Investing in Our Future
As one of the nation’s leading research institutions, investing in graduate education and research is of utmost importance. With federal budget proposals cutting back on funding across all disciplines, and during an era when discovery and learning are, as the Chancellor recently noted, “under attack,” many of our peer institutions are tightening the purse strings. We are, however, renewing our commitment. Over the next several years, we will be building a $300 million endowment to enhance Vanderbilt’s excellence in graduate education and research.
As the Chancellor announced at the 2017 Spring Faculty Assembly on April 6, we will establish:
- an endowment to create new graduate Ph.D. scholarships
- an endowment to support graduate student career development
- an endowment to launch and sustain global engagement, and interdisciplinary and trans-institutional research
- a matching endowment to create new endowed chairs and faculty fellows
These general categories for investment were identified through a multi-pronged process with input from all schools and colleges. Given the transformative nature of these initiatives, I believe it is important to review how the categories were identified and how we will further develop and refine the plans.
The Chancellor first announced this commitment at the 2016 Fall Faculty Assembly and then asked me to launch a process for gathering feedback on how to deploy investments. As announced in December, each school and college dean created a faculty-based process within their unit. In a rapid-cycle, this generated nine independent sets of recommendations. Additional input was then gathered from two important graduate education stakeholder groups: the Graduate Faculty Council and the Graduate Student Council.
In January, I charged an ad hoc committee to deliberate—at an institutional level—on the input submitted by the schools and colleges, particularly considering the following: 1) What actions or strategies will have the most impact 10 years from now? 2) How will this achieve excellence versus “spreading the peanut butter?” 3) How will the strategy ensure accountability? 4) How will the strategy support our Academic Strategic Plan and our efforts in equity, diversity and inclusion? The ad hoc committee then recommended the four general thematic categories listed above for priority investment that would enable inclusive, broad-based actions focused on building excellence. Their brief report will soon be posted on the Provost web site.
So, what comes next? Over the summer, I will work with the deans to draft an implementation process to further refine the plans. The future of our efforts in global engagement and interdisciplinary research will also be greatly informed by the forthcoming report from the International Strategy Working Group. I am impressed with how broadly the co-chairs Ingrid Wuerth and Ted Fischer, and the committee members are engaging with the entire campus community to create their recommendations – from town halls to brain-storm lunches to faculty surveys.
Importantly, the final designs for graduate Ph.D. scholarship and education programs, along with new research initiatives, will be developed through faculty, staff and student working groups. These working groups will be assembled this coming fall – please write to me directly if you want to volunteer to be involved. I will host a town hall at the beginning of the fall semester to kick off this in-depth design phase and charge the working groups.
By building an endowment of $300M for graduate education and research, the Chancellor is making an inspired and unprecedented commitment to our faculty, students and staff. Moreover, the work of faculty, staff and student design committees over the next couple years will lay the foundation for the future of our institution. It is truly an exciting time to be at Vanderbilt!
Susan R. Wente
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