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Graduate Student Experience TaskĀ Force

Overview of the Task Force

This Graduate Student Experience Task Force is established to make recommendations on how we can improve the overall experience of all graduate students at Mizzou. We believe “experience” encompasses all aspects of a graduate student’s life while at MU including but not limited to:

Quality of life issues

  • Adequate funding: Graduate student stipends are traditionally considered insufficient for normal living expenses. Are there alternative funding models to be considered? Does one funding model fit all students in all cases? What impact does cost of living have on stipend value? What impact has the Affordable Care Act had on graduate student earnings at MU and are they seeking alternative sources of funding that impact their educational attainment?
  • Health Insurance: Health care continues to be a major expense, how have graduate students with dependents faired on our campus as they try to meet health care needs and costs?
  • Soft benefits: What other benefits would improve the student experience at MU: Discount food options in dining halls, maternity leave, vendor discounts?
  • Housing: Students continue to express concerns regarding available student housing or close to campus housing. While we have some local graduate student housing, is it managed and allocated in a way to address those with clear need for local housing? Do we adequately educate graduate students about quality off-campus housing?
  • Graduate student community: Do graduate students feel a part of this campus? How do graduate assistants perceive their role in delivering the missions of the university? In what ways, if any, should the university foster online graduate student community?
  • Columbia community: The role of the community of Columbia in shaping the graduate student experience including adequate housing, transportation, shopping, affordable day care and general inclusiveness of our students? What role can MU play in shaping these options?

Non-academic campus resources

  • Professional development or soft skills: How do students obtain these skills? What is the role of the academic unit, the Office of Graduate Studies or campus career focused offices in providing these skills?
  • Counseling: Graduate students are frequently isolated by their work; how do they learn about such important resources, whose role is it to ensure students have this information? What are the barriers to using the services on campus?
  • Teaching: We have expectations for graduate students to teach and we give them the most challenging assignments of teaching freshman in general education courses. What resources are available to help them teach? Do they know where these resources are and who is responsible for helping them find these resources?

Academic experiences

  • Mentoring: Do our students feel they are receiving adequate mentoring, either by their advisor or by their departments or others?
  • Resources: Do they feel they have the resources to succeed? What are the challenges and roadblocks they experience?
  • Assistantships: Where is the priority given (student interest, department needs, faculty needs)? What is the student’s responsibility in light of the assistantship – to the student’s education, to the assistantship, elsewhere? What is a quality assistantship experience for the student that also serves the needs of the program/faculty?

Charge of the Task Force

  • Examine the practices, compensation, and benefits provided to funded graduate students and make recommendations to ensure that these students are recruited, retained, recognized and rewarded for their contributions to meeting the University’s mission.
  • Examine common policies and processes on campus and in the community that impact quality of life issues for all graduate students.
  • Explore how academic units and campus in general provides resources (professional, and educational) to graduate students.

Available Resources for the Task Force

  • Previous MU studies, as well as national comparisons when available
  • Survey data collected from graduates
  • Preliminary focus group data and assistance with new focus group studies
  • Access to graduate student data available through the Office of Graduate Studies or the Office for Institutional Research.
  • Resources and expertise from across campus
  • Information and data regarding best practices in graduate education

Once having reviewed the MU graduate student experience as a whole, and best practices in graduate education, and being mindful of the current resources available for new activities, the Task Force is expected to prioritize recommendations needed to improve the graduate student experience at MU and meet the goals of One Mizzou 2020, Vision for Excellence.

Membership for the Task Force

* denoted co-chairs

  • Earnest Perry*, Associate Professor, School of Journalism; 2014-2015 Graduate Faculty Senate Vice President
  • Tracy Kitchel*, Assistant Vice Provost for Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs; Associate Professor, Agricultural Education & Leadership, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
  • Judith Miller, Dean, School of Nursing
  • Sheila Grant, Professor, Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Sandy Rikoon, Interim Dean, College of Human and Environmental Sciences; Curators Professor, Rural Sociology, College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources
  • Sanda Erdalez, Professor, School Information Science & Learning Technology, College of Education, 2012-2013 Graduate Faculty Senate President
  • Ruth Tofle, Professor and Chair, Architectural Studies, College of Human and Environmental Sciences
  • Carol Ward, Curator’s Professor, Pathology & Anatomic Sciences, Medical School
  • Laura King, Curator’s Professor, Psychological Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Mitch McKinney, Professor & Chair, Communication, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Heather Carver, Professor and Chair, Theatre, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Alexandra Socanides, Associate Professor, English, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Erica Lembke, Associate Professor, Special Education, College of Education
  • Lois Huneycutt, Professor and DGS, History, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Karen Schnatterly, Emma S. Hibbs Distinguished Professor of Management, Trulaske College of Business
  • Ashlie Lester, Assistant Teaching Professor and DGS, Human Development and Family Studies, College of Human and Environmental Sciences
  • Shirley Holdmeier, Academic Advisor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering
  • Matt McCune, Communications Chair, Graduate Professional Council (GPC), Physics
  • Kenneth Bryant, President, Graduate Student Association (GSA), Political Science
  • Hallie Thompson, President, Graduate Professional Council (GPC), Plant Sciences
  • Arianna Soldati, Graduate Student, Geological Sciences
  • Wyvonnia Neeley, Graduate Student, Human Development and Family Studies
  • Adriana Boersner, Graduate Student, Political Sciences

Meetings of the Task Force

  • May 1, 2015 [notes]
  • May 27, 2015 [notes]
  • July 6, 2015 [notes]
  • August 14, 2015 [notes]
  • September 14, 2015 [notes]
  • October 1, 2015 [notes]
  • October 12, 2015 [committee work session]
  • October 29, 2015 [notes]
  • November 9, 2015 [canceled]
  • November 19, 2015 November 16, 2015 [notes/committee work session]
  • December 7, 2015 [develop final report draft]
  • December 15, 2015 [approval of final report]

Final Report