Policy ForumGraduate Education

Student-centered, modernized graduate STEM education

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Science  01 Jun 2018:
Vol. 360, Issue 6392, pp. 969-970
DOI: 10.1126/science.aau0590

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The U.S. graduate education system for science technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is widely regarded as among the best in the world. However, evolution in the structure and functioning of the U.S. graduate education system is lagging ongoing changes in the broader scientific enterprise, in the requirements of employers, in the demographics of the student population, and, particularly, in their career ambitions. In response to these disconnects, the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recently released a report (1) that lays out a vision of an ideal modern graduate education in any STEM field and a comprehensive plan to achieve that vision. The report emphasizes core competencies that all students should acquire, a rebalancing of incentives to better reward faculty teaching and mentoring of students, increased empowerment of graduate students, and the need for the system to better monitor and adapt to changing conditions over time. Although these issues have been raised in the past, and some institutions have taken positive steps, graduate students are still too often seen as being primarily sources of inexpensive skilled labor for teaching undergraduates and for performing research. Graduate students should demand the kind of education outlined in the report.