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Fall 2020 Message from Interim Dean Mayo

As someone who has been involved in graduate education at Northwestern for 35 years as a teacher, mentor, and administrator, my mission is to ensure our graduate community remains represented and supported as we face the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, growing political and economic divides, and the devastating and continuing impacts of systemic racism and intolerance.”

Kelly Mayo
Interim Dean of The Graduate School and Interim Associate Provost for Graduate Education

Dear Members of The Graduate School Community,
 
Welcome to the start of a new academic year. By any measure, this is an especially unusual and difficult time, yet we see many signs for optimism and hope through the resiliency of our University community and in everyday acts of kindness and helpfulness.

As someone who has been involved in graduate education at Northwestern for 35 years as a teacher, mentor, and administrator, my mission is to ensure our graduate community remains represented and supported as we face the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, growing political and economic divides, and the devastating and continuing impacts of systemic racism and intolerance. I appreciate the many strong partnerships among Northwestern’s graduate community as we enter a Fall Quarter unlike any other with a collective and supportive spirit focused on the success of all of our students.

In my first months as interim dean of The Graduate School, I have greatly appreciated hearing from students and postdoctoral trainees and meeting with various groups. Your questions, comments, and ideas continue to provide critical feedback to TGS. This is being paired with findings from The Graduate School’s recent Program Review, as well as recommendations from Northwestern’s Office of Organizational Strategy and Change, to help determine the strategic priorities for graduate education and the organization and scope of The Graduate School going forward.

The Graduate School is here to support you in whatever way we can as you advance your educational goals and prepare for the next step in your careers. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge and address some of the more pressing concerns you have shared with us:

Graduate Student Funding

We recognize that many graduate students anticipate extending their time to degree as a result of the pandemic. While we cannot commit to a universal extension of graduate student funding for PhD and MFA students who receive stipends, we have been able to maintain all student financial aid budgets and commitments to our partner schools for this year, including an increase to student stipends. We continue to work closely with schools and departments to understand student funding needs. Questions and concerns should be brought to your home program, who will work with your school and TGS to explore options that may be available. We will continue to closely monitor student funding needs and to advocate for necessary support.

Health and COVID-19 Precautions

The Graduate School has actively participated in policy decisions related to the pandemic to ensure the unique needs of graduate students are incorporated into the planning for the campus-wide approach to COVID-19. Please continue to closely monitor the University’s COVID-19 and Campus Updates website and the dedicated student page for up-to-date direction and information. If you plan to come to campus this quarter, be sure to follow the student conduct expectations and code of conduct and participate in any COVID-19 testing requirements and daily monitoring via the Symptom Tracker. Graduate students and postdoctoral trainees should report any COVID-related compliance concerns to The Graduate School by emailing covid19compliance@northwestern.edu. In addition, a hotline is available for faculty, staff, postdoctoral trainees, and students to report concerns by calling 312.503.3437 (Chicago campus) or 847.467.8840 (Evanston campus).

Inclusivity 

Fostering an environment that celebrates inclusivity, and recognizes and appreciates a diversity of people, perspectives, and ideas is very important to me. Of our new PhD enrollees, 15% are from underrepresented groups, 46% are female, 20% identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, and 19% identify as First-Generation. Of our new TGS master's enrollees, 19% are from underrepresented groups, 66% are female, 7% identify as being part of the LGBTQ+ community, and 9% identify as First-Generation. It is important that everyone is able to add their voice and help craft our shared Northwestern experience, and we are delighted to welcome an accomplished and diverse class to Northwestern. The Graduate School’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has developed a rich tapestry of programming throughout the coming year, and I encourage you to consider participating in these important events.  
 
To assist those with teaching responsibilities, TGS recently launched an Inclusive Teaching Resources webpage highlighting inclusive pedagogy. Additional information on inclusive teaching and accessibility, and guidance for remote teaching assistants may be found in the Remote Teaching and Learning Guidance on the University’s Digital Learning website.

Well-being

Stress and anxiety are significant concerns for many right now. Students experiencing difficulty accessing food can schedule an appointment with Purple Pantry to receive free groceries. If you are having difficulties with a lease or other legal matters, you can schedule a free consultation with TGS Legal Services. Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) can help with anxiety, depression, imposter syndrome, and more. In addition, CAPS offers informal consultations through the Let’s Talk program, as well as guided meditations and breathing practices specific to graduate and professional students through the Breathe resource. The application period is currently open for our TGS Childcare Grant, designed to give eligible TGS student parents financial support to help with childcare expenses. In addition, to better support those with dependents during the COVID-19 pandemic, Human Resources is offering subsidized backup care for childcare and eldercare during the 2020–21 academic year. Please visit the HR Work/Life and Family Resources webpage for details. 

Professional Development

Entering today’s job market can seem very unsettling. The Graduate School's Professional Development tool enables you to quickly and easily explore all the skill-building opportunities available to you at Northwestern. TGS also has partnered with the Northwestern Alumni Association (NAA) to provide a new PhD Pathways virtual mentor circle series, in which recent alumni from various fields offer advice and demonstrate the range of career outcomes available to PhD graduates. Northwestern Career Advancement (NCA) also hosts internship and job fairs throughout the year, in addition to the variety of career-related resources offered online.

Virtual Programming

Throughout the summer, TGS continued to shift toward programming that can be delivered remotely. This included a highly successful 35th annual Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), which is a gateway to graduate education for underrepresented undergraduate students from institutions across the country. Northwestern was one of six schools in the Big Ten Academic Alliance able to transition to a remote format for this activity. Other virtual summer programming included the Dissertation Proposal Development (DPD) Program for humanities and social science PhD students, a Graduate Student Funding Workshop, and the Management for Scientists and Engineers (MSE) Program, which equips promising post-candidacy doctoral students with business and leadership skills. Our English Language Programs (ELP) team developed myriad virtual resources for international students, and TGS recently welcomed its incoming graduate students with a self-paced virtual orientation experience. Please stay tuned to our e-newsletters for additional virtual programming throughout the year.
 
I hope that in this largely remote environment, we can remain productively connected so as to continue to listen to and learn from one another. Finally, for those who are U.S. citizens, one of the most important things we can do is exercise our right to vote. Please visit the NU Votes website for voter education resources and election-related programming throughout the fall. Please ensure your voice is heard.
 
I wish you all a safe and healthy start to the Fall Quarter. Please reach out to The Graduate School team or me at any time; my “virtual” door is always open.
 
Sincerely,
Kelly
 
Kelly E. Mayo
Walter and Jennie Bayne Professor of Molecular Biosciences
Interim Dean of The Graduate School and
Interim Associate Provost for Graduate Education
Northwestern University

Categories: From the Dean