Dean Watkins

New Dean Hopes to Create United Graduate Community

Monday, August 27, 2012

Although she is new to the position of Dean of the Graduate Division, Dr. Elizabeth Watkins has been making substantial contributions to UCSF for nearly a decade.

In 2004, as a professor in the department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine, she helped to reopen the MA and PhD in History of Health Sciences programs, and has since chaired that program, in addition to serving on a number of other academic committees. Her tenure as dean, which began this spring, is sure to bring many positive transformations to the UCSF Graduate Division.

Dr. Watkins’ goals as dean are “to promote access to graduate study for all qualified students, increase support for that education, and improve the educational experience and career opportunities for graduate students at UCSF.”

One major focus in achieving these goals is to create a united graduate community.

“I would like graduate students to get a sense that they are part of something larger, a graduate division,” said Dr. Watkins. “ I would like us to craft that identity…. and part of crafting this identity is making sure it comes from the people that are part of it.”  

Dr. Watkins has already begun meeting with faculty, postdoctoral scholars, and students to identify ways in which the Graduate Division can enhance the student experience.

As part of this effort, Dr. Watkins attended a recent Graduate Student Association meeting to learn about student issues and to share her ideas for the Graduate Division.  Among the topics discussed were student funding, intercampus transportation, child care support, time to graduation, and ways to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations. 

 “I see my role as advocate for the graduate students,” Dr. Watkins told the students,. “I need to raise the profile of the Graduate Division, and also raise the role of graduate education on and off campus.” 

Dr. Watkins’ diverse academic background and involvement in multiple academic committees has given her experience communicating and collaborating with a broad audience and positions her well to be the voice of the Graduate Division. She received her BA in biology at Harvard University and, after graduating, worked as a research assistant at the Pasteur Institute in Paris.  Following this, she returned to Harvard and completed a PhD in the History of Science.  

Much of her academic work since then has focused on communication between the scientific community and the public. Throughout her time at UCSF, Dr. Watkins has served on many campus and system-wide committees—including the Graduate Council, the Coordinating Committee on Graduate Affairs, the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, and the WASC steering committee—familiarizing her with many aspects of graduate affairs and the UC system.

Her dedication to improving academia and strong drive to represent the students’ interests will be a fantastic asset for the UCSF community. 

Always welcoming of more input, Dr. Watkins will be forming student and faculty task forces throughout the coming year to help her address the needs of graduate students and programs.  And, in addition to attending most program orientations and the Retreat in Building Community, Dr. Watkins will host the “Welcome Back BBQ” on Sept. 7 at Mission Bay, which is sure to be an exciting introduction to graduate life at UCSF.