Graduate Studies: alive, well, and thriving

(July 23, 1998, Gazette)

By Jean Graham

From his office on the sixth floor of the Earth Sciences Building, Dean of Graduate Studies Dr. Greg Kealey can observe the construction of the new University Centre. Every day, there's a little more done towards the ultimate goal.

If you're into metaphors, you might draw a connection between the work six floors down and what happens in Dr. Kealey's office. He sees himself as having been handed an enormous (if challenging) responsibility and, bit by bit, he's molding the School of Graduate Studies into a force to be reckoned with.

Grad Studies is a vital area of the university, according to Dr. Kealey, and it's important to both Memorial and the province that it be nourished.

"I entered into (the job of dean) with the notion that if we are to increase and improve our role as a research university, strengthening Graduate Studies is vital," he said recently. "Given the pressures that there are right now, with regards to federal cutbacks and policy, it's particularly important that we continue an assertive approach to growth."

Federal cutbacks in the area of postsecondary education are fairly well publicized. Less known to the general public is the fact that, as Dr. Kealey put it, "There's a strong centralizing movement going on with regards to research funding. Having spent 25 years building strong regional universities, the government appears to be backtracking and trying to concentrate its research dollars in fewer than a dozen universities, none of them east of Quebec.

"It's very important to resist that impetus. I don't think that would be good for Newfoundland or Atlantic Canada ... As a provincial university we're going to be crucial for the development of the province.

"Similarly, if we're going to deal with the socio-economic issues we're going to be facing here (as a result of the cod fishery shutdown), we're going to need interested researchers. I just don't believe the plight of rural Newfoundland would necessarily be a big priority for faculty members in Ontario."

A discussion paper released by the Centre for Institutional Analysis and Planning in May presented a statistical view of graduate studies at Memorial, and in comparison with other Canadian universities. Focus on the Student: Graduate Students at Memorial is the second statistical report on the school; it updates a less detailed report released in 1995.

The report is available from CIAP for anyone interested. In essence, it presents a picture of a thriving school. Overall graduate student enrolment at Memorial has increased by more than 37 per cent since 1990, even though there has been a slight decrease in total enrolment in that time. The growth of graduate studies at Memorial contrasts well with that at other universities in the same time period.

Although a few graduate programs were not accepting applications for new admissions this year, several new programs have been added to Memorial's offerings, and about a dozen more are in various stages of planning.

Saying he "inherited" a school in good shape from previous administrators, Dr. Kealey says another major effort these days is integrating Graduate Studies with other campus offices.

"There was a kind of separate existence of the graduate school," he said. "My attitude was there was a lot of resources on campus which we could both use and contribute to ... Instead of being separate, we're integrating where we can."

Thus far, this has meant involvement with Student Affairs, the Registrar's Office, and the Office of Student Recruitment and Promotion, as well as development of a new teaching fellowship program with the Faculty of Arts and a trial MBA program for Chinese students with the Faculty of Business Administration.

The building and streamlining of the School of Graduate Studies affects everyone at the university, as Dr. Kealey pointed out.

"It's important not only to Newfoundland business and society in general ... It's important to undergraduate students because of the quality of professors," he said.