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Data and the Graduate School Experience

Chances are you haven’t had much interaction with Rackham Institutional Research. We are typically behind the scenes trying to make sense of numbers and figuring out how to best communicate those numbers with our community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. But you may have taken part in one of our surveys, the Current Student Survey, or if you’re close to graduating you might have participated in the Exit Survey.

Within all these data, there are important stories that contextualize and frame our understanding of the numbers that come across our desks. While we don’t always understand every complexity, we love to learn. And we are striving to learn more.

Over the last year, we have been thinking a lot about how Rackham students experience graduate school. What motivates them to come to Michigan? What are their experiences like once they arrive? How do interactions with advisors, faculty, department staff, and the campus community as a whole frame their development as scholars and practitioners? How does their time at Rackham position them to take on professional and scholarly challenges?

We know there are no easy answers to these questions. The answers are woven within complex narratives situated in your unique experiences, relationships, and goals. But as data people, we would like to start somewhere. There are over 8,300 graduate students in Rackham and your voice matters to us. We want to hear from you.

This fall, we are launching the Michigan Doctoral Experience Study (MDES). This is the first step in thinking about the experiences of our Rackham community in terms of longer horizons and more complex topics. This first year we are seeking to understand the experiences of 1st year Ph.D. students. Eventually, this study will expand to capture all Rackham students in both doctoral and master’s programs. Over time we hope to learn more about your experience after you leave Rackham as you career takes you into new opportunities and challenges.

If you receive an invitation to participate in one of our surveys - whether it is next week or next year - I encourage you to consider participating. You help us understand and frame the work of Rackham. If you don’t receive an invitation, but still want to talk to us about your experience, you can always e-mail us at rackhamir.questions@umich.edu.

Please reach out to us with any questions. Most importantly, if you ever have a question or thought about data and how it relates to your experience, reach out or stop by Rackham to chat. We love data and we love talking to people about it.