Friday, September 23, 2011

As the importance of educating the next generation of scholars and leaders increases, the University of Iowa continues its commitment to a mission emphasizing quality training in our graduate education programs.

Iowa’s outstanding graduate faculty and talented graduate students work to fulfill this mission. Their scholarship and creative efforts produce the new knowledge, novel insights, and inventions that will inspire future progress. Viewing our world through critical, creative eyes and seeking yet unseen vantage points, our scholars can provide key advantages for our communities, industries, and other sectors of society.

Building on our legacy as a writing university

Iowa’s new MFA in the Book Arts is one of only five such programs in the nation. Offered by the Center for the Book, this new degree program has already attracted a number of promising graduate scholars. The Center for the Book’s long-standing certificate program laid a robust foundation for the new master’s track.

James McCoy was named the new director of the University of Iowa Press, hired after Holly Carver’s retirement. Carver devoted 25 years to the Press, 11 as its director. She worked to acquire quality books for the press and ensured its financial stability when other presses have struggled.

McCoy offers a dedicated approach to championing the book arts, acquiring quality titles, and marketing the Press’ collection. In addition, his expertise in e-books will allow the Press to innovate and enter new markets. Collaborations with Iowa City as a UNESCO City of Literature sent McCoy to Milan, Italy this summer, where he represented Iowa at a UNESCO conference on e-books.

Award-winning dissertations

Vanessa Simmering, Ph.D. in psychology, won runner-up distinction in the 2010 national competition for the Council of Graduate Schools Distinguished Dissertation Award. This award is the nation’s most prestigious honor for doctoral dissertations. Iowa has won five national awards, more than any other institution, public or private. Twelve other Iowa nominees, including Simmering, have been finalists in the competition.

Collaborative research

P. Barry Butler was appointed provost of The University of Iowa in May of 2011, after serving as interim provost since October 2010. Prior to his appointment, Butler was dean of the UI College of Engineering, where he holds the rank of full professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. 

The Graduate College is working with the new provost to build on opportunities for interdisciplinary creative work and research. Through this relationship, the university is hiring key faculty positions across disciplines in specific areas of research such as genetics and obesity.

Diversity efforts

Two new scholars will begin graduate studies at the UI, funded by ACT, Inc. The ACT Scholars Program, co-directed by ACT and the University of Iowa Graduate College, selected Ikenna Obiora Anyanetu (electrical and computer engineering) and Samantha Sanchez (business administration) as its scholarship winners for the 2011-12 academic year.

ACT, founded in 1959 as the American College Testing Program by UI education leaders E.F. Lindquist and Ted McCarrel, committed $5 million to the University of Iowa Foundation in 2009 to endow the ACT Scholars Program.

The Summer Research Opportunities Research Program/McNair program hosted 41 students this summer. These students are top undergraduates who come to Iowa to work directly with a faculty mentor and gain academic experience. The program helps Iowa recruit top graduate students from across the nation.

Public engagement

UI graduate faculty and students make meaningful connections with Iowans through public engagement efforts. The School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) works in Iowa towns to aid sustainability, revitalization, and other planning efforts. SURP established the Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities, enabling graduate faculty and students to collaborate with Iowa municipalities.

Obermann Center scholars Raquel Baker (English), Ted Gutsche (Journalism and Mass Communications), and Daniel Kinney (Art Education) created, an online space for local art, journalism, and storytelling that reflects the changing community of southeast Iowa City. The collaboration with Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County focuses on storytelling as a way of bringing communities together, giving voice to individuals, and building relationships through narrative.

Melissa Duff, assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders and faculty member in the neuroscience interdisciplinary graduate program, has launched a registry to track and study brain injury, a condition that affects 1.7 million Americans each year. The Iowa Traumatic Brain Injury Registry helps researchers gain information to improve brain-injury patients’ quality of life. The registry is unique in scope, studying a broad range of injuries in patients of varying ages.

Assessment and quality improvement

To maximize the university’s positive impact, we continually evaluate graduate programs at the UI to verify their quality. As part of that effort, the University of Iowa Graduate College participates in the National Research Council’s (NRC) assessment of graduate education nationwide.

The NRC released its report last fall. Sixteen programs at the UI rank in the top one-third compared to their peers, which is a positive reflection on the quality of graduate education on our campus. Nine of our doctoral programs rated in the top third in a data-driven analysis, including economics, electrical and computer engineering, free radical and radiation biology, industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, molecular physiology, psychology, Spanish, and sociology.

Twelve programs rated in the top third in an evaluative assessment of the data by external faculty, including chemistry, civil and environmental engineering, free radical and radiation biology, geosciences, history, industrial engineering, microbiology, molecular physiology, nursing, political science, psychology, and sociology.

Evaluating program offerings

As another component of our ongoing evaluations processes, the Graduate College reviews all graduate programs on a rotating basis. Over the past two years, we have eliminated or are in the process of eliminating 12 graduate programs, closing nine non-viable program subtracks, changing the names of two graduate programs following efforts to revamp the programs, and suspending admissions to several others.

At the same time, we have taken advantage of new opportunities to seek approval for nine new graduate programs. This includes the new MFA program in Book Arts.


The university has established a strategic indicator of quality based on national program rankings. The goal is to maintain national stature as a research university by offering graduate and professional programs of which more than one third are ranked in the top 50 among like public programs.

As of the 2012 USNWR rankings in "America’s Best Graduate Schools 2011," 56 (28%) of UI’s schools, graduate/professional programs and program specialties are ranked in the top 50 among like public programs.

The Graduate College extends congratulations and thanks to Iowa’s graduate faculty and scholars for contributing to this year’s successes.