What is Rackham?
The Rackham Graduate School is the home of graduate education at the University of Michigan. More than 8,200 students are enrolled in Rackham’s 108 Ph.D., 87 master’s, and 34 certificate programs situated within the schools and colleges of the University. The Rackham Graduate School awards all of the University’s Ph.D., M.A., M.S., and M.F.A. degrees, as well as other selected master’s degrees. Another 7,000 students are enrolled in graduate-professional degree programs in other schools and colleges of the University.
What the Rackham Graduate School Does
The Rackham Graduate School promotes graduate education as an enterprise shared among the schools and colleges of the University of Michigan. Many faculty and graduate students cross fields, disciplines and academic units to advance research and scholarship. The Graduate School supports this dynamic environment by enabling links among the schools and colleges, and by connecting graduate students with the resources they need to succeed.
The Rackham Graduate School
- works to enhance the quality of the graduate student experience. The Graduate School provides workshops on issues that touch the lives and well-being of graduate students and supports initiatives for promoting graduate student success.
- advances graduate education by providing funding for graduate students, graduate programs, and faculty, and by recognizing and honoring excellence.
- provides centralized services for graduate education that contribute to the efficiency of the University. Such services include admitting students, maintaining degree standards and policy, reviewing and evaluating academic programs and practices, and doing institutional research on graduate education that influences policy and program development within the University and across the nation.
- collaborates nationally and internationally with other universities and higher education organizations, and provides leadership on issues and policies that concern graduate education.
- makes available a building recognized nationwide as an architectural treasure. The Rackham Building, a gathering point open to all graduate students, sustains collegiality and community within one of the most lively, comprehensive and diverse research universities in the world.
Graduate Education at the University of Michigan
In 1936, Dean Clarence S. Yoakum, the first Dean of the Rackham Graduate School, observed that:
Graduate work is not merely courses and laboratories; rather that it is always a new form of human relation with knowledge.
The University of Michigan was among the first research universities in the United States. Graduate study was central to the University’s commitment to advance knowledge through the production of original research and the training of students for independent and original scholarship and investigation. Michigan’s first Master of Arts degree was conferred in 1849 and the first PhDs in 1876-the first doctorate awarded by a public university in the United States. As more students elected to pursue advanced degrees, the need was recognized to administer graduate work in a systematic way. In 1912 a separate Graduate Department was created that was independent of the University’s individual academic units.
The Rackham Graduate School
Horace H. Rackham was an attorney who drew up the papers of incorporation for the Ford Motor Company. He became one of the original twelve shareholders of Ford and a member of the Board of Directors. Upon his retirement, Horace and his wife Mary made philanthropy their chief interest. His will set aside a portion of their wealth to establish the Horace and Mary Rackham Fund to “carry out and administer the benevolent, charitable, educational, and scientific trust created by Horace H. Rackham to promote the health, welfare, happiness, education, training, and development of men, women and children… regardless of race, in the world….”
In 1935, University President Alexander Ruthven proposed to the Rackham Trustees that the Fund provide an endowment for a Graduate School to support fellowship and research support, as well as funds for a building that would bring faculty and graduate students together for intellectual exchange across disciplinary boundaries. The Rackham Building was dedicated in 1938. The architect, William Kapp of Smith, Hinchman & Gryllis, noted:
The Graduate School Building is neutral territory. In discussion rooms, lecture halls, and attractive lounging and common rooms the boundaries between subjects are less evident. The possibility of intellectual recreation is evident, and the specialist has opportunity to become a scholar.
The Rackham Fund’s trustees also allocated a $4 million endowment to fund faculty research and fellowship support in the Graduate School. At the time, the Endowment was the largest gift ever in support of graduate education in the United States.
The flexibility of Rackham funds has allowed successive deans to launch new projects and provide seed money for major initiatives that benefit the wider University. The Ford School of Public Policy, the School of Social Work, and the Bentley Historical Library, among others, benefited from Graduate School funding and administrative oversight at crucial stages of their development.
Funding from the Rackham Graduate School has also fostered the development of over twenty path-breaking graduate programs in which faculty work with graduate students in emergent fields that cut across the disciplinary and administrative structures of the University. Over the years, interdepartmental degree and certificate programs have been developed in such interdisciplinary fields as Biophysics, Anthropology and History, Neuroscience, Design Science, Social Work and Social Science, Complex Systems, Museum Studies, and Nanoscience and Technology. In recent years, Rackham has supported endeavors such as the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute and the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute.
The Rackham Graduate School has an Executive Board of fourteen faculty members who meet semimonthly during the academic year. Twelve are elected for three-year terms by faculty of the Ann Arbor campus, representing each of the four divisions of the Graduate School: Biological and Health Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Humanities and the Arts. In addition, the Board includes one faculty representative from the Flint campus and one from the Dearborn campus, each of which has Rackham programs. The Rackham Dean serves as chair and is also a member of the Board. In addition to providing advice to the Dean regarding the operations of the Graduate School, the Rackham Executive Board oversees and approves academic policy, proposals for new degree and certificate programs, decisions of Rackham faculty panels for student fellowships and awards, and applications to the Rackham faculty grants programs.
The Rackham Board of Governors annually allocates and approves the income generated by the Rackham Endowment. They are responsible for overseeing investment of the Rackham Endowment and for policies concerning use of the Rackham Funds and the Rackham building. The Governors consist of five members, including the President of the University, who serves as Chair, the Graduate School Dean, who serves as Secretary, and three external members who serve six year terms and are chosen by the Governors.
Five units are affiliated with Rackham and report to the Graduate School Dean: the ADVANCE program, the Arts of Citizenship, the Institute for Human Adjustment, the Michigan Quarterly Review, and the Michigan Society of Fellows.