Chancellor Douglas A. Girod

Message: Doctoral education central to KU’s mission

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dear Colleagues,

In my previous message, I discussed how the initiatives underway at KU fit together and how work on each one helps us make progress on the other two. This time, I want to focus specifically on the important role that graduate programs — especially doctoral education — play in KU’s ability to achieve its mission.

Developing sustainable funding for doctoral education is one of the four priorities we’re focusing on during the first year of implementation of our strategic plan, Bold Aspirations. The other three include promoting research and our strategic initiatives, strengthening recruitment and retention, and crafting the KU core curriculum. The latter two were the subject of last week’s Provost eNews.

We have many strong doctoral programs at KU, and those strengths are central to our ability to conduct the scholarly and creative work that sets us apart as a research university. Research and graduate education are inexorably linked. KU could not function as a research university without our graduate students and postdocs.

This relationship between research and graduate education is reflected in the ways that our success as a research university is measured. The Association of American Universities judges members based on research productivity, gauged through areas such as grant funding, citations, faculty membership in national academies, and postdoctoral appointees. Meanwhile, the National Research Council looks at the quality of graduate education. These are all valuable measures, but I believe the true measure of our success will be the contributions that our doctoral students make at KU and over the course of their careers.

Developing sustainable graduate funding begins with attracting future innovators and leaders to KU. Graduate student recruitment is handled on a departmental basis, but that does not mean we cannot pool recruitment resources and better coordinate our efforts in order to recruit top candidates.

Once on campus, in addition to their own studies, graduate students often serve as teaching and research assistants. We must develop more flexible funding models that enable them to balance these roles and complete their degrees in a timely manner. That’s one reason why securing resources for assistantships, fellowships and other opportunities is a key part of Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas.

As we implement Bold Aspirations to enhance the quality of doctoral programs across the university, we’ll establish discipline-specific standards for doctoral education and review student progress annually. This effort will help keep students on track, as well as identify improvements that can be made in curricula and advising.

I’ve outlined a few of the strategies we’ll employ as we seek to enhance KU’s ability to educate the doctoral students who will become leaders in the academy and society. You can read more about these strategies, learn how they’re being implemented and see the ways we will measure our progress at

Graduate students and postdocs contribute to every aspect of our mission, which is why we have a responsibility to ensure they have every opportunity to succeed.

Bernadette Gray-Little

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
5th nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets: Colleges," Military Times
Chancellor's Vision

The mission of the University of Kansas is to lift students and society by educating leaders, building healthy communities, and making discoveries that change the world.

We will do that by raising the expectations we have for ourselves, the aspirations we have for our state, and the hopes we have for our world.