The Advocate Dean: Effective Campus Advocacy
    January 31, 2019

    Elizabeth Kenney, Assistant Dean, Research and Graduate Studies, Executive Director, Center for Research and Creative Activities, Salem State University


    Successful campus advocacy is an ongoing process of engagement rather than a project with a defined beginning and end. As such, it requires the development of varied strategies in response to constantly changing institutional landscapes.


    Changes in organizational structure, the appointment of new personnel, or altered job descriptions, even when they don’t occur in the graduate division itself, create opportunities to reassess strategies for advocating on campus for resources, support services or strategic position. Regarding changes as new opportunities for campus advocacy creates occasions to identify and develop new partners for graduate education. These strategies are empowered by the formation of responsive, flexible cross-functional collaborations. Cross-functional teams both educate and engage areas across campus that otherwise might not see themselves as invested in the graduate mission.


    An example of such an advocacy opportunity occurred on our campus recently when the graduate school lost the position that had supported our graduate student research day. In evaluating how to cover those duties, we recognized an opportunity to rethink the event itself. Graduate Research Day had historically involved only graduate students and graduate program faculty. The challenge of managing the event was re-envisioned as an opportunity to engage with other areas on campus to expand its impact.


    Graduate Research Day had been an excellent opportunity for students to practice presenting their work within the conventions of their discipline, under the guidance of faculty advisors, to a sympathetic audience, but now we looked for ways to engage other offices on campus by building cross-functional teams to support the event as a more robust professional development opportunity for students. The writing center ran a workshop on transforming a written paper into a panel presentation; Theater and Communications faculty offered training on oral presentation; Marketing and Communications Office staff gave feedback on posters; and staff from the Center for Teaching Innovation shared tips about effective power point presentations. While these areas provided resources that enhanced the graduate students’ experience, their involvement also increased campus awareness of graduate programs and commitment to graduate education.


    The same event will help the graduate school develop advocacy strategies to respond to other kinds of change. As the university considers the place of graduate education in its mission as a public, regional, comprehensive university in times when traditional undergraduate student populations are shrinking and employers in many fields are seeking post-graduate qualifications, on-campus advocacy allows us to lobby for the centrality of graduate education to the mission of the university. This year, new cross-functional teams will initiate collaborative relationships to maximize the impact of the event; in addition to inviting the Board of Trustees, we will work with the career office to invite regional employers, the admissions office to invite potential students, institutional advancement to reach out to donors, corporations and foundations, and the alumni office to engage graduates. We hope also to expand the participation to include our Explorers Club, the organization for seniors that is affiliated with the university.


    Regarding campus advocacy as an ongoing process of building support and networks in response to change and challenges, rather than as a set of defined goals, can create a resilient and dynamic menu of strategies.


    CGS is the leading source of information, data analysis, and trends in graduate education. Our benchmarking data help member institutions to assess performance in key areas, make informed decisions, and develop plans that are suited to their goals.
    CGS Best Practice initiatives address common challenges in graduate education by supporting institutional innovations and sharing effective practices with the graduate community. Our programs have provided millions of dollars of support for improvement and innovation projects at member institutions.
    As the national voice for graduate education, CGS serves as a resource on issues regarding graduate education, research, and scholarship. CGS collaborates with other national stakeholders to advance the graduate education community in the policy and advocacy arenas.  
    CGS is an authority on global trends in graduate education and a leader in the international graduate community. Our resources and meetings on global issues help members internationalize their campuses, develop sustainable collaborations, and prepare their students for a global future.