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Reflections from the Dean
Ramona N. Mellott, PhD

Ramona Mellott, Dean

Welcome to our new and returning graduate students in Flagstaff, our extended campuses, and our online programs to the 2010-11 academic year at Northern Arizona University! New students, you have made the choice to return to school and obtain an advanced degree in your field; returning students, you are a few steps closer towards your goal.

You have probably heard this but I will repeat it. There are many benefits—public, professional and personal—to pursuing a graduate degree. The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) reports that citizens with graduate educations are essential to helping this nation become more competitive, innovative, and prosperous.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, an excellent source for detailed information on earning differentials and the job market, reports that those who hold a graduate degree demonstrate a significant increase in median earnings, especially when calculated over a lifetime. Generally, the additional years spent in education are associated with increased earnings, higher levels of savings, less unemployment, and more job security and opportunities.

CGS and the Educational testing Service (ETS) recently applauded a speech by President Obama in which he made a call to the U.S. to again lead the world in the number of college graduates by 2020. In that same statement, the White house suggested that half of the most rapidly growing occupations require at least a bachelor’s degree, and many of them require education beyond a bachelor’s. Between 2008 and 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs requiring a master’s degree to grow by 18 percent and those requiring a doctorate by 17 percent.

So I will say it again: you have made the right decision to go back to school and earn an advanced degree in your field. The faculty and staff at NAU are committed to providing you a challenging and meaningful experience to help you achieve your goals and dreams. More than 5,700 graduate students are enrolled in NAU's nine doctoral programs, one professional doctoral program, 49 master's programs, and 23 certificate programs. We began a brand new master’s program this fall in Climate Science and Solutions. Only a third of our graduate students are located on the Mountain Campus: about 60 percent are enrolled in our distance learning programs at various statewide locations and about 10 percent 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 your excellent programs, faculty, and classes, but also from your peers, research, lecture series, performances, and the many other educational experiences available to you. I encourage you to become involved both within the university and in your discipline. There will be opportunities to participate in conferences, projects, publishing, grant proposals, and other exciting learning opportunities. The more involved you become, the more enjoyable and memorable your graduate school experience will be.

This year is a monumental year, and hopefully a year of change, for our Graduate Student Organization (GSO). The GSO is pursuing recognition as an independent student organization serving all graduate students at NAU. We need your participation and involvement as we go through the steps of approving a constitution and achieving independent status. I hope you will consider becoming involved with the GSO.

I would also 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. The NAU Grad Student group is another way to become involved and connected with your peers across various disciplines.

We strive to provide useful features within each e-newsletter. Please provide us with feedback and let us know about topics that you would like to see addressed here in the future or an article you would like to contribute. Best wishes for the coming year!