Published: Oct. 5, 2021

This is the first of regular direct emails from Dean Scott Adler to graduate students.

Dear graduate students:

When I first began thinking about the prospect of becoming dean of the Graduate School, David Brown, my longest friend at CU and associate dean for the social sciences, and I had coffee on a rainy spring morning. As we considered the various changes and enhancements that were needed to graduate education, we quickly determined that the Graduate School was in need of a comprehensive plan as to how it would proceed and prioritize these wide-ranging and ambitious goals. Now, more than two years into my tenure as dean, I’m pleased to report that the Graduate School Strategic Plan has been submitted and accepted by Provost Russell Moore.

Though the pandemic slowed the work of the strategic planning committee, it also helped to reveal that the imperatives originally identified remained relevant and vital as the events of the crisis unfolded.

The three imperatives described in the strategic plan are as follows: 

  • Foster an inclusive and equitable campus climate to ensure a thriving and diverse graduate student community.
  • Provide comprehensive student support to recruit, retain and graduate scholars prepared for a range of career paths and positive societal impact. 
    • Transform the supportive relationships, roles and interactions that shape graduate student success, promoting a more human-centered approach to graduate education.
  • Advance graduate education to anticipate the needs of a rapidly changing world and look to the future with flexibility and nimbleness.

To date, I can report that we are already making progress on many areas of the strategic plan. 

Last year, the Graduate School launched a diversity initiative that provided over $220,000 to 22 departments to fund innovative plans on how to increase their pool of diversity applicants. We also awarded $195,000 in diversity recruitment fellowships to 46 incoming students. This year, we will continue to offer recruitment fellowships to students from communities that are underrepresented in graduate education and work with the graduate recruitment team and departments to bolster their diversity efforts.

As we continue our work in building a stronger community for our graduate students, we have grown our peer mentoring program to over 1,300 participants and are planning multiple social events over the course of the year. In the upcoming weeks, we will launch our fourth iteration of our annual Three Minute Thesis competition, which last year had 39 graduate student competitors and drew an audience of 240 people in 6 countries watching the finale via livestream. Our Grad+ seminars provide research and writing support to over 300 graduate students, and we continue to grow our professional development programming. 

Mental health services for graduate students have continued to expand this year with the embedded counselor initiative placing Counseling and Psychiatric Services counselors in all of the academic colleges and schools, including one embedded in the Graduate School. 

With all this, I also know that we still have a lot of work to do. Significant challenges and deep concerns remain, particularly around student funding levels and Boulder’s high cost of living. 

The Graduate School has been working diligently on ways we can continue to increase the financial support for graduate students. While we have made strides on stipend levels, benefit expansion and the reduction of some fees, we continue our work to reduce or eliminate student fees for those working as graduate assistants. In addition, with the recent approval of the CU Boulder South annexation, the university continues our efforts to increase affordable housing options for graduate students.

As we continue to work on the priorities outlined in the strategic plan, I commit to keeping you updated on our progress.  

Graduate education at CU Boulder is in a transformative moment, and I look forward to collaborating with all of you as we reimagine our programs and strengthen the ways we support graduate student success.

As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas for the vital work of the Graduate School. Please send your input via email and join me, Dean of Students and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs JB Banks, Provost Moore and Chief Operating Officer Patrick O’Rourke in a virtual town hall at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 26. We are looking forward to hearing from you. Here’s the Zoom link to join us.


E. Scott Adler
Dean of the Graduate School and Vice Provost for Graduate Affairs