree in biotechnology management and entrepreneurship. Though a new student, Strauss has already seen the benefits of the BME program. “I certainly feel the program has given me a strong understanding of the business aspects of this industry. I’ve already seen how my coursework can inform my work as a healthcare consultant and how it will be invaluable throughout my career.”

“This program is designed to give students fluency in the topics, issues and solutions happening today in the biotech world,” said Josh Lankin, another student pursuing a master’s degree in BME. “The program focuses on the latest developments in a myriad of topics including research and clinical trials, intellectual property and patent law, strategic considerations of everything from ‘big pharma’ to small biotech start-ups and many others. Most people do not receive this type of understanding of the industry unless they have several years of prior experience, which is why a degree like this opens many career doors for students.”

Since this is the first year of the program, the cohort is fairly small, with eight participants. However, the class is very diverse with two international students and one out-of-state student. The program can be finished in three semesters by full-time students (four courses), but students are given up to five years to finish. Some students don’t feel that the program is lacking anything despite its infancy. “Although only in its first year, it is clear the program’s administrators take its success seriously and want to continually improve it. Dr. Rana Khan, the program’s founding director, sat in on classes all semester, taking notes and even participating, almost as if she was a student with us. It’s clear she's committed to weeding out the kinks in the new program — and, frankly, there were very few to begin with,” added Strauss.

Khan emphasized that “BME is really a program for students of any background, although the current cohort is all biology majors. Business school graduates would integrate nicely into the program as would students pursuing other sciences.” Khan added that graduates can go on to work in a wide variety of fields, including business development, product development, project management and technical settings, as well as in offices such as the FDA. “Since we give our students the advantage of developing a wide professional network, the job opportunities are endless,” said Khan.

“I can proudly say that I wake up every morning excited for what’s in store, whether it’s with my studies, or in my role as an on-campus employee,” remarked Pinto. “The Katz School staff are like my best friends — they’ve provided me with so many opportunities and I could not be more grateful.”


Photo Caption: The first class of the speech-language pathology degree program.

Photo Credit: YU News