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Spring Quarter Letter from the Acting Dean

Modified: June 9, 2016

Dear Members of the Graduate Community at Northwestern University,

This is my final letter to you as acting dean, so let me take the opportunity to thank all of you with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work during the past nine months.  From the faculty who train our students to the staff of The Graduate School who keep everything running, I’ve encountered only support and commitment.  It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to represent you from my borrowed office in Crown.

Most of all, however, I’ve enjoyed the many opportunities to interact personally with our graduate students and postdoctoral trainees.  While some of this has taken place at formal meetings, most has occurred in the context of festive events such as awards ceremonies, holiday parties, fellowship luncheons, recruiting receptions, various other celebrations, and the popular “Drinks with the Dean” events.  I’ve been able to learn much about the experience of our diverse graduate community, as you’ve talked with me about what is working well, revealed what could be working better, and shared details of individual research projects and adventures.  In several cases, you’ve made us aware of potential problems early enough that we could address them before they grew into something more serious.  I’ve been particularly impressed by how even significant criticisms have been discussed in a professional and constructive manner.

At one event earlier this spring, I mentioned that some of the most frightening words you can hear from a professor are “back when I was in school” … usually followed by tales of Stone-Age hardships.  Instead, I’ll just say that several of my interactions with our community have been sufficiently inspiring as to make me contemplate how nice it might be to go back to graduate school again.

Together our community has led by example in completing the university’s new training program on preventing sexual misconduct, to educate all community members on how to protect themselves, one another, and our institution.  Fully 93% of TGS students have completed the online course to date, along with 100% of staff and over 90% of graduate faculty, setting a high bar for other units to match.

Working together with Human Resources, we’ve helped guide our international students through the confusion of the recent IRS 1042-S issue, another case in which we benefited from being alerted to looming problems by attentive students.  It was a relief finally to see mistaken invoices replaced with notifications of imminent refunds this spring.

In our annual planning meeting with the offices of the President and the Provost this spring, our proposal to focus many of our efforts next year on the enhancement of professional development opportunities was warmly received.  You may expect to hear more details about these endeavors in the fall.

As the culmination of our academic year approaches, in the form of Hooding and Commencement ceremonies, I hope that all of you – whether remaining with us or moving on to new adventures – will take time to reflect upon the advances made in our community and to celebrate your own achievements and those of your colleagues.  I wish you all the best for the coming year, as we prepare to welcome back Dean McBride from his research leave.


Craig R. Bina, PhD
Acting Dean of The Graduate School
Acting Associate Provost for Graduate Education
Wayne V. Jones II Professor of Geological Sciences

From the Dean