Welcome to the 2019 Rackham Report

At Rackham, we devoted significant effort in 2019 to looking at how we can continue to improve and reimagine the experiences of our graduate students during their time at the University of Michigan.

With the implementation of Rackham’s Strategic Vision as a framework for the coming years, I am confident we are on track to maintain and expand our role as a national leader in graduate education. I cannot overstate the critical role our donors, alumni, and friends have played and will continue to have in the attainment of our goals moving forward. Your support is integral as we continue to provide an unparalleled experience for some of our world’s brightest, most promising minds. Whether students need financial assistance in times of financial hardship or exposure to the breadth of career opportunities available to them, you make it possible for Rackham to help. You are one of the many critical factors that make a reimagined graduate education possible.

As you look through the 2019 Rackham Report, I hope you will recognize the contribution donors like you have made to the lives of both current and future Rackham graduate students. Thank you for your steadfast support, and I look forward to our continued partnership in 2020. I am thankful to have you by our side as we strive to make the future of graduate education at the University of Michigan a bright one.

Mike Solomon
Dean, Rackham Graduate School
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs – Graduate Studies

Dear Rackham Donor

Throughout the year, we invite Rackham students to recognize the significant impact donor generosity makes on their graduate career. These messages are just a few of hundreds of expressions of gratitude.

The Future of Graduate Education

One of the most exciting announcements in 2019 came from the dean of the Rackham Graduate School, Mike Solomon.

After a thorough look into what today’s graduate students—and those yet to come—need during their time on campus, Dean Solomon has shared Rackham’s Strategic Vision for the near future, prioritizing four overarching goals. These goals are a collaborative effort by the Rackham community, and we will strive to meet them with one purpose in mind—to serve and support the emerging scholars pursuing a graduate education at the University of Michigan.

Reimagined Academic Experience

Rackham and the graduate faculty will continue to advance high academic standards while reimagining the graduate academic experience as student-centered.

Strengthened Diversity

The vitality of the graduate student community will be strengthened through increased accessibility of graduate education, thereby expanding the diversity and inclusion of student viewpoints and backgrounds in graduate programs.

Enhanced Partnerships and Community

Members of the Rackham community will recognize, value, and capitalize on their community membership.

Strengthened Organizational Culture and Climate

The Rackham organization will be configured to promote staff learning, recognition, collaboration, informational transparency, and empowerment.

Sharing Rackham’s Strategic Vision

Dean’s Symposia Series

As part of our efforts to better serve graduate students and reimagine what graduate education looks like across the country, Rackham has hosted a series of three symposia to share what we have learned so far. During a symposium with graduate-level faculty members, Rackham leadership discussed some of the primary issues facing students today, including mental health issues, challenges experienced by underrepresented students, specifically those pertaining to their academic success, and ways in which graduate students may have a more interdisciplinary experience while broadening their career outlook.

Meeting with Mike

Since his appointment, Dean Solomon has traveled around the country meeting with donors and alumni, hearing about their experiences, and discussing what the future holds for the Rackham Graduate School.

Rackham Impact in Detroit

In September, we invited alumni and friends to the U-M Detroit Center for “Rackham Impact in Detroit.” During the event, Dean Solomon introduced Rackham’s Strategic Vision to those in attendance before turning the evening over to a panel of Rackham students and alumni doing critical work in the city. The panel, moderated by Rackham Assistant Dean Ethriam Brammer, included six participants, each discussing the ways in which their past, present, and future work serves the people living and working on the city of Detroit. Panelists included Alexa Eisenberg, a Ph.D. candidate in the health behavior and health education; Lindsey Barrett (M.P.P. ’19) a program and impact fellow at The Skillman Foundation; W. David Tarver (M.S.E. 1976), U-M lecturer and president of the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative; Sharon Dolente (M.P.P., J.D. ’04), a voting rights strategist for the ACLU of Michigan; Michael Appel (M.A. 1988), a senior project manager at Develop Detroit; and Yuanqiu Feng, a Ph.D. candidate in resource policy and behavior. Attendees also appreciated the panelists’ thoughtfulness in creating an equitable and sustainable impact for the residents of Detroit. Rackham alumna and donor, Dr. Melba Boyd, said it simply: “As a Wolverine, you make me feel good.”

Celebrating Our Donors

And Looking Toward the Future

In October, we celebrated donors and friends of Rackham with our annual Donor Appreciation Event, this year titled “Celebrating Our Donors and Their Lasting Impact.” During a panel discussion titled “Graduate Students and Their Exploration of the Future,” students at varying stages of graduate work spoke both about their specific areas of study and the impact of donor gifts on their ability to conduct critical research.

Cara Bess Janusz
M.P.H., M.A. | Ph.D. Candidate, Epidemiological Science

Cara studies the determinants of immunization uptake in low- and middle-income settings in order to identify policy and programmatic opportunities to optimize uptake. Specifically, her dissertation research focuses on assessing the impact of programmatic and policy changes to immunization efforts on the timeliness and completion of the infant vaccination series in sub- Saharan African settings.

Yiran Chen
Ph.D. Student, Higher Education

Yiran current research focuses on college choice. Specifically, he is developing a model to use behavioral economics to understand a phenomenon called “academic undermatching,” referring to high-achieving students attending relatively less selective colleges.

Joe Iafrate
Ph.D. Candidate, Applied Physics

Today’s electronic devices utilize the charge of the electron as the carrier of information for storage and processing. Future spintronic devices would utilize the spin of the electron, with the potential to be smaller, faster, and more energy-efficient than their electronic counterparts. Before spintronic devices can be fully realized, we must understand more about spins in our materials of interest. Joe works with the semiconductor gallium arsenide, in which electron spins can be aligned and detected using laser light, allowing for greater observation and understanding.

Maribel Okiye
Ph.D. Student, Chemistry

Maribel aims to develop a library of characterized secondary metabolites derived from the human oral biota. This library will be evaluated to further distinguish their roles in the bacterial equilibrium in the oral cavity, as well as their possible connection to other systemic diseases.

Rachna Reddy
Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology

Male animals compete for mates, and large, strong, and old males typically win competitive encounters. Nevertheless, adolescent and young adult male chimpanzees, who like humans of similar age are physically and socially immature, father many offspring. To investigate how they do so, Rachna studied the social lives 30 males in a community of wild chimpanzees living at Ngogo in Kibale National Park in Uganda where chimpanzees have been studied for 25 years.

Jung Yoon Wie
Doctor of Musical Arts Student, Composition

Jung Yoon’s dissertation, Han: Otherness and Syncretism, attempts to transform static notions of identity as fixed by appearance and language by suggesting multiple identities, cultural hybridity, and women’s experiences in an intercultural context by merging visual and musical art and re-appropriating technological modes of presentation. The new composition represents marginalized female voices with the concept of han, a specifically Korean emotion characterized by contradictory emotions such as sadness, anger, vengeance, hope, isolation, and passion.

Rackham by the Numbers

1,889 total donors contributed $5,015,581 to graduate education at U-M in 2019.

Financial Aid

3,737 Rackham students received $61,822,949 in financial aid.*

Travel Grants

2,718 conference travel grants disbursed for a total of $2,406,177.

Emergency Grants

206 emergency grants disbursed for a total of $351,493.

Enrolled Students

2,731 newly enrolled graduate students and 8,894 total enrolled graduate students.

Degrees Conferred

2,359 degrees conferred.

New Donors

364 new donors.

* Figures represent 2018–2019 school year.

Rackham Connect

Giving Back with Time and Talent

Rackham alumni have wisdom to pass along and unique career paths to share, and we’re making it easier than ever for Rackham students to take advantage of the breadth and depth of knowledge in the Michigan graduate community. Rackham Connect is a digital space specifically for graduate students and alumni to interact and learn from each other’s experiences. Network with fellow alums and share your experience with current Rackham students, all in a community dedicated to those who know the graduate experience best. When you sign up for Rackham Connect, students will be able to identify and meet alumni based on location, field of study, industry experience, and more. Log in and start connecting today.

2019 Highlights


Gear Your Career

January 14

Gear Your Career is one of Rackham’s newest professional development events. Students have the opportunity to have a professional headshot taken, order business cards, and consult with a U-M career expert on their LinkedIn profile.

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King Talks

January 22

In this annual event, Rackham students present TED-style overviews of their research, echoing the theme of each year’s U-M MLK Symposium in order to honor the legacy of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The theme for 2019 was “Unravel.”

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Barbour Scholars

March 27

The Rackham Graduate School honored the 102nd cohort of Barbour Scholars—eight high-achieving women who come from a vast array of backgrounds and fields of study. The 2019-2020 cohort includes international students from Iran, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, China, India, and Thailand. Joining us were a number of Barbour Scholars from years past, including three alumnae—Dr. Kathy Chu (Barbour 1978), Dr. Santha Jeyabalan (Barbour 1972), and Dr. Jiu-Hwa Upshur (Barbour 1959).

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Ph.D. Career Conference

April 5

Ph.D. Connections is a one-day career conference designed to support doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows as they explore career paths beyond the professoriate. Attendees had the opportunity to hear from over 30 Ph.D.s working in diverse fields and participate in workshops focused on career exploration and job search preparation.

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Gupta Values Scholars

April 5 to 7

The Gupta Values Scholarship Fund was established by the Gupta Family Foundation in 2017 in order to recognize integrity, commitment to human dignity, and dedication to excellence among graduate students at U-M. As the founders of the Gupta Family Foundation, Rackham alumna Margaret Gupta (M.A. 1981) and her husband, Shashikant, encourage the next generation of scholars to be agents for positive social change. Applicants submit an essay that demonstrates their ability to do the right thing in the face of a difficult decision; a commitment to human dignity, considering the value of all individuals regardless of race, religion, social status, or gender identity; and a commitment to excellence in all they do.

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GSI Awards

April 9

The Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) Awards recognize the efforts and accomplishments of GSIs who demonstrate extraordinary dedication and excellence as teachers. Awardees have demonstrated exceptional ability, continuous growth and creativity as teachers; service as outstanding mentors and advisors to their students and colleagues; and growth as scholars in the course of their graduate programs.

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Predoc Awards

April 16

The Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship recognizes outstanding doctoral students who have achieved candidacy and are actively working on dissertations that are unusually creative, ambitious and impactful.

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DEI Certificate Ceremony

April 22

The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Certificate program was launched in 2018 as one of Rackham’s initiatives to further diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. In 2019, 68 students completed Rackham’s DEI Certificate program.

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ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards

April 23

The ProQuest Distinguished Dissertation Awards recognize highly accomplished graduate students who have produced exceptional dissertations of outstanding scholarly quality in any field of study. The following are recipients who completed their dissertations in 2018 and were recognized in 2019.

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May 4

In 2019, Rackham conferred 2,359 graduate degrees between both April and December commencement ceremonies.

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May 29 to July 24

Forty-eight students participated in Rackham’s 2019 Summer Research Opportunity Program (SROP), a program giving outstanding undergraduates underrepresented in their field of study the opportunity to conduct research at U-M. Celebrating its 33rd year, these students hailed from 41 institutions from across the country and engaged in research across 15 STEM and social science academic programs.

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Ma Scholars


Karl C.K. Ma made a $2.5 million gift to the Rackham Graduate School in 2017 to support students from Asia who wish to pursue careers in public service, particularly those in the Schools of Social Work, Education, and Nursing. This year’s cohort includes research on college choice behavior, psychiatric drug withdrawal, and international education paradigms.

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June 10 to 22

The 2019 cohort for the Michigan Humanities Emerging Research Scholars Program (MICHHERS) included more than 30 rising seniors, recent B.A.s, and terminal master’s students who experienced first-hand what it is like to do graduate-level humanities research at U-M. The two-week program is meant to attract diverse scholars with unique experiences who foster innovation and push the humanities to meet today’s challenges.

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RMF Connection

August 12 to 23

The Rackham Merit Fellowship (RMF) Connection is a two-week summer program designed for newly admitted recipients of a Rackham Merit Fellowship. During those two weeks, students get familiar with resources in Rackham and across the university, cultivate community among the cohort, and gain experiences to ease their first-year transition.

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Fall Welcome

August 30

Rackham's Fall Welcome is an exciting kickoff to the fall semester. With more than 75 campus resources and organizations in attendance, incoming graduate students have the opportunity to learn about Rackham and how they can make the most of their experience at the University of Michigan.

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Rackham Hosts Minority Serving Institutions Summit

October 14

In order to expand awareness and understanding of Minority Serving Institutions, to examine best practices and strategies, and to build on existing relationships, Rackham brought representatives of Minority Serving Institutions together from around the country in its first MSI Summit.

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2019 Honor Roll of Donors

We are grateful to everyone on the 2019 Honor Roll of Donors. Rackham donors have given over $30.5 million for student support in the Victors for Michigan campaign.

pages from the Honor Roll of Donors

Rackham Development and Alumni Relations Team

Michele A. Siegal

Director of Development and Alumni Relations

Chris Barry

Gift Officer

Kyah Dubay

Development Communications Officer

Melissa Herter

Donor Relations Officer

Sarah Phillips

Gift Officer

Horace & Mary Rackham

Horace Rackham, an attorney with a Detroit practice, was an early advisor to Henry Ford. In exchange for legal advice, Ford offered stock options to Horace, who invested in the new automobile venture. The investment made Horace a wealthy man. Upon his death in 1933, Horace’s widow Mary oversaw the fund that was established with proceeds from his estate. In 1935 Mary and the fund made a substantial gift to endow fellowships at the newly named Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies and pay for the construction of the building which is now a campus landmark. Neither Horace nor Mary had U-M degrees, but they were committed to advanced education and research.

illustration of Horace and Mary Rackham