Graduate students drive our future
As a faculty member at Cornell, I've had the privilege of working with top-notch graduate students whose creativity, leadership and exceptional problem solving have inspired my own research and discovery. These students are attracted to Cornell by our faculty and our unique system of cross-disciplinary graduate education.
In turn, top faculty are attracted, in part, by top students and our approach to graduate study. On search committees, we encourage prospective faculty to meet our graduate students, as we know this is one of the key factors they will use to weigh their decision about whether to join Cornell. Prospective faculty understand that graduate students will work with them to teach, mentor and inspire undergraduates and to drive the research agenda of the university.
Graduate students are the glue that draws faculty together from across the university, creating opportunities for building relationships and developing research collaborations.
Early in my career at Cornell, two of my graduate students' special committees included faculty from the fields of applied economics and management, development sociology and communication. Working together in the context of my graduate students' work, we developed scholarly relationships that led to co-teaching an environmental policy course and to externally funded research collaborations from a multidisciplinary perspective. Long after my graduate students had graduated and gone on to their own productive careers, their legacy remained through my continuing work with these faculty colleagues.
Graduate students enrich Cornell's undergraduate experience through their countless interactions in classrooms, teaching and research labs, and the residential communities. As an undergraduate, I benefited tremendously from the mentoring and friendship of an advanced Ph.D. student who took me under her wing and enlisted me as her field assistant in her study of agro-ecosystem ecology. Later, as a graduate student and the only woman working on a Ph.D. in fisheries science in the entire southeastern United States (it was a long time ago!), I recalled my Ph.D. student-mentor's model of intellectual investment, commitment, good humor and career drive, and I knew that I, too, could attain my aspiration of earning a Ph.D.
To recognize and foster this critically important partnership between graduate and undergraduate researchers, the Graduate School has developed a special fellowship that will formalize the mentoring relationship between undergraduates, graduate students and faculty. The Cornell Research Mentor Fellowships will allow graduate students, under the guidance of faculty, to develop effective mentoring skills. In turn, undergraduate students will learn about graduate study and research from successful graduate students. Each will bring a different perspective to the research group, with the potential for generating new ideas and creative perspectives to advance research developments.
Our graduate students will have an enormous impact at the CornellNYC Tech campus as well. With their characteristic passion and energy, our students will work side by side with faculty and industry leaders using cross-disciplinary and integrative perspectives to drive technology-infused research into entrepreneurial ventures. Excellent graduate students at an innovative campus will attract top faculty, industry partnerships and government funding.
Competition among our peer institutions for the most talented students is intense. Every year we lose students to institutions that offer more comprehensive funding packages. Unlike undergraduates who receive need-based financial aid in the form of scholarships and loans, graduate students receive merit-based aid packages that are awarded as part of the admissions offer to attract the very best students.
We are committed to increasing our support for graduate students, particularly for Ph.D. students. We seek to fund every first-year research Ph.D. student with a graduate fellowship; match the duration of merit-based fellowship support offered by peer institutions; and provide attractive funding packages and comprehensive professional development programs to encourage the best and most diverse students to accept an offer of admissions to Cornell and to excel while they are here. Graduate students are the foundation of Cornell's future as a leading research university.
Barbara A. Knuth is a professor of natural resources, vice provost and dean of Cornell's Graduate School.