Reinventing the First Semester — Proposal and Funding Request
15 February 2013
The ILS graduate program is a cooperative venture currently involving 10 Life Sciences departments/institutes across 4 colleges. It is an admissions and first-year program only. Students obtain their degrees from their selected department or institute graduate program. First-year ILS graduate students rotate across 3 laboratories from at least 2 departments, then choose both their major professor and their home graduate program. ILS students thus have great flexibility in choosing which research program appeals most to them, sampling faculty from the participating units. The ILS program also allows us to highlight and advertise interdisciplinary research areas which are not obvious from our departmental structure, and provides a framework within which new integrative and interdisciplinary graduate programs can be more easily developed.
The ILS program was innovative in its concept, and it continues to develop new organizational and instructional approaches to graduate education. The original graduate stipend funding model was 6 stipends for 12 months each, paid by the Graduate School and OVPR for a total of $144,000. This has morphed into 8 stipends over 9 academic months, with departments and PIs picking up the summer cost, after students have committed to a laboratory.
We envision the program growing from 6 to 8 students per year to 30 to 50 students per year, becoming the admissions and first-year portal for more than half of the total graduate admissions across the participating units. Some units will choose to have most or all of their graduate admissions through ILS; other units may participate with part of their admissions through ILS. ILS will continue to encourage and support interdisciplinary groups within the ILS framework, and will work as a focus for to bring the Life Sciences units together to improve their collective graduate education. To achieve this, we propose the following changes to the ILS model:
- First year ILS graduate students rotate 3 times during fall semester for 5 weeks each, then choose their major professor and home graduate program by the beginning of Spring Semester.
- The home program and the faculty PI will pay for the first student stipends beginning in January of Spring semester, after the students have committed to a program. The departments and institutes will also cover part of the recruitment expenses, and fund the stipends for years two to five
- Central administration funding is requested for most of the fall semester stipends, during the time when the graduate students are rotating among laboratories; contributions are also requested for recruitment expenses and for program administration expenses.
- We propose to plan for a growth of ILS from 30 matriculating graduate students in 2014-2015, to 40 in 2015-2016, to 50 in 2016-2017. In each case we request the Central Administration fund the first year fall semester stipends, 38% of the total, while the participating units fund the remainder of the first year, 62% of the total year 1 stipend. If years 2 to 5 are included, the participating units are funding 90% of the total stipend for the graduate students. Details are given in the tables below.
- The revised ILS program also includes a substantial restructuring of first-year graduate courses. Three different modifications to the current curricular structure are under discussion, and are described in more detail below.
- We also propose establishing a reporting line for the ILS program, and establishing a process for selection of Program Director and Graduate Coordinator.
The 10 departments and institute currently involved in the ILS program are a strong and productive group; in FY 2012 they collectively received $60,928,550 in sponsored program funding, 26% of the UGA total indicated in the 2012 OVPR annual report.