Master’s Degree Program

Applications for 2017 are LIVE.  Fill out a pre-app to let us know you’re interested and start the formal application process today!

The Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) is a one-of-a-kind master’s degree program for formal and informal educators, as well as individuals with a heart for the environment, who want to develop their inquiry-based learning skills inside and outside the classroom while striving to affect positive social change in their local community.

This groundbreaking degree combines web-based graduate courses through Miami University (Oxford, OH) with unique experiences at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, connecting you to a broad network of like-minded individuals and community leaders.

Not too sure about a full master’s program yet?  Need college credit for professional development?  Try out a standalone graduate course instead!

 

Earn your master’s degree from Miami while engaging in experiential learning at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden through this one-of-a-kind, inquiry-driven program focused on local conservation and social change.  Make the Zoo your campus!

 

Degrees:

  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Biological Sciences*, designed for licensed K-12 teachers
  • Master of Arts (MA) in Biology

*The MAT degree does not confer a teaching certificate

Both degrees are accredited and conferred by Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.

aipAIP Master’s candidates use inquiry not only as a tool for integrated learning, but as a powerful agent for student achievement, public engagement in science, and ecological stewardship. AIP students join a network of local and national leaders, working together to improve their professions, institutions, neighborhoods, and environments.

Who is Eligible?

Bachelor’s degree.  Enrollment is open to applicants with a bachelor’s degree, regardless of academic major.  The AIP is designed for a broad range of environmental and education professionals, as well as those who have a vested, personal interest in our natural world.  Our cohorts include teachers, informal educators, animal care staff, working professionals outside the sciences, retirees, stay-at-home parents, recent college graduates, and more!  This graduate program was designed to be done as a part-time student so those with full-time jobs, families, etc. are still able to participate.

GPA of good standing.  For admission to the Graduate School as a degree candidate with regular standing, you must have earned a grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.75 (4.0 scale) at the institution awarding your bachelor’s degree.  Undergraduate coursework taken after the completion of your bachelor’s degree will not be considered in determining your grade point average.  Please visit the Miami University Graduate School’s Admissions page for more details.

General university-level biology* course.  All MA/MAT students are required to have completed (receiving a final grade of B- or better) one university-level general biology course or its equivalent prior to completion of their MA/MAT degree.  *Students admitted to the program who have not previously met this requirement through their undergraduate studies can take such a course while pursuing their master’s, but will need to complete it in order to graduate.  The Dragonfly Graduate Committee highly recommends that students complete this requirement within the first two years of the master’s program.  More information may be found in the Biology Requirement FAQs.

Course of Study

Students take a combination of 21 credit hours of Web+ Courses (with Zoo experiences) and 14 credit hours of Core Courses taken with Project Dragonfly master’s students nationwide via web-based learning communities. All 35 hours include a web-based learning community.  Students complete a master’s portfolio (our version of a master’s thesis) and have the opportunity to participate in an Earth Expedition course to learn first-hand about community conservation efforts across the globe (students in good standing only).  The fastest pace a degree can be completed is 2.5 years, but students have up to 5 years (a consecutive period) to finish their coursework, so you can choose to go at a slower pace.

Your first Web+ course as an AIP student includes online work and a week-long session at the Zoo for your Foundations of Inquiry class in early June.  For 2017, this week is June 5-9 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day.  This in-person week is a required and integral part of the program, so full attendance is expected.

 
CORE COURSES WEB+ COURSES (w/Zoo components)
Conservation Science & Community Foundations of Inquiry – (Online & full week at Zoo, June 5-9, 2017).
Biology in the Age of Technology Animal Behavior & Conservation (Online & four Saturdays at Zoo)
Issues in Biodiversity Plants & People (Online & four Saturdays at Zoo)
Issues in Evolution Habitats, Evolution, & Adaptations (Online & four Saturdays at Zoo)
Leadership in Science Inquiry Issues in Cincinnati Conservation (Online & four Saturdays at Zoo)
Professional Media Workshop AND you can apply to include an Earth Expedition course!

An academic year is compiled of three semesters:  Summer (late May – early August), Fall (late Aug – early Dec), and Spring (late Jan – early May).  Typically, students take one Web+ Course with one or two Core Courses each semester.  All of our courses have an online component to them.  The fastest pace to complete the program is 2.5 years, but students have up to 5 years (consecutive) to complete it, so there are many students that choose to go slower and just take one course at a time.

Your first Web+ course as an AIP student includes online work and a week-long session at the Zoo for your Foundations of Inquiry class in early June.  For 2017, this week is June 5-9 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day.  This in-person week is a required and integral part of the program, so full attendance is expected.

To see the general overview and description of AIP courses, click here; for a CZBG-specific example, please click here.

 

Cost for this master’s degree is about $3,585 per year, roughly 50% less than full Miami tuition.  The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden also charges individual course costs, which varies by course and number of credit hours.

Miami Tuition (average) Cincinnati Zoo Tuition
2016 – 2017 Academic Year $206/credit hr + fees $130/credit hour
2017 – 2018 Academic Year $270/credit hr (flat rate) TBD

*Estimated yearly costs – Year 1  ~$3,924;  Year 2 ~ $4,607; Year 3 ~ $2218; Total = $10,749 + graduation fees.  Tuition costs are estimates and subject to change based on your specific schedule and university fluctuations in course fees.

 

Miami logo

Applications for the Advanced Inquiry Program go live every September for the following cohort year, with classes starting in May.

Part of the preliminary process includes filling out a short informational form called a “pre-app,” which helps us gauge general interest in the program (filling it out does not mean you have to commit to applying).  The open application period is September through the following February, with all application materials due to Miami University’s Graduate School by February 28 of each year.

While applications are accepted through February 28, we encourage you to complete the Miami University Graduate School application portion of your AIP application by February 18.  Doing so will help ensure that all materials (e.g. undergraduate transcripts, professional recommendations, etc.) will be received and processed in a timely manner by the 28th deadline.  Otherwise, a decision on your application may be delayed or disqualified.

Candidate screening will begin immediately following this February deadline, with acceptance decisions being made starting mid-March through mid-April.  Applicants will be notified about their recommendation for admission to the program by April 15.  Note: Your admittance into the program is not final until you receive the official letter from the Graduate School of Miami University.

For more information on the application process, please click here.

 
  • What is the nature of these courses and their associated projects?  At the heart of this program is making environmental and social change in your community, whatever “community” means to you (your neighborhood, school district, workplace, zoo, nature center, metropark, city, faith family, etc.).  We encourage a lot of inquiry-based learning and our courses revolve around environmental topics and how to communicate and share those issues.  In large part, students drive their own master’s experience through projects they design, so what a student ends up focusing on depends on where he or she wants to go.  Students also develop specific content knowledge and skills in the realms of biodiversity threats and conservation, evolution, community engagement, inquiry-based education, science writing and publishing, and leadership, among many others.aip2
  • What are the in-person commitments like?  We try to do most of our Zoo components on Saturdays, but there are two Web+ courses where this deviates.  The very first course you take as a student is called Foundations of Inquiry, which includes a full week of class at the Zoo (full 9 am to 4 pm days).  It is a required, large piece of the course and the program in general.  The other exception involves one of our spring courses that involves coming to the Zoo for lectures typically four or five Wednesday evenings (6 pm) to hear from internationally-known conservationists.  We do not have any courses that require you to travel to the main Oxford campus of Miami University.
  • I have a fulltime job and/or a family and other life commitments I’m responsible for. Is this program still doable?  Is it possible to take a semester off here and there when needed?  This program was designed to be accomplished at a part-time pace for working or busy individuals, and many of our students graduate while juggling all of the above as well.  It is important to note, as with all graduate school endeavors, that it will definitely be a significant commitment that will require your time and attention, so take stock of your availability.  As for life happening, which it often does, it’s not uncommon for students to take a semester or two off while things in their personal/work life settle.  Students just have to plan to finish within at most 5 years from when you started the program.
  • Who makes up your graduate cohorts?  Graduate students in our program come from a variety of backgrounds.  Many are teachers for different grades, but we also are stay-at-home parents, retail and food service employees, administrative assistants, financial consultants, former lawyers, retirees, health care workers, recent graduates from college, EPA specialists, nature center educators, keepers, etc.  It’s great having variety in our cohorts, especially since at the end of the day, we all have an appreciation for conservation, the environment, and often, education.
  • What key outcomes often come from a program like this?  In addition to making numerous new contacts and friends, and diving into a world of environmental studies, two major themes come out of this program – leadership and community engagement.  Throughout the various courses and assignments, students are asked to tackle issues and topics they’re passionate about, and also asked to dream bigger and push themselves beyond their normal day-to-day routines.  Through our Project Dragonfly family, students have gone on to receive grants, create brand new events or programs in their communities, collaborate with sanctuaries and preserves, take on leadership roles at work or promotions, write books, improve husbandry practices at zoos, etc.  This program creates opportunities for people to do and explore the things they’ve always wanted to.
  • Can I get a job as a zookeeper after I graduate with this degree?  Not with this degree alone. Keeper positions require extensive experience in animal husbandry and animal science. These qualifications often include college degrees, but also heavily relies on hands-on, practical work experience in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine. Without this experience, there is simply no standalone degree that will get you a keeper position.
  • Will AIP help me “get my foot in the door” at the Cincinnati Zoo so that I can get a job there when I’m done?  Potentially, but no guarantees.  You’ll definitely meet Zoo staff and learn about opportunities along the way, but jobs at the Zoo are hard to come by (especially full-time ones). Because it’s an internationally-recognized Zoo and center of wildlife conservation, job openings at the Zoo are promoted far and wide so that the very best candidate can be found. So, even though you may hear about a job opening as soon as it opens up, you’ll be considered along with the rest of the candidates that apply.AIPEmilyABB
  • I want to become a conservation biologist and help protect wildlife. Will AIP help me achieve this?  In part.  The AIP, being a Master of Arts program, leans more towards those in the environmental education realm, whether they are formal classroom teachers, or informal educators working in parks or wildlife preserves. Being able to communicate conservation plans to the public requires you to know how to engage people in conservation issues. So, AIP will certainly enhance your career as a conservation biologist, but you’ll need more pure conservation research experience before you’ll be ready to find a job as a conservation biologist.
  • Can I apply before I graduate with my bachelor’s degree?  You will need to submit a final transcript to Miami University after your acceptance into AIP, but you can certainly apply during the final year of your bachelor’s degree program.
  • Can I hold animals or volunteer to work with the animals?  Limited potential, but possible for the right candidate.  The AIP master’s journey does not include animal care or training with animals as a part of the degree. However, there is a variety of volunteer positions available at the Zoo, and many of these could lead to opportunities to work closer with animals.  Check out this website for information about becoming a Zoo Volunteer.

Can’t find your question above?  Check out more FAQs here.

The CZBG Difference

Each year, more than one million people visit the world-famous Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s award-winning exhibits, featuring more than 500 animal and 3,000 plant species. A leading informal and formal education facility, the Zoo provides a unique and ideal learning environment in which to gain an appreciation and understanding of science and nature. Education programs for all ages foster a sense of wonder, share knowledge, and advocate active involvement with wildlife and wild places. The Zoo’s Education Department co-founded Earth Expeditions, a professional development program for educators, with Miami University upon which the AIP is founded.  By being a CZBG student, you are a part of the founding Zoo family!


APPLY

Applications are live for 2017 enrollment!  All application materials must be turned into Miami University’s Graduate School by February 28, 2017.

For more information, contact Jerran Orwig, the Zoo’s AIP Manager.