Current Issue

July 6, 2011

Vol. 111, No. 15


Assessing a renewed focus on grad students, alumni

By W. Raymond Ollwerther '71
Published in the July 6, 2011, issue

 About 200 grad students who passed their generals attended a celebration May 26 ­outside Whig Hall, a new event sponsored by the graduate school.
Office of Graduate Alumni Relations
About 200 grad students who passed their generals attended a celebration May 26 ­outside Whig Hall, a new event sponsored by the graduate school.

A pizza and ice cream celebration for grad students who have passed their generals. Moving the hooding ceremony for graduate-degree recipients to Princeton Stadium to accommodate more guests. More e-mail communications with grad alumni.

These are small steps, perhaps, but they’re signs that Princeton is paying more attention to the grad-student experience and to the connection with graduate alumni, according to University officials.

A year ago the Commission on Graduate Alumni Relations issued a 24-page report that urged the University to work toward equitable treatment of graduate students and alumni with their undergraduate counterparts.

At a meeting during Reunions of the board of the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni (APGA), which created the commission, alumni and University officials gave an upbeat progress report on the commission’s proposals. “It’s very heartening to see all the attention,” said APGA president Rose Li *92.

New graduate-student housing planned for the Hibben-Magie site that “recognizes the importance of community space” and the reopening of a campus pub — recommended by another study this spring — would have significant benefits for grad students, said University vice president and secretary Robert Durkee ’69.  

William Russel, dean of the graduate school, said initiatives now under way range from a Facebook page that would serve as a “virtual home” for all grad students to planning for renovations of the “old Frick” chemistry lab that could provide grad-student space.  

Margaret Miller ’80, assistant vice president for alumni affairs, said graduate alumni are receiving electronic newsletters from the APGA and e-mail alerts with each issue of PAW that highlight content of special interest to grad alums.  

The commission report found overlapping missions in reaching grad alumni among the graduate school, the Alumni Association, and the APGA. Li said ways to integrate APGA and Alumni Association efforts will be explored over the next year.

At the same time, she said, the APGA wants to enhance its strong working relationship with the graduate school to further improve the ­graduate-student experience.  

The graduate school is encouraging individual departments to reach out to their alumni, an idea endorsed by the commission. Russel said that the geosciences and art and archaeology departments would like to host two- to three-day reunions of their graduate alumni, separate from Reunions weekend, if University funding is approved.  

The commission said the University’s 40-member board of trustees should include at least 10 graduate alumni, reflecting the proportion of grad alums in the alumni body. There are now three graduate alumni on the board, with two seats reserved for them.  

Durkee said that while the board felt that it would be desirable to add graduate alumni, the trustees decided not to set aside additional seats for them. The board also chose not to earmark a seat specifically for a young grad alum as the commission recommended, similar to the seat that exists for a young undergraduate alumnus.  

Instead, Durkee said, the board charged its board development committee to consider and nominate more graduate alumni.  

But as important as specific actions, Durkee said, has been a change in thinking: The University considers grad students and grad alumni “in a much more regular way” in its policy deliberations, he said.  
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11 Responses to Assessing a renewed focus on grad students, alumni

Aaron Alter *77 Says:

2011-07-05 15:47:58

I'm glad that the grad students are getting more attention. When I was at Princeton, I felt that we were pretty isolated from the general campus experience.

Carl Bowin '60 Says:

2011-07-05 16:38:42

My three graduate years at Princeton with Prof. Harry Hess, plus one year as an instructor, gave me an incredible set of experiences with dictatorships, U.S. global interactions, and clandestine operations.

Joseph H. Abeles *82 Says:

2011-07-06 09:16:38

The graduate-student experience at Princeton is not entirely "broken." Yes, it *is* less-compelling next to the many symbols and rites of passage of undergraduate culture that pervade campus life. In small, relatively isolated Princeton, the attractive and fine architecture and campus foot traffic revolve around undergraduate life. In one area the University *has* consistently seemed to give graduate students short shrift: housing. Whether inadequate in capacity, too distant from the center of campus, or simply declassé, the message sent by the graduate-student housing situation is unmistakable and is soon assimilated by newcomers to campus.

Bob Pressley *62 Says:

2011-07-06 09:18:21

Tiny steps from a giant university. How about sending the e-mail addresses of the members of each graduate department to us alums?

Leanne Tobias *78 Says:

2011-07-06 09:21:46

Additional outreach to graduate-school alums is a most welcome development, and I am extremely happy to learn that Princeton will be focusing more regularly on all its alumni. I do hope that more graduate alumni are named to Princeton's board. As a graduate alum, I'd also appreciate the fuller integration of alumni into all alumni networks that serve Princetonians, including local Princeton alumni clubs, affinity organizations, and on-campus events (P-Rade, Reunions). As well, I watch all Princeton news with interest and appreciate updates on all newsworthy events relating to the University -- my interest is not confined to graduate-school news. Again, I am very happy to hear of the heightened focus on reaching out to graduate-school alumni.

Ralph Gomory *54 Says:

2011-07-06 11:56:04

This is a very good direction. Congratulations!

Alan Johnson *08 Says:

2011-07-06 15:28:32

Thank goodness this issue is getting some serious attention. Graduate students can certainly be involved in campus life, but they are excluded by default. It is important that the University start finding ways to integrate the graduates and undergraduates into a cohesive overall culture. I will say that when it comes to Princeton grad-student social life, the Graduate College is by far the most important institution. Unfortunately, most grad students are forced to leave the GC after a year or two, due to lack of overall housing space and individual living space, and once people end up at the far-flung apartment complexes, the culture incubated by the GC tends to evaporate. Aside from better integration with the main campus, the University should look into ways to build on the community of the GC.

Ranjan Pal *84 Says:

2011-08-25 09:25:15

As one of the few graduate alums to head a major Princeton alumni association (the Princeton Club of India) I am glad to see the university beginning to re-engage more strongly with its graduate alumni. However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and I think substantive change will only come about when there are more graduate alumni on the Board of Trustees. The Commission was entirely right in recommending a 25% target for the Board, and I hope that this is eventually achieved. The PCI actually won an APGA Regional Association Award in 2010 for our efforts to more fully engage graduate alumni - do check out the awards section on our website

Abigail Go *08 Says:

2011-08-25 09:27:07

I must agree with Mr. Abeles. Overall, graduate housing is deficient, particularly in convenience and proximity to campus. This is a particular concern because most graduate students, many of whom do not drive or own cars, stay on campus to work or study during winter break and over the summer.

Marisa Biaggi *06 Says:

2011-08-25 12:05:24

As a graduate student at Princeton from 2000-2006, I can affirm that it was only when making great efforts to integrate ourselves in the life of the campus that we felt the requisite sense of inclusion that one usually expects from an educational environment of international renown. I am always delighted to hear about the University in the news and elsewhere, and look forward to more events that are focused not just on graduate students, but are inclusive of all Princeton alumni, as well as a more complete integration of graduate alumni into the many Princeton alumni networks. Like others who have posted, I would love to see more graduate alumni named to Princeton's board. All told, however, this is a great step in the right direction, and most appreciated!

Kevin Stiles *88 Says:

2011-11-28 09:29:15

I will echo what many have said about grad students being on the periphery of a campus life that revolves around undergrads. But my years at Princeton were wonderful; I view an improved grad student integration as a step to make the grad experience even more positive. I am also fortunate to have a daughter who just graduated from Princeton this past spring. I learned more about undergraduate life at Princeton in the parents' orientation session than I did during my five years on campus. And during her four years at Princeton, I came to understand the reasons for the strong allegiance among alumni to the University.
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CURRENT ISSUE: July 6, 2011