Meet Your New Graduate School Dean: Dr. Rose Marie Ward
Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate School
When I ask new Graduate School Dean Rose Marie Ward what her vision is for graduate education at UC, she just chuckles. “I want to push back on that a little bit,” she says. “As I see it, one of my primary tasks is to help generate a shared vision.”
Throughout our interview, this emphasis on student voice and experience is easily apparent. And it makes sense; Dean Ward has been actively involved in graduate education for more than a decade, holding a variety of roles at Miami University (Ohio) including director of the Center for Teaching Excellence, associate dean of the graduate school, and interim associate provost. Dean Ward has also received accolades for her teaching and research in college student alcohol consumption. She clearly cares deeply about the wellbeing of all students, and as she explains, this passion is part of what brought her to UC.
“The reputation [of UC] alone is impressive,” she explains. “But that’s not what attracted me. It’s really that opportunity to be a part of [a university] that is really on the verge of opening the door to graduate education for people who haven’t traditionally had access. I can already feel the energy, it’s like, let’s look at the policies, let’s look at the procedures; how do we build that environment?” Dean Ward explains that she is not only excited to open the door for underrepresented students but also foster an environment where they can thrive during their educational journey, even envisioning support that stretches beyond the confines of UC. “[We are] thinking about all of the ways that we can continually have our graduates’ feedback and help us be better for the students that are here, while we’re also helping them.”
Continuing our discussion of college access, Dean Ward goes on to explain what she calls a “hidden curriculum.” Essentially, within higher education there are unwritten and implicit rules, expectations, and lessons that are more readily available to students from privileged backgrounds or those with college-educated parents. Think of things like office hours, student/faculty relationship etiquette, or financial aid processes. “What we see is that parents who had graduate degrees tend to have kids that have graduate degrees and we kind of just make this elite pathway. And, so, one of the challenges is how do we unpackage some of that hidden curriculum and build structures for mentoring and professional development?” says Ward.
Fortunately, Dean Ward’s role is built on the foundation of advocating for students and making them feel comfortable at UC. I ask her to explain what a Graduate School Dean does and how she sees her role within the larger university context. “I’m a connector,” she tells me. Since graduate students tend to be somewhat siloed within their specific programs, Dean Ward and the Graduate School staff can provide opportunities for students to connect with one another more broadly and develop a sense of campus community across programs. Additionally, Dean Ward sees herself as a mouthpiece of sorts for the needs of the graduate student body within the larger administration. “The Graduate Dean says, ‘hold up, let me remind you, our students are older. Let me remind you, more of our students are international students. Let me remind you, more of our students are parents than the undergrads. And so the experience is different,’” she tells me emphatically.
In addition to her professional and academic pursuits, Dean Ward lives an active and fulfilling personal life, full of hobbies and enjoyment. “I love to read,” she tells me. “There is never a time that I am not in between three or four different books." At current, Dean Ward is reading White Rage: the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, Behind the Diversity Numbers: Achieving Racial Equity on Campus, Internet Celebrity: Understanding Fame Online, and The New PhD: How to Build a Better Graduate Education. She enjoys fiction as well, particularly science fiction and fantasy authors such as NK Jemison and Andy Weir. “I also have a really bad cookbook habit,” she adds. “But I read them like they are textbooks. I just got one on French patisserie that I just started reading.”
Given this, it is no surprise that cooking and baking are also a hobby for Dean Ward. “I have baking days for my graduate students, so I have them over to my house and we have full days where we write and then I say, ‘What do you want to learn?’ And maybe it's macaroons or croissants or challah bread or you name it.... let’s see, we recently did English muffins and crumpets. I like to bake, and I like to give my baking away.” Another hobby for Dean Ward includes going on runs; as a former collegiate soccer and track athlete, she values physical activity. “I really, really believe in having that outlet to kind of move your body in whatever way works for your body. For me, I go for a nice long run in the morning and it is maybe the only quiet time in my day. So, I think through problems and I really value having that that time to reflect.”
As we wrap up our conversation, the topic drifts back to graduate education. I reflect on the challenges that graduate students face, whether it’s adjusting to the continued impact of COVID or simply persisting through the trials and tribulations of a dissertation. I ask Dean Ward for any words of advice to these struggling students, and the tone of her response is serious and genuine. “I am here to support you. I am here to connect you with resources on campus. And I believe in you.”