GRADUATE COUNCIL MINUTES
538th Meeting
October 13, 2003

MEMBERS PRESENT:       Barbe, Blickhan, Bose, Carnahan, Changnon, Factor, Gowen, Gupta, Harris, Jackson, Johnson, King, Lockard, Miranda,
                                            Montgomery, Nuzzo, Richgels, Ridinger, Rose, Russell, Sen, Swanson, Waas, Zammuto

MEMBERS ABSENT:        Cebula, Hagensee, Schmall, Srivastava

OTHERS PRESENT:           Thecla Cooler (International Student & Faculty Office), Stelling (Secretary), Van Mol (Catalog Editor/Curriculum Coordinator),
                                            Sue Willis (University Council/Faculty Senate)

Rathindra Bose, Vice President for Research and Dean of the Graduate School, called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m.  He said he was delighted to be here and was sorry he had to miss the last meeting due to an out-of-town meeting.  Bose explained how he was new but not inexperienced; he was in charge of the same type of office at Kent State.  He stated the Graduate School was here to serve graduate students and to help the university achieve its mission.  He then had everyone introduce him or herself and tell a little about their research area.

The September 8, 2003 minutes were moved for approval by Blickhan, seconded by Ridinger.  One typing error was noted.  Minutes approved.
 

Announcements

Bose mentioned Council members could bring any event happening in their area to the attention of Council members at this time.  Swanson announced a curriculum development seminar would be held October 30 regarding faculty integrating sexual orientation into their regular class.  She will send a flier to the Graduate School, which will then be distributed via e-mail to Council members.
 

New Business

Before getting to the actual agenda items under New Business, Bose wanted to give an overview of his ideas.  He said one of the things he did when deciding to take this position was to compare NIU with the rest of the country’s comparable institutions and was glad to see that NIU has a faculty governance-sharing structure.  One of his goals is to see that the Graduate School will serve the university and the graduate students, maintaining quality so faculty can compete with their peers.  He would like faculty to bring to him all the problems and issues they have with their graduate students to help reach this goal.  During his first three months, Bose has learned both positive and negative reactions regarding the Graduate School.

One of the positive points is that graduate education is centralized here at NIU.  While it is not cost-effective to have the administration of graduate education at the college/department level, it may be beneficial to everyone to have some activities back at the departmental level.  The Graduate School cannot be viewed as a police department.  We need to advise and keep faculty up-to-date with what is happening with graduate education nation-wide.

One of the primary goals should be offering graduate assistantships (GA) to retain and recruit quality students.  Bose would like to centralize the budget for all GAs.  He does not want to take any money from department GA budgets; he wants to pool this money and protect that money from budget cuts.  Any time there are budget cuts he would unequivocally say, “this budget cannot be touched.”  He believes, in the long term, the university could lose programs because of small numbers of students going into a graduate program that does not offer competitive assistantships.

Bose would like to see departments and colleges having more authority in running their own graduate programs.  With the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) having 8-year program reviews, a department could then be asked “what have you done with your program in these eight years?  Can it survive in competition with other institutions?

English proficiency requirements for international students with degrees from English-speaking countries.  When an international student, who has received a degree from an American institution of higher learning, wants to enroll at NIU, we require that student to take either an English exam or English course.  No other university Bose has been in contact with requires this type of thing.  Depending on the culture of the student, this type of policy could be viewed as an insult.

Admission requirements for graduate students-at-large.  Many students attend university classes to enrich their profession or just for intellectual curiosity, not to obtain a degree.  Bose would like to see a category of “Guest Student” where a person could take 6-12 hours as a non-degree student.  He would also like to eventually see an all-electronic admission process.  We should be able to scan the student’s information (application, letters of reference, etc.) into a main database where departments, with their personal passwords, could see the information and make an admission decision and send this back, electronically.  Any correspondence regarding the student would also go into this electronic file.

Theses and Dissertations:  We require submission of these items really early.  Why:  Because the Graduate School’s Thesis and Dissertation Office has to read the entire manuscript and make corrections.  Bose’s goal would be to have seminars to teach a student how to write a thesis.  Also, the thesis/dissertation committee, along with the student, should realize they are responsible for the finished product to be as error-free as possible, in the correct format.  He would like the Graduate School readers to read only one chapter of a paper, give feedback, and the student should be guided by faculty to make the paper readable.

After Bose delivered his observations of these issues, he asked the Council for comments.  Factor said he thought if an international student’s degree was from an English-speaking university the student was exempt from taking the TOEFL.  Montgomery answered that was correct.  Our policy, written by the Council, still required the NIU English test.  Factor also commented that he believed the School of Art students submitted a finished product to the Thesis/Dissertation office; these papers came back to the student’s with very few corrections.

Swanson pointed out that the readers from the Graduate School do not read for content, only for format and spelling and grammar.  Content was still the responsibility of the student and faculty advisers.

Rose asked if the five-egregious rule would not handle the problem of the Graduate School readers taking so much time in correcting manuscripts.  Montgomery replied that doesn’t happen too often because many times, without guidance of what is wrong with the paper, the paper is still returned with many errors.

Carnahan commented on why he thinks NIU has become so stringent in some of the rules.  He believes many of the issues deal with the low self-esteem NIU has always felt since we’ve always been number two, after the University of Illinois.  Now that NIU is more prestigious, we may not have to be so stringent – we need to open things up.  He feels many of our deadlines are so early the students are missing a semester of research.  We should assume we have good students and deal with problems as they arise.

Gupta commented on the pooling of assistantship money.  This year, in his department, the budget line for assistantships was brought up as a place to cut the budget.  Thankfully, that did not happen this time.  Bose said he requested to Eddie Williams to increase the stipend by 1.5% like the rest of the campus.  Williams said he could not do that at this time.  Bose would like to get a raise on the total spent, including all departments.  Right now Bose believes there are three or four out of 16 doctoral programs that may make a national reputation.  He would like to reward these programs and give them a financial boost.

At Kent State, Bose initiated plans for supporting graduate students from grants and other research-related activities.  These plans were presented in a plenary talk at the Midwest Association of Graduate Schools meeting.  For example, as faculty brought in extramural money they were not budgeting more money on assistantships; they were hiring post-doctoral fellows or technicians.  A plan that was introduced was if a faculty member supported two graduate assistants from the grant, the Graduate School would give one more.  This would give the grant three graduate assistants working on the project as opposed to one post-doc fellow/associates.  Bose realizes each program is different and may not be able to obtain much grant money.  But, there could be creative ways of increasing this budget line.

Harris commented how, every year, his department (Mathematical Sciences) writes to the dean to ask permission to offer a higher stipend than what is declared by the Graduate School.  Bose asked why do you need to ask if the department has the money?

Bose said he had inherited a large budget deficit.  To maintain doctoral status rating, we must keep up the funding of graduate programs.  One of the ways he sees to maintain and increase the funding is to commercialize faculty’s technology.  This is what he had done at Kent State.  He feels he needs to spend his time “selling” what faculty are doing/making in their labs.

Blickhan commented on the student-at-large issue saying the School of Music has many visiting students.  The ones they have are trying to prove their worth or are sampling different areas, trying to decide on a major.  He would be hesitant to not allow those student-at-large hours to apply toward the degree program the student may choose.

Bose stated some deans and others have problems with some of the Graduate School’s procedures and graduate education policies.  When asked by a Council member what category of people (deans, faculty, or students), Bose said he has heard comments from all categories.  He did admit that his exposure has been limited in the three months he has been on the job.

Swanson also agreed with Blickhan that she has seen more and more SALs trying to get into her department’s (English) program. Rose commented that the problem with SALs might be with the way they are entered in the University’s database.  Lockhard agreed, saying the cost per credit hour is out of sight with too many SALs enrolled because of how SALs are counted.  Bose said the goal is to make life easier for the students and our directors.

Ridinger commented that, along with the State’s parameters being met in programs, many programs need to look at the professional credentials needed.  Bose agreed.  He stated how the College of Business has outside reviewers wanting to see different requirements than what are in the Graduate Catalog.  This shows that departments need more autonomy.  Every program has unique requirements and need to recruit certain types of students.

Russell commented that recruitment is one of the biggest problems.  There is not enough money budgeted for this nor is there any centralization for graduate recruitment.  Bose said when he was at Kent State, Peterson’s would send out a representative to departments and help them with a long description of just their program.  When Peterson’s would put this description on their website it would have a link so the department would know how many hits were made to their page and how many of these hits turned into an admission application.  A collective agreement to advertise multiple programs with Peterson also saved significant money.

Rose pointed out that Student Housing has a sustained graduate recruitment to find and hire Resident Assistants.  It may be a good idea to check with them to see how they run their recruitment efforts. Bose said there are multiple avenues we could take in recruitment.  But this effort will be handicapped with the present stipend level for graduate assistantships.

Montgomery reminded Council members that the Graduate School does have an Assistant to the Dean for Recruitment, Lyndon Perkins.  He would be more than happy to take departments’ recruitment material with him when he goes to various colleges.  Just give him a call and let him know.

Bose reminded Council members to look at the Self-Study, Chapters 6 and 7 of the NCA accreditation draft.  It can be found at:  qa.niu.edu/selfstudy/index.htm.  One of his goals is to lessen the amount of paperwork burden to him and give more autonomy to the departments while maintaining quality.

Council members then asked what direction should be taken to review these points more thoroughly before making recommendations for any changes.  Montgomery said historically, these items would fall under the preview of the Standards Committee.  Carnahan would like to see a straw pole taken of Graduate Council members by the Standards Committee.  Russell mentioned having the academic deans talk with the Council.

Swanson, seconded by Russell, made a motion for adjournment.  Meeting adjourned at 11:40 a.m.