Ascende Altius: Newsletter Issue 2: A Note from the Dean

Dear Alumni and Friends of the UofM Graduate School, 

Happy New Year! It is with great enthusiasm that I share the University of Memphis graduate school's new strategic plan. Developed with the University of Memphis Ascend strategic plan in mind, the graduate school’s strategic plan will build on our past success and focus on increasing enrollment, support for our graduate students and staff, process improvement, and financial stewardship. 

Mission and Vision: Guiding Principles for the Future

The foundation of the strategic plan rests on a clear mission and vision. The mission is to support graduate programs in producing well-rounded, successful graduates and developing cutting-edge programs to enrich our ever-changing society. The vision is to become nationally recognized for high-quality, innovative, and creative graduate programs while fostering a universally welcoming and supportive environment for all graduate students. 

Strategic Goals: A Comprehensive Approach to Success

Goal 1: Aggressively Provide Access to Graduate Education

The University of Memphis Graduate School aims to aggressively provide access to diverse and talented individuals by expanding both domestic and international graduate enrollment. In keeping with the Ascend plan, this includes a strategic focus on key areas of growth, particularly in STEM, health, and business fields. The plan outlines specific steps, such as establishing a Graduate Enrollment Advisory Board, setting enrollment targets, and revamping communication and recruitment strategies through the utilization of the UofM’s new customer relationship management (CRM) system

Goal 2: Create Opportunities to Succeed
Fostering an enriching graduate student experience is a key focus, with initiatives designed to identify and address the mentoring, career, and professional development needs of our diverse graduate student body. Collaborations with the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and individual departments will ensure targeted programs that encourage success. I am excited to announce that one of our strategic plan milestones has already been achieved. This spring an affordable ACA compliant health insurance plan for graduate students was launched. In the fall of 2024, the health insurance premium will be fully covered by the UofM for our full-time graduate assistants. Offering this benefit will support the wellbeing of those who’s instructional and research contributions help us to maintain Carnegie R1 status and allow us to compete for the best and brightest graduate students.

Goal 3: Recruit, Retain, Reward, and Recognize Our People
The strategic plan places a strong emphasis on cultivating a respectful and supportive culture for graduate school staff, recognizing, and rewarding excellence, and providing ample opportunities for professional development. This includes initiatives such as providing staff with yearly professional development opportunities and regular nominations for university-wide staff awards. 

Goal 4: Exemplify Operational Excellence
To optimize operational effectiveness and enhance efficiency, the plan outlines measures to review and improve processes related to admissions, registration and enrollment, and thesis and dissertation submission. We have recently implemented a new application system and we continue to make refinements to enhance the student experience.  

Goal 5: Generate and Steward Financial Resources
A crucial aspect of the plan is to increase funding for graduate student fellowships and assistantships. Strategic allocation of resources will maximize the use of full-time graduate assistantships to attract top students. The establishment of a graduate school advisory board will assist in fundraising efforts and the identification of external donors. Invitations to participate in this board went out in December and I am extremely pleased by the response we have received so far. We will announce the board this summer and its work will begin in the fall of 2024.   

Moving Forward Together
As the University of Memphis Graduate School embarks on the journey outlined in its strategic plan, we will continue to collaborate with college Deans, graduate faculty, staff, and administrative units across the campus to provide our graduate students with a world class educational experience. This plan is not just a document; it is a commitment to fostering a vibrant academic community, providing opportunities for success, and ensuring that every graduate student thrives in an environment that values excellence and promotes inclusivity.

Stay tuned for updates as the University of Memphis graduate school works towards realizing these strategic goals and continues to redefine the landscape of graduate education. We encourage you to explore our programs, stay connected with us on social media (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn) to learn about our outstanding graduate students, graduate faculty, graduate school staff and events. Please spread the word to colleagues, friends, and family interested in taking their education to the next level and, if possible, help us climb higher by making a financial contribution to support our efforts. 
Ascende Altius

Best wishes,
Deborah Tollefsen, PhD
Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School