Faculty Senate Retreat 2001
The Faculty Senate Retreat Friday, September 14, 2001 - 1:00-4:30
South Meeting Room, Newcomb Hall
"Improving the Quality of Graduate Education at the University of Virginia"
Robert Grainger, Chair of the Faculty Senate, gave opening remarks. Mr. Grainger
spoke about graduate students' contributions to the University, and exploring
ways to ensure the best education for graduate students. Mr. Grainger announced
a new graduate fellows program this year, which will award grants to selected
graduate students. He thanked Provost Block and former Provost Low for giving
resources to support these grants. In addition, the School of Arts & Sciences
and the School of Engineering and Applied Science have given resources to this
initiative. The Faculty Senate will also contribute.
Gene D. Block, Vice President and Provost, addressed the group. Mr. Block commented
on the National tragedy and the University memorial, which was lead by President
Casteen on Friday, from noon until 1:30. Mr. Block also commented on the success
of the Capital Campaign, the fact that the University is an undergraduate-friendly
research institution; the University is topically compact, with walking distance
to every school. This, Mr. Block said, enables collaborations and growth of
excellence of individuals and joint schools. Mr. Block said the University would
work on a smart, timely and effectively implementation of the 2020 recommendations,
taking into account each schools' aspirations. He will also work on the needed
improvement of facilities at the University. The University will craft an appropriate
strategy for attracting undergraduates, Mr. Block said. In addition, the University
hopes implement a vigorous international program, both for sending our undergraduates
abroad and for attracting international students to the University. The University
strives to improve attractiveness to the very best graduate students. Other
goals for the University include achieving a balance within departments and
between departments, and maintaining an outstanding library. Mr. Block praised
the leadership of the University Librarian, Karin Wittenborg.
To further the implementation of the 2020 recommendations, there will be a
series of envision sessions with each school to get their aspirations, Mr. Block
said. The Shannon Center's mission needs be re-thought, Mr. Block said. Mr.
Block commented on TDF's, saying Yoke San Reynolds, Vice President for Finance,
will be working on the issue of graduate student funding.
Aaron Mills, Professor of Environmental Sciences, and Chair, Graduate Student
Support at the University of Virginia Subcommittee of the Faculty Senate, gave
a report on the findings of that Committee and their subsequent report.
The Report addresses:
- the goals of graduate education: training leaders for our modern society
- the role of graduate students in a University
- the status of graduate student support at U.va./ competition with peer institutions
for best students
- current efforts to improve support, 5) and current needs
Mr. Mills thanked the Senate for the opportunity to speak to them about the
Committee's findings. Mr. Mills looks forward to working with the Senate this
year on graduate education and funding.
Kathryn Thornton, Assistant Dean of Graduate Programs at the School of Engineering
and Applied Science, spoke to the Senate regarding graduate students and funding
in the School. Ms. Thornton said the School has lost funding for 30 graduate
students. Ms. Thornton gave a slide presentation, demonstrating the funding
and TDFs in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. Vice President for
Finance, Yoke San Reynolds, commented on how TDFs work, and she said the University
is addressing funding for graduate students.
Todd Price, a graduate student, spoke to the group, saying that the issues
identified in the Graduate Student Support Report are right on target. Mr. Price
welcomed the opportunity for graduate students to get involved with University
initiatives. Mr. Price noted that the work of graduate students has gone beyond
mentoring, since many graduate students actually teach. The Graduate Student
Council is having a Research Symposium, and faculty judges are needed for the
event, Mr. Price said.
The Retreat participants then had individual table discussions, discussing
different topics regarding graduate education. The topics and the table leaders
were as follows:
Table 1 "Contributions of Graduate Students," led by Fred Damon
Table 2 "Graduate Recruiting," led by Ellen Contini-Morava
Table 3 "Graduate Recruiting 2a," led by Richard Warner
Table 4 "Tuition Differential Fellowships," led by Houston Wood, III
Table 5 "Graduate Student Preparation," led by Michael Levenson
Table 6 "Teaching Issues," led by Michael Smith
Table 7 "Quality of Life," led by John Lyons
Table 8 "Professional School Issues," led by Susan Perry
Following about 40 minutes of table discussions, the table leaders gave a report
on issues, comments, and suggestions that were addressed. The following is a
summary of the reports from each table:
Table 1 Contributions of Graduate Students - Fred Damon
The task of this Discussion group was to:
- Define the distinctions between the professional and graduate students.
It was pointed out that this phrasing initially was designed to distinguish
Law, Business and perhaps Medicine from the rest of the University. While such
a distinction is easy to understand, it may quickly become invidious depending
upon how one views the importance of generating dollars or creating new ideas.
It was then, also, easy to suggest that all of the schools are similar in the
sense that they are designed to send students out to practice some technique
or method. There are then obvious ways that society has evaluated those practices,
and these seem to be reflected significantly in whether or not is it deemed
wise or unwise to go into debt in order to continue with post-undergraduate
training. Going into Law, Business and Medicine in the current climate allows
for the assumption of significant debt…. More usefully, we found we could distinguish
among goals having to do with service, discovery, and training. All schools
do all these to some extent, but clearly many of the programs in the School
of the Arts and Sciences lean more towards the latter two than the former one.
- Evaluate and describe the importance of graduate/professional students
to the University's mission. We understand the University's mission to pass
on received knowledge and generate new knowledge. Graduate students of all kinds-including
law, etc-- are the principle agents for extending these two missions beyond
the University. While we find this a non-problematic assertion, we do not believe
that opinion is widely shared or understood.
- Outline strategies for educating the public and promoting the value of
graduate studies on and off-grounds, to legislators, and to the general public
The question was first raised as to whether the more important focus here should
be outside the University or towards the upper reaches of the University Administration.
The question was raised because some felt the main problem is inside rather
than outside the University. That consideration aside, it was easy to begin
to generate a number of specific suggestions for extending the public reach
of the significance of graduate education. Listed, the more important we came
up with are: a) Encourage the Graduate Student Organization (whatever its name)
to form its own Legislative committee b) Ask legislators to participate in the
judging of the graduate student research contest which has been running the
last several years. c) Invite legislators-when they are out of session and so
have time-and alumnae to dinners with a select and small number of graduate
students drawn from departments across the University. We envision at least
one dinner/month. This should be carefully thought out on both ends, so what
graduate students and which legislators and alumnae d) Create a category of
news called something like U.va. for the Commonwealth which every month will generate
a terse description of several on-going graduate student projects. These would
then be distributed to local, state, national and international news organizations.
e) Request that once every issue the alumnae magazine devote a story to the
work of some former U.va. graduate student, his or her work, research, book, etc.
f) Create ways of staying in better touch with graduates of the graduate school
by means of electronic communication and, perhaps, a Graduate alumnae speaker
Table 2 - Graduate Recruiting - Ellen Contini-Morava
There was general agreement that our financial packages need to be more generous
in order to be competitive with peer institutions. Some ideas discussed:
- Reallocation of funds currently used for fellowships to finance more generous
T.A. stipends. This would acknowledge the importance of the teaching mission
of the university; the objective would be for every grad student to do some
teaching, and make it worth their while financially. Some potential problems
with this: time spent teaching increases time to complete degree, especially
in departments (such as English) where the T.A. is responsible for the whole
course, not just sections or labs under a faculty member's supervision. Also,
top-tier departments don't have students teaching in their first year, so this
would not be an attractive prospect for highly sought-after students. In any
case, it is not always ideal to put a first-year grad student directly into
teaching responsibilities, unless there is substantial departmental mentoring
(see below on this). Finally, it was pointed out that students in the sciences
may be more interested in research than teaching opportunities, so again this
might not be a useful recruitment tool. [Note: some departments, such as Anthropology,
have special T.A. training workshops in addition to those sponsored by the TRC.
In Anthropology, these are organized by an experienced grad student, meet 2
hrs./week for about 6 weeks, and are required of all new TAs. Each meeting is
organized around a particular topic, such as "teaching a diverse student body"
or "grading", and guest faculty members are invited to attend to give input.
Contact for current TA workshop: Lisa Lauria (firstname.lastname@example.org). She would
probably be willing to forward a list of the topics that are being discussed
this semester.] [Another thing done in Anthropology is a job-search workshop.
This is for students in the last stages of write up and is run by a faculty member.
The group meets once a week to review CVs, job application letters, and sample
course syllabi, and they do mock interviews. Contact person: Susan McKinnon,
email@example.com.] It was also suggested that Tuition Differentials could be
given for jobs other than teaching, such as working for IATH or a university
publication. In such cases Tuition Differential funds would have to be allocated
to units outside departments, but this might not be an insuperable problem.
- Some departments send out questionnaires to students who do not accept offers
of admission. Based on the experience of participants at our table, respondents
rarely cite financial reasons as the deciding factor. More often it is the ranking
of the program and/or facilities available.
- As to recruitment strategies, the following suggestions were made: Develop
new research centers/interdisciplinary programs; importance of personal recruitment.
With regard to this latter, it was suggested that funds be made available to
faculty to make trips for recruitment purposes. This is especially important
for recruitment of students from under-represented groups (see more on this
- Information: Departments should make sure the information on their websites
is up to date and that the website is easy to navigate (and hopefully attractive
to look at). One problem is that it is not always clear who is responsible for
website maintenance, or the designated person changes from one year to another,
or there are not funds to pay someone to do it if the expertise is lacking in
the faculty or grad students. It might also be worth exploring the possibility
of a school-wide CD with information about several departments/programs, which
would also include more general information about the university and provide
a more cohesive picture.
- Recruitment of students from under-represented groups: [The following did
not emerge from the workshop but I'm including it as food for thought on this
topic. Currently Arts and Sciences lags behind some of the other schools at
U.Va. (such as Engineering) in recruitment/retention of students of color. Partly
the problem is the decentralization of graduate admissions; some departments
make more efforts than others in this regard. While recognizing that ultimately
the departments are responsible for managing their own graduate recruitment,
it would be useful to have a centralized resource. Two years ago the Equal Opportunity/Affirmative
Action Committee recommended designating Associate Provost for Minority Graduate
and Professional Student Affairs. Some duties envisioned in this position: representing
the University at conferences such as that of the National Black Graduate Students
Assn., which often has no representation from U.Va. at all; acting as liaison
with the various schools, informing departments and schools about recruitment
strategies and monitoring their progress in this area; forging relationships
with undergraduate institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities;
developing programs to make our own undergraduate minority students aware of
graduate and professional study and careers; organizing Open House/Visitation
days for prospective graduate/professional students along the model of Georgia
Tech; helping identify resources for grants or fellowships; organizing support
groups, mentoring programs, orientation programs, and summer training programs
for current and prospective graduate students of color; identifying research
opportunities for minority undergraduate students with U.Va. faculty; setting
up a network of alumni of color; enveloping informational brochures/web sites
about U.Va. graduate and professional programs, funding opportunities for minority
students, etc. If these responsibilities did not add up to a full-time position,
the position could be broadened to include recruitment, orientation, and retention
of international graduate/professional students who also contribute to a diverse
student body and have needs that are currently not met.
Table 3 - Graduate Recruiting 2a, - Richard Warner
- The "Teaching Problem" and international recruitment Our group felt that
an excellent source of highly qualified students could be attracted to our graduate
programs if we made an effort to be innovative about our ESL programs. Some
ideas were: a. Establish an ESL Institute b. Study the Language/Cultural Program
at Michigan c. Use current foreign graduate students as ESL teachers d. Look
for connections with digital technology e. Look for interdepartmental connections
- Should we review our programs to make them more efficient? Our discussion
centered on the length of time it takes to earn an advanced degree. We determined
that it was 7 years on average for the Humanities. This long period of time
impacts on funding as well as recruitment. Questions raised were: a. Should
we review just exactly whom we are attempting to recruit? Which Ph.D. candidate
do we want to attract and why? b. Do we need to review 500 level courses and
how they are being populated? c. Should we increase our funding for summer research
projects? d. Can we design MA programs that will be marketable and therefore
attractive? There was a suggestion that we should investigate interdisciplinary
connections for these new MAs. The idea was that they could also be a source
of funding for PHD programs.
- Sharing Information There was a suggestion that the Faculty Senate could
organize a sub-committee to share, collate and publish recruitment concerns,
strategies and sources of funding and other aid. Most of the recruitment chores
are handled departmentally because it is so area specific but there seemed to
be many issues and concerns where departments might be able to help each other.
- Sponsorship: We spent some time discussing how the Senate might help to
initiate avenues of financial sponsorship for graduate fellowships. Three sources
were named: Corporate, Alumni and Foundations.
Other Ideas that would enhance recruitment: 1. Financial support for travel
money for potential top candidates 2. Better organized recruitment weekends
3. Increased efforts by faculty to make personal contact with candidates- email,
letters, phone, etc 4. Better strategies for minority recruitment 5. Efforts
to improve the working conditions of students. Most do not have adequate work
space or office space.
Table 4 - Tuition Differential Fellowships, - Houston Wood, III
- Shortage of TD Fellowships has the effect of limiting the number of courses
students take for credit for the PhD, and thus compromises the quality of education
of our PhDs. o The shortage has a more severe impact on students in interdisciplinary
programs where more coursework is needed.
- The limited number of TDF's works against recruiting and accepting international
students and talented out-of-state students. This has the effect of our enrolling
students on the basis of state residency and ability to pay tuition rather than
on the basis of merit.
- For the sciences, especially, the lack of TD Fellowship funds imposes undesirable
constraints on the number of applicants that can be accepted into the program
- What is the rationale for the huge differential between in-state and out-of-state
tuition at the graduate level? (Perhaps it makes sense for the professional
schools, but not for Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Education.)
- The way the university interprets "in-state" status works as a serious handicap
for our graduate students (in comparison, e.g., with Va. Tech). Is it possible
to interpret "in-state" status in a more favorable way for our graduate students?
- Who "sets the rules" for TD Fellowships? What would prevent giving such awards
to students on fellowship (not GTA or GRA)?
- How would restructuring TD Fellowships to suit our academic needs affect
the university's budget? Could this actually have a beneficial effect financially?
Table 5 - Graduate Student Preparation,- Michael Levenson
Some observations and suggestions:
- Consider the multiple models of a graduate career, not only across schools,
but within departments
- Acknowledge dangers of imbalance in individual development: e.g. English
graduate students may teach too much, while medical students teach too little
- Make concerted efforts to inform incoming students of the state of the discipline
and the conditions of an academic career. Don't assume that students arrive
with that knowledge.
- Clarify appropriate expectations about career goals and likely trajectories
- Confront more directly the difference between academic and non-academic career
- Avoid treating graduate students as 'populations'; recognize that there is
no substitute for close mentoring that pays attention to small differences in
the arcs of individual graduate careers
- Maintain stamina for personal encounters: conversations, meals, etc. Don't
consign these to the rubbish bin of cliché
- Provide models of socialization into academic and non-academic communities
- Begin a comparative study of schools and departments, asking them to describe
their methods of graduate training and preparation
- Investigate the status of school and department record-keeping. Are there
clear data on the outcomes of graduate careers?
- Use recent alumni, both academic and non-academic, to guide the development
of current graduate students.
Table 6 - Teaching Issues - Michael Smith
- Relationship to undergraduate teaching excellence and broader mission
- Mixed messages - courses important but research is what counts
- Not all students get a "protected" year II. How to affirm graduate teaching
- Walk to mentor walk, or stop the mentor talk
- Annual report on faculty/TA/RA work
- Build teaching excellence into reward structure for faculty and for Tas
- More group interaction - support/subject-specific teaching support
- Example given: A Biology Department specialist in science education
- Recognize that fostering teaching excellence requires faculty time and resources
Table 7 - Quality of Life - John Lyons
- Creation of a Graduate Studies Center in a central and conspicuous location.
i.) To give graduate studies visibility at the University ii). To provide administrative
space for a number of central and overlapping functions of different schools
regarding graduate and professional student life iii). To create a physical
space for intellectual activities of an interdisciplinary/interschool nature
iv). To foster social interaction among graduate and professional students v).
To give faculty and graduate students a place to meet and lunch together
- Improvement of physical connectedness among schools especially by reconfiguring
the bus system and its relation to parking. The Graduate Studies Center should
be readily accessible from all schools, and students and faculty of all schools
should be able to travel to other schools easily and quickly (given their very
- Increased funding for graduate students to attend conferences and thus to
give papers and begin their professional careers. Such funding might be available
from a centralized, inter-school endowment.
- Continued improvement of opportunities to learn English as a Second Language
(ESL). This initiative, apparently already begun in the Provost's office, could
naturally be linked to the University's international development and would
facilitate the recruiting of graduate students, improve the quality of undergraduate
instruction, and greatly facilitate the interaction of graduate students with
Table 8 - Professional School Issues - led by Susan Perry
- Unique Issues in the Professional Schools:
- Demands of the curriculum.
- Calendar differences with the University and other schools.
- High tuition exacerbates the tuition differential problem.
- High tuition prevents students from taking courses in the professional schools.
- Usually students have jobs waiting upon graduation but the huge debt they
carry affects their choice of job offers.
- RNs cannot just be students, they must work to keep licensure.
- High connection between studies and lifework may require more attention
to other issues- values, managing offices, people skills.
- How to Develop More Interaction
- More interdisciplinary courses. Examples that already exists a). law and
ethics b). law and psychology c) humanities and medicine d). literature and
- Master in interdisciplinary studies -- Could test areas of interest
- Short courses a. See law school for examples..held in faculty homes
- Brown bag lunch series -- Students or faculty could be presenters
- More faculty interaction would lead to more student interaction
- Languages and the professions
- Value seminars
- Allow more graduate courses outside the professional schools
- Consider themes that go across the curriculum
Mr. Grainger gave the closing remarks, and thanked Bob Davis, Richard Warner,
Robert O'Connell, and Frances Peyton for their work on planning the Retreat.
The Retreat adjourned at 4:40 p.m.
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