Task Force on the Future of the Graduate School

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The Graduate School at Princeton is distinctive in several ways including its relatively small size, high level of engagement between distinguished faculty and outstanding students, emphasis on doctoral education together with a limited number of masters degree programs, a residential campus environment and surrounding area that fosters a community of scholars, and depth of financial support that allows concentration on academics. Compared with its peers, Princeton takes a fairly centralized approach to the administration of its graduate programs, but at the same time individual academic departments and programs are granted great flexibility in establishing discipline-specific degree requirements and guiding student research. Graduate education at Princeton has a strong tradition of excellence across the humanities, social sciences, sciences and engineering.

As part of the University-wide strategic planning process, the Task Force on the Future of the Graduate School is charged with conducting a self-study to identify strengths, weakness, challenges and opportunities, and then developing a suite of recommendations to sustain the excellence and further enhance the University's graduate programs.

To encourage robust and productive engagement around the future of the Graduate School, the committee is asked to consider fundamental questions about the University’s current graduate education model and to engage in creative thinking on several topics. In particular, the committee is asked to explore the following areas creatively: (1) the mission and goals of the Graduate School and its role and integration within Princeton University; (2) the best ways for Princeton to support that mission, including how best to provide students with social and intellectual community, engagement, support, advising and mentorship; and (3) the ideal size and composition of the graduate student body across departments and programs.

The committee is asked to engage in a self-study, and informed by that assessment and comparison with our peers, to examine a variety of specific questions, including:

  • What is the mission of the Graduate School? What should we continue to monitor and examine to help us determine whether we are succeeding in fulfilling our mission?
  • How do we compare to our closest peers in terms of recruitment, supporting graduate education and placement? What are the important differences in how we support graduate education? In which areas should we emulate our peers, and in which areas should we not, given Princeton’s distinctive characteristics?
  • Are the right academic fields and degree programs available? Are there aspects of the existing programs that should be improved or restructured?
  • Are we providing the best preparation for careers both within and outside the academy? How can we better track placement and improve placement outcomes?
  • Keeping in mind that we likely will be operating in an environment where resources are relatively more constrained than they have been in the past, and that any allocative choices entails trade-offs, what are the most effective investments we could make in support of our goals for graduate education? By comparison, what would be the relatively lower priority investments? Given a fixed resource envelope, what would be most impactful in advancing the mission of the Graduate School? Possibilities to consider could include, but are not limited to 1) facilities, 2) financial support for graduate education, 3) programming to enhance the academic and non-academic experiences of graduate students, including providing meaningful professional development opportunities, and opportunities to increase the engagement of graduate alumni.

In conducting its work, the task force will be informed by other concurrent committees including those looking at sponsored research, academic areas and educational programs, and entrepreneurship. The task force will also be guided by the 2013 Report of the Trustee Ad Hoc Committee on Diversity, as diversity issues span the range of questions to be considered. The task force will also consult with members of the campus community, colleagues at peer institutions, and alumni. As input from graduate students will be especially important, the committee is asked to involve students early and throughout the process by convening focus groups. The final report of the committee is expected to include proposed guiding principles and priorities for the Graduate School, a set of standards against which to test future proposed changes, and a suite of recommendations to enhance the University’s graduate programs in the years to come.



Sanjeev Kulkarni, Dean of the Graduate School; Professor of Electrical Engineering

Faculty members

  • Zahid Chaudhary, Associate Professor of English
  • Pablo Debenedetti, Dean for Research; Class of 1950 Professor in Engineering and Applied Science; Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering
  • Mikko Haataja, Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
  • Sarah-Jane Leslie, Class of 1943 Professor of Philosophy; Acting Director, Program in Linguistics
  • Erika Milam, Associate Professor of History
  • Jean Schwarzbauer, Professor of Molecular Biology; Associate Chair, Department of Molecular Biology
  • Keith Whittington, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics; Professor of Politics

Student members

  • Carolann Buff, Music
  • Janeria Easley, Sociology
  • Sean Edington, Chemistry
  • Julio Herrera Estrada, Civil and Environmental Engineering

Staff members

  • Mary Bechler, Associate Dean for Finance and Administration, Office of the Dean of the Graduate School
  • Cole Crittenden, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Office of the Dean of the Graduate School
  • Debra Foster, Associate Director for Administrative Planning, Office of the Executive Vice President
  • Steven Gill, Budget Director and Associate Provost for Finance, Office of the Provost
  • Chad Klaus, Vice President, University Services
  • Jed Marsh, Vice Provost for Institutional Research, Office of the Provost
  • Pulin Sanghvi, Executive Director, Career Services, Office of the Vice President for Campus Life
  • Lisa Schreyer, Associate Dean for Student Life, Office of the Dean of the Graduate School