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Fall Quarter Letter from the Dean

Modified: September 22, 2014
Dear Members of The Graduate and Postdoctoral Community at Northwestern University,

Happy New Year from The Graduate School! This new academic year brings a number of new projects and initiatives about which I am particularly excited.
Our TGS website underwent a complete redesign last week, and we are thrilled with its new look. We also welcomed more than 800 new graduate students to Northwestern last week with our Orientation festivities, which included our New Student Mix and Mingle, “Thriving in Graduate School,” our day-long overview of resources and services available to TGS students, and our Welcome Back Bash for all students.  This marks the second year that TGS has now been able to offer a full week of orientation and welcoming events to new graduate students—something we’ve been working toward for the past several years now as a way of building community from the moment our students arrive on campus.  And this year’s orientation also for the first time divided our incoming students into subgroups by discipline and by degree sought.  This allowed us to tailor the information presented to students in the orientation program about financial support, academic milestones, mentoring, etc. in ways that spoke more directly to their specific needs.
We have inaugurated a new Office of Diversity & Inclusion, led by our new Assistant Dean of Diversity & Inclusion, Nsombi B. Ricketts.  Also, over the summer we released our second annual TGS Report on Diversity. If you haven’t done so already, please do take a look at this document, as it will inform future conversations Nsombi, Tracy Davis (TGS Associate Dean for Academic Affairs), and I will be having with the leadership of our doctoral programs as well as the leadership of our partner schools.
Our Office of Postdoctoral Affairs will celebrate National Postdoc Appreciation Week from September 29-October 4 with a number of events intended to spotlight the contributions of the more than 850 postdocs to the central research mission of Northwestern and to create opportunities for them to network and socialize.
In an effort to involve more voices in our ongoing work at TGS and to provide opportunities for engagement with faculty, students, and staff, TGS will launch two new councils: a Funding Council, which will advise us on broad, long-term issues related to all aspects of student funding and our financial aid budget, and a Student Affairs Council, which will advise us on student support programs and a range of services that we provide to graduate students. These councils join the existing Academic Affairs Council, which provides guidance around academic policy, and the Northwestern University Postdoctoral Forum, which works closely to provide counsel to us and to the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs on issues relevant to postdoctoral fellows at Northwestern. These councils allow us to engage with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other partners around campus to gather feedback on emerging issues to help us make stronger and better decisions about how we best serve the graduate community and steward graduate education at Northwestern.
We also continue to expand and improve our existing footprint on both campuses: our new TGS Commons opened this fall at 2122 Sheridan Road (in the old Seabury building), in room 140. The space is well-appointed, comfortable, and fitted with the latest in smart room technologies: it can be used by students and postdocs for gatherings, events, and a variety of programs and is equipped with the capacity to videoconference with the Chicago campus. Speaking of the Chicago campus, this academic year we will open a space in Chicago on the third floor of Abbott Hall. This space will host an office for the TGS Dean, and a suite of offices that will allow University Career Services, Postdoctoral Affairs & Training Grant Support, Outreach & Special Programs, Student Services, Student Life, and Financial Aid to bring services and a variety of regular training sessions to the Chicago campus.  The space will also be equipped with a conference room that will be available for graduate student and postdoctoral fellow group use and videoconferencing. I will have more to say about this as we get closer to the official opening of this space, which is slated for Winter Quarter.
This year we will launch the Graduate Student Tracking System (GSTS) available for use by all TGS doctoral programs and all doctoral students. Developed through a partnership between McCormick, TGS, NUIT, and the Provost, this system is a tool intended to help students track their successes and progress through their graduate program. It will help enable two-way communication: students can plan for their academic milestones, and faculty and staff can view and approve a student’s curriculum planning, milestones, and progress-to-degree. GSTS is highly customizable and intuitive to use. It was successfully piloted this past year with our graduate programs in our partner school, the McCormick School of Engineering, and we are anxious to make it available to all programs as soon as possible.
Finally, TGS engaged in a number of conversations over the summer, which highlighted to us how important each of you are to our graduate community: the experience, engagement, and involvement of each of you in our initiatives is important to me. Every student, faculty member, postdoctoral fellow, and staff member counts to us, which is why through our new website, our new engagement opportunities, our new Office of Diversity & Inclusion, our new councils, our new space, and our new Graduate Student Tracking System, we are delighted to be bringing a new level of service to you in this new academic year.
I look forward to the year ahead, and to continuing our great work together on behalf of graduate education and graduate students at Northwestern.
With Warmest Regards,

Dwight A. McBride, PhD
Associate Provost & Dean of The Graduate School
Daniel Hale Williams Professor of African American Studies, English & Performance Studies

From the Dean