Graduates vs. Undergraduates at the University of Chicago?

<p>Do graduate students get all of the attention at the U of C, or are professorial and financial resources allocated to undergraduates as well?</p>


<p>Chicago, like Johns Hopkins, was self-consciously designed as a top-heavy research institution, as at the time of its founding, German research institutions were all the rage. The idea (or so I think) was to have a sort of "trickle-down" of resources. Just take a look at the library resources available to undergrads, or hey, even the course listings, where 90% of the time, undergraduates can get into graduate-level classes.</p>

<p>I think people will try to make the argument that an institution is either graduate-focused or undergraduate-focused, which is a somewhat foolish argument. While there are statistics and ranks that point only towards the U of C's strength as a research U, I think there's a lot to be said for the emphasis on small class sizes and rigorous classes at the undergraduate level.</p>

<p>Thanks, Unalove :) I never looked at it like that.</p>

<p>Schools that go out of their way to claim they have an undergraduate focus – Dartmouth, Georgetown, Rice, Brown – mostly do so to compensate for their mediocre to non-existent graduate offerings. When you look at hard numbers like class size, graduate school placement, or reputation of the faculty that are put in UG classrooms, their statements do not really stand up. The peer schools they dub graduate heavy more often than not afford their student s substantially better academic options.</p>

<p>There's another side to things, too. Having good graduate students around can be a huge plus, if you are the right kind of student. They help bridge the gap between where undergraduates are with their knowledge and training and where the professors are. When I was an undergraduate, I was studying something where my university was the unquestioned #1 in the world in that area at the time. It was great, but if it weren't for the grad students, I never could have gotten up to speed enough to take advantage of the unbelievable opportunities that were around for me. And they weren't exactly chopped liver. Over the next 20 years, grad students I dealt with became department chairs at Michigan, Harvard, and Yale. If I were to list my five favorite college teachers, one of them was a grad student.</p>

<p>My wife had the same experience, in completely different fields. Neither of us have ever bought into the "grad students are bad" idea. In fairness, though, I should report that frequent CC poster mini taught in the Core at Chicago when he was a grad student, and he reports that he was TERRIBLE.</p>

<p>I had lots of tenured-faculty contact and attention, too. It took some moxie, though, and some sense of when to talk and when to shut up and listen. It also took doing the work to put myself in a position to be able to be interesting to them. </p>

<p>A non-UChicago professor I know (famous in her field) put it this way a few months ago, "With your graduate students, you talk to them several times a week for years, and you have a lifelong relationship with them. Undergraduates are flighty, defensive, often confused; you don't know what to expect, and they often don't give anything back. I want to mentor undergraduates, but unless they're really serious it feels like a poor use of time." She's visiting at a famous LAC this semester, and not liking it very much -- with only two other faculty members in her entire field, and no grad students, there's hardly anyone to talk to, no intellectual energy. The undergraduates are perfectly smart and fun to teach, but she wouldn't want to spend her life that way.</p>

<p>DS came to the conclusion that having grad students around was a good thing for him. Not just as TAs -- but as people who can show him the ropes, folks he can chat with about various mind-numbing sub-specializations, and as a bridge to developing relationships with profs. </p>

<p>Being able to take graduate-level courses while still an undergrad is also a big plus, and was a major factor in his considerations. It's important to find schools where one can grow for four years, and sometimes that means looking beyond undergrad.</p>

<p>The grad/undergrad dynamic here is interesting, to say the least. First, it means (at least for me) that I walk around campus and I see a lot of unfamiliar faces among a lot of familiar faces. At the same time, CountingDown's reminding me that one of my good friends (an undergrad CS major) hangs out with a lot of CS grad students who speak her language (pun intended).</p>

<p>And in terms of undergraduate teaching quality, I've found myself liking my grad students often more than my profs. The grad students are younger and, I find, more approachable. They're in competition with each other to offer undergraduates courses, and they are chosen to teach courses based on recommendations and reviews. </p>

<p>This winter, I helped one of my TA's out with getting a course that he designed and wanted to teach on the schedule. Why was it hard for my TA to get a course? The department chair was concerned that he didn't relate well to undergraduates.</p>

<p>The best, fuzziest, most accessible professor I've had here was a visiting for the quarter and teaches year-round at a big, prestigious state U with more graduate prestige than undergrad prestige, which, to me, debunks the idea that the bigger the school, the weaker the profs. (This prof had also worked at an elite LAC, and preferred the research environment).</p>

<p>My daughter is a fourth-year at Chicago (starting grad school next year and currently on a visiting tour with the schools that accepted her). Anyway, she had many classes in which she was the only undergrad. She was accepted by the grad students and felt that those classes really stretched her. Her view is that having grad students mix with undergrads is beneficial to all.</p>

<p>Nice. Whats she studying.</p>

<p>Classics -- language intensive variant. She's deciding on grad school between Michigan, Berkeley and Yale (six-year combined masters/phd).</p>

<p>I know what rondafaye means. I'm the only freshman in my language class this year, and it looks like I'll be taking graduate courses starting next year. If there weren't graduate courses to take, I'd be pretty bored.</p>

<p>As a grad student, we enjoyed undergrads. We had many UGs in our lab and found them to be both interested and interesting. Many ended up doing and publishing meaningful research. I never witnessed any animosity between undergrads and grad students, and as a TA, I enjoyed them as students.</p>

<p>Wow. Any doubts I had about the climate at U of C have been put to rest. Thanks everyone.</p>