advice for a new grad director
This year, I’ve been on sabbatical, removed from the ordinary cares of teaching and departmental affairs. But in one short month, I’ll be returning to Albany and to “normal” life. I’ll also be returning to a three-year term as grad director.
When I was a grad student, I was only vaguely aware that we had a grad director. I certainly couldn’t have told you what the grad director does.
My sense of that is better now, but I still wonder what my goals should be as I take on this role, and how I should manage the inevitable challenges of the job.
I can imagine two basic strategies, probably not mutually exclusive. One is bottom-up: Talk to lots of grad students, figure out what they see as their problems and issues, and do what I can to solve or ameliorate those.
The other is top-down: Think about our strengths and weaknesses as a department, what our niche is both in sociology and within the university, and where we want our grad program to be in five years, and develop a plan from there.
Okay, maybe there’s a third — muddle through — but let’s assume I’m going to be a little more proactive. Also, let’s assume I have roughly zero control over financial resources. And I already know that one of my priorities is going to be better data collection on student trajectory and placement, a project that the current grad director has started but that we still have way too little information on.
What do you think? If you’ve been a grad director, what accomplishments are you proud of, and what were the challenges? If you’re a grad student, what does your department do well? Or what do you wish your department would do differently, and think a grad director might be able to change?