Dr. Kim La Scola Needy named to Graduate Dean's Advisory Board

The Graduate School and International Education at the University of Arkansas announced plans Friday, Jan. 11, to increase graduate student enrollment each year for the next three years, with a goal of reaching 20 percent of total student enrollment.

“We are developing initiatives designed to foster growth and diversity, as well as to support retention and graduation of current graduate students,” said Dean Todd Shields.

In October the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that graduate student enrollment rates dropped nationally, and indeed, most Southeastern Conference schools saw decreases in graduate student enrollment. However, the University of Arkansas posted a modest increase in graduate student enrollment in fall 2012.

Chancellor G. David Gearhart applauded the work being done to counter national trends.

“As we move toward becoming a top 50 public research university, the graduate student population will be crucial, since they will assist with the faculty’s research that ultimately enables us to reach our goal,” said Gearhart. “We should achieve the balance that we want between the graduate and undergraduate populations in order to foster success. With Dean Shields’ strong leadership and the graduate school’s new faculty advisory board, the goal becomes that much more attainable.”

Along with modest growth, the university saw an increase in retention of graduate students over the previous year. The retention growth is attributed to the hard work of students and their faculty mentors, as well as the many programs the graduate school has established to support graduate students.

Patricia Koski, associate dean of the graduate school and international education, said graduate faculty are responsible for the success.

“Our graduate faculty is the first line of defense for retaining our graduate students, and they do a tremendous job of mentoring them,” she said. “We enjoy open lines of communication at all academic levels in support of graduate student success. Our faculty shares in our delight when their students complete master’s and doctoral degrees.”

In addition to increasing the overall number of graduate students and increasing retention, the university has a goal of pushing graduate enrollment to make up 20 percent of the university’s overall enrollment. The recent boom in undergraduate student enrollment on the Fayetteville campus, however, has pushed the percentage of graduate students lower. The number of new graduate students simply didn’t keep pace with the number of new undergraduate students and overall is currently 15.6 percent of total enrollment. A higher percentage of graduate students is desirable for the university to maintain its classification as one of the top research universities by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education.

To achieve and retain the desired relationship of graduate to undergraduate students, the graduate school will implement several steps immediately.

Shields has named a graduate dean’s faculty advisory board whose members have displayed outstanding skills mentoring graduate students. Faculty named to the board:

  • Gregory Salamo, distinguished professor of physics
  • Julie Stenken, professor and 21st century chair in chemistry and biochemistry
  • William McComas, Parks professor of science education, curriculum and instruction
  • Linda Ann Myers, professor, accounting
  • Douglas Rhoads, professor, biological sciences, and director of the cell and molecular biology program
  • Sidney Burris, professor, English
  • Elliott West, distinguished professor, history
  • Keith Roper, associate professor, chemical engineering
  • Kim Needy, department head, industrial engineering
  • Eric Wailes, distinguished professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness
  • Jean-Francois Meullenet, department head, food science
  • Jennie Popp, professor, agricultural economics and agribusiness
  • Nilda Burgos, professor, crop, soil and environmental sciences
  • Brent Williams, associate professor, rehabilitation
  • Nina Gupta, distinguished professor, management
  • Matthew Waller, department head, supply chain management
  • Brinck Kerr, professor, political science / director of public policy program

The board will develop strategies for recruitment and retention of both domestic and international graduate students and will make recommendations for new programs.

Charles Robinson, vice provost for diversity affairs, said he is looking forward to the work this pre-eminent group of faculty will do.

“While we focus so often on our domestic diversity, the value of our international community is important to us as well,” he said. “The members of the graduate dean’s faculty advisory board have shown leadership in bringing talented master’s and doctoral students to our university, and with their support I know we will make great strides in increasing the diversity of our graduate student population.”

Shields said he feels the time is right for momentum in graduate student enrollment.

“Our issues are ones that all graduate education institutions face,” said Shields. “We are meeting with every academic college on campus, as well as many individual departments and programs, to learn how they would like to grow their graduate student programs. “Because graduate academic programs are not ‘one-size fits all,’ we feel we have an advantage in that we can allow departments and programs to employ their preferred methods of developing programs in their field. We will work diligently to provide high-quality prospective students from across the globe to fill those spots.”

Provost Sharon Gaber said the university has been increasing faculty positions in past years in advance of adding graduate student assistantships for departments.

“We must have faculty in place to mentor our incoming graduate students, and we have made strong progress in that area over the past four years, having added 100-plus new faculty positions since 2008. We are committed to increasing our graduate and international student populations as well.”


Release date: 1/11/2013