This month, the final draft of DU IMPACT 2025 plan was approved by the Board of Trustees. During the Respond & Refine stage, some graduate students voiced their concerns that graduate students weren’t represented substantially in the plan. After hearing this feedback from our graduate community, I decided to sit down with the Associate Provost for Graduate Studies, Dr. Barbara J. Wilcots, to get her thoughts on where exactly she sees the plan benefiting graduate students at DU. With graduate students making up 52% of our student population, I feel that it is extremely important that we understand how specifically we fit into the IMPACT plan. I’m excited to report that there are a lot of really exciting developments in the works that are going to directly benefit and support us. The overall plan includes four transformative directions each with several related strategic initiatives. Below are some of the highlights that Dr. Wilcots shared with me. They provide some more tangibility to the broad level directions and initiatives outlined in the plan. For example, in the next few years you can expect more dual degree opportunities, new curriculum, and graduate student career/professional support.
Transformative Direction 1: Students Learning and Leading in a Diverse and Global 21st Century
Through this direction, systems will be put in place to better help graduates meet milestones. These support resources include support for research preparation, advisor selection, and dissertation/thesis completion. There will also be additional support for preparing graduate students in their pursuit of academic careers.
More Financial Aid: In specific regard to Strategic Initiative 1, Dr. Wilcots informed me that the strategic plan commits to increased financial support for graduate students through upcoming philanthropic initiatives.
Expanded Career Services Support: The fifth initiative under Direction 1 has resulted in a move of University Career Services and Graduate Career Services Office from the Office of Graduate Studies to Advancement. This move will result in continued and improved graduate career services that focus on global networking and initiatives to engage alumni and industry partners in creating internship and research opportunities.
Transformative Direction 2: Discovery and Design in an Age of Collaboration
At first glance this direction seems to focus solely on faculty members, but after speaking with Dr. Wilcots, I learned that this also directly involves graduate students. The university will expand funded research and recruit internationally recognized faculty to strengthen the research culture that directly impacts the academic and professional opportunities for graduate students. So much of faculty research involves graduate student research contributions, and Dr. Wilcots informed me that in the future we can expect to see DU make those contributions known in a more transparent manner. We can also anticipate more cross-school initiatives that will include new combined degrees that graduate students can pursue.
Chances to Make an International Impact: Get ready to pack your bags! The Office of Graduate Studies is now administering a fund to support international internship and academic opportunities for graduate students. Also, initiative 3 expresses DU’s commitment to engaging international alumni to develop internship and employment opportunities for students.
Increased Research Opportunities: Initiative 5, the Initiative on Social Policy Research, will facilitate the implementation of a new curriculum that will focus on social policy issues and practical application. It will also result in the establishment of “The Institute for Social Policy Research, an interdisciplinary hub to address pressing social issues” (p. 12). Through this institute graduate students will receive sponsorship for their research projects and a structured space for collaboration (p. 14).
Openings for Entrepreneurship: One exciting development from Initiative 6 was the newly implemented Project X-ITE. Project X-ITE is a cross-disciplinary opportunity for students to get together and transform their ideas and research into “projects, products, and businesses.” The project will provide a bevy of new research opportunities and direct research application for graduate students. Have an idea to propose? Submit it to the program!
Transformative Direction Three: Engagement and Empowerment in Denver and the Rocky Mountain West
New Community Collaboration Possibilities: Initiative 1 under this direction will help graduate students forge relationships with the city, understand the city’s needs, and create opportunities for Denver’s community to work with DU. It will also result in increased support for the community work that grad students do through their practicums.
More Graduate Specific Events: Strategic Initiative 3- DU as an Open Door to Engagement and Vitality: As a result of Initiative 3, Campus Life will be offering more events that meet graduate students’ needs.
What Graduate Students Can Do
The overall focus of IMACT 2025 is One DU. That means ensuring that all voices are heard, especially graduate students’. Dr. Wilcots suggests that graduate students get to know who the responsible committees and co-chairs for implementation in their department are and ask questions about implementation and how it will affect them. The plan is charging each department on campus with implementing parts of the plan so this is a great opportunity to get informed about the plan and ensure overall accountability and transparency.
While the plan has been approved, departments are still determining a design for implementation that is inclusive and consultative. Also, if you see problems be vocal during this implementation phase. Here’s to cultivating our future as One DU!
Have ideas for plan improvement? Please comment below!