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Q&A: Dean Beth Mayer-Davis begins first semester leading UNC's Graduate School

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New Graduate School Dean, Beth Mayer-Davis, speaks during an interview with a Daily Tar Heel writer in her office on Friday, Nov. 4, 2022.

As Dean Beth Mayer-Davis passes the two-month mark of leading UNC’s Graduate School, University Senior Writer Madi Kirkman sat down with her to discuss her first nine weeks and plans for the future. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

DTH: What are some specific actions you've taken to help better serve the Graduate School's goals and mission within the last eight weeks?

Beth Mayer-Davis: One is that we responded to a grant challenge proposal that the Office of University Development put out, because we want to make sure that we are providing as much financial support to graduate students as we possibly can. It will take more effort to bring in more development dollars to do that. We want to make sure that we're bringing in enough support for faculty and staff as they do their work to provide the best academic programs and also for the Graduate School to provide the best programming to support students to be able to thrive and really flourish, including with respect to mental health. 

DTH: What are you excited about, and what are your plans for the school in the upcoming semester and even years to come? 

BMD:  I am very excited about working with our team and learning from colleagues around the country to really step back and think through how we support our graduate students who are living in a really complicated world today. So, I want to see us really build on and advance the ways that we support students because it's not just about the pandemic, or being a little bit now sort of post-pandemic, but it's a complicated world politically, socially, climate change, the economy.

I'm also really excited about seeing our new MAPS (Master of Applied Professional Studies) program grow and seeing how digital learning will be a way to really help more people come into graduate education.

DTH: The Graduate School Administrative Board passed a motion to no longer require the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) standardized testing. Can you explain the rationale behind the decision and the impact you think it's going to have in the coming years?

BMD: I think it's a great decision, and that whole process was well on the way before I came here, so I can take zero credit for it. 

This is something that's been a discussion in higher ed for a number of years, and many schools and programs all over the country have dropped the GRE for these reasons. I'm really delighted that now, as a University, we've taken that broader stand, but we did that thoughtfully. We got a lot of input, there was a pilot process, and now that final decision that I think is absolutely the right decision. 

DTH: According to data from fall 2021, the Graduate School is predominantly white. How do you plan to improve the Graduate School's efforts to better represent students of all diverse backgrounds? 

BMD: Every fall, we go through a process of meeting with deans, senior associate deans from all over campus to talk about various issues about the programs in those units, and we look at different data, look at enrollment and we also look at the percent of students in these programs who are students from underrepresented groups, from minority groups. And so, we can see the trends for UNC overall and for each area, and so we have conversations regularly with those leaders all over campus about their progress.

DTH: Outside of the conversations or the programs, is there any specific action you're planning to take within the next few months or so?

BMD: I think, as a matter of my leadership here, there's a very strong team here at the Graduate School. There are already a good number of processes and programs and a lot of intentionality around diversity and inclusion. My approach is to continue to learn more of what's already happening and build on that and at the same time to continue to learn from other institutions as we share best practices. 

DTH: Can you take me through your vision for the future of the school and the legacy you hope to leave during your time here? 

BMD: So, the provost has a goal of increasing graduate enrollment by 10,000. So, I want to facilitate success in that regard. That's done strategically to meet North Carolina workforce needs, to meet needs in terms of critical problems to solve or where we need to be generating new knowledge, so that we have increased enrollment in a way that serves those purposes. That really allows for innovation to be implemented to actually solve problems as opposed to theoretically solving problems.

@madikirk31

university@dailytarheel.com

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