Letter from Dean Nancy Busch
When I meet with GSAS alumni, I like to brag about our successes, and a recently compiled listing of student achievements for the academic year 2007-2008 will make that even easier. The record included 161 student presentations at regional, national and international conferences, 54 student publications, and 44 national and international fellowships and awards to GSAS students.
As Fordham strives to enhance her national prominence, such achievements need to be evaluated in context. How do these accomplishments compare to those of Boston College, Georgetown or New York University? The Study of Research Doctoral Programs conducted by the National Research Council (NRC), which is conducted once a decade, is the most complete comparison available for Ph.D. programs—and the graduate school community is anxiously awaiting the results of the most recent study. Widespread criticism of the 1995 NRC results led to a change in the methodology for this most recent NRC study from a focus on reputational surveys to objective information not just on faculty scholarship, but also on program characteristics, such as support for students. Many of these characteristics favor programs with more resources than Fordham, so GSAS faculty questioned whether or not participation in the study was in our best interests. After consultation with key administrators, Joseph McShane, S.J., president of Fordham University, made the decision to participate, indicating that we are serious about evaluating the quality of our Ph.D. programs.
The complexities of both data collection and data analysis from the changed methodology have resulted in delays for the data collection itself and for the results. The delays decrease the usefulness of the results for us because of the changes we have made to our programs since the time of data collection: For example, to improve our financial aid packages, this year we added health insurance and began a pilot program to increase the number of years of financial aid eligibility.
In addition to the NRC study, GSAS looks for other opportunities to obtain benchmarks about the quality of our programs and our student accomplishments. Since 2004, GSAS has been participating in the Ph.D. Completion Study of the Council of Graduate Schools, and the results to date paint a positive picture for many GSAS programs. Our mean time to degree completion is 7.73 years, compared to the national mean of 8.3 years. Our overall 10 year Ph.D. completion is 70 percent, compared to the national average of 57 percent.
In comparing Fordham’s graduate programs in the arts and sciences to national benchmarks, GSAS seeks to improve our programs and to prepare our students and alumni for productive careers and for the application of knowledge to serve the professions, the public and the common good— activities worthy of our Jesuit tradition of education. Thus, any answer to the question, “How is GSAS doing?” should include not only the comparisons to the benchmarks, but also the stories of alumni achievements. This issue of the newsletter captures a subset of those achievements. After reading the stories here, I think that you will agree with my answer: “GSAS is doing well —and doing good.”
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