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A master’s degree wasn’t in Bree Soma’s original plans at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Soma, a senior and redshirt softball outfielder, was on track to graduate early with a bachelor’s degree in economics and initially planned to pursue law school. But when her academic advisor told her about the Bachelor’s and Master’s (BAM) degree pathway, the prospect of graduating on time with a bachelor’s and master’s degree felt like a great opportunity, even with the increased workload.

“Iʻve always known what it’s like to be a student-athlete,” said Soma. “Going home and doing homework and balancing that with softball practice and all my other responsibilities.”

BAM pathways are accelerated programs that encourage high-performing UH Mānoa undergraduate students to commit to a master’s program early and take graduate-level classes in their senior year. This gives them a head start on their graduate studies, which reduces the overall amount of time spent on their degrees. In most cases BAM students can graduate with both degrees in five years.

Bree Soma

The program also reduces the total cost of education. BAM students pay for graduate classes taken as undergraduates at the undergraduate tuition rate.

“The BAM program benefits students who are thriving in their majors and are ready to start a master’s degree,” said Krystyna Aune, dean of the Graduate Division. “Some of our pathways are focused within individual disciplines while others are cross-disciplinary. For students who have the drive to attain a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, this is a great opportunity!”

There are currently 14 BAM pathways, with plans to increase and expand to other disciplines. UH Mānoa graduate programs have consistently received national recognition including high rankings in the 2019 U.S. News and World Report.

“Graduate school is really a wonderful opportunity to deeply engage in the subject matter of the student’s choice,” said Aune. “It opens up the door to many job prospects that aren’t available with just a baccalaureate degree. Higher education and graduate school affords an individual typically higher salaries. Also interestingly, life satisfaction, health, wellness and well being are also associated with higher educational attainment.”

Economics Professor Nori Tarui believes the BAM program provides students a solid foundation for their futures.

“This five-year BA/MA in economics can be challenging for students,” said Tarui, “but at the same time, this will lead to lots of job opportunities because more and more companies need work force with strong data analysis skills today. Our BAM program trains students with solid economics and quantitative skills. All students are welcome!”

For Soma, who still plans to attend law school, it’s an unexpected, exciting opportunity. “It’s going to be tough,” she said, “but it’s definitely doable, and I’m excited!”

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—By Heidi Sakuma

Bree Soma
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