The Office of the Provost will increase its focus on graduate education to ensure graduate students have the resources they need to be successful as Mark T. Wallace, dean of the Graduate School, prepares to step down from his leadership role to return to the faculty full time beginning Sept. 1, 2020.
“Recruiting and retaining the very best graduate students and creating an environment where they can thrive is central to our mission of excellence as a research university. We are strongly positioned for the next series of innovations and investments in graduate education based on the momentum we have built over the last several years,” said Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan R. Wente. “Working in pursuit of our strategic priorities, Dean Wallace has set the stage for this future progress. I am grateful to him for his forward-thinking leadership, his strong commitment to our graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, and the meaningful improvements he has led to enrich their experiences at Vanderbilt.”
Over the next weeks, the provost’s office will collect input from the Graduate Faculty Council and the Graduate Student Council, as well as the school and college deans, to determine the next steps for identifying the next dean of the Graduate School.
The university has increased investments in academic and well-being supports for graduate students in recent years. These efforts include working to build a $125 million endowment to launch the Russell G. Hamilton Scholars Program in 2017, one of the most extensive graduate student scholarship programs in the nation, and the innovative Russell G. Hamilton Graduate Leadership Institute.
Most recently, the university provided resources for graduate students as they navigate the challenging environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools and colleges offered a number of accommodations for students in graduate programs to help them successfully complete their dissertations. Graduate students also received support from the university hardship fund.
Wallace, who believes strongly that the dean of the Graduate School is a position where one should only serve a single term, said he is stepping down in order to provide another “with the tremendous opportunity to contribute university leadership while furthering one’s own career development.”
He has also said that the “robust support system” for graduate students will help ease the transition. Wallace originally planned to end his term on June 30, but agreed to an extension through Sept. 1 to promote a smooth start to the fall semester, in accordance with Vanderbilt’s Return to Campus Plan.
“It has been a privilege to serve in this leadership role and to feel that we have contributed to the academic successes of many of our graduate students and postdoctoral scholars,” Wallace said. “I have been fortunate to have had this opportunity and to be surrounded by an incredibly dedicated and passionate staff, who have worked collaboratively with me to provide strong ‘value-added’ to our training model.”
Wallace’s tenure as dean has been marked by many notable accomplishments, which in addition to the launch of the Russell G. Hamilton Scholars Program and Graduate Leadership Institute include the implementation of Academic Pathways, a postdoctoral training initiative designed to address the acute need for greater diversity with the professoriate, and advocacy for health and wellness in the Graduate School community, including the creation of a Graduate Life Coach role.