Huron Report Recommendations

UAB GRADUATE SCHOOL RESPONSES TO THE HURON REPORT RECOMMENDATIONS

RECOMMENDATION AND RESPONSES:
1-a.  Mission Statement Needs an Update
A completely new Mission, Vision, and Core Values statement was developed.  ADCOM members provided feedback on, and approval of, the revised document. 

1-b.  Role of the Graduate School vs. That of the Other Schools:  A suggestion was made that  professional/practice oriented graduate programs be predominantly managed by the schools in which they are based.  This was discussed with the deans and Provost.  The change was approved, but with the understanding that it would not reduce the work load of the Graduate School staff appreciably; the Graduate School would still be providing standard ancillary services to all of those programs.

1-c. More Clear Definition of Graduate School Role in Support of GBS vs. non-GBS Students: 

  • The Graduate School is assuring that all programs are aware of the spectrum of services provided by the Graduate School, and that it becomes standard practice within each program to advertise and refer their students to Graduate School services. 
  • The Graduate School will do a better job of communicating directly to students what services are provided; e.g. via the new orientation program for new students and the App access to Graduate School support information on handheld devices.

2-a.  Implement a Half-Day Orientation for All Incoming Graduate Students:  The salient components of the existing online Graduate School orientation were incorporated into a “live” orientation that will be presented at the beginning of each fall semester.  The first face to face orientation, which was co-organized with the Graduate Student Association leadership, was given on August 29, 2013.  About 175 students attended.  The Graduate School also worked with UAB IT personnel to add to the UAB App a direct link to a “Grad Info” section of the web site that provides students 24/7 access to information they need from their first enrollment to graduation via smartphones and other handheld devices.

2-b.  Create a Graduate Services Support Center:  Enhanced training has been given to the persons who have the responsibility to answer the generic Graduate School office phone lines and the Graduate School generic email interface to make them more fully aware of to whom to refer questions that they cannot immediately answer themselves.

3.  Restructure the Professional Development Program (PDP):
  a.  Organizational Structure:  Many of the courses previously offered for credit have been converted into workshops of varying length; these will be offered to students at no cost to them or their advisors.  It is anticipated that the number of students who will benefit from  Graduate School PDP offerings will be vastly increased. 

  b.  Eliminate Course Overlap:  Julia Austin, Lisa Schwiebert, Rebekah Trinh and others have met multiple times to develop responses to this issue.  The duplications have now been eliminated.

  c.  Greater Collaboration Between PDP, OPE, ELI and Career Services:  Regular communications and collaborations between Julia Austin, Lisa Schwiebert, Rebekah Trinh, and Suzanne Scott-Trammel had previously been occurring.  These interactions are continuing and are being expanded.

  d.  Minimum Enrollments and Minimum Teaching Credit Hours: Essentially all formal GRD courses have minimum enrollments of 8 students. 

  e.  Offering More Online and Blended Courses:  Over the past several years the PDP has added a number of online and blended courses.  The discipline-specific writing courses offered to students in the Nursing MSN and Public Health MPH programs, each of which are high enrollment courses, are almost exclusively online.  To the extent that other course content lends itself to presentation using online and blended approaches, the appropriate conversions will be made.

  f.  Redesign the Funding Structure for PDP Courses:  Rationale – Providing no-cost PDP courses and workshops to students would significantly increase the number of students who would benefit from them.  Suggestions from the Huron consultants regarding how to support offering PDP course content without charging tuition:  1) Charge an annual Professional Development fee to each of the other schools; 2) Rely on central funding as part of the Graduate School operating budget; 3) Increase programming fees for graduate students.  With budget accommodations proposed by the Provost’s office for Fiscal 2014 and beyond, the Graduate School is implementing Huron suggestion 2 by offering one hour, half day, and full day workshops at no cost to students.  Several formal tuition generating courses have been eliminated.

4.  Develop a More Effective and Efficient way to Manage Minority Access Programs and Grants:  It would be inappropriate and inefficient to transfer the administrative responsibilities for these grants to an individual or other university unit that had not had any part in generating the grant funds.   Accordingly, the Graduate School continues to manage the NIH funded PREP program.  In addition, the Office of Postdoctoral Education and Graduate School staff administer the NIH funded IRACDA (UAB MERIT) program for postdocs.    

5.  Reduce the Effort that the Graduate School Dedicates to the Applications and Admissions Process:  The actual amount of Graduate School personnel time that is dedicated to the applications and admissions process was overestimated by the outside reviewers.  By agreement with the Provost’s office, the Graduate School will continue to manage the applications and admissions process for nearly all graduate programs.

6.  Distribute Degree Auditing Responsibilities: As a result of internal restructuring the Graduate School is in a position to continue the management of the degree auditing responsibilities efficiently.

7.  Move T32 Grant Table Responsibilities to the Office of Research and Economic Development:  Sr. Associate Dean Susan Rich and Graduate Biomedical Sciences staff member Savitha Memula are working with Lee Smith and his team to develop streamlined processes.  New and more effective procedures are being developed.  In the interim, multiple training grant applications have been submitted recently and most of those grants have been funded.  This is a remarkable achievement in view of the tenuous funding situation at the Federal level.

8.  Minimize the Graduate School’s Direct involvement With Thesis and Dissertation Checks:  The level of commitment to this task was also overestimated by the outside reviewers.  The process of thesis and dissertation review was streamlined significantly in 2006.  The burden of producing a scholarly product worthy of meeting the highest standards in each discipline lies with the student and his/her thesis or dissertation committee, as it inevitably should.  The Graduate School only assumes responsibility for thesis and dissertation format checking and instructing students on submission of their dissertations to ProQuest.

9.  Optimize the Scholarship and Fellowship Funding Allocation Process:  Changes in resource allocation management responsibilities of the College of Arts and Sciences and the Engineering School have been made in response to this recommendation.

10)  Consolidate Electronic Applications Systems:  In view of the significant differences between the processes employed for review and responding to applications for undergraduate and graduate admission, it was determined that no significant economy of scale could be attained by consolidating these two processes.  The ApplyYourself (AY) system is working well and it has been received quite favorably by faculty and staff who administer graduate programs.  Accordingly, the Graduate School retains the responsibility of managing the AY system to facilitate graduate student applications and admissions.

11) Realign the Organizational Structure of Graduate Biomedical Sciences (GBS) Administration to Correlate with Activities, not Themes:  A select subcommittee consisting of experienced training faculty, several members of the GBS Steering and Oversight Committee (SOC), and members of the Graduate School and GBS administration met several times to consider ways in which aspects of this recommendation might be addressed.  During one meeting, all Theme administrative assistants were included as well.  A proposal has been drafted and vetted by the full SOC, and subsequently with the GBS Theme Directors.  Briefly, the proposed changes are as follows: 
         1)  Application Process: GBS applicants will have the option to apply directly to one Theme (current process), or if undecided, apply to a second Theme as well. 
         2)  Dedicated Lines:  Themes will have a reduced number of “guaranteed” lines to fill; the most well qualified students, irrespective of their expressed Theme preference, will be recruited. 
         3)  GBS Support Staff:  A separate faculty advisor and GBS staff person will be identified to mentor/advise the “two Theme designation” students during their first year.  GBS staff members will continue to assist Theme Directors in program management. 
        4)  Faculty:  All faculty members who are a part of the GBS should be considered “GBS Faculty” and therefore affiliations with any particular Theme should not matter.  
        5)  Courses:  Students who align with a Theme during the first year should be allowed to take any Theme-specific courses offered/required for students enrolled in the Theme.  Students who align with a Theme at the end of their first year, will take Theme-specific courses during their second year. 
        6)  Theme Policies:  Themes are expected to develop policies that both in reality and perception create a sense among the students that it is possible to change Themes; but a decision to change should be made as early in a student’s training period as possible.