Invitation to the graduate faculty

Patrick S. Osmer — January 31, 2011

Pat Osmer

Dear Colleagues:

I’m writing directly to you, as members of the graduate faculty, in an experiment to reach out so we can discuss important issues facing us in graduate education. 

Many of you are very aware that we’re in the midst of rapid changes in graduate education. On the global level, more and more countries are making significant investments to increase the number of their citizens with graduate degrees. At the state and national levels, the economy and external calls for accountability are driving changes in how graduate education is structured and assessed.

My activities over the past year, including my new role as board chair for the Council of Graduate Schools, have brought these trends and other opportunities to the forefront of my thinking. I want to bring them to yours so that we can have graduate faculty-level discussions about what purpose and function graduate education, graduate degrees, and graduate degree programs have at Ohio State.

To give you a few specific examples, here are four top-level matters that have caught my attention:

  • Graduate education is increasingly important to U.S. competitiveness and workforce. Careers demanding advanced degrees are estimated to grow by 2.5 million by 2018. In 2007, 90 percent of graduate degrees awarded were master’s,  and the fastest growing part of graduate education is at the master’s level.
  • The U.S. cannot take its leadership in graduate education for granted. Many countries, notably China, India, Australia, and in the EU, have made dramatic strides in developing graduate programs that are (or will be) competing effectively for the best students from around the globe.
  • Changing demographics in the U.S. population demand that we rethink how we attract and retain an increasingly diverse talent pool of graduate students.
  • With the attrition rate for doctoral degrees overall at over 40 percent, the expense and time associated with graduate training are increasingly under scrutiny.

This information is taken from the recently released report, The Path Forward: The Future of Graduate Education in the United States, by the Commission on the Future of Graduate Education. I served on the commission, and I encourage you to look at the report for critical data about the current situation in graduate education nationally.

The next step will be for us, as graduate faculty members, to engage in conversations about these and other trends, to thoughtfully examine what we’re currently doing in our graduate programs, and to determine where we need to go.

Let me give you a few examples of the type of questions I believe we need to discuss.

  • What are the appropriate directions for international efforts at the graduate level?
  • How and what type of professionally oriented master’s programs should we develop?
  • How should we be preparing our doctoral students appropriately for their career options in the 21st century?
  • What might a forward-looking master’s or Ph.D. program look like?
  • What recruitment and retention practices need to be developed or put into practice?
  • What is the purpose today of graduate education and the different graduate degrees – master’s, doctoral, professional (including practice oriented)?
  • What are our enrollment targets going forward for master’s and doctoral students? How do they relate to projected needs for academic and non-academic employment?

I consider the Graduate School’s role here to be that of a catalyst and to bring information to your attention. The goal of this exercise is to start the conversation. And, through these conversations, to determine if we have uncovered the right questions that will help you and your graduate programs and colleges to come up with plans that address the current state and future of graduate education at Ohio State. 

The link below makes it possible for you to comment on this post, read other comments from your colleagues, and access relevant resources. I’m planning additional posts about professional master’s programs, doctoral education in the 21st century, and recruiting, mentoring, and retaining graduate students. I will send you a direct message when I post a new topic.

While our discussions are taking place here, I will talk with the college deans about creating opportunities for the faculty to engage in these conversations at the college and graduate program level. One idea that has already been raised is having forums on campus to engage in these topics face to face.

I’m excited about this opportunity to engage with you in more direct ways and to initiate this conversation about issues that we are committed to as graduate educators. Please participate.




Patrick S. Osmer is vice provost of graduate studies and dean of the Graduate School at Ohio State. He is also currently serving as chair of the board of directors for the Council of Graduate Schools. Osmer was chair of the Ohio State astronomy department from 1993-2006.


Showing comments 1 to 10 of 56 | Next | Last
C. Patrick Woliver
Re: Invitation to the Graduate Faculty
Mon January 31, 2011, 12:32:25
I look forward to participating in this discussion particularly related to the professional masters option and its relevance to music.

Joseph P. Heremans
graduate education
Mon January 31, 2011, 12:51:41
A major improvement would be for faculty to be able to focus the fraction of their time that is devoted to research on true research. This means decreasing the amount of time we spend on project management, the logistics of hiring students and post-docs, equipment and supply purchases, research group finances, and even gettting more grant dollars - which implies a change in success criteria used by our departments. The focus of our attention must be on the core scientific part of the research, which is also the core of the actual education of graduate students.

Similarly, the graduate students themselves should be able to focus on the one distinguishable feature of graduate education: the task of conducting and finishing a complete research assignment autonmously, in this case their thesis. Graduate level coursework can distract from that, especially when the research departs a little from a department's traditional strengths. This is bound to happen more and more as interdepartmental and interdisciplinary research is encouraged.
Sampath Parthasarathy, Ph.D, MBA
Graduate School
Mon January 31, 2011, 13:00:06
1. US undergraduates don't consider going to graduate school as they consider it a) waste of time for the money, b) inferior to professional courses (medicine/law/business, and c) think that they lack the discipline and training.
2. I have trained 18 graduate students and my son is a professor of Physics. Foreign graduate students is a mixed bag. They are more interested in education and spend less time in other activities, buthave problems in a) maturity, b) business sense, c) language skills, d) social adjustments, e) national pride, f) long term thinking and commitment, g) visa and other problems.
3. Medical schools and professinal schools themselves treat graduate education as a waste and see research as activity they can persue if they have time/money.
4. Poorly paid at all levels (graduate student/postdoctoral/faculty) in basic science deter undergraduates to go into a science career.
5. Graduate school curriculum is outdated. Students spend too much time in meaningless classes (most often arranged to keep faculty involvement/teaching commitment up to date rather than real learning_ rather than learning any practical application. Innovation/ideas/technology has taken a backseat to worthless classroom education.
6. This is the first medical school I have seen in my 35 years career that doesn't have nutirion as a part of medical school! It is in Education and human ecolofy?
7. If I were to choose my career again, I wouldn't go to graduate school either. Mediocracy triumphs and administration wins over academics!
Jeff Chalmers
Mon January 31, 2011, 19:12:15
As long as research dollars, generated by faculty, are used to support graduate students, the education of graduate students will be a secondary priority compared to the focus on getting more money and getting research results that are needed to justify the next grant application.
A fundamental restructuring of how graduate students are supported is needed to change how they are educated. Like most things in life, the "gold rules"
Mike Edwards
No such thing as "graduate school"
Wed February 02, 2011, 11:44:58
I'll be very curious to hear what comes of this initiative. One thing to keep in mind at the outset, and it is one of the things that I believe makes the problem(s) so difficult, is that getting a PhD in music and getting on in physics probably have very little in common. After thinking a bit about the questions posted above it seems like they will need to be tailored to individual programs (or clusters of related programs).
Belinda Gimbert
International Graduate Student
Wed February 02, 2011, 22:30:10
I was an international graduate student, now an associate professor in Educational Administration, College of Education and Human Ecology (The home of Nutrition) and am the parent of two female international undergraduate and graduate students who are now working in the U.S. as an architect/structural engineer and an occupational therapist. I landed at Penn State University by sheer luck. I did not experience a systematic recruitment process to a U.S university, possibly because I am from Australia and it my well be the assumption that Australians go to graduate school in Australia. However, there is a ready market for recruiting high quality potential graduate students from Australia, many of whom are Asians and have completed a K-12 education, followed by an undergraduate program in Australia. Four needs/actions come to mind: (1) We need strategic and systematic recruitment through partnerships with Australian universities; (2) we need options that afford viable financial support for international students and less road blocks for working while studying in the U.S.; (3) we need skilled advising for masters and doctoral students to ensure program completion; and (4) we need to invest in technology that links eLearning and mlearning to advance the delivery of coursework, research and service for global masters and doctoral students. They do not all need to live in the U.S. while completing their OSU programs.
Steven Conn
Putting Ourselves Out of Business
Fri February 04, 2011, 10:48:28
Dean Osmer,

It is a terrific idea to turn the question of the future of graduate education into a faculty-wide discussion. Thanks so much.

It is undoubtedly true that the issues facing graduate education vary pretty widely across campus. Speaking, therefore, only from the perspective of the Arts & Sciences, I think we need to look pretty seriously at the collapsing job market and our role (as producers of PhDs) in perpetuating it.

The supply of PhDs seems to me to be totally disconnected from the demand for them. If we factor in the attrition rate in PhD programs, which in some disciplines reaches 40-50%, the rate at which students who start a program and complete a PhD then wind up in academic jobs stands at about 20-25%. That's a pretty appalling success rate.

By continuing to increase supply, even while demand stagnates, we do all of our disciplines a disservice and in every direction. I hope we can talk about the relationship between our programs and the national crisis of the job market.

EJ Behrman
Grade Inflation
Wed February 16, 2011, 08:34:27
The Graduate School rule that mandates a B average has, in my view, an effect opposite to its intended purpose. In my experience here(45 years), graduate courses are frequently graded at a lower standard than undergraduate ones because of a reluctance to put graduate students "in trouble." And what should the policy be in courses which contain both graduate and undergraduate students? I recommend abolishing the B average rule and letting the students' records speak for themselves. Is it also possible that the B rule is in violation of Faculty Rule 3335-7-21 which defines a C as the average grade?
Thu April 19, 2012, 03:16:54
Steve -I went to a public soochl and came out not owing a dime to anybody (paid about $60 per speed level). Also took and passed one of the lowest CSR pass rate tests in CA I believe around 8 to 10 percent passed that one. I have friends in online soochls who after a year are still in THEORY! Our theory was self-paced and just took a few months. There is no glory or bragging rights to which soochl you attend. We all have to take the same state test and pass it accordingly. School is just a place to get speed dictation and pass tests go to the cheapest one you can find +2Was this answer helpful?
Earn Money Fast Legally
Mon October 14, 2013, 15:18:02
You really make it appear really easy with your presentation however I in finding this matter to be actually something that I feel I'd never understand. It kind of feels too complicated and extremely extensive for me. I'm having a look forward in your next post, I'll try to get the grasp of it!
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