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2000 and Beyond

At the opening of a new century, the Rackham Graduate School demonstrated an ongoing commitment to the core Michigan values of the past century while continuously improving the quality of graduate education in a rapidly changing world of new knowledge and new technology. This decade opened with the decision to renovate the building, saw redoubled effort devoted to ensuring equal access to higher education, and by the decade’s end the Graduate School had developed new services and projects dedicated to the success of graduate students at our university.

Graduate students elected to the Bouchet Honor Society in 2009

Graduate students elected to the Bouchet Honor Society in 2009 were (left to right): Joy Oguntebi, Jonathan Madison, Krystal Williams, Flannery Stevens, Reginald Rogers, RaShonda Flint, Kristine Molisa, and Haijing Dai.

In 2000 building renovations began in earnest with the financial support of the central administration. In the following year operations moved off campus to the Argus Building while the historic structure was closed and experienced a two-year makeover. Many of the public spaces were returned to their original style and splendor; equally important were much-needed infrastructure improvements. The initial décor and character were preserved or recreated wherever possible while at the same time twenty-first century technology for multimedia instruction was incorporated in the improved use of space. When the building reopened in 2003 the second floor study halls and library returned to student use. The magnificent Auditorium on the main floor, and the Amphitheatre and conference rooms on the fourth floor, returned to almost constant use for student events, performances, lectures and conferences.

Participants in the 2007 Summer Research Opportunity Program.

Participants in the 2007 Summer Research Opportunity Program.

The Graduate School was an active participant in many national initiatives to improve graduate education. From 2001-2005, Michigan participated in the five-year Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate (CID) which aimed to support, document and analyze innovations in doctoral education at leading programs. In 2001, Rackham joined the Responsive PhD project sponsored by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. In 2004, the Graduate School became one of the original research partners in the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS)’s Ph.D. Completion Project, a research program working to understand graduate student retention and completion rates. In 2004 Rackham received $6 million from NSF for a collaboration with three other Michigan universities to encourage underrepresented minority students to enter doctoral programs in science and engineering (AGEP). The Mellon Foundation continued to support Rackham initiatives in the humanities, including targeted recruiting activities, Michigan Society of Fellows, and postdoctoral opportunities at Kalamazoo and Oberlin Colleges. Michigan is one of the largest recipients of NSF IGERT grants.

The university as a whole remained in the public eye through much of the decade as a battleground for the value of diversity in higher education and access to higher education for all in the U.S. Two lawsuits filed in 1997 challenged the university’s right to use race as a factor in admissions policies and they were joined as they made their way to the Supreme Court. Just as in the prior three decades, the Graduate School, along with all the other schools and colleges at U-M, engaged in promoting the value of diversity before and after the Court’s decision in 2003 that race can be a factor in some circumstances in admissions decisions. Rackham leadership and staff intensified their efforts to understand discrepancies in admissions and completion rates, and to develop modes of eliminating them. In 2006 voters in Michigan passed Proposal 2, amending the Michigan Constitution to ban public institutions from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public education, public employment, or public contracting. The Graduate School met the challenge with significant changes in qualifying criteria for Rackham Merit Fellowships. Funding was reallocated to students who experienced financial hardship, were first generation college graduates, first generation citizens, or who came from an educational, cultural or geographic background that is underrepresented in graduate study in their disciplines.

Throughout course of this decade Rackham developed programs and resources to facilitate the success of all graduate students, no matter their backgrounds. In 2006 Dean Weiss initiated the Rackham Program Review. The Rackham deans meet once every four years with the leadership of the graduate degree programs to discuss successes and strategize ways to improve outcomes. That same year she opened a new office within the Graduate School, Graduate Student Success, offering a continuum of services from recruitment through placement. At the same time, the Dean sponsored other initiatives that involved faculty but worked toward the same goal: improving the graduate student experience and facilitating student success. Rackham also expanded the funding available to students for conference travel and research, and moved to the electronic submission of dissertations.

At the beginning of this new millennium the Graduate School at U-M had a far different role at the university than it had when it began to form in the early years of the 1900s. The sheer scale of the fundamental operation is notable: in 2009-2010, there were 789 doctoral degrees and 1,901 master’s degrees awarded.