Graduate school celebrates centennial of education

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UT’s Graduate School celebrated its 100th anniversary with steel drums and sheet cakes on the West Mall on Wednesday.

More than 600 graduate students from diverse programs and their coordinators and advisers stopped by for the event.

Victoria Rodriguez, dean and vice provost of the graduate school, said the school has awarded about 125,000 master’s and doctoral degrees over the course of its history. According to the University’s website, the number of students enrolled in the school has increased from 32 in the first class to more than 11,500 this year. The school currently offers about 100 graduate programs.

“We’re very happy with our birthday celebration,” Rodriguez said. “It’s an important milestone.”

Many success stories punctuate the history of UT’s graduate school, said spokeswoman Kathleen Mabley. She said she recently edited “Changing the World,” a reference book that chronicles 100 stories of notable alumni.

J.M. Coetzee, who received his doctorate in English from UT and went on to win the Nobel prize in literature in 2003, is featured in the book. Other famous graduate school alumni include former first lady Laura Bush and former Secretary of Commerce Don Evans, Mabley said.

“Some names [in the book] you will recognize and others not,” she said. “All of these people, in their own ways, are changing the world.”

One less familiar name in “Changing the World” is Yohannes Gebregeorgis, who received his master’s in library science from the University. Gebregeorgis immigrated to the United States and eventually obtained a job as a children’s librarian in California, Mabley said. When he realized his native language, Amharic, did not have any children’s books, he decided to write one. The proceeds from his book went to improving literacy in Ethiopia.

“Changing the World” will be available in the University Co-op starting Nov. 12.

While remembering past successes was a part of recognizing the anniversary, the current students were not overlooked.

“In this day and age a graduate degree has become much more important to advance in your career,” Mabley said.

Many of the graduate students at the celebration, including landscape architecture student Britta Johanson, said in some fields the master’s degree is the new bachelor’s.

“I felt that my bachelor’s was pretty much worthless in getting me the career that I wanted,” she said.

Johanson, originally from Minnesota, also considered the University of California, Berkeley when selecting a program but settled on Texas because of two faculty members she wanted the opportunity to work with, she said.