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New Ways to Support Graduate Education at Georgetown

Graduate education has undergone important changes over the past decades. The growth of interdisciplinary and professional Masters’ programs has been notable. They offer career preparation and advancement opportunities that cannot be achieved with on-the-job training. PhD programs expand to incorporate new research thrusts and support new research career options.

A ongoing discussion in all research universities is how much of the administration and oversight of graduate programs should be centralized in a unit that is often called a “graduate school” and how much should be dispersed to the faculty running graduate programs and the deans of their schools. Thus, many universities discuss what are the benefits of uniform practices and what are the benefits of variation across programs serving different needs.

In February, 2022, President DeGioia charged a Task Force on the Future of Graduate Studies. Its task was to evaluate the current state of responsibilities of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) on one hand and those of other schools in overseeing graduate education at Georgetown. Of special focus was were fellowships and other means of supporting students, academic oversight of progress toward degree, authority over budget matters. Finally, the task force addressed issues of overall strategic leadership regarding graduate education.

The members of the task force included Alexander Sens, Reena Aggarwal, Leticia Bode, Daniel Byman, Dayo F. Gore, Mary Haras, Jessica Jones, George Luta, Chandra Manning, Steven Metallo, Caleb McKinney, Peter C. Pfeiffer, Nicoletta Pireddu, Shenita Ray, Anna Riegel, Steven Singer, Frank Vella, and Nitin Vaidya.

After months of work, for which we should all be thankful, the task force forwarded a set of recommendations. These were then reviewed by the President. He approved a key set of those recommendations and has asked for faculty input on how best to implement the recommendations.

A short version of the recommendations are that some basic academic decision-making and the authority and responsibility to admit, monitor, and confer degrees on students would be delegated to the schools; the current position of the dean of GSAS would be converted to a new one with enhanced authority over a more restricted set of issues and with responsibility for larger strategic planning around graduate issues; funding and control of PhD stipends would be moved to the schools of the programs; and a new unit would be formed to incubate or permanently house cross-school and cross-campus programs. Finally, the central unit would provide the principal support for student government, clubs, events, DEI initiatives, career services and adjudication of alleged violations of academic integrity for PhD students.

All of this needs extensive input from faculty groups, including the Main Campus Executive Faculty, the GUMC faculty caucus, faculty of the Biomedical Graduate Education program, the current Executive Committee of the Graduate School, and the School deans. Final approval of the Board of Directors will be required.

The task force foresees a future in which Georgetown increases its impact through Masters and PhD degree programs, especially those that represent new combinations of knowledge permitting new discoveries and new ways of serving the world. We thank the task force for their commitment to this goal.

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