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Winter Quarter Letter from the Dean

Modified: January 26, 2015

Dear Members of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Community at Northwestern University,

Let me begin by wishing everyone a somewhat belated Happy New Year! I trust that the holiday season was a time of rest, rejuvenation, and reflection, and that you are all safely returned to the work ahead for the rest of the academic year.
The future of graduate education is something very much on my mind at present. We will devote a significant amount of time this winter and spring to thinking about how we provide the highest quality experience to our graduate student population both in the near term and the future.  As we think about what’s ahead, it is my pleasure to update you on the ways TGS is currently improving and expanding upon resources for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
Our office of Diversity & Inclusion continues to expand its recruitment and retention efforts. This spring, we will host our fourth annual “Introduction to Graduate Education at Northwestern Days,” during which faculty and student pairs from minority-serving institutions visit our campus, learn about all that graduate education at Northwestern has to offer, and meet with students and faculty in our programs. Assistant Dean of Diversity & Inclusion Nsombi B. Ricketts is happy meet or speak with you about any issues relevant to recruitment and retention of a diverse body of students, offer information about best practices, or share with you information on upcoming programming.
TGS is continuing to expand support to our graduate student body. Beginning this Winter Quarter, Penny Warren, Senior Specialist for Student Life, will continue to serve the TGS graduate student community by working even more closely with student groups and associations, campus partners, and individuals, supporting and advocating for the quality of student life campus-wide. In her more than 30 years at TGS, Penny has proven herself a dedicated advocate for graduate students, forming lasting connections with students and alumni. Penny primarily worked to deploy programming and activities to support underrepresented minority PhD students. Her genuine devotion to the individuals and programs she works with is remarkable and much celebrated.  It is because of her ardent efforts that TGS is enthusiastically expanding her work in this area to serve as an advocate for the entire TGS student population.  Her role will compliment the work of our Student Services team: together, they will function to help guide our students through every step of graduate life at Northwestern. Penny will also work with our Office of Diversity & Inclusion on recruitment and retention initiatives.  Through her work in this new role, TGS will going forward also be able to provide more individual outreach to students who are on probation in any given quarter.
As ever, professional development is one of our highest priorities.  Our current opportunities available to students help them to build or improve upon skills that will support their success in their academic work and make them as competitive as possible once on the job market. We also have a Higher Education Leadership Intern, Cheryl Berriman, who is helping us think about our current professional development programming and to plan for the future. We are thrilled to have her at TGS and will have more to say about her work with us in this area in the very near future.
This year I have also been able to create our University Seminar, which is a dinner series during which we discuss administration and leadership in higher education, the organizational structure of universities, the and role of graduate education in the overall University structure. The Seminar is attended by students from all disciplines interested in administrative careers or who are eager to learn more about the business of higher education.  In addition to myself, our featured speakers this year include Dan Linzer, Provost of the University and Patricia Telles-Irvin, Vice President for Students Affairs.  We hope to build on this pilot program with other such opportunities going forward.
I am thrilled to report that the Graduate Student Tracking System (GSTS) is now live for our doctoral programs. GSTS is the result of a partnership between TGS, the McCormick School of Engineering, and NUIT, and it provides clarity on student progress toward degree and improves communication between students and program administrators. Additionally, TGS just this month released an offer letter template to program administrators and DGS’s, which will streamline the process by which letters of admission are generated by programs.  This project was the result of input from programs and current students, and we are thrilled with the results.
Finally, I have had numerous conversations with many faculty and students over the past few years about our base stipend rate for doctoral students.  TGS, along with the support of the Office of Change Management, has done a good deal of work to study this issue, including benchmarking with peer institutions.  This is among our very highest priorities at present and we are engaged in serious conversations with central administration about how we might respond to this concern.  I hope to be able to update you soon on our progress on this issue.
Thank you for all you continue to do to support TGS and graduate education at Northwestern.  I wish you a happy and successful quarter!
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