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Winter 2011 Message to the Northwestern Community

Modified: May 21, 2014

Dear TGS Community,

It is with great enthusiasm that I send the first of my quarterly messages to our community of graduate students, faculty, and staff. We at The Graduate School (TGS) intend to share news about our events and initiatives in a number of different venues, as it will be a central tenet of my administration to foster community and open communication between TGS and our constituents. I have already learned a remarkable amount from you in my first few months and it is my hope that you will continue to provide me and my staff with the good, constructive feedback that I have been collecting since I took office in early November.

I often say that community is not something that just happens; that building a sense of community, place, and esprit de corps is something that we must prioritize and practice if we value it. Therefore, much of what I have been doing since I began as dean is creating venues to listen to what you have to say and to give you a sense of my ideas about how we can all work to make the university a better place. I have met with most of my partner deans and associate provosts, the faculty leadership of nearly every TGS doctoral program, the students of the Graduate Leadership Council, and have had the opportunity to talk more informally with a number of students at our TGS holiday event, at my monthly Coffee Chats with the Dean (held at our TGS Commons at Seabury on the Evanston campus), and at our TGS Night Out. This spring, I will begin hosting smaller monthly dinners for students and postdoctoral fellows so I can learn more about the research agendas you are pursuing at Northwestern and determine what more TGS might do for you. Again, community does not just happen. It is a major priority for me to dedicate a significant portion of my time to building it with you.

The previous administration of TGS and the strong staff I have inherited have positioned TGS and graduate education at the university extremely well. Much of what I see as the work of my administration will be to creatively extend and expand many of our current initiatives and efforts. These successes include but are not limited to utilizing data to inform decision and policy-making, catalyzing new program development (particularly interdisciplinary programming), supporting individual student research on and off campus, improving student language acquisition, facilitating the attendance of conferences and other academic functions away from Northwestern, creating civic engagement opportunities that align with student research topics, promoting work/life balance via our community building grant program, and articulating the value of skill building for students to prepare them for work both inside and outside of academe.

Along with building on what has come before, I am excited and eager to launch many new initiatives, which will be articulated more fully in a new TGS strategic plan that we will publish this fall. This spring, in addition to continued meetings with the groups and individuals I mentioned above, I will engage university faculty in multiple venues to hear their thoughts on what the role and added value of TGS should be for the university. One key venue for this important feedback will be through our administrative board, which is composed of faculty representatives from across the university. This board is already playing a central role, alongside that of our students and staff, in our strategic planning processes. I have also appointed a working group of TGS staff and graduate students to take a fresh look at what we do annually for new graduate student orientation. They are at work discussing and identifying ways that we can make orientation a better and more exiting experience for our entering students. We are also at work on a complete redesign of the TGS website. It is our hope to have the new site launched this year in advance of commencement exercises.

One area certain to be a centerpiece of our new strategic plan will be a focus on diversity. I am positive that we can do a much better job recruiting underrepresented minority students into a wider range of our graduate programs and assuring that these students have successful academic careers at Northwestern. We are already brainstorming ways in which we might bring an entourage of faculty and students on an annual basis to certain historically black and minority-serving institutions, thereby establishing pipelines for these undergraduates to come to Northwestern. This idea is only one of many that are now percolating about how to improve all aspects of our graduate programs and overall student quality of life.

Again, I will look forward to hearing your feedback and your own ideas about how to move us forward. Your input is not only welcomed, but also valued.


Dwight A. McBride, PhD
Dean & Associate Provost

From the Dean