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Salon #2:  February 20, 2014


Conversation Summary:

  1. Strategic Vision:

    The group was not confident that RIT has a well-articulated, strategic vision of what its graduate education and research profile is or should be; concern was expressed for how such a vision would connect graduate education and research goals to its undergraduate culture; a sense of possibility was expressed for articulating a model that would distinguish RIT from traditional models of grad education and research.

  2. Purposes:

    There was considerable discussion of the different purposes that might guide the development of graduate programs. Are they: a) to develop professionals; b) to train niche-industry employees; c) to develop/foster researchers; d) to foster future academics/teachers?

    Discussion centered on a) the differences and/or interconnections amongst these options; on b) what combination would best distinguish RIT grads from others; and on c) what models best capture future educational and social needs and their strategic value.

  3. Ph.D. Level:

    In considering the targeted and successful Ph.D niches we have, and some we might wish to develop for strategic reasons, we discussed a range of issues that should be considered:

    1. Discussion of what new niches would enhance the overall reputation of RIT, would fit with its overall profile, would avoid mere opportunism, would avoid being detached from the more general and successful undergraduate culture of RIT;
    2. Discussion of the importance of distinguishing between traditional (isolated, specialized, standalone) research degrees and more project-based (still thesis-requiring) and collaborative endeavors that connect related areas of demonstrated strength;
    3. Discussion of the need to clarify and make transparent the accounting fictions that appear to be in place for measuring (and perhaps inflating?) the costs of graduate degrees that are based on already extant faculty, facilities, and course content; discussion of the utility, or expendability, or irritability, or potential impediments associated with accounting practices and administrative boundaries.
    4. Discussion of what the balance, mix, or inter-relatedness is or should be between otherwise distinguishable models of grad education: producing research, producing professional employees, producing future teachers/academics
    5. Discussion of the funding and resource base available for further development of graduate education;
    6. Discussion of need for university level support for assisting with mentored writing (and other communications competencies) needed to ensure professional and/or academic foundations for future career development of graduates.
  4. Masters Level:

    Discussion of masters level programs as RIT's predominant bread and butter at graduate level. Some considerations that arose:

    1. Discussion of the need for a University level commitment to and processes for ensuring overall quality of masters programs; discussion of the need for university level support for assisting with mentored writing (and other communications competencies) required to ensure professional and/or academic foundations for future career development of graduates; concern expressed over piecemeal decline in writing/thesis requirements at masters level; concern that this decline may be based not on educational or professional considerations but, rather, on the desire to reduce time-to-degree and to reduce faculty time required to mentor students to acquire necessary writing/communication success.
    2. Discussion of the importance of avoiding a false dichotomy between specialized, opportunistic, job-oriented, vocational masters "certificates" and more academic, collaborative, professionally flexible conceptions that provide more long-term career growth and adaptability for graduates;
  5. Professional Dimension:

    There was discussion of different ways to define "professional" in innovative, flexible, and cross-disciplinary ways; discussion of how we might define "professional" in ways that distinguish it both from traditional professional schools (e.g. medicine, law, business) and from narrow, job-specific niches that are associated with short-term Industry definitions; discussion of RIT's strategic opportunity to define "professional" in an educationally grounded, professionally engaged, problem-solving, and far-sighted way.

  6. Further Discussion:

    We agreed that our next meeting should focus on how we might understand and define "professional education" in a way that could contribute to its articulation in the Strategic Plan.