(Ed. note: When she became dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) on July 1, Eva Badowska, PhD, had already begun several long-term efforts to prepare GSAS for changes in the world of higher education. As acting and then interim dean in the prior 13 months, she had heeded a mentor’s advice to make the most of her time in the job even if it might soon be taken over by someone else. “You have to take it on faith that some of your work would roll over and continue, and that if it did not, then it wouldn’t for good reasons,” she said.
Her initiatives include GSAS Futures, a professional-development program for students, the Fellowship in Higher Education Leadership, a mentoring program for future academic leaders, as well as new master’s degree programs. She also chairs the President’s Task Force on the Future of Liberal Education.)
What’s your vision for GSAS?
Higher education is moving away from a view of the graduate school as a place solely for the future professoriate. To that end, we initiated GSAS Futures; we’ve created a position of student professional development director in GSAS; and we’re talking to faculty about how we can support students who are contemplating a different career path. It is about creating a culture in which many viable and valued options are on the table, even as we stand by our core mission to train future academics.
Another program I care deeply about is the Fellowship in Higher Education Leadership, which demystifies the workings of the University for graduate students and engages them in making decisions about policies and programs that affect them. I really wanted to convey to graduate students my own deep conviction that academic leadership is a worthwhile, meaningful intellectual engagement. There is a lot of pressure on graduate schools to prove their value proposition. I like to think that we’re protecting the university as a space for thinking and research for future generations.
How is GSAS responding to its funding challenges and the enrollment downturn affecting graduate schools?
It involves everything from developing new programs to becoming more student-oriented in supporting a variety of options for students. You cannot have top-notch PhD programs without offering fellowships and scholarships, and in order to sustain full funding for those at the PhD level, we need to build out elsewhere. What we need is more programs but meaningful programs, ones that draw on faculty expertise and that respond to what students are interested in. That calls for being very thoughtful about the use of our time and resources.
Can you tell us about some of those new programs?
We’re developing degrees that have one foot in a traditional GSAS academic experience and the other in the world of the professions. In addition to the recently approved master’s in public media—a collaboration with WFUV—and a master’s in clinical research methods, a master’s in data analytics is awaiting state approval. There’s a lot of conversation across the university about sustainability, and I would love to see a program that combines various areas from economics to biology and environmental science to policy areas—areas that are needed to have a holistic understanding of sustainable development. I would also love to see an interdisciplinary program on issues of broadly conceived security in the world, from political security to food security to climate security to cyber security. All of these are being discussed.
Did your own education offer lessons in how seemingly disparate academic fields can end up coming together?
I was seriously split between mathematics and literature in high school. I started out at the university specializing in linguistics, which at that time was highly technical; it was the heyday of Chomskian linguistics and we drew a lot of graphs; it was language but through a scientific lens. Literature for me was always about language. Personal trajectories led me away from linguistics—it had to do with how academic fields are differently structured in different countries where I was a student (Poland, the U.K., the United States). These international moves taught me a lot about how arbitrary disciplinary divisions truly are.
Has the Task Force on the Future of Liberal Education given you ideas about graduate education?
Instructors in undergraduate classrooms of the future are the graduate students of today, so we need to have conversations with our graduate students about what it means to teach in a liberal educational setting at the undergraduate level. Liberal education has historical roots in undergraduate education. But there is no conversation about how to prepare future teachers for liberal education. Fordham is committed to liberal education across the spectrum of graduate and undergraduate study, so we’re squarely on mission in sponsoring these conversations.