Patricia Gumport tapped for new position of vice provost for graduate education

Patricia Gumport

Patricia Gumport

Patricia Gumport, a professor of education and the director of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research, has been chosen to fill the new position of vice provost for graduate education, Provost John Etchemendy announced Thursday, Aug. 24. Gumport will assume the new post on Jan. 1, 2007.

In recent years, oversight for graduate education has been part of the portfolio of the vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy. The creation of the new position was one of the main recommendations in the report of the Commission on Graduate Education in December 2005. The commission assessed the state of graduate education at the university and suggested reforms to enhance the graduate student experience at Stanford.

"At the time the commission issued its report, President Hennessy and I immediately understood that the success of many of the innovations recommended in the report would depend on quickly creating the new vice provost position," Etchemendy said. "In Patti Gumport, we have found a wonderful combination of qualities that further ensure the success of these recommendations. The focus and quality of her research, her experiences as a graduate student at Stanford, her leadership of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research and the high regard she has earned from her colleagues make her an ideal choice for this new position."

Gumport said she considered it an honor to serve in the new position at this point in Stanford's history.

"We already have much strength in our educational programs, many opportunities for innovation and tremendous talent in our students, faculty and staff," she said. "Yet, I believe Stanford has the institutional capacity to do better in graduate education. I want to build on the extensive work of the commission and the vision articulated in the report. This is essentially a collaborative agenda. Many thoughtful individuals and groups contributed, and I look forward to working with them directly when I come on board in January.

"The challenges are both exciting and daunting, and we need to proceed in stages. Among the areas that need immediate attention, it is vitally important for us to make further progress in our efforts to enhance diversity. I also understand that graduate students seek an advocate on several academic and student support issues that span the schools. On the programmatic side, I am intrigued by the enormous educational potential of initiatives to cultivate leadership skills and foster interdisciplinarity."

Search committee chair Malcolm Beasley, the Theodore and Sydney Rosenberg Professor of Applied Physics, said Gumport's rare blend of qualities made her a perfect choice for the job.

"As a scholar of graduate education and change in universities, Gumport is uncommonly qualified to become the vice provost for graduate education," Beasley said. "She will bring a high degree of understanding, dedication and energy to this new position."

Deborah Stipek, dean of the School of Education, cited Gumport's rapport with graduate students and familiarity with their issues as a critical asset for the job.

"I know of no faculty member who is more student-centered and interested in students' perspectives and needs," Stipek said. "She is an extraordinary teacher and mentor of graduate students and regularly sought out by students who need guidance or just a sympathetic ear."

The commission's report envisioned that the vice provost for graduate education would provide academic leadership and resources on several fronts, such as facilitating interaction and innovation in graduate education across the schools, coordinating information on graduate programs, promoting best practices in diversifying the graduate student population and advocating for improvements in a wide range of policies that affect graduate student life. The vice provost will consult with the Committee on Graduate Studies, the Graduate Student Council and the Graduate Life Office, among others, in addition to working closely with faculty members, deans of all the schools and other vice provosts. According to Gumport, "Since many of the challenges are systemic, improvements will be interdependent with initiatives in other arenas. Laudable efforts are already under way, and we will move forward by working together."

The current vice provost and dean of research and graduate policy, Arthur Bienenstock, has agreed to serve in an interim capacity in the new position until Gumport assumes the post. Bienenstock was appointed special assistant to the president for federal research policy when he announced his decision to step down as vice provost and dean.

Gumport's research addresses key changes in the academic landscape and organizational character of American higher education. She holds a doctorate in education and two master's degrees from Stanford—one in education and one in sociology—and a bachelor's degree from Colgate University.