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Is Grad School For Me?

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1998 Annual Conference


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 28, 1998

Start Date

June 28, 1998

End Date

July 1, 1998



Page Count


Page Numbers

3.381.1 - 3.381.15

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Randall A. Yoshisato

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3213

Is Grad School for Me?

Randall A. Yoshisato* The Dow Chemical Company

Abstract To grad school or not to grad school — that is the perennial question that spirals in the mind of virtually every graduating senior. Unlike previous generations, many engineering faculty members have little or no industrial experience. This lack of practical industrial experience provides the advisor with a limited, and sometimes distorted, view of industrial practice and the roles they are preparing their students to one day play.

This paper has two objectives. One is to propose a simple systems model which suggests that improved advising may have a beneficial impact on society and may ultimately result in increasing financial support for academia. Secondly it offers advisors one viewpoint on the differences between academia and industry. With this information, advisors might be in a better position to assist their students understand the many issues that should be addressed in making this potentially life-changing decision.

Introduction Today it is critical that engineering faculty perform their role as advisor and mentor with the same intensity, creativity and commitment that they apply to their research. It is obvious that the times are changing. Government is redirecting funds away from research and higher education to meet other, some would say more pressing, societal needs. In the face of tremendous global competition, industry is scrutinizing every dollar spent for its ability to add value for which a customer is willing to pay. All of these changes have had a profound impact on the implied contract between academia and society. This implied contract is currently being rewritten, although the final terms are still unclear. Faculty have no direct control over the negotiations; however, there is much they can do to grow and prosper under the new terms, whatever they turn out to be. Interestingly enough, if done well, undergraduate advising can play an important role in replacing lost resources and restoring the vitality of the university.

This paper has two objectives. One objective is to briefly introduce a simple systems model for the relationship between post-secondary education and society. This model, though still under development, suggests that more effective advising can have a higher payoff than previously acknowledged. A second objective is to help faculty advisors be more effective at advising students regarding graduate school and working in industry. The decision to go on to graduate school should be made only after thoughtful and informed evaluation of options and life goals. A poor choice can be enormously costly to the student and to the greater society. Good advising can

* The ideas and opinions expressed in this paper are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Dow Chemical Company.

Yoshisato, R. A. (1998, June), Is Grad School For Me? Paper presented at 1998 Annual Conference, Seattle, Washington.

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