September 7, 2018
It is my special pleasure to welcome you back. I hope your summer was relaxing, restorative, and rewarding.
Many of you return after busy summers. Doctoral students Diane Price Banks (Urban Education) and Michele Chinitz (English) put their expertise to public good, along with hundreds of CUNY and SUNY students who traveled to Puerto Rico as part of New York Stands with Puerto Rico, a service program helping to rebuild after the devastation of hurricane Maria.
At convocation last week, we officially opened the new academic year heralded by alumna Tiffany Perkins-Munn (Ph.D. ’03, Psychology), global head of decision sciences at BlackRock, who raved about the resonance of her Graduate Center education. Throughout her career, she said, she has found herself marveling, “I can’t believe I just did that and it’s because of what I learned at The Graduate Center.”
We celebrated the excellence of Graduate Center teaching with our inaugural awards for outstanding teachers and mentors. The six doctoral students and faculty we honored represent different fields, but all shared a joy in working with their students, and, as Provost Connolly said, their awards “recognize formally what we deeply value.”
Let us all create a strong start for our roughly 600 entering doctoral and master’s students, including students in our six new master’s programs. Joining them is Julie Chi-hye Suk, newly appointed dean for master’s programs and professor of sociology. She is among the eight impressive new faculty whom we welcome to The Graduate Center and the ASRC in areas from neuroscience to economics to linguistics.
Public programming this fall brings to The Graduate Center an exceptional group of speakers. Look for acclaimed biographers Claire Tomalin and Geoffrey Ward, writers Roxane Gay and Orhan Pamuk, and former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, among others, tackling topics from liberalism to the census to viruses. Beginning this fall, we will bring special attention to the Promise and Perils of Democracy, a two-year initiative exploring the present state and future of democracy around the world. Our new season of programs will be posted on The Graduate Center website shortly.
You will also find on the website more coverage of the research, accomplishments, and honors of our faculty, students, and alumni. Your contributions to knowledge and understanding exemplify The Graduate Center’s mission and impact, and we’re making a concerted effort to broadcast the news of your success.
At convocation, I spoke about the promises and perils of rhetoric. Even in a time of deliberate untruths, I take great hope because of what we do here every day at The Graduate Center. This is where that logic of practice is inculcated, where ideals of truth can be pursued, certainties challenged, and serious, forensic methods — not “mere rhetoric” — are honed and deployed. In this most public of universities, it’s not a privilege but a responsibility that we learn and teach in deeply democratic modes.
Democracy will be top of mind this fall as we are fast approaching a primary election in New York on September 13 and the general election on November 6. I know that The Graduate Center will be well represented at the polls. I also take heart in seeing Graduate Center colleagues like Steven Romalewski of our Center for Urban Research bringing attention to the need for better representation in the census and ultimately more equitable voting districts and federal funding.
As you know, this is my last semester as president of The Graduate Center. I hope to see you throughout the fall. As always, I wish you a productive and fulfilling year.
Chase F. Robinson