October 7, 2010

New graduate program goes global

New graduate program goes global

Kathleen Gould, Ph.D.

Kathleen Gould, Ph.D.

Kathleen Gould, Ph.D., professor of Cell and Developmental Biology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, has been selected as the first director of the program, which began this summer.

“To be a truly great international university, Vanderbilt needs to continue to grow a diverse community of scholars,” said Susan Wente, Ph.D., associate vice chancellor for Research and senior associate dean for Biomedical Sciences at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who spearheaded the program.

“The need for additional resources to support our training of international biomedical graduate students was identified in the recent Task Force Report on Graduate Education,” Wente said. “We are very fortunate that Vanderbilt University Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos has provided the support for this program, and that Dr. Gould has accepted the director position.

“Dr. Gould has tremendous leadership experience in our biomedical graduate programs and is an internationally known scientist.”

Last fall (2009), 125 international students were enrolled in 17 Ph.D.-degree programs in the schools of Medicine and Nursing and the College of Arts & Science – about 16 percent of the total enrollment.

However, Vanderbilt is not well known in some parts of the world. And for students who do apply to Vanderbilt, “their funding can be precarious,” Gould said. A major focus for VISP will be to enhance the recruitment and support mechanisms for international biomedical graduate students.

The Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP), Chemical and Physical Biology Program (CPBP) and other graduate programs at Vanderbilt cover the first year of tuition and stipends for international students, but their mentors are responsible for the second year.

“That can be prohibitive for a number of laboratories, and so the choices for international students are more limited than for our U.S. students,” Gould explained.

VISP will cover the first two years of tuition and stipends for selected scholars who maintain good academic standing. The goal is to make Vanderbilt “a more attractive place for them to consider coming to because there would not be any limitations on exploring their passion in science,” she said.

Roger Colbran, Ph.D., Mark Denison, M.D., Anne Kenworthy, Ph.D., and Karoly Mirnics, M.D., have been appointed to the VISP steering committee, which selects each year’s scholars from among the applicants to the IGP, CPB and other graduate programs.

VISP already is attracting interest from universities around the world, Gould said. Twelve scholars from Cameroon, China, India, Korea and Vietnam were selected this summer to participate in the first year of the program.

The scholars “are all remarkable,” said Gould. “They’re very excited that … they’re thought of as an ‘added value’ to the university, an integral component of our research enterprise.”

By reaching out and forging alliances with like-minded universities and research institutes in biomedical graduate education, Vanderbilt not only is helping to train the next generation of scientists but is enhancing its reputation as a leader in biomedical research, she said.