100 Years and Counting. In 1912, a separate school of graduate studies was established at the University of Michigan to be responsible for assuring consistent standards of quality across all graduate programs, with the ultimate goal of preparing students for careers in academia.
Today, Michigan’s graduate programs are renowned for both their excellence and their diversity, in every sense of the word. U-M is not only one of the largest producers of Ph.D.s in the nation, but is also among America’s top-ranked universities in the number of doctoral degrees granted to members of underrepresented groups. Michigan offers 83 master’s and 108 doctoral programs ranging from the arts and humanities to the biomedical sciences, engineering, the social sciences, and the physical sciences. Our longstanding focus on interdisciplinary and international graduate programs, which began more than 50 years ago, has made the university an exemplar among our peers.
During the past century, the Graduate School has continued to provide new and meaningful ways of adding value to graduate education at the University of Michigan, making innovative, well thought out interventions guided by faculty; nurturing interdisciplinary and international programs; and supporting the intellectual entrepreneurism of graduate students from every discipline.
The Graduate School Today: A Unique Role for a Unique Time
A hundred years ago, even 50 years ago, the world was a much more predictable and stable place for graduate students. Career paths tended to be straight and narrow. Graduate students of the 21st century find themselves in a vastly different landscape. In addition to focusing on the training of future faculty, today’s graduate programs must prepare students to pursue a broad array of careers in cultural institutions, government agencies, business and industry, research organizations, and the visual and performing arts.
Ideally, graduate students will leave the university equipped to succeed in a progression of jobs in which creativity, adaptability, critical thinking, technological expertise, and the ability to communicate effectively are among the most prized skills.
The Mission: Providing Leadership, Access and Flexible Support
The history of graduate education is, in many ways, a history of paradigm shift. Some of the interdisciplinary programs introduced in recent years would have been beyond imagining even a generation ago.
Through it all, the Graduate School has provided a highly regarded and reliable source of leadership, working to assure that graduate students and faculty at the University of Michigan have the ability to go where they need to go and do what they need to do. At the same time, the School has worked unceasingly to enhance access to education across every matrix: race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and socioeconomic status.
Each year, the Graduate School collaborates with faculty and senior administrators across campus to foster new programs and fund new initiatives such as the Global Engagement of Doctoral Education, an effort to prepare Ph.D. students for the international dimensions of a research career, and the Bridge Master’s Program, an effort to recruit to the sciences exceptional students who might not otherwise consider graduate school.
Equally important, the School distributes millions of dollars in financial support to graduate students in the form of:
- Major fellowships
- Research awards
- Travel grants for academic conferences
- Summer stipends
- Emergency grants and loans
- Funding for interdisciplinary workshops and innovative academic pursuits
In 2010 alone, Graduate School awards enabled more than 5,000 students to enrich their education by, among other things, sponsoring interdisciplinary performances, purchasing equipment for marine research, renting telescope time at an astrophysical observatory, pursuing research at specialized archives around the world, presenting findings at professional conferences, collecting data in remote parts of the world, teaching math and English to at-risk children, and informing policy debates in government agencies.
Imperatives: Meeting the Challenge of the Future
What lies ahead? While we cannot predict the future of graduate education with absolute accuracy, we can make some assumptions with a high degree of certainty.
We fully expect that talented people from many backgrounds will continue to flock to the University of Michigan to develop themselves as scholars, scientists, and professionals. Masters programs will grow in popularity as ever more students seek post-baccalaureate study to provide “scaffolding” for high-level careers. Ph.D. students will play an increasingly active role in shaping the form and content of research. And the disciplines will continue to morph and mix as paradigms break down to meet the challenges of each succeeding generation.
In this future, it will be more important than ever for the Graduate School to be a hub within the University where students can thrive, a place where opportunities abound for all, where strategic risk-taking is part of the calculus of new program development, a place where collaboration is the norm, where the best ideas of faculty can move from vision to reality, and where innovative and ambitious graduate students can form alliances, make discoveries, generate knowledge, and launch successful careers.
In the coming century, as in the past century, it will be incumbent upon the Graduate School to support intellectual activity across the disciplines and to provide the means for remarkable people to achieve remarkable things.