Patricia J. Gumport, vice provost for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs, will step down from her position at the end of August 2019.

She will return to teaching in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and resume her work as director of the Stanford Institute of Higher Education Research. Provost Persis Drell will appoint a search committee and begin a search for her successor.

Patricia Gumport

Stanford educator Patricia Gumport will return to teaching in 2019 after 12 years as Stanford’s first vice provost for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs. (Image credit: Steve Castillo)

“I am truly honored to have had this opportunity to serve as Stanford’s founding vice provost for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs. It has been extremely fulfilling to work at all levels of university decision-making to enhance the educational experiences of our graduate students and postdoctoral scholars at this critical phase of their development,” Gumport said.

“I am excited about what we’ve been able to accomplish, as I’ve led the VPGE staff in close collaboration with so many people across the university. I’m confident that this great work will continue to be developed in order to ensure that grad students and postdocs have exceptional educational experiences at Stanford and are well-prepared to have impact in the world,” she said.

Provost Persis Drell remarked, “From the beginning, Patti’s approach to her work has been entirely collaborative. She has worked with the Stanford community broadly and at every level – with the deans, with academic departments and administrative units, as well as with faculty and student leadership. A consummate problem-solver, Patti has identified critical junctures for using resources creatively and effectively, especially in diversity, fellowship funding and innovative professional development.

“She has been a champion for grad students and postdocs, ensuring that the university is providing what they need to pursue their scholarship and advance their careers. The outstanding work of her office has garnered university-wide appreciation and has greatly enhanced Stanford’s reputation for excellence in graduate education. The ground-breaking collaborative programs and advocacy efforts that have been developed under her leadership will continue. We are immensely grateful to Patti for her vision and her long-standing service to the university.”

The evolution of VPGE

In 2006, Gumport was named Stanford’s first vice provost for graduate education and launched a new university-wide office in January 2007. A report by the Commission on Graduate Education, issued in December 2005, recommended the creation of this new role and office to address a variety of complex issues stemming from the university’s highly decentralized practices within the seven schools.

Informed by the commission report and in consultation with colleagues and students, Gumport set the mission and vision for the new office to focus on addressing the most pressing systemic challenges in graduate education at Stanford.

Over the past 12 years, Gumport has set priority areas for the office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education (VPGE). As a result, VPGE has developed a number of collaborative programs to advance diversity and inclusion, to cultivate professional and leadership development skills that bring people together across academic fields, to strengthen faculty advising and mentoring and to ensure the optimal use of graduate student fellowships.

VPGE has also strengthened graduate education with its funding, including more than $41 million this year, primarily for fellowships for individual doctoral students and for student-initiated and faculty-initiated innovation projects within and across academic departments.

Endowed fellowships include the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowships, which began in 2008 and are modeled on the highly valued Stanford Graduate Fellowships in Science and Engineering established in 1997. Many funding opportunities are designed to achieve several objectives concurrently, such as ensuring excellent training, promoting diversity, facilitating interdisciplinarity, fostering an inclusive community and enhancing mentorship.

During Gumport’s term, graduate enrollment increased from 8,200 to more than 9,400. In April 2018, her title was changed to vice provost for graduate education and postdoctoral affairs to reflect that her leadership responsibilities had expanded to include Stanford’s fast-growing population of postdoctoral scholars, which increased from 1,400 to more than 2,300 in that timespan.

Gumport has maintained that in order for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to fulfill their educational aspirations and thrive while at Stanford, it is essential to address the challenges encountered in daily life. Responding to the Bay Area’s rising costs of housing and transportation, she worked closely with colleagues to expand subsidized graduate housing; obtain the CalTrain GoPass for graduate students and postdocs; provide financial resources for graduate student parents for housing, health care and child care expenses; and offer resources for postdocs who face similar financial challenges.

She also worked to ensure that postdocs gained visibility as valued members of the university community, expanded programmatic resources for their training and led two successful efforts to increase their minimum salary.

Advancing diversity

Gumport has led visionary initiatives to advance diversity, broadly defined, at the graduate level, including designing and scaling two flagship doctoral fellowship programs.

Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education (EDGE) supports incoming doctoral students from diverse backgrounds with mentoring, professional development and funding for research and conference travel.

Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence (DARE) supports students who aspire to faculty careers and who will bring diversity to their academic fields. The program provides resources to advance their knowledge and skills, as well as peer mentoring within a community of scholars. In the 10 years of the program, more than 200 students have received DARE fellowships; 72 percent of DARE alumni are currently working in academia.

Leadership at Stanford

Since joining the Stanford faculty in 1989, Gumport has served the university in numerous leadership roles. She chaired the Social Sciences, Policy and Practice division within the Graduate School of Education. She has also provided long-standing service on a range of standing and ad hoc university committees. These include serving as a member of the Provost’s Budget Group since 2004, as co-chair of the Provost’s Diversity Cabinet, as an elected senator and an ex-officio member of the Faculty Senate, as a member of the Provost’s Committee on the Status of Women and on the executive committee of Stanford’s AAUP (American Association of University Professors) chapter. She also has served on the Executive Cabinet with the president, provost, deans and academic vice provosts.

As a sociologist of higher education, Gumport has focused her research and teaching on major changes in the academic landscape and organizational character of American higher education. Two lines of expertise have been most relevant to her work as vice provost: how academic leaders reconcile complex and at times divergent expectations from stakeholders; and how universities determine appropriate organizational forms to support new knowledge for education and research. Her academic publications include seven books, including Academic Fault Lines, which will be published in 2019.

“Serving in this leadership role has been more fulfilling than I ever imagined. As key VPGE initiatives and postdoc resources have become part of the institutional culture at Stanford, I look forward to resuming my faculty responsibilities, including teaching, advising, research and writing about higher education,” Gumport said.