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Featured Profile—University of Georgia

Maureen Grasso

Maureen Grasso, Dean of the Graduate School

The University of Georgia (UGA) is the oldest public university in America and offers 90 doctoral programs, including over 30 in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The Graduate School at the UGA is consistent in their support of doctoral completion as evidenced by reforms in the areas of diversity recruitment, program-level quality enhancement, and mentorship programs. With national doctoral noncompletion rates sometimes reaching 70%, the Graduate School sought further program improvement through involvement in the Council of Graduate Schools' Ph.D. Completion Project.

This Project launched the Strategic Interventions for Doctoral Completion research study at UGA, which is built around a conceptual model based on existing literature and program information. This study included action-oriented research requiring both administrative-and program-level participation. The following study practices proved influential:

(1) The analysis of existing admissions policies, selection procedures, and relationships among doctoral students and faculty occurred through the following studies: faculty and student interviews, program practices questionnaires, and program self-assessments. Based on the data, findings regarding the most frequently used and most effective doctoral policies in these areas were produced and later communicated via publications and conference presentations.

UGA Conference

(2) Two action conferences for the participating programs and administration were held at the UGA in order to promote doctoral completion. The first conference in June of 2005 introduced the importance of doctoral completion to the programs and empirically-based standards. Activities from this

conference included: communicating the completion data benchmarks to the programs, delineating results of the most common and effective doctoral program strategies, and participating in small group sessions during which participants consulted with other faculty regarding successful doctoral program processes. The second conference in February of 2007 provided an opportunity for the program contacts to communicate their progress regarding in the following areas: the application process, admissions, relationships among faculty and students, and student cohesiveness. All program accomplishments in these areas and presentations of salient program strategies are documented on the website. The second conference and grant were also featured in the Columns Newspaper.

(3) The Strategic Interventions for Doctoral Completion website was created to provide doctoral students and programs with important information regarding doctoral completion as well as to facilitate the communication between these two groups. Specifically, the website contains a statistical database, including attrition and completion figures as well as Benchmarks for Time-to-Completion and Completion Rates. The website also contains our publications, which include results involving the leading doctoral program strategies for promoting successful interpersonal relationships among faculty and doctoral students, effective admissions procedures, and valuable application processes. Helpful resources from similar research projects, information about and publications from our two conferences, and other references are also provided on the website. A Problem Solving Forum was also created to promote communication among those involved in doctoral education. This forum contains difficult situations encountered by doctoral students and encourages doctoral students and faculty to offer their suggestions.

Now that the most common and effective strategies as perceived by faculty and students are known, the Graduate School is now implementing and evaluating these strategies in all 90 doctoral programs at the University of Georgia. It is our goal that all programs take initiative to improve their completion rates by integrating ideas that promote completion.


The Featured Profile* section highlights partner universities that have developed creative and/or effective approaches to optimizing Ph.D. completion, particularly for underrepresented minorities and women. Featured Profiles may include details about the structure and design of the project, the shape and effectiveness of implementation, results of recent or ongoing data analyses, and/or information about notable project leaders. For more general profiles of each participating university (including contact information and a list of participating programs), please see Project Participants.

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*If you would like your university to be featured in this section, please contact Nathan Bell.

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