In addition to a large undergraduate program, UT Austin is distinguished by a premier graduate education program with 12,000 students. Our graduate students are key contributors to the research mission of the university and future academic and professional leaders.
Several graduate students took time out of their busy schedules to have lunch with me in October. Their areas of study were varied, but many of the concerns were common: competitive funding, affordable housing and expanding interdisciplinary opportunities. I was glad to have interim provost Judy Langlois with us at lunch, especially since she had previously been dean of the Graduate School.
Excellent graduate students create a vibrant intellectual environment for scholarship and innovation, so additional funding for fellowships is critical to recruit top students. A major goal I have is to increase graduate student stipends to be competitive with UT’s peers in the Association of American Universities. We have started programs to begin progress to increase funding in conjunction with the deans of the colleges and schools at UT.
We are about one year away from breaking ground on new graduate student housing in East Austin. The new housing is designed to accommodate up to 700 graduate students. Though the majority of the students who joined us for lunch will have completed their studies by the time the project is complete, this is the type of long-term investment that is needed to support graduate education.
I have talked at great length about increasing collaboration between disciplines, which is important for scholarship in a discipline and the growth and transformation of disciplines. Every graduate program struggles with depth versus breadth. Strong interdisciplinary research is happening across the university, but more communication is needed. Provost Langlois noted that the Graduate School could play a bigger role in facilitating interdisciplinary opportunities.
I am grateful for the lively discussion we had at lunch. The group was diverse and international. The collective experience in the room was a reflection of the great experiences graduate students bring to campus when they choose UT.
Gregory L. Fenves, President