Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Future of Graduate Education at RIT

Graduate education at RIT is a relatively young endeavor.  From a few niche advanced degrees just fifty years ago, it has grown steadily into a diverse and high-quality portfolio that trains skilled and innovative professionals highly desired by industry, MBA and MFA graduates who continue to push the frontiers of creative and innovative expression and advanced degree researchers capable of worldwide leadership roles in industry, academia, and government.  Our graduate portfolio will continue to grow and evolve in ways we are just beginning to imagine.

In fall 2012, Provost Jeremy Haefner charged a campus-wide task force with crafting a strategic vision for graduate education.  In the spirit of shared governance, I co-chaired the task force with Dr. Agamemnon Crassidis as a faculty-driven effort representing all colleges and key stakeholders.  After a year of outreach, benchmarking and campus-wide feedback, the strategic plan was endorsed at the Board of Trustees meeting last November. The document, "Imagine: A Strategic Plan for Graduate Education at RIT: Vision 2020”, is posted on the Provost’s and Graduate Studies websites (1).  I thank the members of the task force for their deep commitment to the future of graduate education and for their courage to discuss difficult and complex issues in the best tradition of collegiality and open and transparent dialogue.

As we move into the immediate next steps (integration with the University-wide strategic plan and implementation of initial goals), we should consider the three major principles that guide the plan: the pursuit of excellence, the creation of a truly enriching graduate experience, and the purposeful integration of all the cultures of graduate education at RIT (arts, humanities, business and STEM disciplines).  They are all informed and enriched by the respectful and deep mutual understanding of the varied disciplines in our graduate portfolio, and support the five strategic themes:
1.     Academic Excellence - striving to be the very best we can be.
2.     Structure and Administration - strategic University-wide evolution of graduate education.
3.     Cost and Revenue - promoting academic drivers for self-sufficiency
4.     Data-driven Planning and Assessment
5.     Graduate Student Experience - creating an inclusive, diverse and integrated graduate culture

The future of graduate education at RIT is entirely up to us, a community of teachers/scholars and leaders/creators/innovators-in-training.  Creating the future is worrisome and hopeful, maddening and exhilarating − a path with many puddles and perhaps a Walden Pond.  The task force presents the elements of this strategic plan to the RIT community as a conscientious and deliberative framework to engage all of us in respectful, selfless, and transparent dialogue on how to create this future.  We hope that our five integrated, interdependent and iterative strategic themes will hopefully get us to a place that elicits collective pride. As with any plan, it will be modified and improved, but not upset, by the proverbial devil in the details.  We extend an open invitation to the RIT community to join us in the path toward excellence in graduate education.

I believe that the most important value of a strategic plan lies in renewing our sense of what is possible and in reaffirming out communal commitment to MAKE it possible.  I discovered Emily Dickinson during my days of doctoral study at Yale (Neruda, Vallejo and Mistral were my poetic icons then).  Her capacity to synthesize and integrate the abstract, the dreamlike and the real has very few peers.  Dickinson’s poetic art is innovation as its best, and this quality being one of RIT’s strongest assets, I end these thoughts on graduate education with her wondrous imagery:

“I dwell in Possibility
A fairer House than Prose
More numerous of Windows
Superior for Doors”
            Emily Dickinson