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including The Conductor, a special section of the Spectrum printed 4 times a year

Provost praises VT faculty

By Susan Trulove

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 08 - October 12, 1995

Provost Peggy Meszaros praised the university's faculty and told members of the Graduate Student Assembly at their September 28 meeting, "You are fortunate to have made the choice and to have been accepted at Virginia Tech."

She acknowledged that graduate students are "mature, motivated, and selective about how they spend their time. You don't want to waste your time in programs that are going nowhere. Programs here are focused and on the cutting edge..." she said. "This institution is among the leading graduate and research institutions in the world."

Meszaros said part of her job is to ensure that graduate students have a successful educational experience. "The graduates of Virginia Tech's graduate programs whom I have met are successful," she reported, "and they relate their success back to programs at Virginia Tech where they have been challenged and supported."

She said that she continues to draw on experiences from her graduate education that kept her thinking ahead.

"So you should be challenged," she told the students. "You should also be supported. This institution should be committed to your success."

She advised the students that not only their achievements, but their relationships with faculty members in their programs, are important to placement after graduation. "Close working relationships will help insure your success."

The faculty values its graduate students, she said. "This institution cares about you. Our business is education. And as graduate students you are helping to forge new knowledge."

She said the university should be providing a learning environment where graduate students can safely try out things.

And she said, "I'm eager to meet you. My job is only fulfilling if I can see you grow and progress."

During discussion with the students, Meszaros told GSA members it is essential that graduate students be involved in the effort to define the university's core values.

In response to a student's observation that graduate students in the former study of science and technology in society program are not being treated as colleagues by faculty members from other disciplines now that STS has become part of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, Meszaros suggested, "Lay all the issues out and work through them."

She also said, "We can no longer afford to have solid department lines. We need to be more collaborative. The model you can set will benefit us all." And she suggested the students and faculty members can build on a common love of discovery and knowledge.

Regarding interdisciplinary efforts, she said the initiatives are coming from the faculty, and gave as an example biological sciences faculty members' decision to formalize coordination of curriculum, programs, and research.

Asked about decreasing resources for research, Meszaros said, "It's not unlike what is happening around the country. Now we have to look at how we fashion where we want to be with fewer resources because higher education is not the highest priority for state funding."

Len Peters, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, added, "It's not just state resources, but federal resources as well. Faculty members and graduate students are working harder to get more funds and did increase research funding by 10 percent last year. But it's not a bright picture. It's not only prisons on the state scene, but social security and Medicare on the federal scene."

In response to a question about industry funding, Peters said Virginia Tech is already ranked very high in the amount of research funded by industry and is working closely with the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology to develop more resources and to help the state's businesses at the same time. "But private sources are not going to replace federal funding."

Asked if there is a conflict of interest in doing research for private industry, Peters said there are procedures and policies in place to prevent conflict, "but it continues to be an issue we look at."

Asked whether graduate-student tuition scholarships will run out in two years, Peters said the Graduate School continues to evaluate the program to make sure the benefits are there, but there was no two-year limit on the program.

A graduate student said 60 percent of Ph.D. students end up not completing their dissertations, and asked what the scope of the problem is at Virginia Tech, and what Meszaros thinks can be done.

"I would like to know what our rate is," Meszaros said. "Writing the dissertation is a major hurdle and some people think it's not worth the effort and that distresses me."

She concluded, "If you are not challenging yourself to learn and create resources you will draw on the rest of your life while you are here in this safe environment, then we are not doing our jobs."

GSA President Bryan Rowland encouraged graduate students to participate and to share issues that need to be examined. "If there are things that need to be looked at, please call us. The GSA is only as effective as each delegate."

Dan Waddill, graduate student representative to the Board of Visitors, suggested the same kind of placement report should be done for graduate students as is done for undergraduates. "The questions are, is the type of relationship we have with the faculty good enough, or do we need to be involved with placement services, and are we receiving the skills we need for a changing job market?

It was also suggested that there should be an alumni network. John Eaton, associate provost for graduate studies, said if students pushed formation of alumni networks within the disciplines "it could happen in lots of places within the university."