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Reflections from the Dean
Ramona N. Mellott, PhD

Ramona Mellott, Dean

Welcome to the 2009-10 academic year at Northern Arizona University!  Congratulations to new students on your decision to pursue a graduate education and to our returning students for staying the course.

The new academic year brings with it promises, hopes, and dreams. We here at the Graduate College, along with your academic units and colleges, are here to serve you and help you accomplish your academic goals. During this time of economic turbulence, pursuing a graduate education is probably the best decision you can make, not only for yourself but for our nation and world.  The knowledge and expertise you will gain as a result of this education will go a long way toward helping America regain its competitive edge. 

In a recent publication, The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) pointed out the considerable benefits, public and personal, of earning a graduate degree.  Personal benefits include a higher salary, employment in positions of higher autonomy, higher degrees of work satisfaction, and so forth.  Public benefits include higher rates of volunteerism, better health, increased tax dollars (since you have the potential to earn more), and a higher voter turnout (since you are more likely to vote).  Other contributions more challenging to quantify include your work as teachers, counselors, public policy analysts, engineers, and other professionals and the allied works of innovation, research, and scientific breakthroughs that your graduate study trains you to produce (Graduate Education in 2020: What Does the Future Hold?, CGS, 2009).

NAU is a community of scholars, teachers, researchers, and students committed to the discovery and application of knowledge. NAU offers a wide array of opportunities in traditionally defined disciplines and professional programs. We have over 23,000 students at NAU and more than 5,000 graduate students enrolled in eight doctoral programs, one professional doctoral program, 48 master's programs, and 18 certificate programs.  Only a third of our graduate students are on the Mountain Campus: approximately one half of the remaining graduate students are enrolled in our distance learning programs at various statewide locations, and about 20% pursue their degrees online.

Since it is the start of a new academic year, I would like to take this opportunity to repeat some advice I always give to new and continuing students. To make the most of your graduate school experience, be ready to gain knowledge not only through the excellent programs and classes that are offered, but also from your peers, faculty, research, lecture series, and the many other educational and cultural experiences available to you. I encourage you to become involved within the university and in your discipline. There will be opportunities to participate in conferences, interdisciplinary projects, committees, and other exciting learning opportunities. The more involved you become, the more enjoyable and memorable your graduate school experience will be.

Additionally, I would like to invite you to become a fan of the Graduate College Facebook page.  You will find a wealth of information here, plus you can use it to communicate with other graduate students at NAU. Feel free to post photos of your fieldwork or conferences and start discussions. Recently a graduate student created an NAU Grad Student group which is focused on organizing social events for graduate students in the Flagstaff area.  So check this out as well.

I also hope that you will consider becoming involved with the Graduate Student Organization (GSO). Representatives have worked hard to connect with you; you may have met one of the executive officers at your department orientation meetings.  You will receive information on your NAU e-mail account on meeting time and dates. Students at distance sites can participate also through the meet-me conference line that is available at every meeting. The telephone number will be provided in the meeting announcement notices. The GSO is committed to meeting the needs of graduate students at NAU and serving as your advocate. The organization also has a travel award program designed to assist with travel costs to conferences. Check out GSO programs and initiatives in the newsletter’s GSO Update columns and the GSO website.

We strive to provide useful features within each issue of this tri-annual e-newsletter. Please provide us with feedback and let us know about topics that you would like to see addressed here in the future. Also, if you would like to write a newsletter article sharing advice or an experience interesting and/or beneficial to other graduate students, please contact us.

Best wishes for the coming year!