As we enter the fall 2017 semester, we are welcoming about 160 new graduate students, for a total of approximately 610 or 615 graduate students distributed roughly evenly across the three schools. This is a 17% increase in enrollment over last year. I am also very pleased to welcome our newest graduate groups – Management of Innovation, Sustainability, and Technology (MIST) in SOE and Economics in SSHA. Our relations with donors continue to grow, and this year we were delighted to receive a five-year gift to support GradSlam as well as additional fellowship funds. Graduate student space is on everyone’s minds, and I am pleased to report that the space gurus have been able to create 50 new graduate student workspaces in COB1 and 2 (coming online the week of Aug 14), and are working on additional space options to tide us over until the new buildings come online.
I would like to call your attention to the newly revised Graduate Policies and Procedures Handbook (previously known as the Graduate Advisor’s Handbook), with many thanks to the members of the Graduate Council and staff who have dedicated time over the past 3 years to revising this document. If you haven’t looked at it, please also review the Graduate Council’s Mentoring Guidelines, which has become a model for many of our sister campuses.
We are shifting the way we present some of our GEARS professional development programming, moving from individual offerings to a professional development course that encompasses many of our most useful sessions, to be led by Associate Dean Chris Kello. Students are welcome to register for the course to receive credit for attendance and engagement in seminar exercises. Alternatively, they may attend any of the seminars and workshops individually without registering, and they will still benefit from the information and discussion in those sessions. In particular, I want to remind everyone to send your students to the workshops on applying for predoctoral funds that will be part of the course (and remember, we provide students a $200 incentive when they apply for major national predoctoral fellowships or other fellowships/dissertation grants valued at $12,000 or more). We also plan to build upon last year’s popular National Labs Day with a Humanities/Social Science Jobs Day in late October, and a Data Science Day in the spring.
Our (mostly virtual) Graduate Resource Center, entering its second year of operation, offers our students a variety of services including a library of successful fellowship proposals for students to review (please send your students to look at these!), writing and statistical tutors, and our GradEXCEL peer mentorship program for new doctoral students. We piloted the mentorship program last year with excellent results, and we look forward to continuing the program this year with expanded training for the advanced graduate students who serve as mentors. We also piloted our Competitive Edge Summer Bridge program in 2016, and expanded it this year with a generous donation from the Hearst Foundation that supports 20 new students—most of whom are first generation or underrepresented in their field—for two months of summer research and professional development. Our new Mellon Foundation grant, which we co-lead with the Division of Undergraduate Education and SSHA, supports undergraduate research training with faculty in the humanities and humanistic social sciences and prepares undergraduates for graduate school. This program got off to a fabulous start over the spring and summer and we look forward to its continued growth in the future. Our Luce Foundation Planning Grant with SSHA has also allowed us to develop a university-community steering committee to plan for preparing humanities graduate students to engage in community-embedded research. This fall, we are finalizing a full proposal to the Luce Foundation.
In addition to these initiatives, I am leading a NSF INCLUDES launch and design pilot in northern California to increase the numbers of Latinos/as in computer science programs at all levels, from community college through graduate school. I also hosted an NSF INCLUDES conference on this topic in DC this past March. With colleagues from across the campus, I am heading up a NSF National Research Training: Innovations in Graduate Education project on Interdisciplinary Computational Graduate Education. We launched the NRT program last year and will expand it this coming year. Last year’s cohort included students from QSB, Physics, Mechanical Engineering, EECS, BEST, Cognitive & Information Sciences, and Interdisciplinary Humanities. Please encourage your first-year doctoral students who are interested in computational work and who are members of underrepresented groups in your field or first-generation students to apply – we will advertise in fall, hold a launch in December, and host our program in the spring. The program is designed to provide social support, multiple mentors, instruction in key programming languages and platforms, and instruction in project management and team science—all while students work in interdisciplinary teams on projects suggested by our advisory board members from industry and the National Laboratories. Ultimately, our goal is to prepare students for jobs in industry/labs or to be faculty who are great partners with industry/labs and to increase retention of a diverse population of graduate students in computational fields.
This summer the UC Graduate Divisions were collectively awarded a grant from the Council of Graduate Schools to track the success of our alumni and better prepare doctoral students for a variety of careers. As that research progresses, I’ll be sure to keep you updated. Another UC-wide initiative concerns graduate student well-being. Each campus has conducted a Graduate Student Well-being Survey. Across the system and at UC Merced, key issues that emerged included mental health, housing and food insecurities, and mentoring and advisor-advisee relations. In response, last year I met with faculty in most of the graduate groups to discuss mentoring, and I will maintain this focus during the coming year. In addition, the Graduate Division is collaborating with partners across campus to develop improved health and wellness programs for graduate students.
I look forward to working with all of you to further advance graduate education at UC Merced this year. Please feel free to contact me anytime with your ideas and concerns.
Best wishes for a wonderful semester!
Marjorie S. Zatz
Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education
Professor of Sociology, SSHA