Journal Archive > 2002 > March

Leading GSAS

New dean will bring Tufts' graduate programs to the fore

Robin Kanarek, professor of psychology who also holds an appointment in the Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, is the new dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Tufts. She succeeds Robert Hollister, now dean of the University College of Citizenship and Public Service.

Kanarek assumes her position at a time of change as President Lawrence S. Bacow steps up the university's commitment to the graduate school and as graduate students seek to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board is currently holding hearings on the students' efforts to be represented by the United Auto Workers. A vote on whether to join the union is expected to take place in April.

Robin Kanarek © Mark Morelli

In a statement to the Tufts community, Bacow said he believes it would be a mistake for graduate students to unionize, saying the relationship between faculty advisers and graduate students would be fundamentally altered by imposing a collective bargaining process on what is an educational process.

Kanarek agrees, noting that the university needs to increase stipends for graduate students. "But I am not convinced the union is the way to do it." There are currently 1,320 graduate students, 75 percent of whom receive some sort of financial aid, including tuition scholarships, fellowships or stipends for teaching or research assistantships. Kanarek said their presence is vital to Tufts for several reasons.

"Graduate students are incredibly important," she said. "Many of the high quality faculty we have at Tufts wouldn't be here if there weren't graduate programs, so undergraduates benefit because they get quality professors who want to do research and who want to teach.

"Graduate students allow us to be scholars and therefore to be good teachers. They not only provide assistance in teaching and research but they foster intellectual discussion, stimulate new ideas and serve as role models for undergraduates."

Kanarek said that one of the reasons she decided to accept the graduate school deanship is that "we have a new president and an administration that really is interested in graduate education. I think that many people don't realize that a lot of the excellence Tufts has gained with respect to undergraduate education is due in part to the graduate programs."

Kanarek's aim is to get better recognition for graduate programs both within the university and outside of Tufts. "I would like to see resources for graduate students improve, including funding for stipends and research," she said. "Also, we need better lab facilities and more connections between graduates and undergraduates across the university. We have so many different programs; sometimes they don't know about each other. I would also like to increase communication between Tufts and other universities and seek opportunities for collaborative research between institutions. A lot of well-known undergraduate institutions don't know about the richness of our graduate programs."

Kanarek said she understands some of the concerns graduate students have about stipends, noting there is a discrepancy in the amounts they receive because it is up to individual departments to decide how much to pay graduate students to teach and conduct research. She said the issue of funding is especially sensitive because the cost of living in the Boston area is high.

Kanarek said she doesn't necessarily envision the graduate school expanding but instead wants to strengthen what is already in place. She said she would like to use marketing studies as well as advertising, student fairs and the web to increase visibility for Tufts' graduate programs.

"I also want to find out about external resources for graduate students. There are a number of funding opportunities for research and scholarship that have not been made as available as they might have been. Graduate students should compete for awards, and when they win, it will show we're competitive."

Kanarek expects to continue her own research, which focuses on nutrition and behavior. She said graduate students have always played an important role in her teaching and research. "A former graduate student will come back and help me run my lab," she said. "Many of my former graduate students have stayed in touch or come back, and many are my closest friends now."

Kanarek has co-written a book with one graduate student and is working on another with a former graduate student. The first book, Nutrition and Behavior, New Perspectives (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1991) was co-written with Robin Marks-Kaufman. The new book is also about nutrition and behavior. As yet untitled, it will be published by Cabi and is being co-written by John Worobey of Rutgers University and by Beverly Tepper, who also teaches at Rutgers and earned her graduate degrees from Tufts.