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Graduate School

Letter from the Dean

ann vail

Dear Colleagues:

Welcome back to campus for the new academic year. On July 1 I officially joined the University of South Carolina family. Over the past seven weeks, I have spent my time learning about our students, faculty, and staff in The Graduate School and across our university. If our paths have not crossed, I hope they will soon. I have found enthusiasm and support for graduate education and a genuine interest in continuing to advance our graduate students and our graduate programs. I have much more to learn and look forward to meeting you at various events in the coming months. If you would like to visit with me one-on-one, I am always up for a cup of coffee or tea as well as a meeting in my office.

Over the last few years, I have been reading, thinking, and writing about graduate education. Two authors have been particularly important in guiding my work and helping me think about graduate education for the future. Leonard Cassuto, faculty member at Fordham, and Robert Weisbuch, former president at Drew University and chair and dean at the University of Michigan, have written a thoughtful and well researched book—The New PhD: How to Build a Better Graduate Education.

To facilitate getting to know you and learning about USC graduate education, I invite you to join me in the newly established Graduate Education Reading Groups. We will explore their perspectives and recommendations and determine whether some are applicable to our work at the University of South Carolina. I am envisioning a time where graduate faculty, administrators, and members of the Graduate Student Association come together to discuss the book and identify actions that we can take over the next few years to advance graduate education. We will meet on September 27, October 25, and November 29 from 2:00-3:30 in 322 Russell House. I will provide the book and snacks; you will provide stimulating questions, thoughtful discussion, and a commitment to advancing graduate education. Cassuto and Weisbuch point out in their introduction, “For change to happen, we have to be able to look at the process. We need to see what’s working—and what isn’t. One of the signal lessons of the reforms of the last generation is the need to stay engaged.”

Join me and engage with our colleagues while we identify what is working—and what isn’t. Help chart a course to advance graduate education. During the 1 ½ hour Reading Groups, we will assemble in small groups of 8-10 people. Each group will have a leader who poses questions, facilitates the discussion, and records key points and action items. If you would like to be a group leader, please let me know.

The Reading Groups will culminate at a Graduate Education Summit in January that is keynoted by Cassuto and Weisbuch. There will be breakout sessions focused on specific areas that emerged from the Fall Reading Groups. We will conclude the Graduate Education Summit with an activity designed to select key graduate education issues to invest our time and resources in over the next few years.

I look forward to working with you!


Ann Vail, Ph.D
Dean and Professor

Please register online for the Reading Groups. If you’d like to read the book in an e-format, it is available through USC Libraries. If you would like to read a hard copy, please indicate such in your online registration.

“There is no shortage of ideas about what  we need to change.  We have to decide whether or not we want  to change.”
Tony Chan, Mathematician

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.