Report praises Grad School

Yale’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences was recognized in a report last month for three programs designed to improve diversity, student life and graduate-student advising that have been pegged innovative projects in graduate school education.

Yale was recognized for its McDougal Graduate Student Center Fellows, the FEAST Student-Faculty Lunch Program and the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Fellows Program in a report called “The Responsive Ph.D.” The report is the conclusion of a five year initiative by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to identify areas of graduate education in need of improvement and to work with 20 universities to identify best practices that can serve as models for other institutions.

The main objective of the “Responsive Ph.D.” project was to adapt graduate study to modern challenges, which include students taking longer to finish their degrees and an increase in the number of doctoral degree recipients pursuing careers outside of academia, Graduate School Dean Jon Butler said.

Programs at the McDougal Center — which manages student life programs and academic services and is located in the Hall of Graduate Studies — have improved both career services and student social life, Butler said. He said the growing waiting lists for HGS housing are a result of the new programs. Improving the social life of the school ultimately helps students in their studies, he said.

But Christopher Mason GRD ’07, chair of the Graduate Student Assembly, said the programs should be part of a continuing effort to improve graduate student life. Involving graduate students directly in developing programs for the McDougal Center is useful, Mason said, but further innovation is still needed.

“It can definitely still be better, in the things that are downstream from graduate school, in faculty hiring and child care,” Mason said.

Tomorrow, representatives of GSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Senate will deliver a letter to members of the administration requesting improvements to child care services for Yale students, faculty and staff, and the release of results from a 2004 survey of child care needs, Mason said.

Diversity has frequently been an issue for the Graduate Employees and Students Organization, which over the weekend held a panel discussion on faculty diversity with the Undergraduate Organizing Committee. Last Friday, GESO members joined Mason at a speak-out in front of the Provost’s Office on child care issues.

The McDougal Center has 19 fellows, who are responsible for creating programs through the Center. The fellows organize academic writing workshops and career services programs under the supervision of Assistant Dean for Student Affairs Lisa Brandes.

The report praised the program for giving fellows independence to identify their peers’ needs with support from the administration.

McDougal Fellow Erin McCarthy GRD ’08 said the career-services fellows have invited Yale alumni who completed a doctoral degree but pursued career opportunities outside academia to give lectures to graduate students. Special programs have been created for women who want to pursue both a career and a family, said McCarthy, who coordinates activities in each program area.

FEAST — “Free Eating Attracts Students and Teachers” — offers students and faculty free meal vouchers to eat together in a Yale dining hall in order to encourage advising relationships outside the office. McCarthy said she has used the meal vouchers several times to eat with her adviser, and the program is relatively well publicized among students who live in the Hall of Graduate Studies.

The Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity Fellows Program, which started in 2001, chooses nine fellows each year to create and run recruitment and retention programs for underrepresented minority students. The Woodrow Wilson Foundation highlighted the program because it creates peer-support networks among minority students and involves graduate students in recruiting programs, the report said.

While the ODEO has been successful in meeting its recruitment goals, ODEO Fellow and GESO member Sarah Haley GRD ’09 said more resources are needed and key issues like faculty diversity are beyond ODEO’s control.

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