By way of analogy, the number one topic of casual conver- sation is the weather. But, for all the attention the weather
receives, our conversations do not generally result in action—
beyond perhaps a change of clothing. In the more urgent
context of global climate change, however, we are beginning
to realize that it is time to do more than just talk.
Similarly, there has been a lot of talk about graduate
education, but not much action. For the past three decades, at
least one national study has been released every year exploring graduate education’s future. All of the studies have recommended reform. The 2012 ACS report, “Advancing Graduate
Education in the Chemical Sciences” ( http://chemistry.gradu-
ate.education), echoed most of the other studies. It stated
that grad students’ current educational opportunities do not
provide sufficient preparation for their careers. Despite the
annual call to reform graduate education, the training model
we use has remained largely unchanged since the first Ph.D.
degrees were awarded in the United States more than 150
years ago. However, unlike the weather, graduate education
can be improved by your efforts.
Many reasons could explain why no one has acted on
recommendations from numerous studies of graduate
• Some were too general, failing to recognize the unique
challenges and traditions of individual disciplines and
• They did not offer a path forward for implementing the
• They did not provide for a sustained follow-up effort.
• No “go-to” place exists to find and share resources for
Perhaps most importantly:
• The entire community of stakeholders was not generally
consulted and engaged during or after the studies to learn
whether they agreed with the recommendations in general.
The target audience for the prior studies comprised the
presumptive “gatekeepers” of graduate education—the faculty,
administrators, and other policy-makers. Although graduate
students and postdoctoral fellows weren’t completely invisible,
they appeared in the background, as passive recipients of poli-
cies and procedures. In contrast, you are the target audience of
this article. You are served by graduate education, and I would
and Making Graduate
Michael T. Ashby, Ph.D., David Ross Boyd Professor of Chemistry and
Biochemistry at the University of Oklahoma