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Achieving Excellence in Graduate Education

 Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are the lifeblood of great research universities. For the University of Connecticut to maintain its place among the ranks of great public research universities, we must become a choice destination for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars just as we are for undergraduates. We must attract the most talented graduate students and postdoctoral scholars from around the world, and we must enhance the stature and quality of graduate programs throughout the University. Both Bioscience Connecticut and Next Generation Connecticut will contribute to the transformation of research and graduate education with improvements in buildings and laboratories and an increase in the number of faculty. We must match these state investments with an increase in services that the University offers graduate students, postdoctoral scholars, and graduate faculty and programs.

The Graduate School is uniquely poised to nurture a vibrant community of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars and to enhance career and professional preparation opportunities for them. The Graduate School and the Office of the Vice President for Research have agreed to a strategic partnership to facilitate collaboration across disciplines, programs, departments, campuses, research, and graduate, postdoctoral education.

We offer graduate and professional degrees in 88 fields of study, and in any given year, we educate almost 8,000 doctoral, masters, and professional students. Our students come to us from across the state, the nation, and the world. They graduate to assume leading positions in academia, industry, and public service. Our rising academic stature has made us increasingly sought-after by graduates seeking postdoctoral fellowships, and our graduate programs are global in scope, enrolling students from more than 45 countries. We are one of only four U.S. members of the Universitas 21 network, the leading global network of research universities for the 21st-century.

To continue to compete successfully with other outstanding universities in the country, we must increase our investment in our best graduate programs. Most important, we lag far behind other leading public institutions in providing graduate and professional students with direct financial support to pursue their research with faculty mentors and advisors. The best graduate programs in the country, with whom we compete for students, are much more active in their recruitment, support, and commitment to fund students over multiple years. We must also invest in services that help our graduate students and postdoctoral scholars acquire the skills they need for success in the next stage of their careers.

In evaluating our success in achieving excellence in graduate education, we will measure:

• Quality of entering students as measured by GRE, GPA, and undergraduate institution;

• Number of NSF, DOD, NIH, and other nationally competitive graduate fellows;

• Graduation rate and time to degree;

• Number of new courses, concentrations, and fields of study aligned to key interdisciplinary areas;

• Number of new professional development programs;

• Percentage of students who pursue education abroad opportunities;

• Percentage of students who pursue industry and agency internships;

• Diversity of students;

• Placement in prestigious postdoctoral fellowships and academic appointments;

• Placement in prestigious industry, government, and nonprofit organizations;

• Rankings through U.S. News & World Report, Advanced Academics, and Shanghai Jiaotong.

How can we continue to improve graduate education? Through this academic vision, we will:

• Actively recruit the top graduate student candidates from across the globe with comprehensive marketing efforts and on-campus support services;

• Diligently pursue opportunities for funding more graduate research assistantships and other fellowships and ensure that graduate students do not have teaching loads that divert their attention from their research;

• Provide more postdoctoral fellowships, and eliminate the barriers for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows pursuing funding through extramural fellowships;

• Bring the same attention to graduate student services that have brought dramatic success to our undergraduate student services, and devote resources and facilities to developing a sense of community and cooperation among graduate students and postdoctoral fellows;

• Create dedicated space for graduate student lounges and gathering places;

• Remove the structural barriers that exist to the creation of interdisciplinary graduate programs across College and Schools;

• Develop new and innovative programs to enable our students to compete in our increasingly complex society;

• Provide internships with industry and research appointments in federal laboratories;

• Increase pre- and postdoctoral training grants through NIH, NSF, DOE, and other important agencies;

• Develop professional programs for students to improve skills in:

o Leadership;

o Career development;

o Teaching effectiveness;

o Professional communication;

o Proposal writing.

Finally, we must reinvigorate our University’s graduate faculty by raising standards, enhancing the faculty’s breadth, and recruiting new graduate faculty. We must ensure excellent research and educational experiences for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. We will work to enhance focused recruitment activities to further increase the quality and diversity of our graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, continue our retention efforts to promote the success of those who join us, and enhance our strong network of graduate alumni to ensure that we continue to serve them throughout their careers. We must increase our efforts to ensure the success of all of our graduate students and scholars but devote special attention to those from groups who are underrepresented and from other countries who may experience different challenges and may need special programs to enhance their success.