Final Report: Graduate Council
This past year, the Council approved graduate faculty applications, reviewed student applications for Graduate Travel and Research, Service and Educational Leadership (RSEL) Grants and heard several appeals (mainly for time extensions). There were several decisions and actions that the graduate council acted upon and several discussions and deliberations that need to take place in the future.
I am pleased to report that the Council approved an e-thesis option for the Library to be offered through Minds @ UW. This will allow greater access to student research work and save the student and the Library the fees to store a hard bound copy for circulation (Note: One hard bound copy will still be required as a permanent record). I am also pleased to report that the Graduate Council will financially support student posters for presenting at the Annual Research & Creativity day. There was also a survey completed by approximately 300 students that details their life on campus and the resources that are available to them.
The Council heard a number of appeals (n=6) that tended to center on time extensions. During the course of the year, we worked on an appeal document and flow chart that would allow important educational decisions to take place at the program/department level. While the final approval of this document needs to be completed, it will require programs/departments to closely look at their bylaws to ensure that appropriate safeguards for the student are in place (i.e., a review process before it reaches the Graduate Council). Coupled with these time extension appeals is the uncovering of unequal application of the GRC 799 to all students to indicate continuing enrollment. Frequently a student will request a time extension after not paying fees for several years. This leads to the dilemma on behalf of the Council as to how much “back credit” the student should be charged to create some equity with those students that have been paying their GRC 799 fees all along. This needs to be discussed and hopefully there can be a solution found within the new PeopleSoft system to track and address this for all students.
This decision to bring important decisions closer to the program/department level was initially applied to the approval of graduate faculty status last year. In this case, information from the program directors and department chairs as well as the Deans are critical to make decisions on awarding graduate faculty status as these people are in the best position to evaluate and endorse faculty to teach at the graduate level. This past year, some programs/departments received this critical change in expectations to provide more information while others did not. It will be important to forward a detailed explanation to the program, department and college for their role to play in the endorsement of graduate faculty status.
As part of the Senate charges, VJ Agarwal and I met with Al Trapp of the Foundation to discuss Graduate Studies and the potential role that the foundation could play in financially supporting graduate students. We all agreed that the financial collapse of the market and the fundraising endeavors for the Stadium and Academic Building were the primary focus of the Foundation at the time. However, we talked positively about future opportunities and this led to some preliminary plans for the Fall 2009 to introduce some of the important research and other work that students are completing in their advanced degrees at UW-L. We did not tackle the other charge of the Senate, to advocate to elected officials, as that needs to be coordinated with the entire institution. If this component were required in the future, it would be beneficial to develop talking points that span the undergraduate and graduate vision of the institution so that the collected efforts could be complementary rather than potentially competitive.
Finally, there are a couple of big picture items that need to be addressed. One important area that will need to be a component of next year’s discussions is a focus on English language requirements for graduate students. In my time on the Graduate Council, international students and appeals always hold a unique pressure to meet the time demands of Homeland Security and visa application procedures. This came to a head at the end of the semester when a number of students (n=20) needed to appeal low English language tests in order to be admitted in our graduate programs through our collective agreement with foreign institutions (e.g., Computer Science and Business). In examining our policies, there is one expectation for all students. It would appear that there needs to be a policy for students arriving from these sister programs and another policy for students coming in from the conventional manner. Care will need to be exercised in these discussions so that the English language proficiency expectations based on test scores, indicating a student’s ability to benefit from graduate education, is balanced with anecdotal and class information gleaned from UWL instructors overseas as to the proficiency of the student’s skills. Rather than take one piece of information, it may be important to take into account several pieces of information to provide a clear picture of the student’s abilities.
The second area that will need some time to discuss is what are the criteria to determine full time status for a graduate student. While this may appear to be clear-cut, there are many issues that will need to be considered including the academic workload, the work expectations of a Graduate Assistant (GA), as well as outside commitments. In some cases, the combination of the intense academic workload (including homework) and the time commitment for a GA may exceed the number of hours in a day.
Robert J. Dixon
Chair, Graduate Council