Opinion Asks

by The Dartmouth Opinion Staff | 10/14/14 6:13pm

We asked our staff, should Dartmouth improve graduate student-undergraduate interaction?The editorial board weighed in on the matter last Friday.

Dartmouth should not expend resources on fostering stronger undergraduate-graduate interaction. I am not discouraging this sort of interaction — I have gotten to know several graduate students through extracurricular activities, and I find it to be very rewarding. Rather, I simply feel that it would be antithetical to Dartmouth’s inherent small-college nature and mission of undergraduate focus first to divert precious funds away from the undergraduate experience in favor of creating a building or a program to stimulate relationships that can and should develop naturally.

— Spencer Blair ’17

Dartmouth should expand its funding of successful programs to bring graduate and undergraduate students together, like presidential scholars. These programs are successful because they provide funding directly to the students for doing research, which is a favorable arrangement for both the undergraduates and the labs or faculty for which they work. In addition to bolstering current research programs, there should be more of an effort to make graduate students more visible on campus. As it currently stands, it is rare to see graduate students in Collis, the library or dining halls. Perhaps this situation could be improved by creating more affordable graduate housing on and around campus. More visibility would naturally lead to more interaction among graduates and undergraduates.

— Jon Miller ’15

With the exception of our standalone schools, the Tuck School of Business and the Geisel School of Medicine, we simply do not have strong enough programs to warrant College President Phil Hanlon’s increased focus on them when our undergraduate reputation is in jeopardy. In the last few years, the number of graduate students — especially those in arts and sciences programs — has increased dramatically. Unfortunately, higher enrollment has not yet resulted in higher quality. A recent Dartblog post used U.S. News and World Report data and found that the College is last among the Ivies in several major science divisions, including chemistry, psychology, engineering and computer science. While we of course should work to improve those programs, making them phenomenal is not a realistic goal.

Dartmouth should, however, make an effort to use graduate programs to more meaningfully support our undergraduate experience. While some departments involve graduate students in instruction, their role is often limited to serving as a teacher’s assistant or teaching certain introductory courses. Because there is a wide variety in the teaching ability of some graduate students, this does not really aid the experience of undergraduates — and unfortunately, on occasion, actively compromises them, as I experienced in Math 8 two springs ago. One of the primary focuses of a Dartmouth graduate program should be learning how to be an effective communicator and teacher, which does not happen by immediately throwing graduate students at introductory courses as assistants or having them instruct the courses themselves.

Improving graduate-undergraduate relations does not mean increasing the size of the graduate program or taking our focus away from the undergraduate experience. It means making a careful assessment of how to effectively encourage teaching and learning from both sides. It means encouraging undergraduate enrollment in low-level graduate classes to increase interaction and understanding. It means having graduate students present to undergraduates about their own research. It means encouraging more social interaction between the two levels, so connections can be made outside the walls of academic buildings. It means having undergraduates do research with graduate students as well as full professors, if they so desire.

Right now, our graduate and undergraduate programs are directed solely at their respective populations. Diversifying their aims will help graduate and undergraduate students alike and lead to better interaction, cooperation, and understanding between the two groups and their respective programs.

— Zach Traynor ’16