With commencement right around the corner, there's a sense of closure around the Graduate School office — and this year, it's not just our graduating students who are enjoying it. We've just finished up a couple of major projects. After more than a year of intensive data gathering, we're celebrating our completion of the National Research Council survey of research doctorate programs. And I've closed out my term as president of the Western Association of Gradate Schools (WAGS), which culminated in hosting the annual conference in March.
The conference was a great success. Thanks to our talented staff, and due in part to the scenic wonders of the Great Northwest, we had record attendance — deans and other leaders from close to 100 of the west's top universities. The program was timely, and the speakers received excellent reviews.
One of the benefits of being WAGS president is a seat on the Executive Committee of the Council of Graduate Schools. From that position, I've been privileged to participate in policymaking that reaches far beyond my usual realm. These days, one of the most far-reaching issues in graduate education is America's investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — referred to as STEM education and enterprise. The US leadership in these fields is critically challenged, threatening our country's position in the 21st century global economy.
The WAGS conference tackled this complicated issue with a variety of sessions on raising graduate program competitiveness. We were honored to have Representative David Wu, one of Oregon's five congressional representatives, as a contributor to the discussions. He reported significant bipartisan support for a pair of bills aimed at increasing funding for the National Science Foundation and improving the preparation of secondary math and science teachers. Conference participants welcomed the opportunity to brief the congressman on the role graduate schools play in producing highly skilled STEM professionals, the backbone of America's most competitive industries.
The keynote speaker on competitiveness was Debra Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. She presented statistics showing the rapid growth of European and Asian graduate programs as compared with American programs. One factor is the European Union's Bologna Process, a massive effort to draw more students from all over the world to European institutions of higher learning. Under the Bologna Process, European programs are being restructured in ways that present challenges to us in the U.S. American graduate schools have always required a four-year undergraduate degree, but with countries like Germany beginning to graduate more Ph.D.s than the US, that policy is being reconsidered.
Prior to the WAGS conference, Stewart spent a day at OSU, meeting with the provost's council and representatives of international programs, and giving a public lecture. Stewart is a world leader in graduate education, and we were honored by her visit and the insight she shared.
As the outgoing president of WAGS, I'll spend one more year on the Council of Graduate Schools. I've enjoyed this chance to work with leaders from other great research universities, using our influence to leverage support for the programs that fuel American ingenuity.
This issue of Open Minds is full of stories that highlight the potential leadership that we're nourishing in our graduate programs. We've profiled six OSU graduate students who are making significant contributions to their fields, from public health to fish health ecology. Inspiration of a different sort comes in our feature on OSU's first Faculty Mentor Award. And we bring you the penultimate chapter in the saga of the National Research Council survey. By next December, we should have the final outcome: OSU's rating among American's top 200 research universities.
We hope you enjoy this issue of Open Minds. If you have any thoughts you'd like to pass on about this newsletter or future issues, please drop us a note. Thanks, as always, for your support.
Sally Francis, Ph.D.
Dean, OSU Graduate School