New dean brings international perspective

Henning Schroeder was approved as the new dean of graduate education at Friday’s Board of Regents meeting.

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Danielle Nordine

On Feb. 9, the University of Minnesota unexpectedly announced they would be disbanding the graduate school. Now, nine months later, the school is intact and Henning Schroeder has been officially named the new dean of graduate education. Schroeder has been the associate dean for Research and Graduate Studies at the College of Pharmacy and a pharmaceutics professor at the University since 2007. His appointment as dean of graduate education and vice provost, made on Nov. 2 by Provost Tom Sullivan, was approved by the Board of Regents on Nov. 13. âÄúBeing an educator has always been rewarding for me,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúWe at the graduate school need to help students succeed in a very rapidly changing world. That is our first goal.âÄù Schroeder emphasized transparency and communication as his most important values and said he will spend the time before he officially takes over as dean on Jan. 19 to speak with students, faculty and staff about their wants and needs for the graduate program. Schroeder said the administrators need to listen to students and their needs to rebuild trust and move forward after the uncertainty of the past nine months. âÄúItâÄôs function before form,âÄù he said. âÄúSome of the things we have to do will not cause joy everywhere, but we need to communicate and, in the end, have fair solutions to the problems weâÄôre facing.âÄù Acknowledging the school is facing a time of uncertainty and insecurity, Schroeder said the underlying theme of his administration will be to âÄúgain the most amount of input from the greatest possible number of people involved in the school.âÄù A holistic approach to graduate studies and focusing on helping students learn and do research, rather than on how the school is structured, is the vision Schroeder laid out for the next few months. A Global Perspective Schroeder spent most of his early career in Germany, where he was born, and spent time as a visiting professor at Stanford University, before coming to the UniversityâÄôs College of Pharmacy in 2007. Coming from an international background and having a global perspective, especially during a time of increasing global competition for graduate students, will be helpful, he said. In a Nov. 2 statement, Sullivan said Schroeder SchroederâÄôs international background âÄúis an important fit with the large international population of graduate and professional students at the University.âÄù âÄúAn outsiderâÄôs view can be helpful since I may see things differently,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúWe have to start doing things differently because there is now competition globally, not just nationally, for students.âÄù Schroeder said international programs are turning an eye to the way the U.S. runs its graduate schools, and he hopes the University can continue to compete and find a way to keep graduate school education at a high level. âÄúThis is not the only place where people are thinking about graduate school restructuring,âÄù Schroeder said. âÄúInternational schools are catching up academically, with the explicit intention to compete with U.S. graduate programs.âÄù Marilyn Speedie, who was head of the selection committee, said the committee valued SchroederâÄôs âÄúvision of graduate education being a global enterprise.âÄù The Selection Process Most students and faculty say they are happy and excited by SchroederâÄôs selection as dean, but there are still some concerns about the way the process was handled. Kristi Kremers, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Association, said while she is grateful the committee waited until school was in session to complete the search, parts of the process did feel rushed. The search for a dean was internal. Schroeder said after applications were sent in, the selection committee brought in candidates to give a 15 minute speech about their vision for the graduate school. At the end of September, the committee announced the top three candidates and held public forums where students, faculty, staff and the public could hear from the candidates and ask questions. Kremers pointed to the public forums, which were held only three days after the finalists were announced, as one area that could have been taken slower. âÄúThere was very little time to evaluate their resumes and their backgrounds and to send delegates to ask the right questions,âÄù Kremers said. However, she said given the lack of transparency in the past, this process could have been handled worse, and Kremers said she understood that the dean is âÄúsuch a critical position that you need to have someone in place expeditiously.âÄù Looking Forward In addition to international competition and communication, Schroeder said one of the most important pieces of his vision is how a student should be coming out of the graduate program at the University. âÄúItâÄôs important for students to make the transition from someone who absorbs knowledge to someone who generates knowledge,âÄù he said. He said graduate students should be able to pursue their curiosity through research and experience. âÄúYou canâÄôt always get it all in the classroom, he said. âÄúYou have to go out there and make mistakes, play around and learn.âÄù Speedie said SchroederâÄôs vision for autonomous students was appealing to many people. âÄúHe had a very powerful vision for graduate education as producing individuals who can work autonomously, be leaders, generate ideas and follow through,âÄù she said. âÄúThatâÄôs a very powerful vision that I think people agreed with and found compelling.âÄù One of the biggest challenges facing Schroeder as dean will be to make budget cuts and trim the graduate school while still maintaining its quality. âÄúNo one really knows what the graduate school is going to be,âÄù said Roger Miller, director of graduate studies for liberal studies. âÄúBut the biggest challenge now is going to be to continue to do what needs to be done with shrinking resources.âÄù Miller said there are areas of the graduate school that need trimming, but a central school still needs to exist to handle issues such as fellowship grants for students. âÄúEssentially, we need to figure out: what are the priorities, what are the things the graduate school does best and what kinds of things can be devolved to the individual colleges?âÄù he said. Schroeder said while he understands the position will bring many challenges, he is looking forward to working with the students and âÄúa great staffâÄù at the graduate school. âÄúI am fully aware that there is a learning phase and a learning curve, he said, âÄúbut I have felt tremendously welcome here and IâÄôm really excited to work with the students and staff.âÄù