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Michael Roberts, a professor of applied behavioral science and the founding director of the KU Clinical Child Psychology program, will take over as Kansas University’s dean of Graduate Studies at the beginning of 2014, the university announced Wednesday.
Roberts replaces outgoing dean Thomas Heilke, who announced this fall he would leave the post after this semester.
“My whole career has been about graduate education at the program level,” Roberts said. The opportunity to head Graduate Studies, which oversees dozens of graduate programs, each with their own needs and goals, “sounded like an interesting challenge,” he said.
Roberts came to KU in 1991 to help build a graduate training program in clinical child psychology. Today the program is ranked sixth among more than 200 similar programs in a U.S. News and World Report ranking. A year and a half ago Roberts turned over the directorship to Ric Steele and has since increased his focus on teaching and research.
During the interview process for the dean spot, Roberts talked with administrators, program heads and school deans. “The sense that I got was of a very strong commitment from the bottom to the top, and the top to the bottom, for better graduate education.”
Roberts also said he appreciated the nod given in KU’s strategic plan, “Bold Aspirations,” to bolster Ph.D. education at the university. One form the push to attract top graduate talent has taken is the recent purchase of an admissions database system called “Prospect,” which helps gather and analyze data on prospective students so that departments can personalize their recruitment efforts. Helping to oversee the continued rollout of Prospect and other data projects in graduate studies will figure heavily into Roberts’ new role.
With the incoming dean, the office will see some reorganization as well. In 2007 the KU Graduate School joined with the Office of Research to form the joint Office of Research and Graduate Studies. Once Roberts joins next year, Graduate Studies will become independent once again and begin reporting directly to the provost rather than Steve Warren, KU’s vice chancellor of research and graduate studies.
Heilke is leaving his post for a position at the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan Campus, where he will be the associate dean of the College of Graduate Studies and inaugural director of the Residential Graduate College.
Heilke said he has already begun meeting Roberts to begin the handover process and training on the finer points of budget and policy.