The Faculty Senate heard reports on graduate education and undergraduate advising Thursday, as well as some news from University President John Hennessy.
“Given the difficulties of setting up a campus in New York City, we’ve decided to become a football powerhouse,” Hennessy deadpanned.
Hennessy went on to praise the football program and encouraged faculty to attend Saturday’s game against Oregon, as well as the ESPN College GameDay filming early Saturday morning at the Oval.
Hennessy also discussed the recent announcement of a $150 million gift to the Graduate School of Business (GSB) from Robert “Bob” King ’60 and his wife, Dorothy “Dottie” King. He also updated the Senate on the future of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at Stanford. Last spring, the Senate voted to invite the return of ROTC to Stanford.
Hennessy said that because of “budgetary difficulties the Department of Defense faces,” the University “will probably end up exploring alternative opportunities.” These may include alternative options for students who currently commute, forming a consortium with area schools and the United States Naval Academy or asking the Committee on Undergraduate Standards and Policies (C-USP) to consider granting some academic credit to students who take ROTC courses off-campus.
Provost John Etchemendy Ph.D. ’82 also updated the Senate, discussing the formation of a search committee in light of Persis Drell’s resignation from her post as director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, as well as the University’s current financial outlook.
“The financial situation of the University right now is very good,” Etchemendy said. He added that the budgetary committee plans to be cautious, as “we have no idea what the future holds.”
“We probably won’t be doing cuts … but we won’t be spending a lot of money either,” Etchemendy added.
The Senate then heard the annual report on graduate education, postponed from last spring, by Vice Provost for Graduate Education Patricia Gumport.
“I think we have tremendous vitality in graduate education at Stanford and it’s only going to get better,” Gumport said.
She cited what she sees as systemic challenges, “at the national level as well as at the foreground for Stanford,” including graduate student diversity and tuition shortfalls.
Gumport cited that graduate enrollment has increased 32 percent since 1985, while undergraduate enrollment has grown four percent.
Gumport highlighted her concern that in 1995 domestic Under-Represented Minorities (URM) represented 10.7 percent of the graduate student population, while today they represent only 9.3 percent.
“It makes us concerned,” she said. Gumport included many statistics concerning diversity and particularly stressed a large increase in international students.
“I think the big story is the difference in applications over this time,” she said. Gumport cited that graduate programs have seen an overall increase in applications by 38 percent. International student applications increased by 136 percent, while
URM applications only increased by 10 percent.
Gumport also discussed tuition shortfalls concerning federal funding and degree completion rate across the different graduate schools.
She noted that attrition is down overall, with degree completion at 75 percent, but students who do choose to leave are doing so later.
“We will save $7 million a year if students who are going to leave anyway leave one year earlier,” she said.
Gumport highlighted the Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence (DARE) doctoral fellowship program and cited the need to survey current and former graduate students.
“We don’t track placement and outcomes for our graduate students,” she said. “This is really a problem.”
On the topic of diversity, Etchemendy said he hopes the recently announced collaboration with the City College of New York (CCNY) will help.
“CCNY is an incredibly diverse institution,” he said. “We are hoping that this will provide us a pipeline.”
Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising and Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Julie Lythcott-Haims ’89 presented a report to the Senate on undergraduate pre-major advising.
“This is a very exciting time in pre-major advising at Stanford University,” Lythcott-Haims said. “It has been several years since the Senate has heard about undergraduate advising.”
She added that the topic “has been a challenge for quite some time.”
Lythcott-Haims framed her presentation around “what we think” and “what students think.” She explained that problems in advising may stem from some students thinking they do not need advising, or others who are too timid to seek it out.
“Our undergraduates are the least formed version of the self they are becoming,” she said, explaining that it may be unreasonable to expect freshmen to understand the importance of advising at the offset.
Lythcott-Haims described the latest iteration of undergraduate pre-major advising.
Students now have two advisors, their regional Academic Director and Pre-Major Advisor. The Academic Director (AD) program was piloted in 2004 and instituted across the board in 2008.
Lythcott-Haims cited that successful recruitment has resulted in 80 more volunteer pre-major advisors, bringing the total to 310, with 33 percent members of the Academic Council, 26 percent academic or teaching staff and 41 percent non-teaching staff or affiliates. Students are expected to meet with their pre-major advisors once each quarter until they declare a major.
Last year 100 percent of the class of 2014 met with their advisors four times, during orientation and each quarter, according to Lythcott-Haims, in accordance with a new rule that placed an enrollment hold until students had met with their advisors.
Lythcott-Haims also listed goals for the future, such as creating more AD positions, creating advising objectives, bringing more faculty members on board and increasing student and advisor satisfaction. She also asked the Senate, in particular, for feedback from those who used to serve as pre-major advisors but no longer participate.
“The tools that I used disappeared,” said mechanical engineering professor Chris Edwards, who used to serve as a pre-major advisor. Edwards referenced cuts in sophomore peer mentors and faculty lunches that helped facilitate the advising process.
“We get that,” Lythcott-Haims said, referencing the need for some form of peer advising. “We’re going to bring that back.”
“I became quite cynical about it,” said linguistics professor Tom Wasow, citing difficulties he experienced as a pre-major advisor in creating a positive experiences for students who lacked interest. “I see what you’re doing as turning that around. I’m almost ready to sign up.”