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K-State Today

October 26, 2015

From the dean of the Graduate School: A Graduate School update

Submitted by Carol Shanklin

Dear Faculty and Staff,

Progress is being made in the ambitious K-State 2025 goals set for the Graduate School. One indication of this progress is the increase for the second consecutive year in the number of doctorates awarded — a key benchmark for K-State 2025. Since the 2011-12 academic year, we have increased the number of doctorates awarded from 162 to 190. Today I would like to update you on what we are doing in the Graduate School to continue that progress through working collaboratively with our graduate students, faculty, the colleges and many others.

Expanding financial support to attract and retain outstanding graduate students is a key component for enhancing the K-State graduate scholarly experience. This includes providing tuition support for graduate research assistantships and competitive stipends for all graduate assistants. We are making progress in this area, thanks to colleges who are making this a priority. Several colleges during the past year established policies requiring tuition support for GRAs be built into grants where allowed and that is resulting in some increased tuition support. But much more work needs to be done. Associate Dean Mike Herman has taken the lead working collaboratively with the Deans Council, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Division of Financial Services to determine the funds needed to achieve tuition support for graduate research assistants. In addition, we have submitted a funding request to the university budget advisory committee.

The Graduate School, through the financial support of different sources, initiated several new scholarships and a small grant program to support research for arts, humanities and social sciences graduate students in their final year. First, the Presidential Doctoral Scholarship program was established to assist with recruitment of outstanding doctoral applicants who would be engaged in interdisciplinary studies. Seven $7,500 scholarships — renewable for a second year — were awarded. A second scholarship, the Marie R. Bonebrake Graduate Award, was awarded for the first time to Zenova Williams, a doctoral student in marriage and family therapy. The Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences Small Grant Program was piloted in December 2014. Ten $1,000 grants were awarded to students who were completing research for their masters and/or doctoral degrees in disciplines in the arts, humanities and social sciences. The grant program is being offered again this year. Ongoing funding for graduate students includes the Timothy R. Donoghue Scholarships, which were awarded to more than 60 graduate students. These scholarships were established to recruit top candidates throughout the U.S. to K-State graduate programs by offering graduate assistantship packages that are highly competitive.

The Graduate School leadership team is focusing fundraising efforts to establish additional endowed scholarships and fellowships that will guarantee future awards and funding for professional development opportunities for our graduate students. We have exceeded our short-term fundraising goal by raising nearly $350,000 — 35 percent of our goal — of which 72 percent of those funds are endowed.

Graduate students also competed for top awards that offer research recognition and support. Andrew Marshall, doctoral student in psychological sciences, Adam Kell, doctoral student in chemistry, and Sam Procter, doctoral student in computing science, were awarded the 2015 University Distinguished Professor Graduate Student Awards. The awards are made possible through a combination of donations from individual university distinguished professors and support from the university's vice president for research.

Damien Downes, a May 2015 graduate in genetics, was awarded the $17,000 Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek Predoctoral Honors Fellowship in Molecular Biology. Awardees of the $1,000 Sarachek Scientific Travel Awards are Aashima Khosla, doctoral candidate in biochemistry and biophysics, and Courtney Passow, doctoral candidate in biology. Alvin and RosaLee Sarachek established the fellowship and travel awards to recognize graduate students enrolled in a doctoral program at Kansas State University who have demonstrated exceptional research and scholastic accomplishments.

Another one of our goals is to expand career development activities for graduate students. During the 2014-2015 academic year, the Graduate School partnered with the Graduate Student Council and several university offices to offer more than 25 professional development workshops and initiate the Dissertation Writing Retreat in collaboration with the Writing Center and English department. There are currently more than 30 professional development workshops scheduled during the fall semester with our campus partners, and two Dissertation Writing Retreats scheduled for this academic year as a result of the exceptional feedback we received from the previous participants.

We are continuing to improve efficiencies and communications to further enhance our graduate scholarly experience. We have implemented refinements in the CollegeNet online application system based on graduate program input, and reorganized the degree specialists’ roles and responsibilities. Dashboards for each program have been created so each program/department can have a real-time data report on the number and composition of their applicants. We continue to work with CollegeNet on changes to their system to further meet your needs. The need for electronic signatures and routing processes for graduate student documents remains a priority.

The Graduate School website also has been revamped to be more informative and user friendly. A new graduate student life section communicates many campus resources and programs available to current graduate students, and the admissions page enhancements include a list of the national recruiting fairs the Graduate School will attend to communicate to potential students where they can meet Graduate School recruiters. 

During 2014-2015, we increased programs available to graduate students, including three new graduate certificate programs: Leadership Dynamics for Adult Learners, Social Justice Education, and Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement. Personal Financial Planning, a new doctoral program approved through Faculty Senate last spring, was recently approved by the Kansas Board of Regents. Work continues on several interdisciplinary programs currently under development.

To reconnect with graduate alumni, the Graduate School team hosted an inaugural Alumni Reunion in April 2015 and plan visits with alumni when traveling to other professional meetings. The 2016 Graduate Alumni Reunion will be April 8-9, 2016. A Graduate School Alumni Tailgate is scheduled for Nov. 21 prior to the Iowa State game; graduate faculty are encouraged to attend and network with our alumni. We started sending quarterly alumni e-newsletters, so we encourage alumni to keep their email addresses with us current.

The Graduate School team will continue to work to find creative ways to accomplish our 2025 goals. We appreciate your dedication to advance a culture of excellence that attracts highly talented, diverse graduate students and produces graduates recognized as outstanding in their respective professions. Please contact me at any time with questions, concerns or suggestions to further advance our graduate students and programs as we work to become a Top 50 public research university.

Carol Shanklin, dean of the Graduate School