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Steven W. Matson, Dean
Steven W. Matson, Dean
Even though I was a graduate student many years ago, I still remember those days vividly and with a sense of pride in what I accomplished. When I meet graduate alumni, at Carolina and beyond, they also talk about their graduate student days with a sense of achievement. Whether you completed a master’s degree or a doctoral degree, you have attained what only a small fraction of our population has attained: an advanced degree in your discipline.

As a doctoral student at the University of Rochester in the biochemistry department, I chose an adviser who had just begun as a new faculty member. The relationship we developed over the four years I spent as a graduate student has been one of the most memorable and influential in my life.

Like many students, I arrived with a good idea of what I thought I wanted to do but with little idea of how to do it. To paraphrase Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. in The Paper Chase, I arrived with a skull full of mush and left thinking like a scientist. That, in my mind, speaks precisely to the role of a doctoral adviser and a goal of graduate education. It has been the true privilege of my career to have served as a doctoral adviser myself.

Graduate school truly changed my life, and I have a strong allegiance to my graduate school. In terms of my career, I spent the most formative years of my life as a graduate student. Yet I don’t engage with my graduate school as much as I might, and I think that’s the case for many of us who are trying to balance personal life and career. In the last few years I have been working to increase my level of involvement and I want to encourage you to do the same.

Steven W. Matson
‘Graduate school truly changed my life…’

There are many ways for you to engage with The Graduate School at UNC-Chapel Hill. One of the easiest is to put your “footprint” on our Tar Heel Footprints map. This visual provides a powerful demonstration of the broad reach of Carolina graduate alumni throughout the world. In addition, it can be used as a networking tool to identify Carolina graduate alumni in your area and to re-connect to your time as a graduate student.

Some of our alumni join the Graduate Education Advancement Board. The GEAB is directly involved with The Graduate School and the University in generating broad support and funding for graduate education. Members of this board span disciplines, degrees and life experience. If you have an interest in joining this board, please let us know — we are always looking for new members who seek to promote the importance of graduate education at Carolina. Our director of development, Mary Anne Larson, would love to hear from you.

In some cases we invite alumni back to Chapel Hill to discuss their careers as part of our professional development activities. Once again, the Tar Heel Footprints map is extremely valuable to us in helping to identify individuals with an interest in connecting with The Graduate School and sharing their career perspectives with our students. Our students indicate that they find these panels very useful.

We gain so much from the integration of graduate alumni perspectives. A great example is Dr. Harold Glass, who received his doctorate in political science, has built a stellar career as an entrepreneur and professor, and is a member of our GEAB. He has given generously to The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship program.

Dr. Glass also understands the mindset of graduate students and what they are working so hard to accomplish. Here’s what he said in an interview for our print publication last year: “You are undertaking such a large step where you present your ideas and your argument so your work is different than what anyone has done before. Then you must say, ‘This is my work and I will share it with everyone in the world.’”

Steven Matson in his graduate school days, 1975
Steven Matson in his graduate school days, 1975

I invite you to engage with The Graduate School on any level that is appropriate for you. I also invite you to share your thoughts on how The Graduate School can help you sustain your relationship with an institution that helped to shape your life and career.

Please contact me at any time at @MatsonSteve. Thank you for your support of graduate education at Carolina.

Steven W. Matson, Ph.D.
Dean, The Graduate School
Professor of Biology
UNC-Chapel Hill

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