A letter from Interim President Joy Connolly

Office of the President

Dear GC colleagues, 

Welcome back! 

At nearly sixty years old, The Graduate Center has a worldwide reputation for intellectual achievement. It is famous as the home of scholars and students devoted to crafting a better world through their research and teaching, who seek social justice and deep, historically and scientifically informed understanding of the world in which we live.  

I am honored to serve you as interim president through the end of June. At that time, I will depart to take up the presidency of the American Council of Learned Societies. Based here in New York, ACLS is best known for its support of scholars in the humanities and social sciences, which this year totaled $25 million in fellowships and research funding. As president, I will work with the 75 member organizations, such as the American Political Science Association and the Modern Language Association, to advocate energetically for our fields of study and to tackle major challenges, including the decline in humanities enrollments and the aggressive devaluing of scholarship in the public sphere.

Excited as I am to take on this post, which allows me to put my passion for humanistic and social scientific learning to work outside the academy, I am frankly sorry to leave The Graduate Center. It’s a unique and marvelous place. I’m especially grateful to my colleagues in the provost’s office, particularly Julia Wrigley, now serving as interim provost, and to the senior staff and our Graduate Center Foundation Board, especially Chair Peter Darrow, for smoothing my transition into the interim role.

I have strongly encouraged Interim Chancellor Vita Rabinowitz to start the presidential search as soon as possible. 

In the meantime, we have much to achieve. Guided by our strategic plan, we will build on our recent successes and meet the challenges presented by shifts in higher education, our students’ needs, and our nation as a whole. 

Graduate programs, particularly the doctoral programs for which The Graduate Center has been best known, are designed to cultivate research. Research, even when it is undertaken in collaboration in labs or other groups, tends to turn people’s eyes inward, toward the microscope or the digital map, the papyrus or the opera score. Against this tendency, The Graduate Center has and will continue to turn outward. 

In the past, our outward turn took the form of innovative scholarly journals, interventions in the press, and notable work in community-based and participatory research. We will sustain these efforts and blaze new paths.  

The Graduate Center is well placed to lead the nation in reforming doctoral education. Last year, the Mellon Foundation awarded us a grant for over $2 million to embed preparation for non-academic careers and the enhancement of students’ public-facing voices into the same doctoral curricula that prepare students for the academic job market. As part of that initiative, the GC’s new PublicsLab will invite participants from outside the academy to join us in study, contribute their voices to evaluating our research, and help us create distinctive academic experiences. 

We are increasing the variety and scope of our internships for both doctoral and master’s students, which allow students to learn and to put their expertise to work in nonprofits, NGOs, established firms, and start-ups. We are supporting new formations for collective study, like the POD (Points of Departure), beginning with the pilot project in urban studies undertaken this spring. Through these initiatives and others, we will press further and more assertively to innovate in doctoral and master’s education. 

An energetic sense of public responsibility will continue to inform our work. Recent faculty hires specialize in bringing high-level analysis to bear in the world outside the academy. I would like to see every student given the opportunity to have a distinctive public experience in the course of their time at the GC. 

We are entering exciting new territory in the sciences and in master’s and non-degree programs. The Graduate Center took on the stewardship of the ASRC two years ago. Since then we have hired dozens of faculty and scientific staff, who have secured millions of dollars in external funding. We continue to support their innovative approach to science, which advances The Graduate Center’s tradition of interdisciplinary work. As our new master’s degrees grow and flourish, ensuring that students receive an outstanding education is an important priority.  Our non-degree programs, currently in the planning stage, will expand the reach of our expertise beyond the limits of traditional coursework.  

I look forward to discussing these and other initiatives designed to support students and faculty with you all this spring semester. It is a great privilege to lead The Graduate Center. I am grateful for all that you do to enhance this remarkable scholarly community and our society as a whole.

I wish you a productive and fulfilling semester,

Joy Connolly
Interim President

Submitted on: JAN 29, 2019

Category: President's Office - Archive