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K-State Today

November 24, 2014



K-State 2025 Snapshots of Success: Graduate Scholarly Experience – Theme 3

By President Schulz and Provost Mason

Our K-State 2025 theme letter last week focused on the progress we are making together advancing the undergraduate educational experience. Today we are reporting on Theme 3: the Graduate Scholarly Experience. Outstanding graduate programs and talented graduate faculty and students are essential to achieving our vision to become a Top 50 public research university by 2025. Our goal for the Graduate Scholarly Experience is to "advance a culture of excellence that attracts highly talented, diverse graduate students and produces graduates recognized as outstanding in their respective professions."

Our Theme 3 action plan envisions K-State as a preferred destination for talented graduate students with access to outstanding teaching, mentorship and high-level interdisciplinary learning and experiential training opportunities that provide our graduates with the skill sets needed to excel in their careers in a global environment. It calls for a broader spectrum of graduate programs and courses for both resident and distance students, active engagement with the corporate and government sectors to develop innovative programs to meet rapidly growing and changing industry and professional demands, and doctorates awarded comparable to our benchmark institutions. It also calls for a university culture that values and supports graduate students, increased funding for graduate research and teaching, and competitive compensation for our GRAs, GTAs and GAs and graduate faculty.

The number of doctorate degrees awarded, one of our university benchmark metrics, has remained relatively stable for the past three years, with a slight increase from 158 in 2012-2013 to 166 last year. Our graduate student population has increased in both size and diversity. In the College of Agriculture alone, the number of graduate students has increased from 491 in fall 2011 to 590 in fall 2014.

The range of graduate degrees and certificate programs available to meet the diverse needs of today's graduate students continued to expand. The interdisciplinary Master of Public Health program received full accreditation in June and offers a degree in four areas of emphasis ­— food safety and biosecurity, infectious diseases and zoonoses, public health nutrition and public health physical activity — as well as a graduate certificate in public health core concepts. The number of students pursuing a dual Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy degree increased with the first student earning his degree and six students on scholarship.

Since opening in 2011, K-State Olathe's graduate degree program offerings have grown to eight to meet the needs of students and industry in the Kansas City region. They include food science; horticulture with an emphasis in urban food systems; biological and agricultural engineering with an emphasis in biotechnology; agribusiness with emphasis in animal health, veterinary biomedical science; and adult education — master's degrees, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Education — and a graduate certificate in adult education and leadership. Last spring, we congratulated the first student graduate from the Olathe campus with a master's degree in food science.

Online graduate programs increased to meet the needs of professionals with the addition of graduate certificates for teaching English as a second language for adult learners and financial therapy — the nation's first such graduate certificate being offered by the personal financial planning program in the College of Human Ecology.

Colleges launched or expanded professional mentoring programs to link graduate as well as undergraduate students with professionals in their fields of study. They reached out to industry to increase partnerships for internships and experiential learning, and engaged with donors to increase philanthropic support for graduate students and programs. K-State Salina, for example, created an Industrial Advisory Board to increase strategic industry partnerships to provide graduate distance and experiential learning opportunities.

Access to high-quality graduate programs, courses and learning opportunities is clearly key to becoming a preferred destination for graduate students as envisioned in 2025. Our Theme 3 plan also makes clear that a K-State culture and environment that values, supports and celebrates our graduate students is important. Whether it is more effective administrative processes, competitive compensation to attract highly talented graduate students, or providing better "space and place," how our students perceive their graduate scholarly experience includes their overall experience at K-State.

We increased the efficiency of the application and admissions process for domestic and international students last year with the implementation of CollegeNet. The Graduate School, in partnership with the Graduate Student Council, continued to offer graduate students professional development workshops to develop transferable skills for career success. Dean Carol Shanklin commissioned a review of the Graduate School by three external consultants, which resulted in recommendations to further advance graduate programs and the K-State 2025 vision. The Task Force for Social Sciences, Humanities, and Fine Arts also made recommendations specific to those areas. Strategies to address many of these recommendations are currently being developed and will be a focus for the coming year.

Space continues to be a challenge for graduate students, as well as everyone else. We cannot continue to increase the number of graduate students if we do not have space for them to work and interact. K-State Libraries began developing plans for improved graduate study rooms in Hale Library to build use to capacity and expand the type of space available to support collaboration. As our deans develop plans for new or renovated space, they are incorporating strategies to increase and improve space for graduate students.

Finding resources for tuition remission for graduate research assistants also continues to be a challenge. Several of our colleges are now requiring that funds for tuition remission be written into grant proposals consistent with funding agency policies. Working with the deans and the Graduate School, we are hoping to have a multi-year plan in place by the end of the academic year to address the need for competitive compensation for our GTAs, GRAs and GAs, recognizing that this will take time in today's fiscal environment. Space that gives the graduate students their sense of place, along with competitive compensation and tuition remission for graduate research assistants are areas where we must do better if we are going to attract, recruit and retain the highly-talented graduate students we need.

Thanks to the work of many of you, we are advancing many of our goals for K-State's graduate scholarly experience. We are developing innovative programs to meet the needs of today's students. We are partnering with the public and private sectors to enhance the learning opportunities for our students to prepare them throughout their professional careers. We continue to have highly ranked doctoral programs in areas such as plant pathology, agricultural economics, entomology and food science. Our animal sciences doctoral program ranked No. 5 for research productivity among national programs last year. Graduate programs in architecture, planning, and design continue to be ranked in the top 10 in the nation.

K-State has long been known as a student-centered university providing an excellent undergraduate experience. K-State 2025 brings an intentional focus to our graduate students. We are making progress together. We look forward to continuing to work with you to find new ways to recruit and retain outstanding graduate students and enhance the quality of our graduate programs, building upon our strengths as we continue on the journey to be a Top 50 public research university by 2025.

Go Cats and thanks for all you do!

President Kirk Schulz

Provost and Senior Vice President April Mason