From its fourth strategic plan, OSU’s mission statement is
As a land grant institution committed to teaching, research, and outreach and engagement, Oregon State University promotes economic, social, cultural, and environmental progress for the people of Oregon, the nation, and the world.
Graduate education contributes substantially to this mission. In response to the calls in SP4.0 to “Diversify our research portfolio and strategically build our graduate programs”, this strategic plan was developed during the 2019-20 academic year through extensive campus engagement. As the pandemic unfolded, the Graduate Education Strategic Planning Committee re-evaluated the five main themes that emerged and concluded that all five were at least as salient as before, and in some cases, the pandemic made the changes we envisioned even more urgently needed.
Oregon State University will
Focus on DEI: Enhancing diversity and inclusion are of paramount importance and imbue each of the actions.
At a time of profound change, this plan capitalizes on OSU’s advantages and calls for reshaping our graduate education enterprise for a bold course through an uncertain future. This strategic plan is for the entire graduate education enterprise at OSU: the Graduate School, the graduate programs and their home units and colleges, supportive units on campus, and OSU’s superb faculty. The leadership of initiatives described here will generally be a partnership between the Graduate School and the colleges. In this document, the term ‘we’ refers broadly to the collective efforts of groups of stakeholders in OSU’s graduate education community: college and unit leaders, program directors, graduate faculty, graduate students, the Graduate Council, and others.
The strategic planning committee formed during the fall quarter of 2019. During the winter quarter of 2020, five public engagement sessions and two online questionnaires gathered input from OSU’s graduate education community. The five themes above emerged from the workshops and questionnaires in January, were refined in February, and developed into a draft plan that was shared initially with College Deans and Graduate School leadership. At a virtual retreat in early April 2020, we re-evaluated the plan in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Goal #1 of OSU’s latest strategic plan, SP4.0, is preeminence in research, scholarship, and innovation, to establish OSU as a leader in:
Under the research preeminence goal, the plan for OSU to be distinctive among other universities for its
Strong graduate programs contribute to the university’s research productivity, the advancement of knowledge and deep critical thinking, and the reputation and rankings of the university. Graduate students are integral to advancing OSU’s teaching, research, and engagement missions and invigorate faculty with their questions and fresh perspectives. They become innovative and productive workers in the public and private sectors, translating university research and training into the engine of economic growth.
Goal #2 is transformative education accessible to all learners. “Using our many locations and online learning platform to maximum advantage in delivering distinctive and affordable education…creating opportunities for lifelong learning at OSU.” Targeted areas of distinction in comparison to other research universities under this goal include:
OSU’s distinctive strengths include our eminence several research areas and our commitment to both excellence and access. OSU is ranked in the top 20 nationally in forestry, oceanography, agricultural sciences, robotics, and nuclear engineering (3, 4, 5, 6). Our colleges of Education, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine serve Oregon’s specific workforce needs while at the same time strengthening OSU through deep collaborations with other colleges. OSU is known for highly valuing collaboration and interdisciplinary research.
Nationally, several important trends are worth noting. The evolution of graduate education in the 19th through the mid 20th century was focused on specialized training for specific careers: MBA for business, MD for medicine, and Ph.D. for academia, for example. Now, however, a large majority of graduate degree holders change careers at least once, rendering the specialized training less applicable; and demand for postgraduate training in many fields is skyrocketing. From just 2000 to 2017, the percentage of American 25- to 29-year-olds with a bachelor's or higher degree increased from 29 to 36 percent, and the percentage with a master's or higher degree increased from 5 to 9 percent: a doubling in just 17 years (7). In short, graduate degrees are in similar demand today by employers and workers as college degrees were just two generations ago. Online graduate education is growing fast: 44% of graduate students are expected to be enrolled in fully online programs by 2025, up from 36% currently (8).
Ph.D.s were once a near guarantee for a faculty position or research position at a private or government lab. Today, Ph.D.s enter a variety of careers. In NSF’s most recent Survey of Earned Doctorates, only 38% of OSU’s new Ph.D. recipients intended to pursue a career in academia (beyond a postdoctoral appointment), 41% in industry or business, 10% in government and the remaining 11% in nonprofit or other fields. Compared with all US universities, far more of OSU’s PhDs go on to industry. These graduates stay and contribute to the region’s economy: 56% stay in the Northwest vs. a national average of 48% who stay in the region where they earned their Ph.D. (9).
The US remains a primary destination for international students due to US universities’ reputation and the inability of many other nations’ universities to meet the rapidly rising demand for higher education especially in China, Saudi Arabia, and India. However, China’s higher education supply is rapidly catching up with demand. US-China tensions were already depressing applications before COVID-19 and associated travel and visa restrictions. Saudi Arabia is also building out its universities and recently stopped a program that offered a full ride to Saudi citizens studying in the US. Rapidly rising demand in India, Nigeria, and other countries is expected to sustain international demand for OSU graduate education for another decade, greatly assisted by our partnership with INTO OSU, which recruits students from 55 countries.