As the university works to reconcile aspects of a traditional liberal arts education with growing research programs, striking a balance can be a particular challenge for its graduate programs.

Gerald Mara, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, hopes to settle the score by boosting the university’s reputation for academic research at a time when graduate application numbers continue to rise.

“I want to pay particular importance to the Ph.D. programs, because graduates of these programs often associate with us as a research university,” Mara said.

Applications to Georgetown’s graduate programs are up about 4.5 percent this year compared to 2011, according to Mara, which may be due in part to a nationwide trend of those unable to find jobs deciding to return to school.

“In times of economic downturn, graduate programs tend to see their application rates rise due to the difficult job market,” Mara said.

Though applications increased in number, debt incurred by graduate students and the potential long-term financial consequences is still a concern to many. According to Mara, the university’s current capital campaign may help address the issue.

“I am excited that the capital campaign will contribute to graduate student financial aid. This is the first time it has been a line item,” he said.

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences functions as an umbrella institution for the graduate degrees offered by departments within the Georgetown College, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, the School of Foreign Service and the McDonough School of Business.

According to Mara, applications to all programs have either remained steady or seen recent increases this year. The public policy, foreign service and security studies graduate programs, some of the university’s most specialized offerings, continue to receive the most applicants.

The NHS recently added several online nursing programs and has become increasingly popular over the last five years. While the Nursing @ Georgetown program expected to enroll 25 students in fall 2011, 110 students joined that semester.

“As our [students] graduate and go on to do really great things, people get interested. I expect that [our popularity] will continue to grow into the future,” Chair of the Department of Health Services and Administration Patricia Coonan said.

Administrators in each school said curriculum changes and expansions are planned for several graduate programs.

The two NHS offerings, nursing and health systems administration, have developed a new focus on quantitative analysis in an attempt to better prepare students for modern health care systems.

A recent overhaul of the masters in business administration program has also increased its focus on quantitative and analytical skills and its emphasis on a global business perspective, according to administrators.

“The new curriculum is a better reflection of the Georgetown McDonough identity,” Senior Associate Dean for the full-time MBA program Elaine Romanelli said.

Romanelli added that the university’s graduate and undergraduate programs ultimately complement one another.

“As one gets stronger, the other gets stronger as well,” she said.

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