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Spring 2014 Message to the Northwestern Community

Modified: June 19, 2014

Dear Members of The Graduate School’s Community,

Last January 2013, TGS released our five-year strategic plan, which focused our work around the three pillars of diversity, service, and engagement. In the last year, we have done much to create new initiatives and advance our work in these key areas, and I wanted to take a moment to update you on a few of our recent endeavors.

In the area of diversity, we are close to hiring a new Director of Diversity & Inclusion, and I hope to make an announcement about this new staff member in the coming weeks. In the last year, we have also made significant changes to the way in which we award diversity fellowships to prospective students, including the formation of a committee of faculty members who determine awards. Additionally, we are assisting Spelman College with ideas for partnerships between Spelman and Northwestern faculty and graduate students following Spelman’s receipt of an NIH Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Planning Grant. Our relationship with Spelman has grown out of visits I have made to Spelman’s campus with members of the graduate faculty, graduate students, and TGS staff members over the last few years. We are very excited to continue to foster partnerships similar to this one in the future, and our Director of Diversity & Inclusion will spearhead these efforts, among others.

In our focus on engagement, we have partnered with our faculty by building upon our infrastructure for shared governance. The Graduate School’s Administrative Board—made up of faculty representatives from each of our partner schools—meets with us twice as often as in previous years. We have created opportunities for faculty to review curriculum proposals by posing questions and comments online in advance of such proposals being considered by the Administrative Board. We have reformatted our regular Director of Graduate Study and Cluster Director meetings to make the best use of the time of our faculty leaders and partners. And in the coming year—in addition to our already quite engaged and valuable Academic Affairs Council—we will launch two more faculty/student advisory councils in the areas of Student Affairs and Student Funding that will advise me and the Administrative Board of TGS on major policy issues in these important areas. Bill Karpus (TGS Associate Dean for Student Affairs) and Sarah McGill (TGS Associate Dean for Administration & Planning) respectively will chair these councils, which will be appointed by me. If you have an interest in serving on one of these councils, I’d be glad to receive notice expressing your interest at tgsdean@northwestern.edu.

Students continue to be able to engage with us through regular Coffee Chats and Dinners with the Dean, which I host, as well as TGS Nights and Days Out. Additionally, we have been holding focus group discussions with members of the Graduate Leadership Council and the Graduate Student Association to discuss specific emerging issues, including orientation, our interdisciplinary clusters, and student health insurance.

Our services to the graduate community at Northwestern continue to grow. In the past few years, we have revamped our Progress Review process for academic programs (formerly called “Quality Assurance” meetings) and we have provided more documentation of previous Progress Review discussions to help leadership at TGS and in our doctoral programs to better track our ongoing conversations. In the coming year, we look forward to re-evaluating the needs our admission system from a technological standpoint as we consider whether the platforms we currently use best meet the needs of our faculty and staff partners. We will also soon launch both the Graduate Student Tracking System (GSTS) and our Tuition and Stipend system, and are confident that both these tools will improve communication between faculty, students, and program administrators. Finally, we are working with our programs, and evaluating our admissions infrastructure, to see if it is possible and advisable for TGS to allow for multiple applications to our academic programs in a way that does not introduce internal competition between our programs.

An additional service to our community takes the form of an increase of space available to our graduate student population. It is my goal eventually to have TGS offices, student activities, professional development programming, international student services, the Holocaust Education Foundation, student and career counseling, and the variety of other operations managed by TGS co-located in one centralized space where we and our campus partners can come together to more effectively offer a variety of services to the graduate student and postdoctoral fellow populations. A centralized space would also represent the significance and centrality of graduate education to the workings of a great research university. We have ideas and plans to make this vision a reality, and I look forward to working toward this goal in the coming years.

In the near term, our Graduate Student Commons will move this summer to a newly renovated space on the first floor of the Seabury building and will feature not only a beautiful new space with far more flexibility of use than our current space, but also improved technology—including the ability to connect to the Chicago campus via videoconferencing—and individual study areas with electrical outlets. We will keep the community apprised of the anticipated opening date of the new Commons, and I continue to urge students to make use of the current space in Seabury 250 in the meantime. I am excited to announce that we will have additional space for graduate student use on the Chicago campus, which will allow me and other members of the TGS leadership team to hold regular office hours in Chicago. I will have more details to share with you about this exciting development in the coming months.

Finally, I am pleased to have presented awards to faculty, staff, students, and postdoctoral fellows who serve as outstanding partners in the area of each of our strategic pillars with which I began this letter. On March 13, I presided over our 2ndannual TGS Awards and Recognition ceremony, honoring outstanding members of our community for their work with us. I hope you will take a moment to view the deserving recipients of these awards on our website.

Meanwhile, I wish each of you a happy and productive spring quarter!

From the Dean