Community Meeting 2-15-13
President William Kelly opened the first community meeting of the spring semester with brief remarks on the Graduate Center’s budget. He noted that while “there are ongoing austerity concerns at the federal level . . . the New York State higher education budget remains stable.”
Shifting from fiscal concerns, Kelly noted that while the GC will see a “modest reduction” in incoming class size across three years, of a total of sixty-one students, “there will be no reductions in course units,” and the GC will remain one of the largest producers of doctoral degrees in the United States. “Last year we awarded the second largest number of degrees in the humanities, and we were the sixth largest in the social sciences,” Kelly declared.
The president offered excellent news on fellowships. In the coming years, the GC will be better positioned to offer competitive fellowships for newly admitted doctoral students. Beginning in Fall 2013, the enhanced recruitment packages provide $25,000 per year for five years with a reduction in teaching load. They represent the achievement of a goal outlined in the GC’s 2012–16 Strategic Plan—to increase funding for students and reduce the time to degree—and are just one of many “significant breakthroughs” for the institution, said Kelly, who thanked administrators and the community for their continued collaboration and support.
In response to the president’s news, a number of doctoral students expressed dismay about the discrepancies between old and new fellowship packages and the teaching load requirement. Kelly acknowledged the discrepancies and expressed his concern for the financial position of all graduate students. He provided a brief history of gains in fellowship packages, which, by working in tandem with the CUNY chancellor, he has been able to increase substantially over the last decade. He pointed out that while new recruitment packages have an edge over former fellowships, the packages that current students “enjoy are considerably better” than the financial support students have received in the past.
Kelly promised the students that he and GC administrators, faculty, and staff, “with the advice and guidance of the Doctoral Students Council,” would continue to explore available fiscal avenues to diminish the gap between past and future recruitment packages. Among the goals is to increase the funding for the GC’s research culture, which can provide additional support for graduate students. “We’re looking for ways to proceed,” said Kelly, adding, “There is no shortage of ideas to focus on resource development.”
Also on the agenda—and a goal of the 2012–16 Strategic Plan—is to increase and diversify the professional career prospects, both inside and outside the academy, for GC graduates. President Kelly introduced Dr. Jennifer Furlong, who has been appointed as the new director of Career Planning and Professional Development. An expert in eighteenth-century French literature, history, and culture, she earned her Ph.D. in Romance languages at the University of Pennsylvania. She has also specialized in student career services and is a contributing author to the online “Advice: Career Talk” section of the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Turning to other matters, Kelly updated the community on enrollment in master’s programs: “While we are primarily a doctoral institution, we are looking to add to other programs, particularly the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program,” which will shift slightly the GC’s ratio of master’s to doctoral students, currently weighted heavily in favor of the latter.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Kelly noted that the GC’s fiscal future is dependent on New York State’s commitment to refrain from cutting CUNY’s budget. The president could not offer any certainty of fiscal stability but said—in regard to supporting students and the center’s academic mission—“We will not abandon this effort.”
The second spring community meeting, and the last of the academic year, is scheduled for Tuesday, May 7, 4:00–5:00 p.m., in the Skylight Room (9100). All community members are welcome.
Submitted on: APR 3, 2013