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Winter 2014 Message to the Northwestern Community

Modified: June 19, 2014
Dear TGS Community Members,

Warm wishes to each of you during what has already been a particularly cold and snowy winter quarter! It is my pleasure to take this opportunity to inform you of a few changes and initiatives currently underway at The Graduate School—including current professional development opportunities for students, our search for an inaugural TGS Director of Diversity & Inclusion, and some thoughts about the pressures on TGS resources that support the funding of our doctoral students.

Overall, roughly 30% of PhD students who graduate from Northwestern University go on to pursue employment beyond the academy. The percentages are much higher in the physical sciences and engineering (where the number is closer to 50%). These figures have been on the rise for sometime nationally—and Northwestern has been no exception. There are many factors contributing to this trend: a contracting tenure-track academic job market, much more support and recognition for the broad professional uses of PhD training in a variety of sectors of our society (see the report jointly sponsored by the Council of Graduate Schools and the Educational Testing Service titled, Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers), and increasingly more students who actually embark upon the PhD knowing they want to do something other than become academics. As a result, TGS, like virtually all graduate schools at peer institutions to Northwestern, has created a suite of professional development opportunities (extending and complimenting those sponsored by specific partner schools and graduate programs) to support evolving student career needs, and I would like to draw your attention to two such programs now seeking their spring and summer cohorts.

The Center for Civic Engagement is recruiting its spring cohort for the Graduate Engagement Opportunities community practicum, during which students undertake a quarter-long internship or field study with a Chicago-area organization related to their interests. This program is open to all PhD students, and through support from TGS, students can use one quarter of their fellowship funding to participate in this program. The Management for Scientists and Engineers Program, a partnership between TGS and the Kellogg School of Management, will recruit its summer 2014 class in the coming weeks. This program is offered to selected TGS PhD candidates in science and engineering disciplines, and provides instruction on management and business practices not typically taught in classrooms or labs. This program has proven to be of great benefit not only to students who go on to become scientist running research labs, but also to students who pursue a variety of opportunities in industry as well.

It is no secret that TGS has worked collaboratively with our programs to make big investments in our Diversity Initiative over the past three years. Continuing on with that investment, we are currently searching for a new TGS Director of Diversity & Inclusion. This position will be critical to furthering our goals of continuing to work with our programs to diversify our student population, and to helping us develop and implement a robust strategy for pipeline development, recruitment, and retention that better fits the specific needs of our various programs. This office will also ensure that students are able to connect with one another in meaningful ways during their time at TGS, help us to make sure that we as a community are doing all we can to provide a supportive and affirming learning environment in which all of our students feel welcomed and can thrive and succeed, and provide even more avenues for supportive faculty and staff to engage with us in this important work.

Finally, we are making efforts in many areas to expand resources offered to our graduate students. On the capital side of things, we are in the process of growing and enhancing available meeting space for students on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. We are also taking a strategic look at the way in which we support graduate students, including examining our base stipend rate in relation to our peer institutions to be sure that it remains competitive. We are also working to chart a way forward with our financial aid budget, which is extremely complex and has been under some pressure, in order to best support our students. These are just a few initiatives currently underway in TGS, about which I will have more to say in the coming months. And I am confident that our efforts will result in positive changes for members of the graduate community.

In my conversations with students over the past three years during Coffee Chats with the Dean and Dinners with the Dean, I have discovered that many are interested to learn more about how administrative decisions are made; how the university works; what are the roles of department chairs, school deans, the university provost, and the president; and how they all relate to one another. Indeed, nearly two years ago, when TGS hosted a professional development panel on opportunities in academic administration and leadership, nearly 100 students attended the session—a videotaped version of which is available as a resource on our website. To begin addressing this interest, I will host this spring an Administrative Leadership Dinner for selected students where we will engage in conversation about the University’s overall leadership structure and The Graduate School’s role as an advocate for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. I encourage students interested in attending to apply to participate by February 26. We hope that this dinner might result in the outline of a pilot for a more structured and ongoing program around this set of interests in future.

I wish you all a very productive winter quarter, and I look forward to greeting you again with another TGS update in what we can only hope will be a much warmer spring!


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