GradEdge | Fall 2020

Onward: Continuing Our Work Together

Suzanne T. Ortega, President, Council of Graduate Schools

As we approach the final two months of 2020, an historic election, and continued uncertainty, I wanted to take this opportunity to say thanks to you, our members. Your consistent support and engagement as we navigate the challenges this year has helped guide not only your students, staff, and faculty colleagues but all of us here at CGS. We could not advance graduate education and research and provide you with timely and useful resources without your imagination, dedication, and candid feedback.

Since April, we’ve held 13 President’s Office Hours, and I’ve been able to talk with hundreds of you to learn more about your experiences and what’s happening on your campuses. We’ve had our highest attended webinars in CGS history on COVID-19 response, creating virtual orientations, and graduate student recruitment strategies. In July, we convened almost 300 attendees for our first virtual Summer Workshop, with sessions ranging from graduate education in a post-COVID-19 world to supporting research mentoring. For the first time, New Deans Institute attendees are part of new dean cohorts that include year-long mentoring and networking opportunities. We offered follow-on learning communities, including discussions on graduate education and the performing arts and the future of public service in government. Our government relations team has created extensive resources to help you navigate and advocate on COVID-19 legislation, international student issues, and federal investments in research. All of these things were possible because of you. You showed up for office hours with new challenges and possible solutions; you served as presenters for webinars and speakers at our conferences; and you provided key insights to help inform our policy agenda.

What’s Next?

We have a lot of positive things on the horizon. Our Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-being project is drawing to a close with a forthcoming final report and a statement of common principles to support graduate student mental health. (You can read more about our recent project workshop on page 4.) We will continue the focus groups we’ve begun as part of our new RAPID grant, Investigating Challenges to Matriculation and Completion for Underrepresented STEM Graduate Students during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Early next year, we will share our findings to help inform graduate student advising and support structures and guide interventions to broaden URM student participation in STEM graduate education. In the first few months of 2021, we’ll be announcing a new funding opportunity for our PhD Career Pathways project that is designed to enhance professional development in the humanities through grant support from the Mellon Foundation.  We’re also looking forward to our upcoming virtual CGS 60th Annual Meeting on December 2-4. This year’s conference will include a variety of sessions, many of which will include timely information specific to both COVID-19 and social and racial justice. Although I will miss the opportunity to see you all in person, I hope this will be possible in December 2021.

This year has brought so many obstacles, but it’s also provided us with new opportunities to learn from each other and recognize just how much we can accomplish together. So, thank you again to all of our CGS members in the U.S., Canada, and around the world; to our executive committee and board of directors; to our committee chairs and committee members; and, of course, to our corporate partners.

Join Your Colleagues for the Virtual CGS 60th Annual Meeting

From December 2-4, 2020, CGS will host our virtual 60th Annual Meeting to reconnect, network, and explore important issues in graduate education. This year’s meeting will include plenary sessions on topics ranging from “Leading with Kindness” to graduate student mental health and wellbeing to developing an antiracist approach to graduate education to the future of graduate education. Each plenary session will be followed by small group discussions lead by moderators. In addition, we’ll hold a variety of concurrent sessions on mentoring, building virtual communities, international graduate student recruitment, building sustainable partnerships, supporting the success of underrepresented students, and more. More information on the meeting, including registration details and the meeting program, can be found on the CGS website. We look forward to seeing you (virtually) in December!

Barbara A. Knuth Joins CGS as Virtual Dean-in-Residence

Earlier this month, Barbara A. Knuth, professor and former dean of The Graduate School at Cornell University joined CGS as our first virtual dean-in-residence. Many of you know Barb from her time on the CGS Board of Directors and as the 2019 recipient of the Debra W. Stewart Award for Outstanding Leadership in Graduate Education. We sat down with her to learn more about her experiences as graduate dean and what she will be working on during her time with CGS.

You’ll be our first virtual dean-in-residence. What do you hope to accomplish while you are here?

I was dean of the graduate school at Cornell University for more than ten years, and was involved with CGS throughout. The entire period was a learning experience for me, particularly learning from CGS colleagues. I know I will keep learning in the coming year, as I have deeper engagements with CGS staff and colleagues across member institutions. I also hope to give back to the graduate community that has been so helpful to me. CGS deans-in-residence typically work on a particular topic or issue. My focus in the coming year will be on identifying antiracist and social justice strategies and resources for graduate education. The end product may be a web-based compilation of resources addressing at least two major dimensions for action: systemic/structural aspects of graduate education and institutions, and interpersonal/local aspects of graduate programs. Structural dimensions include issues such as inequities resulting from graduate admissions practices, or the barriers associated with the hidden knowledge needed to succeed in graduate education. Interpersonal and local dimensions focus on the lived experiences of graduate students in their graduate programs, and how local climate contributes to or lessens inequities. For example, strategies and resources for culturally-appropriate mentoring may be particularly germane, or techniques for co-creating norms and challenging long-held assumptions about 24/7 work expectations and acceptable behaviors in academic lab environments.

What was your professional life like before you became the Dean of the Graduate School at Cornell University?

I have been at Cornell since 1986, as an assistant professor moving through the tenure ranks, then department chair, and then a senior associate dean in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Throughout my career, I have also been deeply engaged in the professional organization of my discipline, the American Fisheries Society. I have held numerous roles at all levels of the Society, including serving as President. All of these roles helped me develop effective organization and leadership skills.  They also helped keep my career fresh from year to year, in the sense that I was not just doing the same teaching and research every year over the past three decades. Each role brought something new … and in higher education administration, often each day brought something new, whether it was a challenge to solve or an opportunity to pursue.

What prompted you to pursue the role of graduate dean?

The simple answer is that Cornell’s provost at the time, who I deeply respected and who I had worked with closely on a number of issues when he and I were in administration in different colleges at Cornell, asked me to take it on. I had enjoyed the increasingly wider spheres of insight and influence that I experienced when I became department chair and then senior associate dean in a college, so taking on a university-wide role as graduate dean was inviting.

What about the transition to dean was most challenging?

Organizational change is tough. I was familiar with the Cornell graduate programs that I had been involved in as a faculty member, but had to learn about the diversity of approaches to graduate education throughout the university. I also had to learn about, and develop a shared vision for, the role of the graduate school in supporting those diverse programs and challenging them to be better. And I had to reconfigure my graduate school team to include the appropriate talents and mindsets to deliver on that vision.

What is your proudest accomplishment during your time as dean?

Creating the excellent graduate school team that carries on even after my tenure as dean has concluded! Our talented team enabled the graduate school to become more evidence-based in our decision-making and effective in our programs, building our data capabilities as well our collective expertise in areas as wide-ranging as student mental health and well-being, diversity and inclusion, writing, and graduate career exploration.

What advice do you have for deans who are new to their role?

Actively learn from your colleagues in the graduate community. And don’t be shy about borrowing ideas that have worked at other institutions and tailoring them for your own context.

What’s something people might be surprised to learn about you?

One of my hidden talents is cake decorating. As my daughters were growing up, I did cake decorating workshops for their 4-H and Girl Scout groups, and provided cakes for many of their activities and milestones. My favorite was for their swimming team … a sheet cake decorated as a swimming pool, complete with lane lines and miniature swimmers doing various strokes through the “pool.” It was both tasty and beautiful!

Graduate Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Workshop Lays Groundwork for Future Action

In August of 2019, with support from the Mellon and Sloan Foundations, CGS launched a project designed to create a foundation for evidence-based policies and resources to support graduate student mental health and wellbeing, prevent psychological distress, and address barriers to effective support and care. Work on the Supporting Graduate Student Mental Health and Wellbeing project has continued over the last thirteen months, with some adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In mid-October, CGS and The Jed Foundation (JED) hosted a virtual workshop to address the core project topics, which include identifying existing resources, policies, and processes; understanding the extent to which those practices are tailored to the needs of specific communities; addressing barriers to implementation; and evaluating their effectiveness. We were pleased to have approximately 100 participants, including graduate deans and graduate students from CGS member universities selected to participate through an application process, representatives from disciplinary societies and other higher education associations, and leaders at research foundations. The two-day event featured sessions with graduate students sharing their perspectives, the responses and responsibility of graduate deans and the graduate education community, and small-group discussions.

The workshop culminated with work to develop a draft set of principles that will provide a framework for graduate institutions and their communities to better prioritize and support graduate student mental health and wellbeing. CGS and JED plan to release the Statement of Principles prior to the CGS 60th Annual Meeting and the final project report in early 2021.

Important Change to April 15 Resolution Process

Some of you may have read about the recent changes that the National Associate for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) made to its code of ethics. Faced with the threat of an anti-trust finding from the US Department of Justice, NACAC amended its rules to allow recruiting of already accepted undergraduate applicants by other universities.

In light of this finding and after consultation with the CGS Board, we are adopting one change in our process for applicants who accept an offer of financial support from a program. In prior years, an applicant who changed their mind about a decision to accept an offer had to obtain a release from the program before they could pursue other offers of financial support.  Starting in Fall 2020, applicants are no longer required to obtain a formal release from the program whose offer they accepted, either before or after the April 15 deadline. Once they have informed the program that they are withdrawing their acceptance of the offer, they then can accept any other offers.

First established in the mid-1960s, the April 15 Resolution stipulates that student applicants have until April 15 to accept any offer of admission that comes with financial support. The intent of the Resolution is to allow students to choose the graduate program that best aligns with their long-term career goals and aspirations. Programs that adhere to the expectations of the Resolution can encourage students to make a decision in a timely manner but cannot set a decision deadline prior to April 15. Programs also cannot offer financial incentives for early acceptance decisions.

More information and a list of currently signatories to the April 15 Resolution are posted on the CGS website. The list of signatories to the Resolution is updated as changes occur, most recently in March 2019.

New CGS Deans & Titles

  • Susan Antón, Interim Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Science, New York University
  • Mary Beth Bagg, Interim Vice President and Provost, University of Indianapolis
  • Edmund M. Balsdon, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies, San Diego State University
  • Emily Barman, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost of Graduate Education, Loyola University of Chicago
  • Stacey Bent, Vice Provost for Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affair, Stanford University
  • Kathryn Boor, Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Education, Cornell University
  • Amanda Bryant-Friedrich, Dean, Graduate School, Wayne State University
  • Daniel C. Bullard, Dean, Graduate School, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Ronald Carter, Provost and Interim Director, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Loma Linda University
  • Bettye Clark, Interim Dean of Graduate Education and Special Assistant to the Provost, Clark Atlanta University
  • Hilliary Creely, Interim Dean, School of Graduate Studies and Research, Indiana University in Pennsylvania
  • David Cutler, Interim Vice Provost of Graduate Studies, Utah State University
  • Tabbetha Dobbins, Interim Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, Rowan University
  • Michael Ellard, Director of Graduate and Advancing Education, The College of New Jersey
  • Khaled Elleithy, Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research and Interim Dean, College of Engineering, Business, and Education, University of Bridgeport
  • Susan Ettner, Interim Dean, Graduate Division, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Mary Jo Finney, Dean, Graduate School, University of Alaska Anchorage
  • Elaine Frey, Assistant Vice President of Graduate Studies, California State University, Fullerton
  • Alexander Goberman, Interim Dean, Graduate College, Bowling Green State University
  • Rakin Hall, Vice President for Enrollment Management, Arcadia University
  • Holly Hansen-Thomas, Dean, Graduate School and Vice Provost for Research and Innovation, Texas Woman’s University (effective as of December 1, 2020)
  • Michael Harrison, Director of the Center for Graduate Studies, The College at Brockport, State University of New York
  • Mary Hoffman, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies and Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire
  • John Holcomb, Interim Vice Provost for Academic Programs and Interim Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, Cleveland State University
  • Elizabeth Jakob, Acting Dean of the Graduate School, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Pat Koski, Dean of the Graduate School and International Education, University of Arkansas (effective as of November 1, 2020)
  • Jerry Lin, Associate Provost for Research & Dean of College of Graduate Studies, Lamar University
  • Yusheng (Chris) Liu, Vice Chancellor for Research & Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, University of Missouri, Kansas City
  • John Lopes, Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, Clemson University
  • Brian Martensen, Interim Associate Vice President of Faculty Affairs, Minnesota State University, Mankato
  • David Marx, Interim Associate Provost for Academic Affairs, University of Scranton
  • Glenn McGee, Special Assistant to the President for Institutional Effectiveness and Planning and Deputy Provost, University of New Haven
  • William Milberg, Dean of The New School for Social Research, The New School for Social Research*
  • Evangeline Motley-Johnson, Interim Dean, School of Graduate Studies & Research, Meharry Medical College
  • Bunmi Olatunji, Interim Dean of the Graduate School, Vanderbilt University
  • David Ownby, Interim Dean, Graduate Studies, Towson University
  • Darrell Peterson, Director of Graduate Studies, Monmouth University
  • John Price, Interim Dean, Graduate Studies and Research, California State University, Dominguez Hills
  • Brandy Randall, Dean of Graduate Education, Oakland University
  • Steven Reifert, Dean, Extended and International Operations, Ferris State University
  • Louis Rossi, Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education and Dean of the Graduate College, University of Delaware
  • Leila Rupp, Anne and Michael Towbes Interim Graduate Dean, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Barry Scheuermann, Interim Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Interim Dean, College of Graduate Studies, The University of Toledo
  • Richard Schoephoerster, Dean, Graduate College and Research, Arkansas Tech University
  • James Spencer, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate School, Louisiana State University and A & M College
  • Tyler Stovall, Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Fordham University
  • Richard Thomas, Interim Associate Provost for Graduate Academic Affairs, West Virginia University
  • Mary Ellen Vore, Interim Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs and Graduate Initiatives in Academic Affairs, Nazareth College
  • Tara William, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions, Stockton University
  • Ian Williamson, Interim Dean of Graduate Studies, New Mexico Highlands University

*Deans at new CGS member institutions


New CGS Members

  • The New School for Social Research – Returning