Campus News

Graduate School launches doctoral completion initiative

Maureen Grasso

The Graduate School launched its “Initiative to Optimize Doctoral Completion” at information sessions held Jan. 28-30 at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel. Led by Graduate School Dean Maureen Grasso, the initiative is a three-year project designed to keep faculty members well informed about the trends and issues surrounding doctoral completion, to provide faculty with information necessary to realistically assess their own programs’ successes and to support individual programs in their efforts to improve completion rates.

“Doctoral completion matters to the Graduate School,” said Grasso. “I am committed to supporting faculty in building strong internationally recognized doctoral programs, and that is why we are launching this important initiative.”

Non-completion of doctorates has come to the fore of national discussion recently because it is an expensive proposition for society, institutions and students. Doctoral students represent substantial investments in terms of time, scarce intellectual resources and public and private dollars. When students fail to graduate, there is little or no return on these investments.

Doctoral completion matters to others, too. The National Research Council is in the final stages of its Assessment of Research Doctorate Programs conducted every 10 years. The results, expected this spring, will have a profound influence on how policymakers, funding agencies and prospective students perceive individual doctoral programs. Most of UGA’s 93 doctoral programs participated in the assessment.

At the sessions in January, Grasso presented her “Framework for Action,” which set forth ideal conditions for enhancing doctoral completion. Developed from higher education literature and the Graduate School’s own research and program improvement activities with 12 programs on campus (, the framework is intended to guide department heads, graduate coordinators and other faculty and staff who play an important role in doctoral completion at the program level, all of whom were invited to attend the sessions.

Grasso also introduced the searchable database (, now available to faculty to study and compare patterns of doctoral completion in their own programs. According to Grasso, UGA fairs better than the Council of Graduate Schools’ national average for doctoral completion. The Graduate School examined the performance of 474 doctoral students, representing all disciplines, who entered programs between fall 1998 and summer 1999. In this cohort, 66 percent completed their doctoral degrees.

 At the conclusion of the sessions, Grasso charged all faculty to learn their programs’ performances and trends and engage their colleagues in discussions about doctoral completion.