The 2005 Legislature gave WSU funding to increase new graduate student enrollment. But the state and Graduate School intend to get a much greater bang for the buck.

Rather than just the 60 new positions the state funded for 2006 and 2007, Dean Howard Grimes wants the money to work as a catalyst to generate even more funding and greater numbers of graduate students for WSU. He also wants departments and units to use this opportunity to explore strategic planning, restructuring, goal-setting and other types of changes that would improve and expand graduate education.

Toward these ends, the Graduate School is making the new student funding available in response to competitive requests for proposals (RFPs) that will be accepted through Wednesday, Nov. 23. More information on the RFP can be found online at http://www.gradsch.wsu.edu by clicking on the RA (research assistant) link.

Included on that site are criteria addressing the Graduate School’s expectations of catalytic growth and program excellence and expansion. For example, if a department uses the state money to support two new RAs whose work helps draw outside grants that will support two more new graduate students next year, that’s catalytic growth — the state money is a catalyst to effect other funding and expand the number of graduate students.

Similarly, RFP criteria encourage units to look strategically at the quality of their programs for graduate students — training, diversity and undergraduate education, for example — and to consider reconfiguring some aspects as they prepare their proposals.

“This is an opportunity for units to think about the mission of their Ph.D. program,” Grimes said. “How might they strategically distribute the funding among their faculty to the best advantage? How might they allocate the money to enhance diversity?

“They might use some of the money for training teaching assistants early on, before the TAs are made to teach undergraduate classes that they might not be prepared to teach.

“This is an opportunity to implement new strategies,” Grimes said.

As departments rise to this challenge, they will be helping the university achieve some top objectives for graduate education: to increase the quality of incoming graduate students; to increase Ph.D. enrollment and graduation numbers; and to enhance the national reputation of WSU Ph.D. programs.

Evaluation of the proposals will be done by a panel of graduate school deans from doctoral-intensive institutions across the country. Funding will go to proposals that are the most innovative from a national perspective, Grimes said.

“The primary objective of the Graduate School is to enhance the quality of our Ph.D. programs and students. These funds can make a real difference in achieving national impact,” he said.