Charge from Provost Daniel Diermeier

April 29, 2018
To: Members of the Committee on Graduate Education

Many thanks for agreeing to participate in the important work of the Committee on Graduate Education, which will be chaired by David Nirenberg, Executive Vice Provost and Deborah R. and Edgar D. Jannotta Distinguished Service Professor of Medieval History and Social Thought.

The issues before the Committee derive from the University’s role as a private research university dedicated to the training of scholars and teachers, to a strong liberal arts college, and to first-rate professional education. The national and international context of these activities is continually changing, and we need to be looking forward in order to set our own course toward the forms and possibilities of graduate education that will build on the strengths and aspirations we have for this University.

In the face of a range of challenges to academic institutions today, the University must take the initiative to evaluate its programs and the concepts that underlie them with the same critical attention that as scholars we each apply to our research. The Committee’s task is to survey graduate education at the University in the broadest sense: not only to assess the merits or limitations of a particular program or aspect of graduate education, but to examine its most basic assumptions, with the goal of enhancing the University’s ability to maintain the highest standards of quality for graduate education today and in the future.

You are charged with providing your assessment of the present state of graduate education at the University in light of the University’s commitment to excellence in research and teaching, and in the context of the changing landscape of higher education. I ask that your evaluation consider graduate education, research, and experience at the University holistically and as they interrelate with undergraduate and professional education. The structure of your written assessment may well reflect the recognition that faculty and students have overlapping but different roles in that enterprise.

You have wide latitude to determine the report’s structure as well as the specific issues to be addressed. I nevertheless expect you would assess graduate student funding, the financing of graduate education, and the requirements for and time to completion of graduate degree programs. Further, and related to funding, I anticipate you reviewing the availability and affordability of housing, health care and support for student parents. I also see as crucial a review of the role of teaching in graduate education, of graduate students in teaching, and of faculty in advising and mentoring. Important as well would be focus on the purposes and professions towards which graduate degree programs may be directed and the appropriateness of training for those purposes.

I look forward to learning what you find with respect to these and any other issues you deem important to include in your report.

Former University President Hanna Gray issued a similar charge to the Commission on Graduate Education in 1980, which resulted in the Baker Report of 1982. You may wish to include this report and other historical University documents as part of the data about the University’s practices that you will gather and analyze in your own assessment. And you may want to assemble and analyze information related to these issues at other research universities, as well as ours. Staff will be available to help with that.

A great deal has changed in the thirty-six years since the Baker Report, not only here at the University but also in the broader society. Among the many changes is an increased understanding of the importance of student as well as faculty perspectives on committees such as this. That awareness is reflected in your membership. In order to facilitate student participation, I ask that the Committee commence and complete its charge within one calendar year. To that end, the Committee should submit its written report to the Provost by January 11, 2019. The report will be made available to the University Community.

President Gray wrote in her 1980 invitation letter to members of the Commission on Graduate Education, I expect the work of this group to be unusually important in exploring and shaping the nature and directions of the University’s definition of purpose and of its academic objectives in the years ahead. The Commission’s activity … will give stimulus and substance to the most significant discussions and decisions that we need to undertake.

I hold the same expectation for the Committee today.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Diermeier

To: UChicago Faculty and Other Academic Appointees
From: David Nirenberg, Executive Vice Provost
Subject: Update on the Committee on Graduate Education
Date: May 15, 2018

I write to update you about the Committee on Graduate Education recently charged by Provost Diermeier to carry out a broad assessment—with some focus on doctoral education—of graduate life, education, and professional training at the University. The last University-wide committee convened with such a mandate was the Commission on Graduate Education in 1980, which produced the Baker Report of 1982. Unlike that commission, our Committee includes eight graduate students (appointed through a selection process run by the Graduate Council) in addition to eight faculty, chosen from across Divisions and Schools. The members of the Committee are

  • Erin Adams, Faculty, Biological Sciences Division
  • Clifford Ando, Faculty, Humanities Division
  • Rita Biagioli, Graduate Student, Social Sciences Division
  • Dan Black, Faculty, Harris School of Public Policy
  • Hannah Burnett, Graduate Student, Social Sciences Division
  • Kevin Corlette, Faculty, Physical Sciences Division
  • Eric Gauchat, Graduate Student, Biological/Physical Sciences Divisions
  • Blaize Gervais, PhD Student, Divinity School
  • Taylor Gray, Graduate Student, Institute for Molecular Engineering
  • Julia Henly, Faculty, School of Social Service Administration
  • Jordan Johansen, Graduate Student, Humanities Division
  • Joseph Mastron, Graduate Student, Physical Sciences Division
  • David Nirenberg, Committee Chair and Executive Vice Provost
  • Ken Pomeranz, Faculty, Social Sciences Division
  • Victoria Prince, Faculty, Biological Sciences Division
  • Elise Putnam, Graduate Student, Humanities Division
  • Pietro Veronesi, Faculty, Booth School of Business

The Committee will be seeking your sense—as well as that of your students, and of staff, administrators, and many others—of the state of your graduate programs in particular, and of graduate education at the University more generally. We are acutely aware that our programs are diverse and have different needs, and that each of our areas, departments, Divisions, and Schools are constantly evaluating those needs, assessing and improving their particular programs. We are eager to learn from those efforts and incorporate them in our own. To that end we will be communicating with many of you, both individually and collectively, as we work to complete our assessment in January of the coming year. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact any of us.

In case you are interested in the Committee’s communication with students, I am forwarding below a message sent by the students on the committee to their fellow graduate students, introducing themselves and outlining some initial steps the Committee is taking to solicit their perspectives.

To: UChicago Graduate Students
From: The Graduate Students of the Committee on Graduate Education
Subject: Update on the Committee on Graduate Education
Date: May 15, 2018

We are writing to introduce ourselves as the graduate student representatives on the Provost’s newly-convened Committee on Graduate Education. The provost has charged the committee with assessing graduate education, life, and professional training at UChicago. Such a committee has not been convened at the university since 1980, which resulted in the Baker Report of 1982. While that committee was solely made up of faculty and administrators, our committee was designed to include equal graduate student representation. This ensures that graduate student perspectives will be pivotal in informing the future directions of graduate education at the University of Chicago.

The Committee on Graduate Education is comprised of eight faculty members, appointed in consultation with the Provost and Deans, and eight graduate students, appointed by the Graduate Council in consultation with student representative bodies, such as the Deans’ Councils. The committee will be chaired by David Nirenberg and supported by executive staff of UChicagoGRAD and the Office of the Provost. The full committee membership is listed below.

At the first meeting of the committee, we discussed ways to engage a broad cross-section of faculty, students, and staff. By the end of the Spring quarter, the committee will launch a comprehensive survey of graduate students to gauge your experiences and the issues you think we should address. This is an opportunity to share your perspectives and guide our discussions. We will also hold a town hall meeting to introduce ourselves, our charge, and to get your feedback. We will continue to update you on our efforts and opportunities to get involved as we move forward. In the meantime, please note that we welcome conversation with you, and we look forward to the opportunity to learn from you through formal and informal discussions in the coming months. If you would like to know more about our involvement with the committee or share your experiences with us, we would be glad for you to reach out to us at gradexperience@uchicago.edu.

To learn more about the committee and read the complete charge, you can visit our page on the UChicagoGRAD website: https://grad.uchicago.edu/page/committee-graduate-education.

We look forward to serving in order to improve the graduate student experience at the University of Chicago.

Respectfully,

Rita, Hannah, Eric, Blaize, Taylor, Jordan, Joseph, and Elise

Committee on Graduate Education

  • Erin Adams, Faculty, Biological Sciences Division
  • Clifford Ando, Faculty, Humanities Division
  • Rita Biagioli, Graduate Student, Social Sciences Division
  • Dan Black, Faculty, Harris School of Public Policy
  • Hannah Burnett, Graduate Student, Social Sciences Division
  • Kevin Corlette, Faculty, Physical Sciences Division
  • Eric Gauchat, Graduate Student, Biological/Physical Sciences Divisions
  • Blaize Gervais, PhD Student, Divinity School
  • Taylor Gray, Graduate Student, Institute for Molecular Engineering
  • Julia Henly, Faculty, School of Social Service Administration
  • Jordan Johansen, Graduate Student, Humanities Division
  • Joseph Mastron, Graduate Student, Physical Sciences Division
  • David Nirenberg, Committee Chair and Executive Vice Provost
  • Ken Pomeranz, Faculty, Social Sciences Division
  • Victoria Prince, Faculty, Biological Sciences Division
  • Elise Putnam, Graduate Student, Humanities Division
  • Pietro Veronesi, Faculty, Booth School of Business

Support Staff

  • Beth Niestat, Executive Director, UChicagoGRAD
  • Tamara Smith, Executive Assistant and Project Director, Provost Office