Graduate Programs

Diane Clemens-Knott

At the 2009 workshop on Strengthening Your Geoscience Program, working groups of participants met to address topics of concern. This page is a summary of one working group's discussion.


  • How do you support undergraduate teaching with Ph.D. requirements as well?
  • How do you get high-quality graduate students to come?
  • How do address graduate student morale and work ethics?
  • How to establish a Ph.D. program?
  • How to increase graduate program while maintaining a "standard" geology undergraduate program?
  • How to recruit students when you can't offer a competitive financial package?
  • Why are students coming to graduate school anyway?

Themes to focus on:

Two broad questions:

  1. Improve numbers and quality of applicants?
  2. How to foster a "traditional" graduate culture?

What are some examples of departmental efforts in this area?

  • College provides funds for a graduate recruitment weekend to fly graduate students in for a Thurs, Fri, Sat experience; >50% of applicants who participate in this weekend enroll.
  • Networking.
    • *Advisors networking for their students.*
    • Professional meetings: brochures, "gimmes," booths at GSA (applicants say they met people at GSA).
      • Booths: not clear how well they work; if you're going to do it, make sure that it's done well; students & staff are probably more effective than faculty in terms of staffing the booth.
    • Website indicating "where are our graduate students now?"
    • Field trip with current students, faculty, alums and faculty from other institutions (networking).

Assessing these efforts:

  • Need to collect data to find out from the current graduate students:
    1. how they heard about the program;
    2. why they chose to apply to the program.

What are some ideas for making this work better?

  • Webpage for graduate students:
    1. prospective students
    2. information for current students
    3. get current students to post information about their current research
  • Make sure that undergraduates test-drive any web site that could be visited by prospective graduate students.
  • Website: include news, current events, makes the department more exciting for outsiders.
  • Make sure you track alums yourself; the institution may not want to release the information.

To foster "appropriate" culture:

  • - require graduate students to participate in an annual field trip
  • - weekly coffee hour on Mondays; weekly seminar on Fridays
  • - graduate students sign up for course credit for colloquium; attendance is taken
  • - graduate students are required to give talks in department colloquium
  • - need to be consequences for not attending weekly seminar
  • - offer 3 or 4 summer fellowships for grad students (combination of institutional and dept. funding); only students who are active and constructive members of the community (attending seminars, etc.) will be considered for fellowships.
  • -make graduate students as much a part of the dept. as possible: arrange opportunities for faculty to listen to graduate students
  • -regularly scheduled meetings where faculty *listen* to graduate students
  • -graduate student lounge (all sciences can use it; centrally located if the institution doesn't have numbers to support a lounge for each department)
  • -integrate "full-time" grads with "part-time" grads using field trips, evening (4:00ish) seminars, etc., so that the non-traditional students are able to participate if they want to
  • -requiring a graduate student seminar their first year; different faculty teach it each year; but all first-year students must take it 1st semester.
  • -start first semester with an overnight field trip
  • -give graduate students a document of "graduate student expectations"
  • -teach a "research methods" class that all graduate students take (to produce graduate student research proposal as end product) as early as possible
  • -required first-year sequence: 1st semester = field trips, papers, etc.; 2nd semester = write your research proposal!
  • -communal suffering can help to foster culture!

What resources regarding this topic would you want to see on the website?

  • -Statements of graduate student expectations
  • -Links to department webpages
  • -Links to information about first-year graduate courses
  • -Bullet lists of recruitment, promotion
  • -Bullet lists of ideas about how to promote a graduate student culture.

What is your plan for the future?

  • -Potential workshop on M.S. programs (recruitment, retention, programs, etc.).
  • -Learn from graduate students why they're coming to graduate school, and what their expectations and needs are.
  • -Workshops on graduate programs in general... Ways to help graduate students, recruit them, foster culture, etc.