Candidate for associate provost/VP says she would be student advocate

Natalie Hayden

Jennifer Keane-Dawes emphasized the importance of a dean being an advocate for graduate students at the open forum for the position of associate provost for Graduate and Advance Studies/associate vice president of Research on Thursday.

Keane-Dawes is the current dean of Graduate Studies at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

“[WKU] is deserving of high quality candidates,” Keane-Dawes said. “When you look at some of the things that you’re doing, you are way ahead of many institutions we see in terms of graduate school.”

Keane-Dawes used an article from The Washington Post to illustrate why graduate school is necessary for students to get ahead in the workplace.

 The article told the story of Ramsey Day, someone who was successful in his career but could not advance because of his academic credentials. He returned to school at age 36 to get his master’s degree in public administration.

“[The article] represents that many of the students are coming back to us,” Keane-Dawes said. “When students get to a ceiling where they can go no further, they look to us, the universities, for the kind of education that is going to make a difference.”

Keane-Dawes said her role as associate provost for Graduate and Advance Studies/associate vice president of Research would be a voice for the students.

“The graduate school on our campus is not established to compete with any other program or any other school,” she said. “The graduate school exists to serve as a bridge, to represent the interests of graduate students. Somebody has to speak up.”

Her other goals include providing quality control of the program and consistency of the different programs across campus, she said. Keane-Dawes said she has thought about implementing mandatory training sessions for graduate students who would be student teaching in order to give the undergraduate students a better experience.

After speaking her part, the forum turned into a question and answer session.

Bruce Schulte, head of the biology department, asked what Keane-Dawes’ 5-to-10-year plan for the school was.

Keane-Dawes said that while she will take into consideration what the university’s leadership wants, she has thought about possible Ph.D. programs WKU could offer.

“Not to put us in competition with UK or the University of Louisville, but Ph.D. programs like an interdisciplinary program,” she said.

That program would train students who want to go into professoriate. Keane-Dawes said currently, universities do not do a good enough job educating students to take over for current professors.

Chris Nagy, associate professor of public health, asked how Keane-Dawes planned to advance research.

Keane-Dawes said she would like to get professors even more involved in research than they already are. However, she said an associate provost for Graduate Studies cannot lose sight of the primary role of looking out for graduate students, even when advancing research.

The next forum will feature Bruce Landman on March 14 at 3:15 p.m. in Mass Media and Technology Hall Room 166.