Graduate Education and the Knight Campus

Knight Campus Aerial View - A Letter from Dean Pratt

This week’s announcement marks an extraordinary transformation for graduate education at the University of Oregon. The gift of Penny and Phil Knight and the fundraising to follow, will not only provide the university with new labs, research space, and increased faculty numbers, but it will also increase the number of funded PhD students by 250, an increase of almost 23% over the current number of funded PhD students.  This is a significant change, but it marks only the beginning of the many ways in which the Knight Campus will open new opportunities for graduate education.

President Schill, in his announcement, said “I also see collaborations among our humanists, social scientists, and Knight Campus faculty members on the social implications of technological change. I see partnerships among the business school, law school, planning and public policy department, and the Knight Campus around entrepreneurship and product development. And so much more.”  Growth in funded PhDs is not restricted to only a few established fields in the sciences.  The intent of the new campus is also to make connections with the humanities, social sciences and professional schools.  The challenge to those of us working in graduate education is to identify these connections and collaborations, to imagine new programs and opportunities for our students and new outcomes for their work here—both within and outside the academy.

Over the next year, the Graduate School will work with the UO leadership and the leadership of the Knight Campus to devise ways to foster graduate education that is as innovative and interconnected as the science that will ground the work of the new campus. I can imagine master’s degrees and graduate certificates that enhance and diversify the skills and knowledge of our students across all the disciplines.  I can imagine new graduate internship opportunities and collaborations across fields that will help to redefine the liberal arts in the 21st century.

And where connections with the new campus do not emerge in the short term, the Graduate School will work with faculty to envision still other ways to improve and enhance graduate education across campus.  For example, this year we are hiring a new staff member to assist the Graduate School and departments in developing robust career planning opportunities. We are also working to find new ways to connect current students with opportunities beyond the university through programs like the new Distinguished Alumni Speakers Program. 

The Knight Campus is an amazing opportunity for the University, but it is also a sign of positive change for graduate education and the future of research and learning in the liberal arts and sciences. I hope you are as excited as I am.


Scott L. Pratt

Professor of Philosophy

Dean of the Graduate School

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