The Advocate Dean: Re-Envisioning a Graduate School Advisory Council
    July 30, 2019

    Jerome J. Kukor, Dean, School of Graduate Studies, Rutgers University


    As graduate school deans, we all know that effective advocacy often involves building alliances.  Alliances of fellow deans with the goal of securing new strategic funding from the provost, and alliances with key faculty in order to modify graduate school policies readily come to mind. But I’d like to share with you, a perhaps less familiar approach to successful advocacy that has emerged at Rutgers over the past year, namely a re-envisioned graduate school external advisory council.


    The graduate school dean’s advisory council (DAC) is an entity that had existed at Rutgers prior to my becoming dean over a decade ago. When I took the dean’s job, I was told that the DAC’s purpose was primarily fundraising and development. This was manifested in the DAC’s administrative structure, with a solid-line reporting relationship to me as the dean and a dotted line reporting relationship to the Rutgers Foundation. But it soon became clear to me that the DAC wasn’t meeting its goals and that it lacked focus.


    A few years later, the situation at Rutgers changed dramatically, with the merger of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey and Rutgers University. This led to the merger of two separate graduate schools to create the new School of Graduate Studies. And that, in turn, created the perfect opportunity to re-envision the DAC. Under the leadership of a small number of very dedicated DAC members, Bylaws were developed for the council, a statement of purpose and goals was promulgated, and a committee structure with specific foci was developed. The transformation of the DAC was not without pain. Some members retired; others resigned. But new members signed on, excited about the prospect of giving back to graduate education and to Rutgers via contribution of their time and talent (and yes, even their treasure!).


    The new DAC is energetic and purposeful. It has decided to put a major focus on student engagement and professional development. The newly re-envisioned Dean’s Advisory Council has become a full partner with me and my academic leadership team in advocating for graduate education.


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