Paul Kei Matsuda

The Graduate College Concept

One of the first things I learned about graduate programs at ASU--even before I started--was the implementation of the graduate college concept.

This is nothing new--in Japan, graduate faculty members (people who are certified to advise graduate students) often identify themselves as belonging to the graduate school of X. (For example, at Nagoya University, I belonged to the Graduate School of International Development rather than a department or college.)

In the States, though, disciplines have traditionally been organized around departments, and each graduate program have been housed primarily--if not exclusively--with a department. For that reason, it was not always easy for a graduate student in one program to have a faculty member from another department to chair the dissertation committee even if that person is the ultimate expert in the area. Some of the reasons included the territoriarity of faculty members in the student's department and the lack of recognition or reward for the faculty who work with students in another department.

The graduate college concept, which sees faculty members as belonging to the graduate college or school, an interdepartmental unit, rather than a department, is designed to address this problem by allowing faculty members to work with students in other departments. At institutions like ASU, where experts in, say, applied linguistics are situated in various departments and units on different campuses, it makes a lot of sense.

The original program-in-department structure is not going to go away entirely because of issues like program funding, tenure and promotion. But there will be more fluidity in exchanging people and their experties. At least that's the idea.

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Last update: January 6, 2008