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As cannabis becomes more accepted across the US, universities are realizing the potential to educate a new class of students eager to join the cannabis industry across many levels of employment. Saint Louis University has developed two online programs for their students to learn and engage with cannabis industry insiders and help set them up for potential careers in upon graduation. We recently spoke with Stacy Godlewski from Saint Louis University about how their programs were developed, what students can expect to learn, and more.
Why did Saint Louis University decide to offer cannabis courses to the undergraduate and graduate students?
Stacy Godlewski: In 2018, Missouri passed Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana. Saint Louis University (SLU) consulted with local dispensaries and recognized a need to provide an educated workforce to this rapidly growing industry. Since then, medical cannabis manufacturing and dispensary licenses have been awarded across the state, including 70 in the St. Louis area.
What challenges did you face creating the programs?
Godlewski: A component of both programs is to overcome the stigma associated with marijuana usage with research data and accurate information. It is important to note that since this education is brought forth by a Catholic, Jesuit institution that both programs speak to the mission at SLU of Cura Personalis “care for the entire person.” The programs focus on education that teaches the efficacy of medical cannabis and cannabidiol (CBD) for the medical benefit of patients and the community. Another challenge was making sure that the proper faculty were in place to teach the various courses. It was important for us to employ industry experts as faculty and network with the students so they could gain experiential learning in this industry.
How did SLU come to join the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association?
Godlewski: As the director of the program, I was aware that the professional association that served the state of Missouri for medical cannabis was the MoCann Trade Association and SLU became a member of this association upon program approval.
Has that membership helped develop any of the cannabis courses you offer?
Godlewski: The Cannabis Science and Operations (CSO) program partnered with BeLeaf Medical to help build the program curriculum.MoCann Trade Association has been instrumental in connecting us with industry experts to teach within the program.
Is SLU involved with any other cannabis organizations?
Godlewski: Yes, the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA).
Can you tell us about the Cannabis Science and Operations program and Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutic Management, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate you started? What is the difference between the certificate course and the minor?
Godlewski: The CSO program is an undergraduate certificate that focuses on the science and business aspects of the industry, form cultivating to growing and producing. This program prepares students to play a leadership role in managing a dispensary, manufacturing, or cultivation facility, along with the legal knowledge of compliance issues and the logistics of shipping and manufacturing products. The graduate certificate (Medical Cannabis Science & Therapeutic Management) prepares healthcare professionals to accurately inform their patients about the benefits of medical cannabis. This program also helps professionals who regularly come in contact with people who use medical cannabis to understand its therapeutic benefits.
What does the curriculum consist of? Did you have any difficulty finding faculty to teach the programs?
Godlewski: I oversee the CSO program and Dr. Randy Robertson oversees the graduate certificate. No, we did not have any problems finding industry experts to teach in the program. Being members of both MoCann Trade Association and NCIA has helped us make numerous connections in the industry.
Please see our course fact sheets for more information.
How many students have gone through the Cannabis Science and Operations program?
Godlewski: There are currently 300 students enrolled in the CSO program. The first cohort of 80 students will graduate this December. The graduate certificate will launch in January 2022.
Once a student completes the program, do you help connect them with any cannabis industry job opportunities?
Godlewski: Yes, we assist students in finding job while currently in the program and they are very successful at obtaining employment prior to graduation. After graduation, students have the capability to remain engaged with the program as well access to a free, lifetime resource of career services and development.
What are the requirements for students to take the “Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutic Management, Post-Baccalaureate Certificate”?
Godlewski: The requirement to join this program is an undergraduate degree in any discipline.
How many students are enrolled in the medical cannabis program?
Godlewski: This is a fluid answer as students are currently enrolling and the program will launch in January.
How does the medical cannabis program curriculum differ from the other program?
Godlewski: This is a graduate certificate that requires students to have a bachelor’s degree in any field and is 12 credit hours versus 16 credit hours. This certificate is designed for professionals who seek a strong understanding of the pharmacological principals of cannabis, and greater overall knowledge of the medical cannabis industry. Whereas the undergraduate certificate focuses on the science and operations of the medical cannabis industry.
Did you have any unique challenges developing this course or finding faculty members?
Godlewski: No, we have received feedback from students, faculty, and advisory board members that this is the direction in which we should grow our program. We have many industry contacts so finding faculty has not been a challenge.
Where can potential students go to learn more about your programs and apply?
Godlewski: Potential students can visit https://online.slu.edu/cannabis to register and learn more about both programs.
Do you have any plans to add additional cannabis courses or programs in the future?
Godlewski: There is room for growth potential in both programs, but we will not be adding courses for the foreseeable future. To keep tuition costs low, SLU partners with various industry leaders to provide educational content that touch upon all aspects of the industry.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Godlewski: It is important to note that both programs are 100% online.The CSO program is 16 credit hours the graduate certificate is 12 credit hours. Tuition costs are lower than typical undergraduate and graduate degree rates and more than 70% of students receive some form of financial aid.