Robert R. Edwards, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English and Comparative Literature in the College of the Liberal Arts, is the 2010 recipient of the Graduate Program Chair Leadership Award.
The award honors faculty members for exemplary leadership that benefits graduate students and faculty in an existing graduate program at the University.
Edwards served as director of the College's English Graduate Program from 2005 to 2009. The program currently includes 60 master's degree students and 45 doctoral candidates. "He was a dramatically effective recruiter, a wise and proactive manager of the graduate academic program and an excellent mentor to our diverse population of graduate students on all issues related to their educations," one nominator wrote.
When Edwards became graduate director, he set minority recruitment as his top priority. Over the past three years, he successfully recruited 15 outside minority students to the master of arts and doctoral program, all of them Bunton-Waller Scholarship awardees. He also recruited two minority students to the master of fine arts program. In general, he raised the numerical indictors for graduate student quality well above the college average.
During his time as director, Edwards rationalized student support so that travel awards are distributed competitively according to a clear hierarchy of venues and indicators of student performance. He also emphasized both the need to compete for both intramural and external support and early publication by graduate students in significant, peer-reviewed journals.
"Under Edwards, our graduate program reached the point where we can give our students a clear map of every step of the process between entrance and job placement," one nominator said. "He led the way in coordinating the four critical dimensions required to develop graduate students: curriculum, teaching experience, research support and professionalization."