VU wins national award for model proposal to advance graduate education

Providing support for all graduate students, including first-generation students and underrepresented minorities, is a major goal of an award-winning proposal for the Graduate School’s Russell G. Hamilton Leadership Development Institute. (Steve Green/Vanderbilt University)

Vanderbilt University has received the 2018 Educational Testing Service/Council of Graduate Schools Award for Innovation in Promoting Success in Graduate Education: From Admission through Completion.

Mark Wallace, dean of the Graduate School and Louise B. McGavock Professor of Hearing and Speech Sciences, accepted the award on behalf of Vanderbilt at the Council of Graduate Schools’ annual meeting in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6.

The ETS/CGS Award for Innovation in Promoting Success in Graduate Education recognizes promising, innovative proposals to enhance student success and degree completion at the master’s and doctoral levels while promoting inclusiveness.

“Vanderbilt deserves this honor in recognition of the school’s approach to advancing graduate education by holistically supporting the graduate student life cycle,” said David G. Payne, vice president and chief operating officer of ETS’ Global Education Division. “Their system not only includes an integrated set of supports that help students to be successful on their academic and career journeys, but it also successfully promotes diversity and inclusivity.”

The winning institution is selected on the strength of its proposal to meet the award’s goals and to serve as a model for other schools. The winner receives a two-year, $20,000 matching grant.

portrait of Vanderbilt Graduate School Dean Mark Wallace
Graduate School Dean Mark Wallace (Vanderbilt University)

“Establishing the Russell G. Hamilton Leadership Institute is among several bold strategic investments that Vanderbilt University is making in Ph.D. education, so we are deeply honored with this recognition,” Wallace said. “The support from this award will allow us to build innovative new programming to provide the tools for our graduate students to become society’s future leaders—through robust career development support, a collaborative culture that encourages interdisciplinary discovery, and much more.”

The proposal for Vanderbilt’s Russell G. Hamilton Leadership Development Institute, titled “Supporting the Transformation from Students to Leaders,” promotes graduate student leadership development through three innovative interventions. “FirstGen Success” will provide graduate students who self-identify as first-generation students with three avenues of support: discussion groups and social events, formal training events, and experiential learning of professional norms. “Training Tomorrow’s Mentors” aims to improve the quality of mentoring by providing training to mentees that will prepare them to be the mentors of tomorrow. Lastly, through “Managing Conflict and Difficult Conversations,” external mediation skills trainers will conduct workshops to teach students, postdocs, faculty and staff how to confront and successfully navigate conflict.

“Vanderbilt’s Russell G. Hamilton Leadership Development Institute is a model that addresses the needs of all graduate students, with particular attention to first-generation students, underrepresented minorities and women in the academy and is one that could be replicated on other campuses,” said CGS President Suzanne T. Ortega. She also expressed gratitude to ETS for its support that makes possible this award promoting best practices among graduate schools.