On April 6, the Rutgers Board of Governors voted to approve a merger between the Graduate School—New Brunswick and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences to form a new School of Graduate Studies based at Rutgers—New Brunswick.
Creating a plan to combine the two graduate schools has taken more than two years, said Jerome Kukor, dean of the Graduate School—New Brunswick. The new school will formally open on July 1.
“The thinking behind it is that it provides the economy of scale … a better way for us to deliver services to students rather than trying to do it through separate smaller graduate schools where you don’t gain any of that efficiency,” he said. “It’s better to do things together rather than try to do things differently.”
The two schools are both in the Association of American Universities (AAU), and are the only graduate schools within the Rutgers umbrella to participate in that organization, he said.
“The Graduate School of Newark is an autonomous unit (and) the Graduate School of Camden is an autonomous unit,” he said. “The two schools being brought together are the two halves of the AAU research organization. That is New Brunswick and (Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences).”
Combining the schools follows the model set by most AAU institutions by having a single graduate school, he said.
It also allows Rutgers to deliver services to students more efficiently, as well as offer more services, Kukor said. These new services include an increased focus on students who graduate and move to jobs in the industry.
Decades ago, the vast majority of Ph.D. students graduated, worked on a postdoctoral program, and then became tenure-track professors, he said. Today, three out of four tend to move into a different type of career.
“Most don’t become professors,” he said. “That’s now the minority track. We want to help our students develop professionally to complement the core knowledge they’re receiving. We can do that more efficiently by combining our resources.”
The graduate schools at Rutgers are not structured like undergraduate schools are. They do not hire faculty members or have any dedicated academic buildings, Kukor said.
Instead, they work with the other schools within the University. Faculty members who teach Ph.D. students are still employees of whichever school originally hired them, he said.
“Graduate schools are very different from other types of schools that you might think of,” he said. “The School of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering, the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences … those schools are schools that directly hire faculty, they directly admit students into them, they run the enterprise based on the disciplines that are located there.”
Students likewise are admitted by the different schools, but master’s and Ph.D. candidate programs are run through the Graduate School—New Brunswick or the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. After July, they will be run through the School of Graduate Studies.
No graduate school affiliated with a research university hires its own faculty, Kukor said. Faculty members in other departments instead apply to become members of the graduate school, at which point they will be eligible to mentor Ph.D. and master’s students.
Every research Ph.D. program is run through one of the two graduate schools right now, he said. Therefore, every faculty member interested in working with doctoral candidates in a laboratory applies to do so through one of those schools.
“They volunteer, they request permission, they solicit an opportunity to be involved, so they basically apply for membership in the graduate school,” he said. “There’s probably about 2,500 faculty total in the graduate school but each person can belong to multiple graduate programs. They have the competence to mentor Ph.D. students in those disciplines if they want to provide their knowledge, their expertise (and) support to students.”
While the schools will formally merge on July 1, there are still a number of tasks to be accomplished, he said. Most of the changes are administrative and involve updating course catalogs, creating a new handbook for the school and developing branding materials for the new school.
“We’re going to hold the students harmless, we don’t want them to be harmed by any of the things we need to do to do this,” he said. “They’ll continue to pursue their Ph.D. and master’s degrees just as they have been and we’re hoping that there aren’t going to be any bumps in the road as we change systems.”
Nikhilesh De is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. He is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.