University to emphasize graduate student recruitment, retention

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UT President Bill Powers answers a question about graduate programs funding from music professor Martha Hilley on Monday in the Main building. The faculty council discussed solutions to increase graduate students’ enrollment and the distribution of the university budget between departments.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

Improving the allocations of money in the graduate school will continue to be a top priority in 2012, UT President William Powers Jr. said at a meeting Monday. 

The Faculty Council held its last full meeting of the semester Monday afternoon. While UT recruits some of the top candidates and top faculty for its graduate school, often those recruits receive more comprehensive offers from other graduate programs, Powers said during a Q-and-A session with faculty members. Recruiting these students will require a quick and strategic approach, and the administration must target resources where they will do the most good, he said.

“You don’t want them wearing their Michigan T-shirt over Christmas,” he said. “You want to recruit them as quickly as possible.”

Finding better ways to divide up money between departments, colleges and programs will be a way to improve the graduate program and the recruitment process, Powers said. One way to do this could be to look at funds as though they were more like government grants, such as from the National Science Foundation, he said.

“We are woefully behind our peers’ and competitors’ faculty salaries and also in graduate student support,” he said.

Many faculties, colleges and departments were not involved in discussing the distribution of money, said Alba Ortiz, director of the Office of Bilingual Education. More faculty involvement would better illustrate the benefits of any changes made, she said.

“I think that many of us feel that there is a disconnect between their goals in relationship to decentralization and how that gets implemented at the level of colleges and departments,” Ortiz said.

Funding puts faculty in a difficult position in respect to research leave and Faculty Research Assignments, the closest thing UT has to a sabbatical, said Pauline Strong, director of the Humanities Institute in the Department of Anthropology.

“It seems that the University has a standardized process for judging faculty’s productivity,” she said. “Productivity has become more and more of a value, but the University is moving toward a system in which strategic priorities may adversely affect certain faculty members.”

Although the budget council has yet to discuss graduate school funding this year, including faculty members in the discussion will be beneficial, said student body President Natalie Butler, who attended the meeting.

“It was a good step forward to include a faculty member as well as a student on the budget council this year,” she said. “This is the first time that’s happened.”

Printed on Tuesday, November 29, 2011 as: Faculty Council discusses graduate funding