IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Q&A with Flagship 2030 task force chair John Stevenson
As the University of Colorado at Boulder progresses with the Flagship 2030 Strategic Plan and positioning as one of the nation's leading public research universities, nine task forces representing key components of the university have been formed in order to help develop strategies for implementing the 18 initiatives outlined in the plan. The task force reports will be submitted in the fall of 2008. Meet John Stevenson, chair of the graduate education task force.
The graduate education task force is made up of 13 members including faculty, staff and a graduate student, drawn from the CU-Boulder campus. The group has met multiple times to discuss a broad range of issues that will be central to the future of graduate study at CU: capacity, funding, facilities, degree programs and design, the connection between graduate education and research, and the role of international students. The task force recommendations will address all of these questions and attempt to provide guidelines for insuring the continued quality of the university’s programs as well as the kind of future growth and innovation that will make CU-Boulder a nationwide frontrunner in graduate education.
How do your duties as a task force chair fit in with your background and current position at CU?
I have been a faculty member at CU-Boulder for 26 years and throughout that time I have been actively involved with graduate education as graduate director and chair of the English department, as teacher and mentor to a number of advanced students and more recently, for the last three years, as associate dean of the graduate school and associate vice chancellor for graduate education. In my current position I have a wonderful opportunity to observe the current state of graduate education, not only on this campus but also across the country and around the world.
What inspires and challenges you in creating and meeting your task force goals?
I think graduate education is, unfortunately, something of an orphan in discussions of higher education, which tend to focus on undergraduates. But graduate education, with its close ties to research, is really what defines us and our peers as flagship institutions. Our goal in such universities is a lofty but essential one: to preserve, transmit and create knowledge and understanding for all of humanity, now and in the future. Graduate education is the engine that makes that goal possible by giving the best young minds the opportunity to transform themselves into the intellectual leaders of the next generation. Such education is neither quick nor cheap and the challenge is always to find the resources—of time, of energy, of money, of wisdom—to make it possible.
If you could envision anything for the future of higher education, what would be your greatest aspirations?
Higher education is an expression of what is best in the human mind and spirit: the desire to treasure the past, to understand the present and to create the future. It is one of the oldest human institutions and over its long evolution it has developed into something that has allowed those who have experienced its rewards a chance to live a richer, fuller and more productive life in every sense. The kind of work that higher education undertakes—the labor of personal and intellectual transformation, the slow and sometimes tedious path to understanding and discovery—is not always valued in our culture. So my fondest wish would be for a broader, a deeper, a more comprehensive appreciation of and support for the contribution that higher education makes, not just to economic wellbeing or career opportunity or breakthrough technology, but also to the common good and the widening of the horizons of our vision.
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