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May 25, 2007
Contact: Deborah Baum
(401) 863-2476

Graduate School Has Grant to Improve Doctoral Completion Rates

Brown University’s Graduate School is among 22 universities selected to participate in the Ph.D. Completion Project, a national initiative to increase completion rates in doctoral programs. The program is administered by the Council of Graduate Schools, with support from Pfizer Inc. and the Ford Foundation.

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown University has been selected to participate in a national initiative administered by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), with funding from Pfizer Inc. and the Ford Foundation, aimed at increasing completion rates in doctoral programs. In total, 22 universities will receive awards of up to $80,000 to widen the scope of the Ph.D. Completion Project, which provides the most comprehensive information available on completion of doctoral programs.

This major initiative in graduate education is designed to address issues of doctoral attrition and completion in the sciences, engineering and mathematics, and the humanities and social sciences. The grants will provide first-time funding to eight universities and continuing support to 14 institutions that have participated in the first phase of the project. The universities will collect and submit data on doctoral completion and attrition; implement interventions in areas such as selection, mentoring and financial support; and develop rigorous assessment strategies to measure the impact of these interventions.

In recent years, the Graduate School has made tremendous improvements in attracting and supporting the best doctoral students, thanks largely to the Plan for Academic Enrichment,” said Sheila Bonde, dean of the Graduate School. “This grant will allow us to measure the effectiveness of some more recent initiatives regarding doctoral support, as well as implement new strategies for improving the experience of graduate students at Brown.”

Beginning this fall at Brown, the interventions will be focused on supporting students at “critical transitions” during their early and middle years in academic programs. The new strategies include an emphasis on monitoring milestones of academic progress; improving the process of advisor selection, especially for entering cohorts of women and minority students; fostering a research environment by assisting students with grant-writing and identifying funding sources; and establishing a group of faculty members to serve as dissertation research coaches and counselors, to support the beginning of students’ dissertation research stage. Brown intends to continue the project for at least six years.

According to the CGS, the Ph.D. Completion Project has already begun to produce the most comprehensive and useful information yet available on completion of doctoral programs. The project is highlighting strategies for increasing completion rates of minorities and women, particularly in those fields where these groups have been traditionally under-represented or experience disproportionately high attrition.

“This continuation project will permit the graduate education community to better address critical issues in doctoral completion precisely at the time when global competition for highly trained talent is growing,” said Debra W. Stewart, CGS president.

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is an organization of more than 480 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research, and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. CGS member institutions award more than 90 percent of the doctoral degrees and more than 75 percent of the master’s degrees in the United States. The organization’s mission is to improve and advance graduate education, which it accomplishes through advocacy in the federal policy arena, research, and the development and dissemination of best practices.

Pfizer Inc. discovers, develops, manufactures, and markets leading prescription medicines for humans and animals and many of the world’s best-known consumer brands.

The Ford Foundation is a nonprofit corporation whose goals are to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement.

More information about the project and participating universities is available at the CGS Web site:

Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.