It has been my honor to serve as Dean and Vice Provost for Graduate Education over the past four years. Five words guided and supported me over this period. Washington University’s motto “Strength through Truth” guided, and “Leading Together” supported. The marriage of these five words—Strength through Truth and Leading Together point us to the aims of graduate and professional education—innovation, discovery, and related applications across fields. Graduate education as an enterprise at Washington University requires sponsorship. Leading Together aided. Together the marriage of aims and aid advanced our mission.
The Graduate Education ecology at Washington University consists of more than 7,000 full time students matriculating in over 160 graduate programs with, at last count, 50 distinct degrees. Nearly a thousand graduate and professional students engage in part-time study. We seek transformative graduate students. Competition for them requires a global reach. The best minds, creative thinkers, and talented leaders are scarce. We assume nurturing this talent in our community will bear fruit in terms of society’s collective ability to describe societal conditions and solve problems. Our efforts are catalytic in terms of intergenerational effects manifested in the form of future leaders.
The competitive terrain for PhD talent is largely influenced by the presence of outstanding research mentors in highly ranked departments. You have heard the importance of the Leading Together campaign on this front. Early results, while limited in size, frame the PhD competition and indicate relative success in recruiting battles against departments with significant standing. This chart highlights the yield outcome when students are admitted to our graduate programs and those of competitors. The win rate exceeds 50% against the institutions listed. We must continue to push on this front.
Another measure of our progress in the area of PhD education is captured by the trends associated with our students winning the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship. The fellowship program has supported recipients that move on to the highest levels of success in the academy and professional careers. Between 2008 and 2017, Washington University doctoral students experienced a sixfold increase in fellowship winners.
A few examples of recent graduates shine a light on the importance of the investments associated with the Leading Together era. Anita Chary’s passion focuses on supporting women’s health in the rural context. Awarded the Olin Fellowship for Women, she earned the MD/PhD in 2017. Her PhD is in Anthropology. Currently, she is a clinical fellow and resident in Emergency Medicine at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Her scholarly publications focus on the influence of healthcare privatization in Guatemala and on women's experiences of cervical cancer with an aim toward prevention and treatment. A Former Public Relations Officer in the Marines, Megan Greathouse earned her MBA in 2014. The Veteran’s Administration and Olin Business School provided financial support. Megan works for Nestle Purina in St. Louis, as an Assistant Brand Manager. Coding and design enthusiast, Scott Mitchell earned the Master of Architecture and Master of Engineering in Computer Science. In his professional development at WashU, he received travel grants to attend and present at conferences. Scott serves as a full stack software engineer at Autodesk in Boston. Nicole T. S. Cortes, a public interest attorney, co-directs the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action (or MICA) Project, an outgrowth of her WashU experience. Nicole earned a JD from our School of Law and a MSW from the Brown School. Justin Phillip Reed, a 2015 graduate of the MFA Writing Program in Arts & Sciences, won the 2018 National Book Award for Poetry. The award is generally considered among the world’s most prestigious literary prizes.
I began my remarks describing a marriage between our motto and this campaign. This marriage birthed a new phrase that captures this era “Our strength is leading together. And that is the truth.” Thank you.