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A Focus on the Future of Graduate Education

Noted anthropologist wants to do more to support graduate students and faculty

Dorothy Hodgson, a professor of anthropology, is taking on new responsibilities in the administration of graduate education across Rutgers University–New Brunswick. Hodgson has been named senior associate dean for academic affairs at the Graduate School–New Brunswick, which oversees nearly 4,000 students and 120 Ph.D. and master’s programs.  A veteran scholar who has held numerous leadership positions, Hodgson discusses how her new responsibilities help her fulfill her longtime mission of supporting graduate students.   

Dorothy QandAQ: How does your new role fit into the overall structure of Rutgers?

A: The Graduate SchoolNew Brunswick is responsible for graduate curriculums across all the departments and schools of Rutgers University–New Brunswick. So when someone in Arts and Sciences proposes a new graduate course, we are the central body that evaluates that proposal. We also provide key services and programs, such as GradFund, which helps students find research grants and fellowships.

Q: What drew you to this job?

A: Providing mentoring and support across the disciplines. In anthropology, I’ve mentored my graduate students as well as students more broadly in my capacities as advisor, committee member, graduate director, and chair. When I served as graduate director, it was important for me to establish policies and create programs to better support our students.

Q: What are some of the key areas in which graduate students need more support?

A: All universities need to watch their attrition rates—the numbers of students leaving before getting their degrees—and keep them as low as possible. There’s much we can do at the level of admissions. And there are many steps we can take to support the diverse student body we have now. For example, we’re in the process of working on a leave of absence policy to provide more flexibility to graduate studies. Graduate students are adults, facing all the challenges adults face. They are often parents or have parents or partners they are caring for.

Q: What about career support? There is a lot of anxiety about the availability of academic jobs.

A: Yes, when you think about the current state of graduate education, the question becomes: how can we train students early on to think and prepare for, other types of opportunities beyond the academy? In anthropology we held regular workshops where alumni who worked in government, non-profits, and advocacy organizations talked about their own experiences and provided great advice to current students.

Q: What are some of the first things you plan to do in the job?

A: Listening and learning. I plan to meet with small groups of graduate directors and graduate students so I can learn about their programs and listen to their concerns.



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