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2016-2017 Annual Report of the Graduate School

Submitted by Karen P. DePauw, Ph.D., Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education

I. Key accomplishments during 2016-2017

Fall ’16 enrollment: 6,890 (3,870 Master's, 3,020 Doctoral), Campus (71% Blacksburg, 17% extended, 12% Virtual), 10% URM, 31% International (94 countries)

The major accomplishments of the Graduate School are articulated below:

  • Processed 10,677 admission applications (+ 55), 4,544 acceptance (- 494)
  • Awarded 2,172 degrees and certificates (+ 42), awarded 450+ PhDs
  • Very successful use of Hobsons software by 110 departments/programs, which led to enhancement of communication with and recruitment of highly qualified applicants
  • Enhanced highly successful diversity programs including Diversity Scholars, Connect Lunches with specific groups, and Bouchet Society inductees; celebrated recognition of President Sands as the Bouchet Society leadership award 2016.
  • Implemented and achieved significant progress on InclusiveVT initiatives (affirming environment, holistic admissions, inclusive GLC)
  • Supported unique and very strong IGEP programs, with more than 300 students currently enrolled, over 250 participating faculty, and over $200 million in active research projects
  • Admitted two individual interdisciplinary PhD (IPhD) students and assisted those students in developing their research plans
  • Successfully reviewed and approved new graduate degrees, certificates and course offerings; 89 new or revised courses, 2 graduate certificates, and 7 degree proposals.
  • Worked with Colleges to develop new degree proposals including Ph.D. in Security Governance, MA in Nonprofit and Nongovernmental Organizational Management, MS in Dietetics, MA in Chemistry, MS and Ph.D. in Neuroscience, MS in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health and guided them through governance
  • Strengthened social media presence and communication strategy for disseminatinginformation about graduate students’ achievements and Graduate School initiatives. Increased social media presence through Facebook (5135 followers) Twitter (2388 followers), LinkedIn (964 followers) and 25 publications and Storify (3).
  • Launched revised website for Graduate School Fall’16
  • Successfully implemented child care options of Little Hokies Hangout (LHH) and family support; monthly luncheons capped at 50 attendees, 150% in enrollment in LHH
  • Launched Academy for GTA Excellence to advance and reward teaching excellence by graduate students; inducted members, associates, and fellows. Fellows have taken the lead in sponsoring monthly gatherings and workshops for GTA workshop.
  • Provided quality services to international students including Walk-in immigration advising sessions: 4800 (up 11.6%), CPT: 285 (up 24%), OPT, STEM: 620 (up 22%), Extensions: 370 (up 13%), Processed 1970 tracked requests for a variety of forms and letters (up 37% from last year).
  • IGSS collaborated with Cranwell International Center to implement batch processing software (Synpasis); went live Jul 2017.
  • Co-hosted events with Cranwell Internationall Center, LCI, International Support Services and Global Education for entire VT international population and hosted info sessions for students impacted by executive order (primary impact was on grad students); organized support sessions through Cook Counseling Center
  • Offered nearly 100 programs for graduate student throughout the year including Week of Welcome (1,000+), GTA workshop (600+), orientations (750+) and Graduate Education Week (1,500+) that reach more than 5,000 students annually.
  • GSSO led a University-wide integrated system to manage assistantships from contract creation through offer, acceptance, HR appointment and tuition remission – Phase I of multi-year project
  • Graduate Honor System cases: 47 current students referred in a total of 33 cases (94% increase), 25 for cheating, 2 for falsification, and 21 for plagiarism; 18 cases resolved through facilitated discussion; 6 cases resolved through judicial hearing; remaining cases are pending.
  • GSSO took initial steps toward improving service delivery to Roanoke students specifically mechanisms for immigration and academic progress advising
  • Continued to offer successful Transformative Graduate Education courses (10+ GRAD courses generated 1,166 SCH in Fall and 692 in Spring)
  • Offered for the 12th year the highly successful and visible Global Perspectives Program (GPP) in Switzerland and expanded it to the University of San Francisco de Quito (USFQ)
  • Developed partnership with the University of San Francisco de Quito (USFQ) and established the 21st Century Faculty initiative for USFQ fa culty; hosted second visit by USFQ to VT.
  • Expanded the Qualcomm-VT Thinkabit lab and visitors including students (3,352), school and community collaborators (181), business/community leaders (713),teachers and administrators (811), and parents (401).
  • Provided leadership at Northern Virginia Center (NVC) for discussions about Beyond Boundaries and Destination/SGA areas, Falls Church City Re-development efforts, and expansion of academic programs anticipating collaboration with NCR working groups; hosted the Bouchet Forum in Fall; and conducted space utilization studies, classroom and library renovations.
  • Managed effectively tuition remission program ($4.9 million), unfunded tuition scholarships ($20.4 million), graduate assistantships ($3.7 million) including Graduate School Doctoral Assistantship (GSDA) program, Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Programs (IGEPs), Dean’s Diversity Assistantships (DDA), and the Cunningham Doctoral Scholar Assistantships.
  • During 2016-17, the Graduate School managed the following university scholarship and fellowship programs; awarding over $195,000 in fellowship stipends and tuition awards and managed external scholarship and fellowship programs from National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships (17 fellows), National Physical Science Consortium Fellowship (2 fellows), Fulbright Scholars Program, GEM Consortium Fellowships, Southern Regional Education Board Fellowships, Vietnam Education Foundation Scholarships (2 fellows), Vietnam International Education Foundation Scholarships (2 fellows)
  • Filled staff vacancies including Ombudsperson, immigration specialists, executive assistants and receptionist.
  • Established Outstanding Faculty Mentor award to recognized outstanding faculty mentors from each college and interdisciplinary program.
  • •Presented numerous presentations on graduate education holistic admissions within VT and externally (NAGAP, CGS), ethics and integrity, social media (CGS, CGS workshop), crisis communication (CGS), and more.
  • DePauw received the inaugural Debra Stewart Outstanding Leadership in Graduate Education award presented by CGS, December 2016


II. Strategic Plans for the Graduate School

A. Key strategic objectives for the next five years

The Graduate School has assumed a leadership role by undertaking initiatives toward helping the university achieve the goals and aspirations for graduate education articulated in the Plan for a New Horizon 2012- 2018, Beyond Boundaries and Destination/Strategic growth Areas. As such, our efforts continue to focus on graduate education with the Beyond Boundaries thematic areas of student preparedness, the campus of the future, and the global land-grant mission in addition to the three of the four cross cutting concepts of strategic research, VT- shaped learning, and Advance/InclusiveVT. The priorities and goals set by the Graduate School seem to fit quite well with the thematic areas and concepts of Beyond Boundaries and DA/SGAs. Below are the Graduate School’s goals, which have evolved over the last ten+ years and seem to be very appropriate to the key university strategic objectives (DA/SGAs, HS&T, NCR growth plans, InclusiveVT). The narratives address the questions posed in II.A.1 and II.A.2. The final section below addresses II.A.3 and articulates the ways in which the Graduate School collaborates with colleges and other academic administrative units to address cross-cutting committees not answered previously. Key metrics are identified in II.B.

Implement and enhance the Transformative Graduate Education (TGE) initiative.

The Future Professoriate, Global Perspectives, Citizen Scholar and Communicating Science programs are well developed and will be sustained so that emphasis for the Scholarly integrity/ethics requirement and Career Professional development program. The Graduate School is also leading three additional projects: Academic Bullying, rethinking the dissertation/digital portfolio, and diversity requirement. As a matter of course, the Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies (CGS&P), Faculty Senate and the departments/colleges are actively engaged in the development and implementation of these initiatives. All TGE programs including the new additions are clearly aligned with Beyond Boundaries thematic areas of student preparedness, campus of the future and the global land-grant as well as the university cross-cutting concepts of VT-shape learning and inclusiveVT. Beyond the TGE initiative efforts at VT, we will continue to share the programs with CGS colleagues and international universities desiring to develop and implement 21st C Faculty programs (e.g., University de San Francisco de Quito).

Support and enhance interdisciplinary graduate education through Interdisciplinary Graduate Education programs (IGEPs) and Individual Interdisciplinary PhD (iPhD).

The Graduate School will continue to support and enhance the existing 14 IGEPs and the IPhD program. These provide educational experiences through which the graduate students (and faculty) can enhance their “interdisciplinary thinking” and explore the “wicked” research problems that require interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaboration and teamwork. The IGEPs are highly successful and provide positive examples and best practices for the further development of the Destination/Strategic Growth areas (DA/SGAs). The IGEPs are naturally aligned with strategic research, student preparedness, and VT shaped learning. Interdisciplinary graduate education can also be aligned with new academic programs (e.g., certificates, degrees) to be offered in NCR and is already modeled in HS&T.

Review and update the portfolio of graduate education programs (e.g., accelerated programs, degrees, certificates).

The Graduate School has the ultimate responsibility for graduate education (e.g., accelerated programs, certificates, degrees) throughout Virginia Tech regardless of location. In this capacity, the Graduate School must work closely with the College Deans and the Vice Presidents for NCR and HS&T for graduate education opportunities in NCR and Roanoke specifically. We will continue to pursue innovative program offerings throughout the university and creative mechanisms to meet the interests and aspirations of potential students. Critical here is the emphasis upon providing programs to better prepare graduates for meaningful career opportunities. The Graduate School will also work closely with the Colleges and the VP for Outreach and International Affairs to sustain and expand partnerships with international institutions regarding collaborations (e.g. dual degrees, accelerated programs, certificates). In addition, the Graduate School will collaborate with the Continuing and Professional Education to explore parallel or options for professional development opportunities especially in the NCR.

As the Destination Areas (DAs) and Strategic Growth Areas (SGAs) continue to evolve, there are a number of ways in which graduate education will be incorporated into their structure. These include the following:

(a) students pursuing graduate degrees,

(b) graduate students serving as GRAs within the DA/SGAs,

(c) graduate students serving as GTAs to assist with the educational mission of the DA/SGAs (and providing valuable teaching experiences for the graduate students),

(d) offering graduate certificates,

(e) exploring accelerated undergraduate/graduate degrees (within and across departments), and

(f) developing new degrees as might be desired in the future.

Expand data collection and analysis of graduate education

The Graduate School will continue to collect and analyze data about graduate education and share these with the university community (e.g., Commission on Graduate Studies and Policy, Graduate Program Directors, CARS/CAGS, and more). The data collected include international and domestic applications, admissions, enrollment and academic progress; descriptive demographics; SCH for GRAD courses; assistantships; climate surveys; number of graduates annually and more.

 These data are available on our website in clear visualization formats which we will continue toimprove. This year we will continue data collection for our inclusive holistic admissions approach to determine if the admissions pool has become more diverse in criteria other than the standard demographic factors. In addition, data will be collected and analyzed to evaluate the impact of the Transformative Graduate Education (TGE) Initiative programs upon career and professional development (career placement) and interdisciplinary thinking. The results here can assist in enhancing programs for preparing graduates for the ever-evolving workforce and multiple careers (student preparedness), fostering more inclusive and diverse environments for graduate education, and VT-shaped learning.

Because the data are collected university-wide, they can be used to inform decision making by individual departments/programs and at various locations especially NCR. We will continue to consult with academic units about their data needs for enhanced decision-making. Our data can be applied to DA/SGAs and growth plans throughout the university especially NCR.

Actively encourage and foster an inclusive and globally diverse graduate community

The Graduate School will sustain and enhance our inclusion and diversity efforts in multiple ways. First, we will continue the efforts of the Office of Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives (ORDI) and support its programs. In addition, the Graduate School will continue to implement and evaluate our InclusiveVT initiatives: holistic admissions, creating affirming environment (e.g., anti-academic bullying), and inclusive Graduate Life Center (welcoming GLC). As a strong advocate for inclusion and diversity, the Graduate School will work closely with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion with their ongoing efforts.

We will continue to expand our efforts in recruitment of individuals of diverse background and work closely with the colleges to meet university goals. In addition, we will continue our student support initiatives and service programs (e.g., workshops, resources, incoming student survey, ambassador and scholars, social gatherings) for students across their multiple and diverse identities (e.g., underrepresented and underserved, international).

The Graduate School is working with CGS&P and the Faculty Senate to develop and implement an academic bullying awareness campaign to be launched Fall 2017 and with CGS&P to develop and implement a diversity and inclusion requirement of all graduate students similar to the Ethics and Academic Integrity requirement.

An integral part of creating an inclusive and diverse environment and student body, the Graduate School will continue our efforts to strengthen the academic community through enhancing the child care initiatives, programs for work-life balance and graduate family housing (if possible). The first two programs exist and the third one has been illusive but remains a need in order to recruit and retain outstanding graduate students with differing family structures. An emerging need that will be explored this year is food security for graduate students. The university has emphasized and received awards for housing and dining programs but the costs can be prohibitive for graduate students and families who rely on assistantship stipends to sustain themselves.

The Graduate School’s inclusion and diversity efforts apply to all departments/ programs (disciplinary, interdisciplinary) and all locations and will be modified to meet the needs of the various constituency groups.

Advance the use of technology in the Graduate School and in support of graduate education university-wide

For many years, the Graduate School has led the way in utilizing advanced technology in admissions and academic progress across the university. The VT Graduate School has served as a model for other U.S. graduate schools in technological advances and more recently for our communication strategies and use of social media (e.g., blogs, twitter, Facebook, Storify, LinkedIn). The digital admissions and academic progress tools (e.g., admissions, ESS, Hobson’s) have significantly enhanced our capacity to identify, recruit, admit and graduate our graduate students. As pressures for enrollment management grow, some of these efforts will be considered in collaboration with the VP for Enrollment Management. These efforts continue and will be expanded.

Two recent initiatives have been undertaken and will be fully implemented in the upcoming year. The assistantship contract system is a university-wide collaboration with Financial Aid, Registrar, Bursar and has been led by the Graduate School. This will provide enhanced communication across these offices as well as with the departments/program and increase efficiencies and effectiveness for the processing and tracking of students on assistantships. The second initiative is development and implementation of Synapsis that greatly assists with the processing associated with international students and meeting SEVIS and other immigration requirements. This effort was completed in collaboration with Cranwell Center/DSA, Information Technology and the Graduate School. The program has launched and will be enhanced in the upcoming year.

One additional technological advances is noteworthy here – the use of digital portfolio within graduate education. The Library has launched Portfolium for use in the classroom. The Graduate School has been engaged with this effort in two primary ways. One as a tool for GTAs to use in their instructional settings and the Academy for GTA Excellence has been the primary participant to date and will be expanded to the GTA workshop in the Fall. The second and perhaps more innovative use of the digital portfolio is the potential use as a means for evaluating the performance of candidates for graduate degrees. Adopting a digital portfolio approach would allow for the inclusion of additional performance measures (e.g., teaching quality, professional development, reflective process, VT-shaped learning) beyond simply the final “defense” of the dissertation.

Collaboration and key performance measures

Beyond the administrative support and services provided university-wide, the Graduate School is actively engaged with the Colleges for development and delivery of disciplinary academic programs and the interdisciplinary graduate education programs. The efforts of the Graduate School provide both the coordinated administrative services (recruitment, admission, immigration, graduate catalog, academic progress, Institutional Plan for Graduate Education, tuition remissions, and more) and initiatives that complement and enhance the academic programs (TGE coursework, diversity fellowships, IGEPs, and more). We are actively engaged in supporting international cooperative programs and degree plans, which are lead by faculty members and colleges. We have continued to partner with colleges on degrees and fellowships (e.g., Shandong University 3+2, VSU, COE New Horizons Scholars, Cunningham Fellowships).

Although it was not called VT-shaped student, the Transformative Graduate Education initiatives (established in 2003) and the Graduate Life Center (established in 2005) have focused through a combination of academic and extra-curricular professional development programs on shaping the graduate experience of Virginia Tech students. The programs offered through TGE compliment the disciplinary education provided in the departments/programs. Relatedly, the IGEPs promote disciplinary depth along with interdisciplinary breadth in areas of crucial societal importance and enhance the student preparedness for the workforce. Each year we have added to the TGE initiatives and strengthened the affirming environment (GLC and beyond), which represents our comprehensive, inclusive, adaptive approach to supporting student success.

The Graduate School works with all administrative units of the Provost’s office and all academic units. We have formal and informal collaborations with the undergraduate education, student affairs, outreach and international affairs, research and innovation, enrollment management, inclusion and diversity, library, faculty affairs, fiscal operations, NCR, and Roanoke. We continue to be adaptive to the needs of other administrative units (administration services, alumni, fundraising, budget, etc.) in support of graduate education.

It should be clear that many of the efforts of the Graduate School are undertaken with the Colleges (departments/programs). In addition, collaborations are necessary to achieve our goals.

Offices include the VP for Enrollment Management, VP for Inclusion and Diversity, VP for Research, VP for Student Affairs, VP for Outreach and International Affairs, VP for NCR, VP for HS&T and more. All functions of the Graduate School are focused on and in support of graduate education university-wide (including all campuses and locations).

The key performance matrix identifies the administrative lead units for the various key performance measures. The Graduate School is identified as administrative (co-lead) for Teaching quantity and quality, Faculty teaching, Graduate student success, and VT-shaped students. In addition to those key performance measures articulated above, the Graduate School will also contribute to additional key measures including enrollment, student diversity, global engagement, VT NCR and HS&T.

B. Key Metrics

Although specific metrics for each objective above could be articulated, I have chosen to focus on broader university metrics (e.g. scorecard potential metrics). These are not in priority order (yet) but are submitted for your consideration:

o Enrollment (e.g., applications, admissions, enrollment)

o Completion and graduation (e.g., annual number of masters and doctoral degrees granted,certificates earned, time to degree)

o Career placement (e.g., academic positions, career options beyond academia, satisfaction, career choices)

o Effectiveness of education and preparation for careers (e.g., TGE and IGEPs, interdisciplinary thinking. Ethics training)

o Inclusion and Diversity (e.g., demographic data, climate surveys, holistic admissions, diversity course, international students)

o Student participation (e.g., SCH in GRAD courses, participation rates in programs and workshops, GSA and other organizations)

o Assistantship and fellowship awarded (e.g., GTAs, GRAs, Fellowships, NSF, NIH)

o Graduate student contributions to university missions (teaching, research, engagement)

o Globalization (e.g., international partnerships, international students, global perspectives)

C. Administrative structure and function

Attached you will find the conceptual organizational chart for the Graduate School. This structure encourages collaboration and provides flexibility to achieve our goals. It has continued to evolve over the years and refined to meet the needs for graduate education at VT. I believe that the current structure is adequate for the next two years

D. Financial resources

I have sought continuous improvement and reallocated resources to create and sustain the Graduate School as a comprehensive, responsive, and innovative academic unit (as shown in the organizational chart). We continue to seek ways to increase our efficiency and effectiveness internally but are likely in need of additional resources in the next two years.

As graduate enrollment increases, the Graduate School will need additional resources in three ways; additional tuition remissions for a likely increase in GTAs and GAs (exact amount depends upon projected growth), additional assistantships housed in the Graduate School to provide support for GTAs, and additional staff (hybrid admissions/immigration position for NCR) to handle the increasing number of graduate student enrolling and graduating. As requested, attached you will find the document from the budget meeting.

III. Leadership assessment


Throughout my years serving as Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education, I have strongly advocated for quality graduate education at VT and fostering an inclusive and diverse graduate community. I enthusiastically assumed the responsibility for the goals, objectives and aspirations for graduate education and have actively engaged in ensuring that graduate education and the Graduate School were aligned with university strategic goals and plans. The strategic initiatives of the university and the Graduate School have continued to evolve but the underlying principles have remained intact.

In August 2006, I shared with the Graduate School staff my strong belief that the Graduate School had “unprecedented opportunities” ahead and that we would pursue these with the “vision, wisdom, and courage to lead.” The operating principles include the following: principle-based decision making, problem solving approach, student-centered & constituency focus, listening & hearing others, ethics & integrity, quality & excellence, partnerships & collaboration and respect & trust with emphasis on the VT Principles of Community. These continue to guide my leadership approach.

In 2010, the Provost requested that each academic unit provide a brief presentation entitled “10 years in 10 minutes.” In that presentation, I reiterated the operating guidelines above and articulated the Graduate School’s aspirations and vision for 2020 with its initiatives and challenges.

In brief, the VT Graduate School aspires to be a “go to” place for graduate education providing innovative and interdisciplinary graduate programs preparing graduates for 21st century work and life. The vision included offering strong disciplinary and interdisciplinary programs; relevant and innovative graduate program for the NCR, throughout the commonwealth and international collaboration; and establishing a culture of civility, ethics and academic integrity. Examples of initiatives to achieve the vision include Transformative Graduate Education, IGEPs, InclusiveVT initiatives, ethics requirement and policies and programs that acknowledge graduate students as mature and independent individuals (e.g., work-life grants, child care options, GLC).


There are a number of ways that I have communicated the university and Graduate School strategies to the constituencies of the Graduate School. The groups are several and communication mechanisms are sometimes modified for the various constituencies. Examples include the following:

  • Updates at weekly staff meetings
  • Discussions with Associate Deans during weekly meetings
  • Presentations and discussion at bi-annual entire Graduate School staff gatherings (including staff a NVC)
  • Informal gatherings of graduate students including NVC and Roanoke
  • Updates at the monthly Graduate Student Assembly meetings
  • One a semester gathering of Graduate Program Directors
  • Meeting with CARS/CAGS
  • Regular updates with bi-monthly meetings of CGS&P especially at the first meeting of the new academic year in which I share the “state of graduate education” and goals/tasks for the upcoming year
  • Other


There are three primary ways in which I have engaged the directors and Associate Deans (incl NVC) in strategic planning and assessment. First, annually I request feedback on the existing goals and strategies and ask for goals for the upcoming year. Second, we have robust discussions at weekly staff meetings about progress on initiatives and assessment. Third, I have encouraged each unit to gather feedback about progress and plans from within their unit.

In addition to specific conversation with Directors and Associate Deans, the entire staff is engaged in updates and input at one of the two all staff meetings. The most recent Graduate School gathering including an overview of the VT-Shaped concept which was followed by a working session on how each individual contributed to the Graduate School efforts and initiatives through depth of knowledge and work or work across the units of the Graduate School and work that provided more applied and experiential efforts. This was well received and successful in helping each individual to see how their work contributed to the whole of the Graduate School in support of graduate education.


Collaboration and innovation are critical to an effective leadership team. My leadership approach includes making sure that everyone is informed and engaged in discussions and decision-making, creating a culture of dependability, holding high expectations of all, fostering an environment of trust, respect and honesty in which all can freely express their views, and ensuring that our work in meaningful and relevant and that each person can see that their work does matter and contributes to the collective effort of the Graduate School. Toward this end, the Associate Deans and Directors are encouraged bring ideas and proposals to the table for consideration as well as manage their own units effectively.


In the past few years, Graduate School has undergone continuous improvement regarding our financial planning for achieving our vision and implementing our initiatives. Resources and personnel have been re-directed as needed to meet the goals. For example, as positions were vacated we have redirected positions and hired an Assessment Coordinator, Communications manager, IT personnel, and immigration specialists. For increased efficiency and enhanced service to graduate students, we have created two hybrid positions covering admissions/academic progress and immigration.

Another type of example includes the use of “shared funding” for making 5 year fellowship offers to highly talented and diverse graduate students, offering of one additional GRA/GTA on extramural grant proposal, matching for fellowships such as the Cunningham Doctoral Scholars to recruit outstanding graduate students, and partnerships for international scholarships such as CONICYT. This has been a highly successful model for innovative and creative ways to achieve our shared goals.


Perhaps the most apparent observation of collaboration is the willingness of academic units (within the Graduate School and across the university) to work together to enhance graduate education. The IGEPs provide the most obvious and very successful model of collaboration among faculty, students and academic units. Other examples include shared funding as mentioned in E above. There are other examples of successful collaboration and include our shared work with the Division of Student Affairs in the management of the GLC, complimentary coursework for graduate certificates (e.g., CALS teaching scholars, Engineering Education), and programs and workshops co-sponsored by the Graduate School and the GSA. The Office of Recruitment and Diversity Initiatives (ORDI) has created partnerships with departments/programs for recruitment of individuals of diverse backgrounds and collaborates closely with Office of Inclusion and Diversity. The holistic admissions initiative, use of Hobson’s for tracking applicants, the Electronic signature system (ESS), the assistantship contract system, the immigration tracking system (Synapsis) and more are examples of innovation and collaborations.