Welcome to A New Academic Year from Graduate Dean Holger Hoock

August 26, 2019

Dear Graduate Students,

Welcome to a new academic year! And to all newly arrived graduate students: welcome to the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the University of Pittsburgh.

As Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, my role is to help ensure that the Dietrich School is an outstanding place for you to train, research, and prepare for your future careers. This year, we will be paying continued attention to priority areas such as professional development, mentoring, and fostering diverse and inclusive excellence within a climate of respect and integrity.

The professional development and career preparation of all graduate students remains a top priority for me, the Dietrich School, and the University. Whether you aspire to careers in academia, government/public sector, industry, and/or the nonprofit world, we want to ensure that your graduate studies equip you with deep disciplinary training, strategic skills and versatile competencies such as communication, collaboration, and leadership, and the habits of mind that will help set you on a path toward future success and lives of impact.

As a starting point, I encourage each of you — ideally in collaboration with your advisor and broader mentoring team — to use an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to help you be intentional about setting academic and professional goals. An IDP can also support you in assessing individual skill sets relative to career goals and documenting progress in acquiring both depth of research and breadth of other skills sought by employers. Please check out this link for domain-appropriate IDPs for Humanists, Social Scientists, and Natural Scientists.

Please take advantage of the opportunities for career exploration, professional development, and leadership practice that your programs, the Dietrich School, and the wider university offer throughout the year.  Do check out the Center for Doctoral and Postdoctoral Career Development, which offers professional development workshops for doctoral students and postdoctoral trainees.

Supporting Student Mental Wellness
As we focus on excellence in graduate training and enhance professional development, I also recognize that the graduate life experience is not solely academic and professional. And I know — and well remember from my own experiences — that graduate school can be stressful. Recent studies have highlighted the mental health challenges of graduate students, as featured, e.g., in Science Magazine. The Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies has compiled information about physical and mental wellness programs available to Pitt’s graduate and professional students in a brochure, with details also on diversity, family-friendly resources, health insurance, community, and more. I encourage you to take a look. We’ll be following up with further information about resources in support of graduate student wellness.

Welcoming Our International Students 
Almost 40 percent of all Dietrich School graduate students come from some 70 countries outside the United States to pursue their master’s and doctoral degrees at Pitt. Their cross-cultural and global perspectives enrich our school and university, as well as our city and this nation. Our cosmopolitan community of research and learning is committed to an environment of inclusion that fosters global understanding and open exchange of intercultural thought. As a former international graduate student and an international faculty member, I remember well how demanding and exciting it can be to transition to a new country, city, and university. If you are an international student: please know that there are many resources, colleagues, and fellow students to support you now and throughout your studies. If you have any questions, please contact OIS at ois@pitt.edu or drop me a line at graddean@pitt.edu.

Communication, Resources
In addition to working closely with graduate students in the school’s shared governance structures such as Graduate Council, I greatly value opportunities to hear directly from all of you about your experiences and to learn how we might further improve our support systems for graduate students. As in previous years, if your departmental GSO wishes to invite me for a conversation, please do get in touch.

This year, I’ll also be hosting Lunches with the Dean. These will be informal occasions for us to chat about graduate studies issues that concern you, for me to solicit your views on emerging topics, and for you to connect with fellow graduate students from across the Dietrich School.

My monthly walk-in office hours will be posted on our website. Whether you have detailed queries about academic policies and resources or how to identify external fellowships, or wish to raise big issues such as how to navigate and make the most of graduate school, forge and maintain your mentoring relationships, or maximize opportunities to prepare for your future career within or beyond the academy, feel free to drop by. 

My next office hour will be on Thursday, September 19, 1:30–2:30 PM, in the Office of Graduate Studies, 5141 Sennott Square.

Please also check out our website and send us your feedback to help us build out the site so that it best serves your needs.

Finally, here’s a reminder of some key resources:
Graduate Student Advocacy Resources
Graduate Student Organizations
International Students
Ombudsperson for Graduate Students: Philippa Carter pkc3@pitt.edu / 412-624-6096
Title IX
Travel Grants for Conferences
Wellness Resources for Graduate and Professional Students

If you have any questions or wish to discuss issues related to graduate education and training in the Dietrich School, please drop me a line at graddean@pitt.edu.

With best wishes for a productive and enjoyable fall term,

Holger Hoock