Strong graduate programs are an essential part of the university’s success as an R1 Carnegie Institution. SU News sat down with Dean Gretchen Ritter to hear her views on higher education.
Q: How has your own experience mentoring graduate students helped shape your vision for graduate education at Syracuse University?
a: Graduate students are an important part of every university that values research and creative work. I have worked with graduate students as Professor, Director of Graduate Studies, and Academic Dean. My personal experience is that mentoring and collaborating with graduate students makes me a better researcher and educator.
Working with graduate students ensures that I am always learning, and I know many of my colleagues agree that our graduate students often push faculty to evaluate new approaches and perspectives. One of my top priorities is high-quality counseling for graduate students. Making sure that our graduate students are challenged, supported, and ultimately successful makes every part of the university even better.
Q: Syracuse University is home to excellent online graduate programs, primarily at the master’s level. How do you see the importance of online education in the graduate space?
a: We have a strong portfolio of outstanding online graduate programs, with over 2,000 students enrolled across the university. We know from experience that access to well-designed online graduate programs helps students advance in their areas of interest.
Many students at the master’s level are working professionals who wish to pursue a postgraduate degree on a part-time basis. Their factual perspectives can enrich the graduate experience of their peers. Others cannot move to Syracuse, but they still have access to the outstanding faculty and key benefits of our graduate programs.
I am excited about the scope and quality of the online graduate programs and credentials offered by the university – and I expect there will be more in the years to come. They will continue to expand the reach and influence of Syracuse University.
Q: Why Ph.D. Programs critical to the university’s mission, as a research university and as a top university for undergraduate education?
a: Ph.D. Critical programs across multiple dimensions. The university has several highly ranked doctoral programs that distinguish the university and train distinguished independent scholars.
It is difficult to underestimate the role of the Ph.D. Students at a high-profile research university such as Syracuse. It’s an important part of our research and creative ecosystem. In collaboration with distinguished faculty (and often postdoctoral students), doctoral students can make important original contributions to their fields. They are also training to be excellent student teachers and mentors. Undergraduate students, in turn, benefit from the mentorship and expertise of our graduate students.
Q: What is the role of final master’s degrees such as MFA at a research university such as Syracuse University?
a: Masters of Fine Arts degrees, whether in creative writing, performing arts, or visual arts, are essential credentials for individuals who wish to expand their creative practice or who wish to teach in their area of expertise. Creative artists learn from other creative artists, and their work enriches the college experience of everyone who is part of the community.
Q: The graduate student organization is very active at Syracuse University. Can you talk about the importance of GSO’s partnership with the Dean of the Graduate School and other campus leaders in terms of raising the bar for excellence in graduate education?
a: I was greatly influenced by the Gulf Standardization Organization. I believe it is critical that the Graduate Student Organization collaborate with the Dean of Graduate Studies and other administrative leaders to advocate for expanded opportunities for graduate students.
Hearing directly from our students about their needs helps us in our efforts to find solutions to common issues such as dissertation completion, summer funding opportunities and, as we’ve seen recently, relief funding for students whose progress has been slowed by COVID. I look forward to working closely with the GSO to further enhance the postgraduate student experience.
Q: If you could give one piece of advice to Syracuse University graduate students, what would it be?
a: Look for opportunities to meet people and have experiences outside of your core major. I once heard the Vice President of Google talk about how important it was that he completed high school in English literature while studying for his Ph.D. in computer science.
Syracuse University is rich in opportunities to network, collaborate and experience the full scope of what a great research university has to offer. Go to a show, tour an art museum, and attend a lecture outside your field of work. You will be glad you did.