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Advancing New Directions in Graduate Education

  • Friday, February 7, 2020
  • 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
  • Rackham Building

Rackham is hosting a faculty symposium that will chart new directions in graduate education. Academic leaders from across the country will join us to discuss pressures facing graduate training and to consider opportunities for rethinking our current models. We welcome you to take part in focused discussions and help set the agenda for Rackham graduate education in the century ahead.


8:30 to 9:15 a.m.

Assembly Hall, Fourth Floor

9:15 to 9:30 a.m.

Introduction from Dean Mike Solomon
Amphitheatre, Fourth Floor

9:30 to 9:45 a.m.

Panel 1: Challenges and Opportunities for Graduate Education in the 21st Century
Amphitheatre, Fourth Floor

  • Moderator: Dean Mike Solomon
  • Panelists: Joy Connolly, Adam Falk, Dianne Harris, Alondra Nelson

9:45 to 10:30 a.m.

Panel Conversation with Audience

10:30 to 10:45 a.m.


10:45 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Panel 2: Adapting to Change and Maintaining Excellence
Amphitheatre, Fourth Floor

  • Moderator: Earl Lewis
  • Panelists: Edward Balleisen; Robin L. Garrell; Charles Isbell, Jr.; Elizabeth Watkins; Enrique De La Cruz; Cathy Drennan

12:00 to 12:30 p.m.

Panel Conversation with Audience

12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Faculty Breakout Discussions and Lunch

  • Biological and Health Sciences, East Study Hall, Second Floor
  • Physical Sciences and Engineering, West Study Hall, Second Floor
  • Social Sciences, East Conference Room, Fourth Floor
  • Humanities and the Arts, West Conference Room, Fourth Floor 

Staff and Student Breakout Discussion and Lunch
Executive Board Room, First Floor

2:30 to 2:45 p.m.


2:45 to 3:30 p.m.

Amphitheatre, Fourth Floor

3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Reception and Poster Session
Assembly Hall, Fourth Floor

Invited Participants

Edward Balleisen

Edward Balleisen is Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies, Professor of History and Public Policy at Duke University, and a scholar whose research explores the historical intersections among law, business, politics, and policy in the modern United States. He works with university-wide institutes and initiatives to foster collaborative, interdisciplinary research, teaching, and engagement and leads the Bass Connections initiative, in which graduate and undergraduate students work in interdisciplinary teams to collaborate with faculty on cutting-edge research that spans subjects, demographic groups, and borders.

Joy Connolly

Joy Connolly is President of the American Council of Learned Societies and Distinguished Professor of Classics at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where she was past interim President and Provost. A scholar of education, rhetoric, and politics in ancient Rome, at CUNY she launched the PublicsLab, which enhances and expands public engagement to prepare doctoral students in the humanities for careers in both academic and non-academic professions and encourages doctoral students and faculty to engage in scholarship with a broad impact on the world outside the academy.

Enrique de la Cruz

Enrique de la Cruz is Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry and in the Combined Program in Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and head of Branford College at Yale University. In addition to his research, which focuses on the actin cytoskeleton, molecular motor proteins, and nucleotide signaling enzymes, he is involved with various scientific societies, journals, and peer review committees, and he leads a number of outreach activities focused on enhancing minority participation and career development in the sciences.

Catherine Drennan

Catherine Drennan is Professor of Biology and Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor and Investigator. A Rackham graduate who received her Ph.D. in biochemistry, she received the University of Michigan’s Bicentennial Alumni Award. Her research focuses on the use of x–ray crystallography to study the structure and mechanism of metalloproteins, proteins that contain metal atoms and are involved in many biological processes. In addition to her prolific research, she is an award-winning mentor of graduate students, undergraduates, and postdoctoral fellows.

Adam Falk

Adam Falk is President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which makes grants primarily to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics. A high-energy theoretical physicist whose research focused on elementary particle physics and quantum field theory, he is former President of Williams College, and former Dean of the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins.

Robin L. Garrell

Robin L. Garrell is Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Education and Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and of Bioengineering at the University of California, Los Angeles. She received her Ph.D. from Rackham in macromolecular science and engineering, and her research seeks to understand and control adhesion and slip at solution-solid interfaces, and the structure of biological molecules at these interfaces. She is chair of the Committee on Opportunities in Science of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dianne Harris

Dianne Harris is a senior program officer at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, where she focuses on higher education and scholarship in the humanities. A national leader in raising the visibility of the humanities as a resource in public life, she was formerly Dean of Humanities and Professor of History at the University of Utah. She is a scholar of the built environment and the construction of racial and class identities.

Charles Isbell, Jr.

Charles Isbell, Jr. is the John P. Imlay, Jr. Dean of the College of Computing and Professor of Computer Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology. A researcher in artificial intelligence, he is founder of Georgia Tech’s innovative Constellations Center for Equity in Computing, which seeks to support inclusion of underrepresented students and to expand access to computer science education to underserved communities.

Alondra Nelson

Alondra Nelson is President of the Social Science Research Council, which mobilizes knowledge for the public good by supporting scholars worldwide, generating new research across disciplines, and linking researchers with policymakers and citizens. She is also the Harold F. Linder Chair in the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, and a sociologist who is a scholar of the intersections of science, technology, and social inequality.

Earl Lewis

Earl Lewis is the Thomas C. Holt Distinguished University Professor of History, Afroamerican and African Studies, and Public Policy and founding Director of the Center for Social Solutions at the University of Michigan. He was formerly President of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Provost of Emory University, and Vice Provost and Dean of the Rackham Graduate School at the University of Michigan. His scholarship addresses the role of race in American history, diversity, equity, and inclusion, graduate education, humanities scholarship, and universities and their larger communities.

Elizabeth Watkins

Elizabeth Watkins is Professor of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine and Dean of the Graduate Division and Vice Chancellor for Student Academic Affairs at the University of California, San Francisco. Her research focuses on the interrelations of medicine, science, commerce, and culture in the United States. She is co-leader of the Coalition for Next Generation Life Science, an initiative of research universities—including the University of Michigan—to provide prospective life scientists with standardized data on graduate school admissions, education and training opportunities, and information on training and career options.

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