Dean Airey works to ensure TU’s Graduate School is among nation’s best - The University of Tulsa

Dean Airey works to ensure TU’s Graduate School is among nation’s best

Person smiling
Jennifer Airey

Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School Jennifer Airey has many irons in the fire in her efforts to achieve R1 institution status among the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. No matter if she’s working to expand graduate program offerings or recruit more doctoral students, the bottom line is ensuring that The University of Tulsa’s graduate student experience is one of the best in the country.

In December 2022, President Brad R. Carson appointed Airey the new dean of the Graduate School, recognizing her qualifications for the task. On paper, Airey claims, a week in her life might not seem that interesting. It is the work that comes out of those meetings that make her job so fascinating.

“I work with faculty to create, strengthen, and oversee our academically rigorous programs; I work with students to ensure their continued success; I work with our recruitment and admissions team to promote TU across the nation; and I represent the concerns of the Graduate School and students to Provost George Justice and President Carson,” Airey said.

Last year, the Graduate School began offering professional development workshops on topics ranging from grant writing to successful job searches. This academic year, regular opportunities for writing retreats and writing groups will be made available to students to help them achieve their academic goals and to foster an interdisciplinary community around the writing process. These efforts aim to establish comprehensive support services that enrich every aspect of grad student life, personally and professionally.

Pursuing R1 status

Keeping with the trend of enhancing the graduate program, Airey explained that the doctoral programs in chemistry and physics are restarting this fall.

“The faculty have done a wonderful job of recruiting students to these programs, and we have very strong incoming classes,” she said. “I expect to see them grow further over the next few years.”

In addition to returning programs, the Graduate School is introducing exciting new programs. A new master of science degree in sport leadership will leverage TU’s position as a Division I athletic institution. The new master of engineering degree in energy transition will expand TU’s historical strength in petroleum engineering. TU also will offer new online certificates for Doctor of Nursing Practice.

To meet the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education’s top-tier criteria, universities should graduate an average of 80 doctoral students annually. Currently, approximately 60 doctoral students graduate from TU each year.

“We have some work to do, but I’m confident we will get there,” said Airey.

Expanded funding

One of Airey’s focuses this year has been to increase the funding opportunities available to graduate students. “This makes our programs more attractive and accessible to students from around the world,” she explained.

This accessibility effort extends to various Ph.D. programs across the board, with new competitive fellowships that enable students to spend summers focused entirely on research. For example, the dissertation completion fellowship offers students a fully funded year to concentrate on their research without work requirements.

Airey is also excited by the new presidential assistantships, which are competitive packages available to students who already have a master’s degree. These assistantships provide three years of full funding, including summers, with no work requirements.

These offerings have increased enrollment already, with more than 100 doctoral students from around the world coming to Tulsa to join the Golden Hurricane family this fall.

Celebrating excellence

Person smiling at lectern
Airey having fun at the 2023 Graduate School Banquet

There is plenty to celebrate within TU’s growing Graduate School. Students are making remarkable strides, engaging in profound and groundbreaking research, crafting papers to enrich their captivating dissertations, and leaving a mark on individuals worldwide.

Graduate students also contribute to the expansion of undergraduate research opportunities and play a vital role in teaching undergraduate students.

“Our graduate students aid in the creation of new knowledge, help us attract and retain top faculty talent, and help us attract important research funds,” said Airey. “Given their importance, I want all of our graduate students to feel valued and appreciated.”

Above all, Airey’s ultimate aim is to provide an exceptional educational experience that transcends mere labels.

“Graduate student research and scholarship are what matters,” she said. “R1 is an important goal, but the growth of our graduate programs is an inherent good beyond just the Carnegie classification.”