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Rackham’s Strategic Vision for Graduate Education

Rackham is leading a charge to reenvision graduate education at U-M in a way that is student centered and faculty led, and that emphasizes a holistic view of graduate training. This will include preparing students for an expanded range of career opportunities and providing outlets for interdisciplinary, project-based approaches to solving complex, real-world problems for both doctoral and master’s students.

Watch the State of the Graduate School
Recorded September 22, 2021

Our Vision

Our vision for Rackham’s next five to eight years is informed by our school mission, our assumptions about the future of higher education based on feedback from numerous stakeholders, and our values as an institution.


The mission of the Rackham Graduate School is to partner with University of Michigan graduate faculty and programs to advance excellence in graduate education, to cultivate a vibrant and diverse student community, and to impact the public good through the scholarship and discoveries of its students and degree recipients.


  • There will be increased societal need for the advanced training that graduate education offers.
  • The career outcomes available to graduate degree recipients will continue to expand.
  • Concerns about the costs of graduate education and public skepticism about its value will persist.
  • The diversity of the graduate community will continue to be essential to its excellence.
  • Scholarship and training will continue to be increasingly collaborative and interdisciplinary.


In pursuit of its mission, the graduate school values the following:

  • Intellectual exchange and free inquiry;
  • Inclusive excellence as central to the vitality of graduate education;
  • Partnership and collaboration with the campus community;
  • Innovation and adoption of evidenced-based practices;
  • Cultivation of a culture of trust, integrity, transparency, accountability, and respect.

Our work in graduate education aligns with the mission of the University of Michigan, which is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving, and applying knowledge, art, and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.


Our vision is that all of the graduate school’s partners—faculty, students, alumni, and staff—will embrace their membership in the Rackham community and collaborate to promote excellence, diversity, innovation, and a student-centered academic experience in graduate education. To realize a student-centered experience, faculty members incorporate the educational, scholarly, and professional goals and potential of individual students into the design of curriculum, research, and mentoring.

Our Goals and Objectives

To achieve our vision, Rackham has four major goals.

Goal 1: Reimagined Academic Experience

Rackham and the graduate faculty will continue to advance high academic standards while reimagining the graduate academic experience as student-centered.


  • Increase exchange among faculty across diverse programs about how content, structure, and milestones of doctoral and master’s programs can effectively support evolving student academic and professional needs.
  • Reduce barriers for students to pursue interdisciplinary experiences and degree credentials, including graduate certificates.
  • In collaboration with faculty and graduate programs, develop opportunities, funding, and resources that prepare students to access the wide range of career opportunities available to them.
  • Encourage innovation in mentoring and other academic support practices that recognizes student well-being, including mental health, as key to academic and research success.
  • Expand initiatives to promote research about and innovation in graduate education.

Goal 2: Strengthened Diversity

The vitality of the graduate student community will be strengthened through increased accessibility of graduate education, thereby expanding the diversity and inclusion of student viewpoints and backgrounds in graduate programs.


  • Expand relationships with Minority Serving Institutions.
  • Increase opportunities to expand and institutionalize Bridge to the Ph.D. programs.
  • Improve Rackham’s capacity to provide a diverse cohort of undergraduates with high-quality research experiences and exposure to the graduate community.
  • Increase alignment of campus-wide funding programs that promote diversity with Rackham’s goals for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  • Enhance efforts to improve the inclusion and sense of belonging of students in their programs so as to sustain the vitality and diversity of the graduate community.

Goal 3: Enhanced Partnerships and Community

Members of the Rackham community will recognize, value, and capitalize on their community membership.


  • Increase direct communication and engagement with graduate faculty.
  • Increase opportunities for the Rackham community to learn about recent advances in graduate education research and practice.
  • Increase Rackham Program Review activities that enhance partnerships with the graduate faculty and programs.
  • Improve alumni-student and alumni-alumni connectivity.
  • Increase alignment of the functions of the graduate school with the needs of graduate program faculty, students, alumni, and staff.

Goal 4: Strengthened Organizational Culture and Climate

The Rackham organization will be configured to promote staff learning, recognition, collaboration, informational transparency, and empowerment.


  • Expand opportunities for Rackham staff to improve their knowledge of recent advances in graduate education, pursue their career development, and engage in learning that increases their expertise.
  • Increase staff interaction, collaboration and cross-unit work experiences.
  • Increase opportunities for employee recognition and award nomination programs.
  • Improve decision making and information sharing processes to empower and leverage expertise.
  • Increase alignment of Rackham space use with the needs of Rackham organizational culture and climate.

Ideas at Work

As part of our vision, Rackham seeks to connect and support efforts that are responding to the changing conditions of graduate education so that their effect can be amplified in a way that will have a broad impact on students across disciplines. A few such programs from Rackham and across Michigan are highlighted here.

Current Graduate-Program Initiatives

A Versatile Ph.D. in Comparative Literature

Initiatives to promote a versatile comparative literature doctoral program that combines multilingual, interdisciplinary, and theoretical training with practical experiences in local and global engagement, and prepares graduate students for diverse career paths.

Improving the Climate for Research in Neuroscience

In cooperation with the CRLT Theatre Program, workshops aimed at addressing issues related to recognizing, changing behaviors related to, and intervening in instances of gender harassment to improve the climate of the Neuroscience Graduate Program.

Dow Sustainability Fellows

A fellowship program supporting full-time graduate students who are committed to finding interdisciplinary, actionable, and meaningful sustainability solutions on local-to-global scales in order to prepare future sustainability leaders to make a positive difference in organizations worldwide.

HistoryLabs: Collaborative Research Seminar (HIST 717) An Affirmative Answer for the Humanities

A course designed to bolster student portfolios and teach transferable skills such as collaboration, compelling verbal and written communication, digital literacy, and practical interfacing with a variety of non-academic stakeholders.

SPPC: Strategic Public Policy Consulting (PUB POL 578)

A course designed to create mutually beneficial opportunities for students to apply their knowledge, perspectives, and in insights to meaningful real-world projects with public, non-profit, private, and philanthropic sector partner organizations.

History Ph.D. Alumni Conference

A national conference of U-M History Ph.D. alumni with programming highlighting transferable skills and public-facing work through panels with History Ph.D. alumni currently working in non-academic contexts and graduate alumni pursuing cutting-edge public engagement projects within academia.

The Problem Solving Initiative (PSI)

Problem-based courses in which students develop problem solving tools, collaborate as part of a multi-disciplinary team, conduct research on and engage in advancing solutions to real-world challenges, and learn from faculty experts, guest speakers, and stakeholders.

History Ph.D. Alumni Database

A virtual space where history Ph.D. alumni and current graduate students can connect with each other on the basis of shared intellectual interests, career trajectories, or mentoring possibilities.

Pathways to Improve Graduate Student Education Through Societal Engagement

A workshop series aimed at training CLaSP graduate students to communicate research to drive sustainable design, planning, and engineering solutions across climate and space environments.

U-M History-ProQuest Internship Partnership

A partnership between the Department of History and ProQuest to provide graduate students with the opportunity to develop skills useful for careers both inside and outside the academy in response to the changing employment conditions faced by students.

Urban Environmental Systems: Project-Based International Research Experience for Students

A class on urban environmental systems that crosses disciplines and cultures so that students gain content and process skills through a problem-based, place-specific approach in collaboration with Addis Ababa University.

Current Rackham Initiatives

Public Scholarship and Engagement Initiatives at Rackham

Initiatives supporting a thriving community of graduate students and faculty committed to bringing together their scholarship and commitment to challenging questions of social importance that benefit the public good.

Bridge to the Doctorate

A program that serves to attract diverse and historically marginalized students to doctoral education in fields where they are underrepresented, as diversity in STEM, in particular, has only begun to reflect the diversity of the U.S. population.

Michigan Doctoral Experience Study (MDES): A 3-Year Summary

Rackham implemented the Michigan Doctoral Experience Study (MDES) to examine the doctoral-student experience over the entire trajectory of graduate study and into early career development. The goals of the study are to inform Rackham programming and policies to better meet student needs and to contribute to the scholarship on doctoral-student success.

Minority Serving Institutions Initiative

An initiative to galvanize committed U-M units to work collaboratively toward expanding opportunities for diverse students in graduate and professional education by strengthening pathways between U-M and Minority Serving Institutions.

Mentoring Others Results in Excellence (MORE) Committee

A committee that provides faculty with effective tools and practices for mentoring graduate students that, when applied, result in improved retention, productivity, and overall student success.

Professional Development Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Certificate

A professional development certificate program designed to prepare graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to work in a diverse environment while fostering a climate of inclusivity, offering a centralized, clear cut, and flexible pathway to gain critical DEI skills and knowledge.

Ph.D. Connections: A Career Conference

A one-day career conference designed to support doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows in their exploration of career paths beyond the professoriate by connecting with Ph.D. professionals working in a wide range of fields.

Rackham Internships

Internship grants and fellowships to better prepare doctoral students for diverse, meaningful, and impactful careers by helping them assess their interests and skills and explore career fields of interest.

Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force

We have assembled a diverse, multidisciplinary task force made up of faculty, staff, mental health professionals, and graduate students.


Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force

Year One

As mental health challenges continue to pose difficulties for graduate student health, well-being, and academic progress, Rackham formed the Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force to identify and implement specific changes in the U-M graduate student experience. Their report outlines ten recommendations to better support graduate student mental health at individual, program, and institutional levels, as well as a call on Rackham and individual graduate programs to prioritize graduate student mental health and well-being alongside academic success. Download the Year One Report (PDF)

Year Two

As part of its second and final annual report, the Rackham Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force outlined the creation of the Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being to continue its mission of supporting the mental health of U-M graduate students on a permanent basis. Central to the committee’s mission is the establishment of a mental health and well-being advocate program, which would see mental health advocates embedded in graduate programs across the university. Download the Year Two Report (PDF)

Committee on Graduate Student Experiences with Disability Accommodations

As Rackham continues to work to improve its ability to meet the needs of graduate students with disabilities, the Graduate Students with Disability Needs Assessment Committee was formed in response to informal reports from students that indicated the current system for disability accommodations does not adequately meet the needs of our graduate students. Their report details systematic data collected from graduate students around the specific difficulties they and others they know currently encounter, their unmet needs, and their ideas about potential solutions and improvements. Download the Report (PDF)