A renewed focus on graduate education and the expansion of graduate programs is crucial for Michigan Tech's future development. A push to permanently achieve Carnegie I status represents an exciting chance to bring graduate education issues back to forefront of the University agenda. The Graduate Council recognizes the importance of this initiative, and wants to help facilitate the graduate program growth and additional Ph.D. production necessary to reach Carnegie I goals.
While we work towards achieving Carnegie I status, it remains important to build a sustainable trajectory for graduate program growth, rather than just reallocating resources to hit short-term goals. Successful growth of graduate programs at Michigan Tech requires increasing both scholarship and the external visibility of Tech's research programs, not just increasing number of Ph.D. students. Strategies to increase research and scholarship must be developed in parallel to strategies for increased Ph.D. production.
Any plan for graduate program growth must also recognize the central role of faculty as researchers, teachers, and mentors. Senate work on faculty teaching and research loads suggests that faculty view their own lack of time as a key impediment to expanded research productivity. The University is currently undertaking initiatives to increase undergraduate enrollment and revamp curricula, both of which potentially increase faculty commitments. Significant growth in external research and graduate programs will require growth in faculty resources, not just student support. A long-term plan for growth should include adding additional research faculty. Adding new faculty helps build a critical mass of scholars, attracts Ph.D. students, and enhances our research programs.
Finally, as a guiding principle we must ensure continued improvement in our graduate programs, for both the Doctoral and Master's degree programs. Quantitative measures must not be emphasized to the exclusion of qualitative assessment.
Some of these suggestions reiterate ideas already included in the action plan, while others represent new points raised in Graduate Council.
- Focus on graduate stipends and support packages as a central component of increasing our ability to recruit and retain the best Ph.D. students. We must raise the stipend level to make it competitive, look at options for graduate student health insurance, decrease heavy teaching loads, and hold down increases in graduate tuition.
- Increase the number of entering Ph.D. students to increase Ph.D. output. Suggested target of 20 additional incoming Ph.D. students per year. This could come as 20 additional lines, or by redirecting some resources from M.S. to Ph.D. students to change the ratio of incoming students, with more Ph.D. and fewer M.S. This must be done without significantly damaging existing M.S. programs.
- Look at current pattern of GTA allocation to identify areas where additional resources or reallocation of resources would have the strongest benefit for Ph.D. production.
- Maximize flexibility in funding opportunities for first-year international graduate students to increase recruitment.
- Consider supporting Ph.D. students in one department by giving them GTA duties in another department. This might help cover undergraduate load while boosting the number of Ph.D. students.
- Examine idea of support limitations for students funded as GTAs, both in terms of numbers of years and in terms of multiple MS degrees.
- Emphasize need for Ph.D. program growth by considering a freeze on the development of NEW M.S. programs until the threshold for Carnegie I status has been crossed.
- Make certain there are incentives for supporting graduate students on research projects rather than just supporting post-docs.
- Create an appropriate role for the Graduate Council. The action plan speaks of creating a "culture" of faculty commitment to the graduate school. The Graduate Council is an obvious placeto establish a bridge between faculty and the Graduate School. We believe it is important to create a stronger and more visible forum for faculty consideration of graduate program goals, policies, and development. In line with this idea, add #9 to Strategies: "Strengthen Graduate Faculty Council."
- Since faculty resources must be considered as part of expanding graduate programs, add in "g" under Strategy 2: "Additional support for faculty research and scholarship."