A Message from the President: Looking Ahead

Office of the President

Dear Graduate Center community,

2020 was tough. We are grateful to put it behind us and begin the new semester with renewed hope. Despite the persistent pandemic and struggling economy, we can take heart that the new administration in Washington is working to expand the availability of vaccines, restore basic rights, and roll back policies that have adversely impacted international students and scholars. Spring brings the promise of brighter days ahead.

Applications to Graduate Center doctoral programs for fall 2021 increased 17% over last year, evidence of their distinction and perceived value. Building on the record-breaking audiences we saw last fall, our spring public programs will continue to highlight our important role as a public institution in New York City. Here are some other important updates.

Getting Back to the Building

As you have read, the chancellor expects a substantial return to in-person learning next fall [cuny.edu]. With the help of our engaged reactivation planning committee, we continue to assess the situation and plan for the safe reopening of the building to students, faculty, and staff.

The ASRC remained open for research in the fall, with occupancy carefully managed to align with the reactivation plan, and those efforts will continue in the year ahead. Although our work at 365 Fifth Avenue will remain mostly remote this spring, we are getting closer to ramping up teaching and research there. At this time, we are preparing for a number of students — those who need to be in labs for grant-funded research or in labs and recital studios to advance their program requirements — to be able to return to campus this semester. The library will be operating under Phase 1 of its reopening plan: processing returned materials and establishing a scan and deliver service from the library’s collections. Significant preparations have been made to reactivate these designated areas safely. The reactivation committee will continue its work this spring, with a focus on revising our campus reactivation plan to prepare to meet the chancellor’s call [cuny.edu].

I want to acknowledge the many people who continue to work very hard to maintain a safe campus environment. It is important to remember that each of us can help reduce the risk of exposure to COVID, both to ourselves and others, by wearing masks and complying with the physical distancing requirements we have put in place. Please visit the COVID-19 and reactivation planning webpage to stay informed about our operational status and stay updated on developments.

Support for Students and Faculty

Supporting the success of Graduate Center students and faculty in their remote instruction efforts remains a top priority. With generous support from Carnegie Corporation of New York, we have launched the Carnegie Educational Technology Graduate Fellowship program. Carnegie Educational Technology Fellows are available to support faculty in employing the most innovative and effective approaches to teaching online. I encourage faculty to drop in for virtual office hours or schedule consultations with the fellows.

The economic downturn has severely impacted the country, the state, New York City, and CUNY, and therefore The Graduate Center. Even in this difficult fiscal environment, sustaining and building student funding are critical priorities. For example, because of the pandemic, students may be taking longer to complete their dissertations. We were very happy that so many donors responded to our fundraising initiative that created Catalyst Grants that will support doctoral research continuity. We are also making adjustments to fall 2021 admissions that will make it possible to provide additional fellowship funding for continuing students. The Provost’s Office is working closely with programs on these efforts.

New Directions

I am very pleased to tell you that the Graduate Council approved The Graduate Center’s first certificate program, in the field of data science. This is a linchpin in our efforts to expand career options for alumni and working professionals, contribute to the Chancellor’s workforce development initiatives, and build opportunities for future growth and impact.

Change is also coming in the Provost’s Office. Interim Provost and Senior Vice President Julia Wrigley has been a trusted partner and true advocate for The Graduate Center’s faculty and students since graciously accepting her interim appointment in 2019. She will return to the Sociology program faculty in the fall, so the search process for our next provost has begun. The committee is being appointed and charged, and the position will be posted in the next few days. We encourage nominations to build a great pool of highly qualified and diverse candidates for this important leadership role. Please check my website for updates.

On another important priority, I have met with the working groups charged with envisioning diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism initiatives at The Graduate Center. As we’ve already shared, a number of the recommendations will be implemented this semester. One is to create an inventory and begin analyzing recent and continuing diversity and anti-racism work across The Graduate Center’s academic spaces, administration and leadership, and programming. I and Professor Martin Ruck, senior advisor to the president for diversity and inclusion, will continue to update the community on progress and developments. Diversity and anti-racism will also be a focus of our spring town hall meeting, which is planned for March. Advancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism is everyone’s responsibility, and I look forward to working with you on this effort.

I’m happy to announce a new way to stay connected. This spring I’ll begin hosting informal online office hours for students, staff, and faculty. Stay tuned for information on dates and how you can participate.

This past year has presented unique and extraordinary challenges. It is salutary to remember that when The Graduate Center was founded 60 years ago, we were in the midst of the Cold War and the civil rights movement whose work remains unfinished. Through all the challenges we have faced since then, we have held ourselves accountable. We have listened to one another with respect and empathy. We have honored the pursuit of knowledge and discovery and strived to make the world better. These values will continue to define and guide us.

I am looking forward to a spring semester in which learning, discovery, and creativity shine.

With best wishes,

Robin L. Garrell

Submitted on: FEB 1, 2021

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