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Case 90. Designing a Comprehensive Program


Professor Cain has been the Director of Graduate Studies in his department for ten years. During that time, he has actively campaigned to keep admission requirements "stringent" by maintaining a strict cut-off point on GRE scores and pushing the admissions committee to favor students with substantial experience in particular areas and methodological approaches.  However, in the past five years, the Department has moved to hiring faculty members with a wide range of methodological approaches and substantive areas. Professor Cain is publicly disdainful of such approaches and actively discourages graduate students from moving away from the "traditional" strengths and disciplinary methods training. The most recently hired faculty members are not pleased with this situation and are demanding access to students and to the admission committee deliberations. Graduate students are concerned that their funding is tied to their choices.


  1. Do departments have a responsibility to represent a wide range of methodological approaches and substantive areas? How does this balance with having well-know departmental "strengths"?
  2. What are the implications and ramifications on the pool of student applicants? on the ability of new faculty to succeed? on students to gain employment?
  3. What are the costs and benefits of having such long-term appointments? rotating, short term (e.g., three year) assignments?

Reflect on the above questions and form your own answers before clicking the discussion key to review the commentary provided with this case.