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  • Natural Resources
  • Natural Resources
Barbara A. Knuth, dean of Cornell’s Graduate School, is the 2019 recipient of the Debra W. Stewart Award for Outstanding Leadership in Graduate Education, given by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS).

Knuth, also a professor of natural resources in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, received the honor at an awards ceremony held during the council’s 59th annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee.

The award includes a $4,000 prize to support continuing innovations at the awardee’s institution.

Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff praised Knuth for her commitment to graduate education.

“Barb’s colleagues in the higher education community recognize, as I do, her many leadership skills, including the ability to analyze and bring clarity to complex issues, to inspire staff and students, and to find creative ways to address problems,” he said. “Dr. Knuth has been an extraordinarily effective leader for the Graduate School, improving accountability for student outcomes and graduate programs, increasing diversity and improving inclusion, and tirelessly advocating on key issues of most concern to graduate education, including immigration reform, financial aid, research support and health care coverage. Our university is indebted to Barb for her outstanding service.”

Since being named Graduate School dean in 2010, Knuth has implemented numerous student and program assessment initiatives to foster student success and continual academic program improvement, including student and alumni surveys and data transparency dashboards. She has secured external resources to improve graduate education through multiple awards from the National Science Foundation, CGS and other organizations.

Knuth also has fostered an inclusive and holistic approach to graduate student success through supporting programs including: “My Voice My Story” facilitated discussions; Future Professors Institute; NextGen Professors; Careers Beyond Academia; the Dean’s Excellence Fellowship program; and Cornell’s Alliances for Graduate Education and the Professoriate award, sponsored by the NSF.

A past chair of the CGS board of directors, Knuth has been involved in many council projects, including Understanding Ph.D. Career Pathways for Program Improvement; Enhancing Student Financial Education and Literacy; and Preparing Future Faculty. She currently serves as research committee chair on the GRE board, and is a member of the executive committee of the Association of Graduate Schools, an arm of the Association of American Universities.

“Barb’s dedication and commitment to bettering the graduate school community is evidenced in many ways including the implementation of a suite of graduate student and alumni surveys designed to inform program improvement and transparency regarding graduate outcomes,” said Christopher Sindt, provost of Lewis University and chair of the CGS board of directors.

Knuth received her Ph.D. in 1986 from Virginia Tech. In 2011, she was named a distinguished member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

The Stewart Award was created in 2016 by the CGS board of directors to recognize outstanding leadership in graduate education, particularly those exemplified by the council’s fifth president, Debra W. Stewart. The selection committee considers nominees with a strong reputation for ethics and integrity, a history of active participation in the graduate community, and a record of strategic vision and actions resulting in meaningful impacts.

Areas of special consideration include: evidence-based innovation; program development; diversity and inclusion; student learning and career outcomes; personnel management; policy advocacy in support of graduate education and research; and fiscal responsibility.

The Council of Graduate Schools comprises approximately 500 institutions of higher education, in the United States and Canada, engaged in graduate education and research.

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