Susan Strehle became interim dean of the Graduate School on Jan. 21 and will serve through the 2013-14 academic year.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Strehle strives for ‘bigger, better’ Graduate SchoolTweet
Graduate School Interim Dean Susan Strehle took notice in January when President Harvey Stenger announced that Binghamton University needed to get “better to get bigger,” while also getting “bigger to get better.”
The president’s philosophy also applies to the Graduate School, which Strehle began leading on Jan. 21.
“What the president said on that day is exactly what our mission is here,” she said. “Getting bigger is crucial to paying the bills. For our office, getting the applications complete and ready so programs can admit and try to recruit those qualified, self-supporting students is critical. And long-term, we need the reputation of ‘better’ to get more students who will pay for professional master’s degrees.
“If the campus’ reputation as a strong graduate school increases, then every boat floats higher. Even new programs ride on an assumption that Binghamton University is a really good place to go for graduation education.”
The interim term is a return to Graduate School service for Strehle, who is a distinguished professor of English. Strehle worked in the Graduate School from 1990-2000, first as associate dean and then as vice provost and dean (1993-2000).
“In that 10 years, I learned a lot about why graduate students have to be registered full-time and how that shapes the money that comes to campus,” she said. “I learned about the process of creating new graduate degrees. … I think I was a logical choice because I know something about science and engineering programs, what their concerns are, and how they want to interact with the Graduate School.”
On the other hand, much has changed over the past decade, Strehle said. Records and applications are technologically advanced, and allocations of funding have changed.
“I can’t assume very much,” she said. “It’s necessary to re-learn what’s happening now before moving forward. On one level, it feels like I never left. On another level, it’s so different from before—and light years different from my life as a faculty member.”
Strehle considers student-faculty relations and research opportunities among the strengths of Binghamton’s Graduate School.
“When a student comes here to work with a particular researcher or in a particular field, they typically connect with the person right away,” she said. “There aren’t casts of thousands here. There isn’t an impersonal atmosphere like there is in some of the larger, older graduate schools. There’s no division between the ‘stars’ on the faculty and the graduate students with whom they work.”
Besides establishing a working relationship with faculty members, graduate students often have the chance to serve as mentors for undergraduate researchers, Strehle added.
Strehle considers growing graduate enrollments and increasing the visibility of the school’s programs as both short- and long-term goals. The school has already received a record 3,402 completed applications for fall 2013 admission.
The priority for her first months in the position, though, is “service to the campus.” Strehle stressed the effort to get applications out to programs, while also investigating the possibility of establishing a pharmacy school.
A strong staff is in place to help the school meet its goals, she said.
“They are totally committed to expanding enrollments and providing the best quality service they can,” she said. “They are technologically up to date and can get a graduate program director information about what is coming down the pipeline. They work hard to help serve the needs of the program directors.”
Strehle also has entered the position during the University’s Road Map process. One proposal selected by the Road Map Steering Committee to move forward calls for a task force to investigate approaches to graduate-student success.
“I think the Road Map process was a great way for the president to get ideas about how things can be made stronger,” she said. “The idea of measuring our graduate-student success and comparing it to other campuses is something we study internally with job placements and graduation rates. The (Road Map) student success team suggested pulling together some recommendations for learning more and increasing success. That’s always a good idea.”
Strehle said she views herself as a “bridge” to the next Graduate School dean and expects to leave the position when the interim term expires at the end of 2013-14 academic year.
But she knows how she would like to see the Graduate School when her successor arrives.
“I want the Graduate School working harmoniously and closely with every single graduate program to forward its aspirations – working with deans on new degrees and working with directors on recruiting,” she said. “By the time I leave, I would like to have the office and the campus working perfectly together to move forward into ‘bigger and better.’”