Morimoto To Step Down as Graduate School Dean
I am writing to inform you that Richard Morimoto will be stepping down as Dean of The Graduate School and Associate Provost for Graduate Education at the end of this academic year in order to return to full-time research and teaching in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, and Cell Biology. In 1998, Morimoto accepted a five-year appointment to his current position. President Bienen and I asked him to stay on for at least a sixth year; and Dean Morimoto has determined that this year should be his last in this post.
During his six years as Dean of The Graduate School, Morimoto has worked effectively with students, staff, faculty, and administrators to implement a number of initiatives to strengthen graduate education at Northwestern. Both President Bienen and I believe that the quality of our graduate education in some significant measure defines the quality of the University we are and the institution we aspire to be. We are deeply grateful to Dean Morimoto for the imagination and energy he has brought to improving and enriching the enterprise of graduate education at Northwestern.
In his commitment to increasing the quality and competitiveness of matriculants in the The Graduate School's doctoral and MFA programs, Dean Morimoto introduced uniform financial support for all doctoral students. He also worked with academic units to establish "recruitment weekend" programs to enable outstanding applicants to visit Northwestern and enjoy first-hand exposure to the diverse and complementary strengths of disciplinary clusters in the humanities and social sciences. Begun in 1999, this program is now held on six weekends, including more than a dozen disciplines and hosting some 140 prospective graduate students. Partly as a result of such initiatives, admission to doctoral programs has become increasingly competitive, and increasing percentages of those offered admission have accepted those offers. Among the 8800 applicants for the current entering class, for example, only 16% were admitted. Of those admitted, some 40% enrolled.
Renewing The Graduate School's commitment to increase the enrollment of underrepresented minority students, Dean Morimoto established discipline-wide faculty minority recruitment committees in the life and biomedical sciences, humanities, and engineering. During his tenure as dean, the enrollment of minority graduate students increased by 30%. He also spearheaded the establishment of new programs for our diverse population of international students, including the International Summer Institute, which provides comprehensive training in oral and written communication and cultural immersion courses for new students. Such initiatives -- together with faculty efforts to re-examine departmental and interdisciplinary programs with an emphasis on the quality of mentoring, training, career guidance and placement -- place Northwestern's graduate programs in a much stronger competitive position, nationally, and worldwide.
Through the recently concluded Campaign Northwestern, more than 30 new fellowships have been established in The Graduate School. The availability of these new resources benefits each of the schools by permitting selective growth in student numbers in order to strengthen Northwestern's best graduate programs, by allowing the development of new interdisciplinary programs, by increasing our success in recruitment of minority students, and by enhancing our ability to be highly competitive for matching funds for graduate student training grants from the NIH, NSF and other foundations and agencies.
Dean Morimoto also recognized the importance of recognizing the very best among our many fine graduate students. The new Presidential Graduate Fellow initiative draws together a highly selected group of distinguished current students across all disciplines; this Fellowship now represents the highest internal honor for a Northwestern graduate student. The program began in 2002 with the appointment of eight Fellows. Additional Fellows are appointed each year, with the goal of maintaining a steady-state cohort of 12 to 15. Similarly, Commencement weekend has been expanded to include a University-wide hooding convocation for doctoral and MFA recipients.
As a direct result of Dean Morimoto's working closely with graduate student groups across both campuses, their voice now actively informs important decisions related to Northwestern's graduate programs, The Graduate School, and the University.
At the end of this academic year, Dean Morimoto will return to his home department, BMBCB, where he had previously served as the Chair, to continue his activities as the John Evans Professor of Molecular Biology and Director of the Rice Institute for Biomedical Research.
While accomplishing so much as Dean of The Graduate School, Morimoto also maintained a large and active research group. Upon his return to full-time faculty status, he will continue his widely-recognized research on the molecular biology of protein quality control and cellular stress responses. This research is of central importance to the understanding of diseases of protein conformation, including Huntington's disease, ALS, and Parkinson's disease. During his deanship he received a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health, served on a study section of the National Institutes of Health, participated in review panels throughout the world, and was recognized as a Visiting Professor at the University of Rome, Peking University, Ecole Normale Superieur in Paris, and Kyoto University in Japan.
I am seeking the assistance of the Administrative Board of The Graduate School and the General Faculty Committee to establish a search committee to help identity a successor to Morimoto as Dean of The Graduate School. Because President Bienen and I believe that there are special advantages to having this important position filled by a person familiar with Northwestern, the search will initially be an internal one.
Lawrence B. Dumas