Burdine Chronicles – March 2011

Dear Alumni and Friends,

Despite the grim economic news, the Government Department, with the encouragement of Dean of Liberal Arts Randy Diehl, is moving aggressively to enhance our graduate program. The Dean has invited departments to shrink graduate admissions slightly in order to concentrate our resources and attention on a smaller number of very promising students. The ultimate goals of this strategy include better trained and mentored doctoral students who will then be placed in more prestigious colleges and universities.

According to a number of metrics employed by the College, our department is doing very well, but by others there is room for improvement. For example, between 1989 and 2010 the department admitted 510 students in our doctoral program. Thirty percent of this number exited the program with no degree, another 30 percent exited with a Master’s, and only 35 percent exited with a Ph.D. Time to degree is a subject of great interest to the Dean. Government is about at the mean of Ph.D. programs in political science. Students who exit without a degree spend on average 2.51 years in the program. The M.A. takes an average of 2.69 years (and we admit no one directly or solely into the M.A. program). As many of you will appreciate all too well, our average time to the Ph.D. is 7.58 years.

Such a huge investment of a student’s time certainly calls for placement of those seeking academic appointments in reputable institutions. In the last five years we have placed 67 percent of our graduates in tenure track positions. These include some impressive placements and a bevy of mid-ranking institutions that many departments would be proud of, but while our record is improving, we have some distance to go. We anticipate that showering more TLC, money, and training on a smaller cohort of outstanding applicants will improve our placement record. The goal is to place our graduates in those top departments from which we recruit the bulk of our faculty.

This is something we know we can do and believe we will. The question is how. There is no hiding from the facts, most obviously that we are not named Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, Berkeley … and as such our candidates have to compete against students who carry the banners of the best institutions in the country. Great placements, therefore, are not simply a function of the skills and intelligence of our current and future graduate students, but of the visibility and reputation of our faculty, and the stellar accomplishments of those of you already making names for yourselves in the discipline. Keep up the good work and we will do our best by the next generation of Texas Ph.Ds.

Best wishes,
Gary P. Freeman, Chair