Framework for Graduate Education

Strategic Framework for Graduate EducationDecember 20, 2018

Every graduate student is inspired and empowered to make a difference in a complex and diverse world.

Vision Statement

The framework for Graduation Education was written to determine the vision for the IANR graduate education, push the boundaries of traditional academic education, and provide students with an educational experience that prepares them to be the next generation of leaders, scientists, educators, innovators, and entrepreneurs.

The shared mission of IANR’s faculty and staff (ARD, Extension, CASNR, CEHS, and IANR Global Engagement) is to prepare graduates whose leadership, discovery, and innovation shape society.

Background

How it was Developed

  • Units and programs completed a focused situational (SWOT) analysis to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of their graduate education programs.
  • The SWOT analyses were the basis of the quantitative surveys developed in partnership with the Bureau of Sociological Research (BOSR). Surveys were administered to IANR unit administrators, graduate chairs, graduate students, and employers of IANR graduates.
  • Survey responses and SWOTs guided focus groups for IANR graduate chairs and graduate students.
  • Three visioning sessions for faculty and staff (2), and post-docs and graduate students (1) were also conducted to explore what is the most distinctive, bold and inspirational future the IANR can create for our graduate students.
  • The full report and analyses developed by BOSR will be available August 1, 2018.
  • On the basis of the information gathered a strategic framework was developed in cooperation with the unit administrators and center directors, the graduate committee chairs, faculty, graduate students and employers.

Relationship between Office of Graduate Studies, IANR, & Units in Grad Ed

“The mission of the Office of Graduate Studies is to facilitate the development of excellent graduate students, faculty, staff and programs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Office of Graduate Studies is committed to achieving excellence through working in close partnership the Graduate Committee Chair, the Department Chair/Head, and the college Dean” (https://www.unl.edu/gradstudies/mission).

Within the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, we are committed to having a shared mission and responsibility to wisely leverage resources among Agricultural Research Division (ARD), Extension, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources (CASNR), the relevant units in the College of Education and Human Sciences (CEHS), and IANR Global Engagement to prepare graduate students.

Difference between Strategic Framework & Strategic Plan

A strategic framework is defined as “a basic structure underlying a system, context, or text.” The goal of the framework is to provide a structure or set of guiding principles within which an organization can operate. A strategic plan is defined as “a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.” The goal of a plan is to provide an organization with short-term, actionable, and measurable tasks. We chose to develop a strategic framework for the following reasons:

  • It provides vision, goals, and major priorities, as well, as a set of standards and questions that will be used to guide IANR decisions on programs and investments related to graduate education.
  • It provides the flexibility to adapt to changing needs, opportunities, and circumstances in graduate education.
  • While providing the vision and goals for the organization, it is less prescriptive than a strategic plan, allows more autonomy and creativity, and serves as a unifying way of setting priorities and decision-making.
  • Historically, graduate education has been determined by the units and a culture of autonomy exists that needs to be respected and enhanced to provide our students with the best outcomes for their education and their faculty mentors.

Themes

What Will Make Us Distinctive?

  • An individualized approach to graduate education and lifelong learning
  • Commitment to every student matters
  • Intentional emphasis on faculty-student mentoring relationships
  • Holistic approach that connects student interests to diverse career pathways
  • A global network of graduate students and alumni intimately connected

Cross-Cutting Themes (Internal & External)

  1. More emphasis on a student-centered, individualized approach to graduate education
  2. Learning by doing
  3. Optimize the graduate student experience
    • Holistic student development
    • Focus on disciplinary to transdisciplinary
    • Translate knowledge and competencies into impact in a range of careers
    • Multiple opportunities to communicate and connect impact of research to ethical and societal issues
    • Career exploration
  4. Catalyze cultural change in graduate education
    • Importance of teaching and learning
    • Mentorship
    • Adjust faculty rewards and incentives to align with graduate education priorities
  5. Increase data collection, research and transparency about graduate education and career outcomes
  6. Define core educational competencies and outcomes of the MS and PhD degrees and align with career pathways
  7. Flexibility and innovative programs (stackable certificates, micro-credentials; digital badges, etc.)
  8. Partnerships to broaden career pathway options
    • Federal and state government agencies
    • Private foundations and other non-governmental organizations
    • Industry
    • Professional societies
    • Entrepreneurial focus
  9. Increased emphasis on graduate student health and well-being
  10. Enhanced focus on diversity, equity and inclusive excellence

Goals for IANR Graduate Education

Goal 1 Individualized student experience for personal goals and professional growth of our graduate students.

Aligns with Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century, National Academy of Sciences, 2018; Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers, 2012

Objective 1: Individualized educational pathways that align with diverse career pathways

  • Career pathway transparency
  • Individualized student success plan
  • Professional development roadmap for each student – broaden the focus of graduate education to include development of professional skills (communication, teamwork, creativity, analysis and synthesis, project management, global competence, etc.; Professional Plus Program – partnership with industry and government sectors)
  • Invest in coaching/career development resources for students
  • Stackable and flexible credentialing mechanisms
  • Early entry programs (undergraduate to graduate; bypass M.S. to Ph.D., etc.)
  • Pursue avenues for enrollment growth that have the highest probability of success given IANR’s distinctive strengths and market opportunities
  • Creative credentialing and learning platforms for learners at any stage
  • Passport Learning Concept -- Your education should be paying dividends. Shift from an era of acquirement of education to one based on skills that are continuously updated. Documentation and credentialing especially for our community of lifelong learners.
  • Understand employer expectations regarding skills and abilities of graduates
  • Track career outcomes and job placement for our graduate students
  • Diversify the portfolio of funding strategies to enhance graduate education and support innovative graduate degrees and credentialing

Objective 2: Faculty development that prepares them to mentor students for their chosen careers

  • Intentional faculty and staff orientation and development
  • Resources for mentoring to foster graduate student success
  • Invest in coaching/career development resources for faculty
    • Shift beyond a traditional graduate education framework mentoring approach
    • Embrace a wider range of graduate education models (outcomes-based credentialing models, mixed distance, certificates, cohort structures, etc.)

Objective 3: Commitment to the scholarship of learning for graduate education

  • Incentivize teaching and learning through faculty evaluations, promotion and tenure, awards, etc.
  • Create a central pool of funds to support bold approaches to graduate education
  • Support for scholarship of teaching and learning exchange programs (domestic and international), fellowships and collaborations
  • Understanding of the demographics of future students and their educational needs

Goal 2 Holistic approach that integrates curriculum, research and discovery, experiential learning, and professional development that prepares students to pursue opportunities and solve challenges in Nebraska and beyond.

Aligns with Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century, National Academy of Sciences, 2018; Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers, 2012

Objective 1: Commitment to shared responsibility and integration for graduate education among ARD, Extension, CASNR, and CEHS

  • Stackable and flexible credentialing mechanisms across the mission areas for entrepreneurship, extension education, leadership, communication, business development, teaching and learning, resource management, visioning and strategic planning, etc.
  • Diversify the portfolio of funding strategies to enhance graduate education
  • Create a pool of IANR funds to support bold approaches to graduate education

Objective 2: Intentional integration across learning experiences to align with individualized educational pathways

  • Incorporate a meaningful experiential learning opportunity for each interested student
  • Identify desired competencies and measurable outcomes for graduate programs with an intentional focus on assessment, integrating across the learning experiences, and disciplinary to transdisciplinary
  • Provide opportunities for faculty to engage with industry, government and other sectors (faculty do not always have direct knowledge of or experience with sectors beyond the academy)
  • Flexibility to leverage and increase partnerships to incorporate diverse experiences into graduate programs
  • Understand employer expectations regarding skills and abilities of graduates, specifically skills related to working in a team environment, communicating science, project management, conflict resolution

Goal 3 Diverse experiences with and beyond the university community that develop global and inclusive mindset/perspective.

Aligns with Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century, National Academy of Sciences, 2018; Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers, 2012

Objective 1: Extend the university through strategic partnerships to support global and intercultural competencies

  • Increase partnerships with private, government, NGOs, global, post-secondary institutions, professional societies
  • Mechanisms (including funding) and flexibility to provide opportunities to incorporate global and intercultural experiences into graduate program

Objective 2: Support a global community of learners in IANR

  • Recruitment of a diverse community of students, post-docs, staff, faculty, visiting scholars, and administrators. Provide a community to support diversity (a structure for point of contact for people to find their community) and proactively involve domestic and international students for better integration.
  • Inclusive process to graduate student admission
  • Create a pool of funds to support bold approaches to enhancing the global and intercultural competencies of our community
  • Commitment to support faculty pursuit of programming or funding mechanisms to prepare the diverse future professionals that are needed
  • Graduate student learning communities

Applying & Evaluating the Framework

Applying the Strategic Framework

As units and centers develop plans and request resources to support their graduate education efforts, these requests will be evaluated for their alignment with the strategic framework. Specifically:

  • Is the request consistent with IANR’s commitment to develop an outstanding and distinctive graduate education program?
  • Is the request consistent with other features of the University of Nebraska’s mission?
  • How does the request compare to other opportunities for advancing IANR’s strategic priorities?
    • What are the benefits of pursuing the request?
    • What are the costs, including the opportunity costs, of pursuing the request?
    • What are the costs or risks that might result from not pursuing the request?
  • How effectively does the request use our resources in meeting IANR commitment to an outstanding and distinctive graduate education program?
  • Was the request developed with multiple perspectives and range of opinions and viewpoints?
  • Is the request justified and sustainable for continued success?

These guiding questions will be revised over time, but illustrate the purpose of the framework to guide IANR graduate education in the future.

Evaluating Success

As with strategic plans, strategic frameworks must have methods to evaluate if they are successful and to assess if they have remained relevant and vibrant. The ultimate proof of success will be if we have made a positive difference in the education and experiences that our graduate students have. It will be measured by their success and their reflections of IANR when they are alumni. Simply, have our graduates through their leadership, discovery, and innovation shaped society? As part of this effort, we will need to track the paths and achievements of our alumni over time. However, that assessment, while critical, will be years from the initiation of the strategic framework and too long to wait.

The initial assessment will be to review our SWOT analyses and survey feedback to assess progress and identify where improvements can be made. The units and graduate programs that ultimately have responsibility for graduate education in their areas will carry out this assessment. The assessments will be aligned with the goals, vision and mission of the University of Nebraska system, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the IANR. Concurrently, the strategic framework will be a success if the shared mission of IANR’s faculty and staff (ARD, Extension, CASNR and CEHS) to prepare graduates whose leadership, discovery, and innovation have shaped society is embraced as can be documented by how positions and resources are prioritized, how faculty and staff are promoted, how graduate education is prioritized, and how innovative teams work together to enhance each graduate student’s education by empowering them to find their purpose and succeed in a complex and increasingly diverse world. Surveys through the AAU and the Bureau of Sociological Research will be administered to our current graduate students and alumni (http://aaude.org). Other examples of the success of our strategic framework will be the implementation of individualized student success plans, a professional development roadmap for each student, intentional faculty and staff orientation and development, enhanced investments in coaching/career development resources for faculty and students, increased partnerships with private, government, NGOs, global, post-secondary institutions, expand our teaching and learning committee structure to include graduate education and lifelong learners, and funds to support bold approaches to enhancing the global and intercultural competencies of our community.

Furthermore, we believe in peer review and will periodically request reviews of our graduate education efforts by those within and outside of our University. The academic programmatic reviews of our units will also serve as programmatic peer review of our success. Working with the Bureau of Sociological Research highlighted the importance of an inclusive reflection and visioning process for discovering and defining the uniqueness of an institution committed to making sure that every student matters.