Annual Report 2010

Message from the Dean—Continuing to strive for excellence in graduate education

John C. Keller

In my eleventh year as Graduate College dean, The University of Iowa remains a remarkable place to work on behalf of graduate students, faculty, and staff. Our university thanks the many outstanding scholars whose research, teaching, and creative efforts continue to shape our thriving and innovative academic community.

This year, contributors to Iowa’s rich learning environment include a “genius” researcher at the Center for the Book, a Ph.D. student studying clinical neuropsychology who made a major breakthrough in the care of Alzheimer’s patients, and an interdisciplinary program that proposed sustainability plans for small-town Iowa.

These and other contributions have made this academic year a particularly fruitful one here at Iowa.

Contributing to Iowa’s Excellence

Timothy Barrett, a research scientist and adjunct professor of papermaking at the Center for the Book, was a 2009 recipient of a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. These $500,000 fellowships, known as “genius grants,” are awarded in a variety of fields each year to 24 individuals who have shown exceptional originality and dedication in their creative pursuits. Barrett garnered national and international media attention for winning the award.

Justin Feinstein, a Ph.D. student studying clinical neuropsychology, conducted research showing that patients with amnesia still feel emotions, despite memory loss. This finding has a profound impact on the standard of care for Alzheimer’s patients, as this same type of amnesia is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Feinstein has been interviewed about his research by newspapers and radio stations from all over the world, including National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” program, The Daily Mail in England, and The Los Angeles Times.

Congratulations also to Adam Ziemann for receiving first runner-up distinction in the Council of Graduate Schools CGS/UMI Distinguished Dissertation Award competition for 2009. Ziemann, who earned his Ph.D. in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics and his M.D. at The University of Iowa in 2009, is the UI’s eleventh finalist in the prestigious competition. The University has had five winners—more than any other institution—which is a source of great pride for the Graduate College and the entire university community.

Diana Bryant, a Graduate College staff member, received a well-deserved honor last fall when she accepted a Board of Regents Staff Excellence Award for 2008-2009. Diana works with the Office of Graduate Ethnic Inclusion (OGEI), coordinating the Summer Research Opportunities Program (SROP)/McNair Scholars Program, retention efforts, and new graduate student orientation.

This university, and indeed the state of Iowa, can take great pride that so many UI faculty and students apply their research to benefit the community at large. A shining example is the Urban and Regional Planning Program, where students in the Field Problems in Planning course, taught by Paul Hanley, developed sustainability plans for the Iowa towns of Anamosa, Columbus Junction, Decorah, and Wellman.

The students’ efforts received media attention from local newspapers, which cited the immediate benefits of the students’ research for these Iowa towns. Such impactful work continues in our Urban and Regional Planning program, as well as in many graduate programs throughout our university.

Striving for excellence

Our pursuit of excellence in graduate education was enhanced this year by the findings of a group charged with assessing graduate education at Iowa. The group, the Task Force on Graduate Education: Selective Excellence, gathered and analyzed objective data in order to better understand Iowa’s strengths in graduate education and to create a clear map for future pursuit of excellence.

While it is rare for a comprehensive research university to mount such an assessment, this current economic climate demands accountability for graduate education programs. The task force based its assessments on graduate student outcomes, using numerous quantitative and qualitative parameters. The data revealed a positive picture of graduate education at Iowa: 82 percent of the more than 100 programs are exemplary, high quality, or good, while only 13 percent require additional evaluation.

In May, The University of Iowa Graduate Faculty approved the closure of nine master’s and doctoral programs in the additional-evaluation-required category. Two of these programs had already been slated for closure prior to this year’s assessment, due mostly to low enrollment or low faculty numbers. Only about half of the nine programs have students enrolled, and all students would be allowed to finish their degrees. The closures, which require state Board of Regents approval, will be presented to the board for consideration this fall.

Funding on the rise

Despite a tough economic climate, the Graduate College and its programs saw increases in funds raised through annual giving.

In FY10, the Graduate College’s annual gifts and net revenue were higher than in any of the previous five years. The average gift was $151, up from $122 in FY09. Renewal gifts also were up more than 30 percent. Additionally, we acquired more new donors this year than in FY09. I believe this is due in part to increased communication and outreach to alumni about faculty and graduate student research and creative work in the Graduate College.

I thank all donors who made contributions of any size. Your generosity helps assure our success and our continued work to benefit society.

Other vital sources of revenue also increased this year. Our researchers and administrators secured a record $3.1 million in external funding for research and education.

The Center for the Book received a $256,000 three-year grant from a private foundation, thanks largely to the work of principal investigator Julia Leonard. The grant fund graduate student assistantships and a printing lectureship. It will also support professional development and programming for students and faculty.

ACT, founded in 1959 by UI education leaders E.F. Lindquist and Ted McCarrel, committed $5 million to The University of Iowa Foundation to endow the ACT Scholars Program. This is an opportunity for qualified students to pursue graduate degrees at the UI while obtaining on-the-job training at ACT. The program will make its first awards during the 2010-2011 academic year.

The Immunology program, under the direction of Gail Bishop, successfully renewed its grant for a Predoctoral Training Program in Immunology. The grant was renewed through July 31, 2015 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health. The grant, which totals $217,479 in 2010 and $217,965 in each of the final four years, will provide students with stipends, training-related expenses, and tuition and fees.

Thanks again to the many remarkable faculty, staff, and graduate scholars whose work marked the 2009-2010 academic year as one of significant accomplishment for the Graduate College, The University of Iowa, and all who depend on our work to live better lives.

John C. Keller
Associate Provost for Graduate Education
Dean, Graduate College