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 Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2005 IssueFaculty/Staff E-Newsletter

 In the interest of fostering discussion on current campus topics, I'd like to share the following message from John Stevenson, Associate Dean of the Graduate School and Associate Vice Chancellor, Graduate Education.

Rethinking Graduate Education and Scholarship
By John Stevenson, Associate Dean, Graduate School and Associate Vice Chancellor, Graduate Education

Two major reports released this month have put the future of American graduate education at the center of national attention and both studies have important implications for the University of Colorado at Boulder. Culminating years of study and discussion, efforts in which CU-Boulder played a key role, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation has published "The Responsive Ph.D.: Innovations in U.S. Doctoral Education," a major attempt to consider the future of the highest academic degree. A week later, the National Academies put out "Rising Above the Gathering Storm:  Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future," which calls for a renewed commitment to maintain American pre-eminence in research, an effort in which graduate education is essential.

The Woodrow Wilson Foundation report recommends that America's doctoral-degree granting universities rethink the Ph.D. around four guiding principles: new paradigms, new practices, new people and new partnerships. Twenty research universities, including CU-Boulder, participated in the conversations and new program development that produced these recommendations, whose aim is to preserve the doctorate's emphasis on research and scholarship, even while re-imagining how that core value can best be preserved in a new century.

"The Responsive Ph.D." calls for more "adventurous" scholarship, especially the kind of interdisciplinary work for which Boulder is renowned, and it challenges research universities to find new ways to engage with the world outside the academy, applying the knowledge we generate in the service of those communities, local as well as national, that we are part of. In the 21st Century, graduate education that is truly responsive must understand that discovery requires inclusion and collaboration inside and outside the university, bringing diverse perspectives and populations together to advance human knowledge.

Under the leadership of Graduate School Deans Carol Lynch and Susan Avery, this campus has been a part of the Responsive Ph.D. project from the outset and a number of local initiatives are highlighted in the report. These include the Center for Humanities and the Arts' Internship Program, in which humanities doctoral students served as interns in the corporate and government worlds; the Graduate Teacher Program's Lead Graduate Teacher Network, in which specially-trained advanced graduate students in almost every department work with faculty and fellow students to improve instruction; and SMART (Summer Multicultural Access to Research Training), where talented undergraduates from diverse backgrounds collaborate with faculty on research projects and learn about opportunities in graduate education.

The second report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm," aims to create a sense of urgency about what steps will be necessary to maintain the United States' long-standing position as the world leader in scientific research and technological development. One primary reason for American leadership is our unparalleled system of graduate education. For decades, U.S. research universities and their faculty have been a magnet, drawing the best young minds in the world for training; and because the climate here has been so healthy for research, many of those students have stayed, adding to this country's stock of intellectual capital.

The report was authored by the Committee on Prospering in a Global Economy, a commission convened by the National Academies and made up of academic and corporate leaders, as well as leading scientists. According to this group, American dominance in research may well be lost unless a serious effort is made to improve science education and increase research support. "Rising Above the Gathering Storm" recommends more federally-funded graduate fellowships, new incentives for foreign students to come to America for their doctoral training and a substantial increase in federal support for both pure and applied research.

These recommendations are in striking alignment with the goals of CU-Boulder's Graduate School. While we can boast of a number of top-flight graduate programs, we want to expand our graduate student population, while increasing its quality; such changes will require both more fellowship support and more aggressive recruiting of the best young minds from around the world. By achieving these goals, we will ensure our future as a place both to train the intellectual leaders of tomorrow and to discover the knowledge that can make a difference today.

The University of Colorado at Boulder has much to be proud of recently, with a new Nobel Prize winner, John Hall, and a renewed ranking as the eleventh best public university in the world. These important reports are reminders that such honors and recognition are inextricably bound up with our graduate education mission. Continued success in recruiting a corps of talented master's and doctoral students, both from the United States and internationally, is essential if CU-Boulder is to maintain its position as a center for the best in both teaching and research.

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