Verbum Ultimum: Pushing for Partnership

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 10/9/14 6:38pm

Last week, the College announced a task force that aims to create a cohesive administrative structure for the graduate studies program. As these plans take shape, we encourage Dartmouth to craft and boost programming to tie graduate students closer to the institution as a whole. Administrative silos should not lead to social barriers, and we think the College would do well to work toward an overarching intellectual community — one comprised of undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty, a continuum of academics.

Plans to better integrate graduate students into the College community are not new. The 2013 strategic planning documents proposed creating a visible, central common space for graduate students and establishing a unified academic community among faculty, undergraduates and graduate students. Last winter, faculty suggested integrating graduate students into housing programs at a “Moving Dartmouth Forward” discussion. But the discussion must be reinvigorated — and expanded — as Provost Carolyn Dever’s task force kicks into gear and the College prepares a major overhaul of residential life.

To strengthen ties to campus and help establish greater community among graduate students, the College should open a graduate student center, common at most universities. Though task force chair Jon Kull said that any proposals will not require creating a freestanding building, we believe that providing a student center for graduate students is necessary to adequately provide and support them — and a physical space is absolutely crucial to increase communication between graduate students and the campus at large. The Graduate Student Council has advocated for such a space, which would provide a desperately needed study and social area for graduate students. Common spaces create community, which could later boost alumni giving and strengthen the Dartmouth alumni network.

But graduate students must fit into the College’s larger academic network. These scholars can serve as role models for undergraduates interested in academia. Pairing eager undergraduates with young master’s and Ph.D. students through a well-established research and mentorship program could promote undergraduate research activity and begin teaching graduate students how to teach, how to inspire.

Some have taken up the call to create a more cohesive community on campus. A student organization, OneDartmouth, hopes to establish “families” from undergraduate and graduate students in order to bridge the two communities. Programming must be institutionalized early on to work. We look forward to the monthly colloquia, dinners and other programming promised to accompany the Society of Fellows launch next year, but we think this should be expanded to incorporate graduate students, too.

Despite the “College” in our name, we must not forget that Dartmouth is a research university — if we want to be taken seriously not only as a place of teaching but as a place of groundbreaking scholarship, we must put in the resources to support both faculty and budding academics in their work. By emphasizing interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty and students at all levels, the College can establish a new culture of research.