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Sterling given new role

Joseph McMahon | Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gregory Sterling, the former executive dean of the College of Arts and Letters was appointed dean of the Graduate School over the summer.

The appointment follows a split between the University’s Graduate School and Office of Research in 2007 and Sterling plans to use his new role to help strengthen the Graduate School and increase collaboration between graduate and undergraduate programs.

“The Graduate School has long been seen as a secondary citizen in the University of Notre Dame,” Sterling said. “The University has made its reputation on the basis of the undergraduate programs and the graduate school has, to a great extent, been an afterthought. My task is to help put the graduate school on firm footing so that it takes its rightful place in the University.”

Notre Dame has only one graduate student for every 4.3 undergraduates, Sterling said. By comparison, Princeton has 2.3 undergraduates of every graduate student, and Brown has 3.5 he said.

“I don’t know of any of our peers that would have as few graduates in comparison to undergraduates as we do,” Sterling said.

However, far from detracting from the college, Sterling said strengthening the Graduate School would actually be beneficial to everyone at the University.

“I actually think the graduate studies are complementary to undergraduate education. They mutually reinforce one another,” he said.

One particular area where graduate students could help undergraduates is research, he said.

“The emphasis that we are now putting on undergraduate research is going to feed into this because graduate students are primarily here to do research and they’re actually going to have more and more of a leading role in helping foster undergraduate research,” Sterling said.

While he stressed there is nothing wrong with professional studies, Sterling also said having more graduates at Notre Dame could help foster the pursuit of intellectual studies, rather than just the pursuit of a career.

“Graduate students help to set an intellectual tone,” he said. “It’s one thing to think about a career, but it’s another thing to engage a discipline for the sake of engaging that discipline. That adds an intellectual richness to one’s studies that looking for a career won’t add, and I think graduate students will help set that tone.”

He said he believes a stronger Graduate School will help improve the academic environment at Notre Dame and could be another hallmark of an already prestigious university.

“When graduate studies were established in 1918, the immigrant population was looking for a way for their children to advance socially and there was an interest in professional schools,” he said. “I think we’ve now reached the point where we can take one more step and put an emphasis on advancing not only professionally but also within the academy, and that will elevate the academic reputation of Notre Dame.”