Over the past year I’ve spoken personally with scores — a few hundred, really — of graduate students and graduate alumni in Berkeley, on West and East Coasts, in Europe and Asia. Each and every one care deeply about the continuing academic distinction and societal impact of the best public university in the world. Each is concerned that Berkeley’s reputation for excellence endure for generations to come and that our campus receive the support necessary to continue to earn this reputation.

Sustaining such support depends, at base, on the public’s understanding of why Berkeley’s unique environment for preparing scholars and scientists with advanced degrees matters — why and how our academic enterprise matters to the state of California, the U.S., everywhere.

As Dean charged with oversight of 100-plus graduate degree programs at Berkeley, last spring I helped take our message to our State Legislature in Sacramento (it should be no surprise that every cohort of legislators includes Berkeley graduate alumni). Our graduate students were the most eloquent spokespersons for the innovative research being undertaken on our campus, whose relevance to the vitality of our state is clear and compelling. You can read more about this on the following pages.

The talents and energy of our graduate student body garner the highest tribute from a most authoritative source: our faculty.  Respondents to a recent campus-developed survey of Berkeley’s professors rated the quality of graduate students as the most important contributor to their university work. The quality of Berkeley’s graduate students also ranked as one of the most satisfying elements of faculty life. The dynamics between outstanding students and stellar faculty create the special environment of learning and discovery that makes Berkeley’s graduate programs top-notch.

And it’s not just we who say so. The National Research Council — the nation’s preeminent review body whose periodic, comprehensive assessments of American doctoral programs are the gold standard among academic institutions — in September released long-awaited results from its detailed survey (the first since 1995) of doctoral programs at U.S. research universities. Read more about the results on the inside front cover. (Hint: Berkeley’s rankings were among the very best!)

Despite state budget woes impacting the UC system, Berkeley continues to attract and admit the best and brightest of applicants nationally, holding our own against the most elite (far wealthier) private universities. Adding breadth and depth to perspectives in every discipline, our incoming classes include growing numbers of students from traditionally underrepresented groups. By way of illustration, more than half of graduate majors now enroll women in at least equal numbers as men. Our campus works hard to create the conditions for success for all who seek to excel, whatever their backgrounds. That matters profoundly.

Alumni and friends of the University, I’m grateful to report, are increasingly stepping forward to help bridge the gap caused by decreased state revenues. Contributions to graduate fellowships, as part of the larger Campaign for Berkeley, have now exceeded $120 million — well over a third of our goal by mid-2013. Please read more about recent gifts for graduate student support, and the matching program we have launched, later in these pages.

At the start of the second decade of the 21st century, I remain buoyed by the resiliency and inventiveness of UC Berkeley. I see every day how our faculty’s research and teaching conducted hand-in-hand with graduate students, and the public service taken up by all sectors of our campus, have powerfully constructive impacts beyond our own classrooms and laboratories, out into communities, counties, and countries near and far. I invite you to stay connected with the optimism and excitement generated by our graduate education enterprise — and to find your own ways to matter in this too.

Andrew J. Szeri,
Dean of the Graduate Division