It Has Been an Honor to Serve the GC

Office of the President

Graduate Center colleagues,

It has been a true honor to serve as your provost and interim president. I’m grateful for the work we have done together to support teaching and research at this unique and wonderful school.

We have strong values and a long list of accomplishments to take pride in, and I want to highlight a few.

This year, with the generous support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, we launched the PublicsLab, the heart of The Graduate Center’s goal to transform doctoral education for the public good. With the appointment of Stacy Hartman as PublicsLab director and Professor Bianca Williams as the faculty lead, and with the selection of the inaugural group of Public Fellows — 12 remarkable students from nine departments – we have taken great steps forward in pioneering innovative approaches to doctoral education. We also continue to work with LaGuardia Community College on our Mellon-supported Humanities Alliance grant, which has given our doctoral students terrific experience in community college teaching and supported LaGuardia undergraduates studying the humanities.

Even in a challenging time of budget constraints, we have continued to recruit a strong, diverse faculty, and many of our faculty have continued to win highly competitive grants at an impressive rate. At the ASRC and The Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue, external funding supports world-class research that changes lives for the better – such as ASRC Neuroscience Initiative Director Patrizia Casaccia’s $9.17 million grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Our faculty are experimenting with new forms of teaching, notably in the POD (Points of Departure), a yearlong public-facing seminar led this year by Marta Gutman and John Mollenkopf, with support from Cindi Katz.

To attract new and diverse audiences to The Graduate Center, we are boldly venturing into fresh terrain. Over half a dozen new master’s programs, ranging from cognitive neuroscience to biography and memoir, have gotten off to a solid start. Inspired by the enthusiastic suggestions of faculty and students, Dean Brian Peterson is testing exciting ideas for non-degree programs; starting this summer, these will allow for creative experiments in our classrooms.

In my own program in classics, through the DSC, and beyond, I have had the privilege of getting to know exceptional graduate students. Ashna Ali, our student speaker at commencement and now holder of a Ph.D. in comparative literature, perfectly captured the values and aspirations of our community. She said, “Belonging to CUNY allows us to pave a meaningful future with honesty and decency — a future in which we have the opportunity to give back across five boroughs, and well beyond. In a moment where public education is an increasingly radical notion, our standing here is no small feat. We are the mark of both excellence and defiance.”

I have many people to thank, notably Interim Provost Julia Wrigley, Associate Provost David Olan, Dean for the Sciences Josh Brumberg, the president’s senior staff, the cabinet, and the Provost’s Office. I am especially grateful to our executive officers for their leadership, collegiality, persistence, sense of humor, and patience as we refined the Annual Report and Request.

When I first arrived at The Graduate Center, I quoted lines from Vergil’s Aeneid that spoke of a path forward to be forged, a path difficult but necessary and valuable. As I depart for the American Council of Learned Societies, I share Seamus Heaney’s poem “Scaffolding,” which casts the language of building strong foundations and walls in positive terms:

Masons, when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding;

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.

I heartily value the spirit that makes The Graduate Center such a remarkable place and the ties I have made here. I can be reached at jc@acls.org starting July 1.

With gratitude, I wish all of you the very best.

Joy Connolly
Interim President

Submitted on: JUN 27, 2019

Category: President's Office - Archive