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Educating Mathematical Scientists: Doctoral Study and the Postdoctoral Experience in the United States
The department has been successful in attracting many domestic students because of its vigorous recruitment in small regional colleges, the warm atmosphere, the renown of the program, the availability of adequate financial aid, and a reputation for placing people in excellent positions on graduation.
Committee Site Visit Report
The current U.S. system of doctoral and postdoctoral education was created by the combined efforts of the faculty, departmental management, collegiate administrators, and the federal agencies with influence by students and, to some extent, by society. The efforts of these groups have been fundamental not only in creating standard-model programs but also in creating specialized programs. If changes are to occur, the ideas suggested in this report implemented, and new programs created to meet the needs of our technological society, all of these groups will need to cooperate, agree on goals and missions, and find the necessary resources.
FACULTY AND DEPARTMENTS
A key to all doctoral and postdoctoral programs is the faculty. No program can function without the support, cooperation, and whole-hearted backing of the faculty. Any attempt at assessment and change must involve the faculty from the start.
The first step for a mathematical sciences program is an assessment of how well it is functioning. All universities collect data, and some of the necessary information will be available. Many universities conduct periodic reviews of departments and programs through outside teams, whose reports can contain valuable information. It is important to factor into the planning process realistic estimates of the human resources—students and new PhDs—available to the program. The questions about mission, learning environment, and professional development posed in Appendix A may prove useful. The assistance of faculty who are not currently involved in administering the program or department can provide an invaluable objective viewpoint. Involvement of the university administration in the process can have benefits during the implementing of decisions once they are made. Soliciting feedback from institutions that will employ the graduates of the program—colleges and universities, government, and industrial organizations—is useful.
After the assessment is complete, the faculty and the department should decide whether the current mission for the program is appropriate or a new mission should be developed. Unless resources are sufficient to permit implementation of a standard mission/model with coverage of a broad range of areas, a more specialized mission should be devised that better fits the resources available. Determining the mission first is important, because many aspects of the learning environment and professional development depend upon the particular mission—for example, how the learning environment and professional