Impact of Graduate Education Reform


From late 2017 through Summer 2019, a core group of faculty in the Physics & Astronomy Department led a complete reform of all aspects of the graduate program, including the recruitment and admissions process, orientation and TA training, advising practices and other student support, the curriculum, and the exam structure.  After a year without new graduate students, the Department resumed admissions in Winter 2018, and a new cohort of students started in Fall 2019.  While the new cohort was starting their graduate program, I helped initiate a study of the impact of our new graduate policies and practices on the new cohort of students during their first two years and also our legacy students who were admitted before these changes were initiated.  In early Fall 2019, we obtained a one-year RAPID grant from the NSF to carry out this research.

People and Roles:

  • Prof. Ramón Barthelemy:  Ramón is an Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the U whose research focuses on equity and inclusion in physics and science education.  Ramón is the PI of this research project.
  • Prof. Pearl Sandick:  Pearl is an Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the U and Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs in the College of Science.  Pearl was Associate Chair of the Department during most of the period when the gradute program overhaul was underway and played a central role in those reforms.  Pearl is a co-PI on the NSF award.   
  • My role:  I was Associate Chair of the Department when reforms to the graduate program were initiatiated, but did not subsequently play a central role in reform process.  During Summer 2019, I initiated conversations with some scholars in the PER community who were also studying practices and policies in graduate education, helped bring together our project team at Utah, and helped achieve buy-in from our Department Chair, the graduate student community, and our NSF program officer.  I am a co-PI on the NSF award.
© Jordan Gerton 2019