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Drive to Twenty Five Doctorates awarded report

Doctorates awarded report


The goal for this metric is to increase the number of doctorate degrees awarded by the Washington State University system.

The successful accomplishment of this goal requires an action plan that is cognizant of the marketability of students graduating with a doctorate from WSU. Our doctorates must have expertise that meet the demands of possible employers, particularly those employers within the state of Washington, but also expertise relevant to the national and global market demands. WSU graduates must have outstanding academic preparation and contribute to cutting-edge research and scholarly accomplishments; additionally, graduates must have professional development training that enhances their transferable skills and career acumen necessary to be competitive for a diverse range of employment opportunities, outside of academia, in the job markets locally, nationally and globally.

The most recent annual report from Center for Measuring University Performance (Arizona State University) in 2015 provides a ranking of private and public American research universities, including the metric of doctorates awarded. The data are collected from the FY 2014 National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (NCES IPEDS) Completions Survey, based on the number of Doctor of Education, Doctor of Juridical Science, Doctor of Public Health, and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. WSU Pullman is listed as having 260 doctorates awarded (only EdD and PhD are applicable). This corresponds to a ranking of 80th across public and private research universities and 57th among public universities. The data from myWSU indicated 321 and 315 doctorates were awarded in FY 2015 and FY 2016, respectively. The significantly higher number from the myWSU data is likely the inclusion of doctorates awarded system-wide, not just on the Pullman campus. Nonetheless, to make the leap into the top 25 public research universities, the WSU system needs to produce > 470 doctorates, an increase of ~50%.


Increasing the number of doctorates graduated from WSU will have the following benefits:

  • enhance the university’s research productivity and reputation, thus augmenting:
    • the ability of faculty to compete for external funding.
    • the recruitment of highly qualified students who are pursued competitively by peer institutions.
  • facilitate the recruitment and training students from demographics under-represented in graduate education, which will expand the cultural diversity of the institution as well as enhance the economic opportunities of these students and their communities.
Activities for 3 year action plan

The over-arching strategies are to: grow capacity and enrollment, enhance funding, and improve and diversify training opportunities.

A. Assess, and where appropriate, incentivize growth of faculty capacity to train a larger population of doctoral students.

Specific approaches:

  1. Collect data, at the program level, on national trends for the number of doctoral students graduated relative to number of tenure/tenure-track faculty, and compare to data for WSU programs. This information can help identify programs with the capacity for growth with current faculty numbers.
  2. Evaluate data from the Washington and US Departments of Labor as well as Graduate School data on placement of Ph.D. students to establish current trends in employment of doctoral students. This information will identify programs where increasing the number of doctoral graduates will best align with job market needs and identify areas for curricular adaptation to maximize the competitiveness of a WSU graduate education.
  3. Develop policies and procedures that promote engagement of faculty with doctoral training, including alignment of work-loads expectations to recognize mentoring graduate students as a component of WSU’s educational mission.
B. Grow the capacity to train doctoral students at campuses and research sites across the state of Washington.

Specific approaches:

  1. Create an institutional culture that recognizes system-wide distribution of graduate education as an advantage, rather than a hindrance.
  2. At the level of department chairs and college deans, develop policies and funding mechanisms to break down barriers and ensure that participation in doctoral training is encouraged by faculty without regard to their campus location.
  3. Examine limitations and difficulties for students pursuing their research at non-Pullman sites (such as availability and affordability of health care and housing) and identify creative means to address these issues.
  4. Make hiring and funding decisions with an eye to developing a critical mass of faculty that can effectively engage in interdisciplinary and cross-campus collaborations for training graduate students and competing for extramural research funding.
C. Develop policies to target limited internal resources toward support and growth of doctoral education.

Specific approaches:

  1. Implement policies which provide incentives for programs to direct current resources toward doctorate training, rather than funding of alternative research personnel (g. thesis master’s or staff support).
  2. Recognize the contribution of doctoral students to the undergraduate education mission of WSU by maintaining or increasing the funds for teaching assistantships.
D. Increase funding from external sources to support doctoral education.

Specific approaches:

  1. Pursue activities proposed in the action plan regarding the metric to increase extramural grant funding, which is a key resource for providing research assistantships for doctoral students.
  2. Develop policies to use institutional graduate student support (g. state-funded RA’s or tuition waivers) to leverage proposals for extramural grant funding.
  3. Facilitate the efforts of graduate programs to apply for training grants through institutional support for application preparation (g. collection and analysis of data from program assessment).
  4. Provide mentorship to enhance the competitiveness of individual graduate students to apply for distinguished fellowships.
  5. Promote graduate education as a priority for the growth of philanthropic support and WSU Foundation fund-raising activities; increase development funds that can be directed toward graduate student scholarships and fellowships. This should include development of funds to support students from demographics under-represented in graduate education.
E. Foster implementation of highly effective recruiting strategies.

Specific approaches:

  1. Assess results from current recruiting efforts utilized by graduate programs across the WSU system to determine what are the most effective strategies.
  2. Utilize faculty outreach to establish pipelines from four-year institutions in the western US, particularly those serving under-represented populations.
  3. Harness faculty scholarly productivity, such as presentations at other research institutions or discipline-specific regional and national meetings, to raise the national profile of WSU as a destination for doctoral training.
  4. Grow university-wide and program-specific recruitment strategies that effectively target students from demographics under-represented in graduate education.
F. Assess, and where appropriate, enhance the effectiveness of doctoral education:
  • within existing doctoral programs
  • by developing new, innovative doctoral programs, and
  • by providing professional development training to ensure that doctorates are competitive in a diverse job market.

Specific approaches:

  1. Collect and analyze data for current doctoral programs on parameters described above to identify areas to target for improvement.
  2. Investigate feasibility and then develop strategies and procedures to offer doctoral programs, with substantial enrollment, that focus on:
    1. interdisciplinary collaboration, including opportunities to partner with national labs such as PNNL or state-wide biomedical research enterprises.
    2. access at a distance via on-line delivery of doctoral degrees.
    3. dual degree programs that provide training for professional degrees (g. DVM, MD and PharmD) with PhD research degrees
  3. Continue to support and refine the offerings of the Professional Development Initiative (PDI) collaboration between the Graduate School and the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA). Moreover, facilitate development and delivery of programming that addresses the training for non-academic career options at the level of individual doctoral degree programs.

Successfully increasing the number of students graduating with doctoral degrees from WSU will:

  • enhance the state economy by providing the human capital of a larger work force with advanced training in research, scholarship, technology and communication as well as the professionals skills to adapt to the ever-changing workforce needs.
  • grow the next generation of scholars who will lead the state and nation in innovative thinking, problem-solving, investigation and discovery.

These outcomes are particularly significant in light of the fact that WSU is one of only two research-intensive universities in the state—which is low compared to other states with the comparable populations. Thus, there is a strong need for WSU to achieve these outcomes associated with increased doctoral graduates in order to fulfill WSU’s land-grant mission to provide the educated workforce necessary to grow the state’s economy and intellectual capital.


It is important to set realistic goals that reflect the current capacity of WSU faculty to mentor doctoral students as well as the associated costs for stipends and. It should be noted that the typical time to degree for doctoral students (depending on discipline) is at least >5 years; thus, achievement of this goal will extend far beyond the three year span of this action plan.

Initial measures of success toward achieving the long-term goal of this metric are:

  • increased admissions to doctoral programs
  • improved retention of first- and second-year students
  • decreased attrition of senior (ABD) students who fail to complete their degree or leave with a master’s degree only
  • decreasing average time to degree where appropriate
  • tracking the successful placement of doctoral graduates

A prerequisite to establishing quantitative measures of success will be careful analysis of program assessment data, collected by individual degree programs and the Graduate School, to establish a base-line for current strengths and weaknesses and prioritize areas for improvement.