Austin Fast

With more than 15,000 undergraduates, the 1,700 Miami University graduate students can get lost in the crowd. Yet with the arrival of a new dean next year, that could soon change.

Bruce Cochrane will assume the position of dean of Miami’s graduate school August 2007, replacing John Hughes who left in July 2006.

Cochrane currently serves as the associate dean of graduate studies at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Fla. He has held this position for six years.

According to Cochrane, his transfer to Miami came about as the result of an accident.

“I have been at University of South Florida for a quarter of century, and it will be a big change,” Cochrane said. “I was not looking for new position, so Miami was the only one I considered. I think that speaks volumes about Miami and its attractiveness. I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Cochrane heard about the empty position through a close friend, Miami’s dean of the School of Education and Allied Professions, Carine Feyton. According to Cochrane, the two were having breakfast one day when Feyton brought up the vacancy.

“I was not actively looking for this position, but when Dr. Feyton mentioned it to me, I began to look into Miami,” Cochrane said.

Cochrane will assume his duties Aug. 1. Once here, he plans to work with faculty and students to determine where he needs to direct his attention.

“My immediate objective is to get to know faculty and, in particular, students,” Cochrane said. “I will be in Miami at the end of (this) month to meet with the leadership of the graduate student association to find out and discuss which issues they feel need to be addressed.”

Cochrane revealed that he will really not have much power over the graduate programs once he assumes his new position and will have to find ways to work around that obstacle.

“Graduate programs are really the property of departments of the university,” Cochrane said. “Nobody really reports (directly) to graduate deans. I am going to have to lead by persuasion. I intend to meet with all the deans and discuss the places where they can be better and attract quality students. It is up to the programs and colleges to identify these areas and I will work with them for the resources to make that happen.”

Neela Kumar, a graduate student in plant biology, believes that the role of the graduate student on Miami’s campus is crucial, especially as it pertains to graduate and undergraduate interaction in the classroom.

“I think that graduate students do play an important role, especially if they are teaching assistants,” Kumar said. “You are interacting with the students, helping them understand the subject. And you are helping each other out.”

However, according to Kumar, the program “could be better.”

Currently, Miami provides graduate student housing through Miami Manor. Yet starting this July, Miami has moved this living arrangement to Candlewood Apartments. According to Kumar, this has been an inconvenience to many graduate students because of price and location.

“It forced out a lot of graduate students,” Kumar said.

Although undergraduate education has been offered at Miami since instruction began in 1824, the graduate school did not evolve until 1947.

Currently, Miami offers 50 master’s programs and 11 doctoral programs. Two of those programs, a masters in design and technology and a PhD program in college student personnel, were just developed this year, according to Jeffrey Potteiger, the interim dean of the graduate school.

Cochrane said that as dean of the school, he will be “wearing two hats” – working as both dean and associate provost for research and scholarship for the graduate school. In these positions, Cochrane will be responsible for internal and external research activities, Potteiger said.

According to Cochrane, he plans to advocate for more student research at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“I feel that research is a fundamental part of the educational endeavor, necessary in order to maintain the centrality and importance of undergraduate education,” Cochrane said.

Potteiger said that the graduate school is a critical component of the university.

“In order to provide good undergraduate education, you have to have a strong graduate school,” Potteiger said. “The relationship between undergraduate and graduate students is synergistic and working to improve one will improve the other.”

Grad School increases program offerings

The university senate endorsed a proposal at their April 9 meeting for a Master of Science in computational science and engineering.

According to Marek Dollár, dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Science, if this proposal were accepted, it would be the first program of its type in Ohio.

Dollár also said that the master’s program would fit into the STEM Initiative, which tries to improve the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at a state level.

“Computational science (was) named by the Ohio Board of Regents as important,” Dollár said.

“I do anticipate that this program will attract at least 20 students if we have four tracks.”

According to the proposal submitted to the university senate, the master’s degree in computational science would be a year-long program composed of 34 credit hours, with 10 hours of computational core courses, nine hours of science or engineering track courses, six hours of electives, and nine hours of thesis and research seminars.

The four tracks mentioned by Dollár include specializations in electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and manufacturing engineering, paper and chemical engineering, and microbiology and botany.

According to Jim Kiper, a professor in the School of Engineering and Applied Science who presented the proposal to the university senate, this new program would be relatively simple to implement.

“It would require no new additional faculty,” Kiper said. “There is the issue of finding faculty to cover the classes, (but that is) something we’ll have to be cautious about.”

At the university senate meeting, Provost Jeffrey Herbst added that the program was relatively feasible.

“Within our current budget, that number of positions (to redistribute) is relatively easy to match,” Herbst said.

According to Kiper, the program could be in place by fall 2008 at the soonest, depending on whether enough faculty members can be found to teach the classes. The proposal will go before a subcommittee of the Board of Regents to be further discussed April 26.

Additional reporting contributed by Laura Houser.