Exit Interview: Brian Pogue, Dean of Graduate Studies

On August 14, 2012 by Grad Forum

Brian Pogue (left) and Wesley Whitaker (right)

On Wednesday August 15, 2012, a new faculty member will begin serving as Dartmouth’s Dean of Graduate Studies. The editors of The Graduate Forum would like to take a moment to welcome the new Dean, and also to thank outgoing Dean Brian Pogue  for his four years of service.

“The Deanship at Dartmouth has been an incredibly high honor,” says Brian Pogue. “Now, looking back on the past four years, I know that we have made the right decisions on a number of key issues and have achieved a few important initiatives for the campus. I’ve taken an opportunistic approach to affecting change at Dartmouth in areas that would be receptive to it, and in the end I am happy with that.”

Originally from Ontario, Brian Pogue received his Honors Bachelors and Masters degrees in Physics from York University in Toronto, and was then accepted as a PhD candidate in Medical/Nuclear Physics at McMaster University in Hamilton. While at McMaster, Brian researched the use of optical spectroscopy—a method for examining the properties of a physical object by measuring how it emits and interacts with light—to image breast cancer under the guidance of his doctoral advisor, Michael Patterson, Head of Medical Physics at the regional Cancer Center. To test the optical machines developed in the Patterson lab, Brian examined both the tissue of mice and the properties of “tissue phantoms”— mimicking the physical properties of living tissue and cancerous tumors. In his doctoral dissertation, Frequency-Domain Optical Spectroscopy and Imaging of Tissue and Tissue-Simulating Media, Brian developed a system for imaging living tissue using high-speed optical measurements, to quantify the molecular features of tissues and cancer tumors.

“In a lot of ways, I still feel like a graduate student. I don’t think that I ever really grew up,” says Brian. “As a Director of Dartmouth’s Optics in Medicine Lab, I work with graduate students on a daily basis, and am conducting research on medical optics with professionals at Dartmouth and a number of other research institutions. I agreed to serve as Dean of Graduate Education because I genuinely care about graduate students and believe that graduate research is an integral part of our academic community. I think that the research being conducted by Dartmouth’s graduate students allows the school to advance the creation of new knowledge and leads to innovations in techniques and technologies.  This is the key part of what makes Dartmouth a world-class educational institution.”

Inspired to teach by his parents—Brian’s father was a professor and his mother a teacher—Brian Pogue led an active lifestyle and focused on his research throughout his doctoral career. In fact, it was during his graduate studies that Brian first played team sports.

“At McMaster, I was captain of the department baseball team for a year. I played outfield as a graduate student and had a great time serving as the team’s captain. I think in a lot of ways the exercise and socialization that playing baseball provided helped keep me sane while I did my laboratory studies,” says Brian. “Our team wasn’t particularly good—as long as you could catch a ball, you were in—but it was a great group of people, and we all had a lot of fun. I was responsible for things like collecting equipment and organizing social events.  As a graduate student, you need to have a plan to keep yourself socially involved, and for me, baseball was one of the ways that I stayed active and met new people.”

During his tenure as Dean, he led a number of projects which strengthened the cohesion of Dartmouth’s graduate student body, improved graduate student life, and increased the academic profile of Dartmouth Arts & Science Graduate Programs. A chair of the Graduate Education for the Future Working Group, Dean Pogue compared Dartmouth against a number of its peer institutions—like Yale, Harvard, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and Princeton—reviewed each of Dartmouth’s doctoral and masters programs, and authored a vision statement for Graduate Education at Dartmouth with the 27 members of the working group. As part of the review effort, Dean Pogue invited a consortium of Dean’s and former Dean’s from peer institutions to review the school’s graduate programs. The work done by the Working Group was compiled into a document, and submitted as part of the Dartmouth-wide Strategic Planning process, led by interim president Carol Folt, and the Provosts Office, for review. To ensure that the voices of students from all of Dartmouth’s graduate programs were included in the final version of this document, Dean Pogue hosted 2011’s Strategic Planning Open Forum with the Graduate Student Council (GSC).

“For me, Dartmouth Strategic Planning has been an exciting challenge. It’s has been a long time since Dartmouth has compared itself to its peer institutions, I think that Carol Folt has done an outstanding job managing the institution-wide project,” said Dean Pogue. “The nature of academia makes strategic planning difficult for virtually every educational institution, and I really admire the manner in which the Provost’s Office has choreographed the effort. From the feedback solicited through the campus-wide committee work that Carol has orchestrated, Dartmouth’s administration has decided to place a greater emphasis on academics at the school. In the coming years, this will manifest itself in new faculty hires and a modest growth in graduate research.”

In addition to his commitment to Dartmouth Strategic Planning, Dean Pogue has improved the graduate student experience at Dartmouth through increasing stipends, advocating for a permanent graduate student social space, creating the PhD/MBA program with Tuck, and by leading a campaign to improve the web visibility of the school’s graduate programs. With the Graduate Student Council (GSC) and the members of the Graduate Studies Office, Brian has strengthened the connections between current graduate students and alumni from each of its Arts & Sciences Graduate Programs.

“Graduate student life has always been an important issue for me. I think this is because I place so much value on the role of personnel commitment and education in people,” says Brian. “At McMaster, I remember really growing as an individual even outside of my research. One year, I read Kurt Vonnegut’s entire catalogue—from his first book, Player Piano, and ending with his final work, Hocus Pocus. Later, I also read the catalogs of my favorite Canadian authors, Robertson Davies and Margaret Laurence. This had nothing to do with my research, but I was enamored with understanding people who are driven in long term creative work, and to see how their work evolves over time.”

Over the past four years, Brian has also “re branded” Dartmouth’s research-based Graduate Programs. Two years ago, Dean Pogue approved a new Dartmouth Graduate Studies shield, which was created through an online design contest, coordinated by members of the GSC’s Executive Board. Since the launch of the new shield, Brian commissioned the design of a mobile application for Dartmouth’s graduate programs available for use on iPhone or Google Android phones.  He oversaw the creation of The Graduate Forum, and increased the use of social media streams including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest by the Graduate Studies Office. The use of these media channels has not only improved communication between current graduate students, but has also facilitated electronic conversations between the school’s graduate community and other pan-Dartmouth entities. “I think these changes will have the most important long-term impact of anything that I have been involved with, on our Graduate Studies programs at Dartmouth,” said Pogue.

“While a number of important changes are currently happening here at Dartmouth, the elements that define the school’s identity will never change. These elements are Dartmouth’s rural Upper Valley location, and its relatively small size in the world of research institutions. These factors dictate the types of people that are drawn to the school, and always will.  I believe that it is the research conducted by these people that make Dartmouth a world-class educational institution,” explains Pogue. “Though I think Dartmouth will be substantially similar in 20 years, a higher metric for academic success will be in place.  Moderate increases in the size and strength of the school’s graduate programs will likely mirror the ongoing growth in research-active faculty on this campus.  This is the pathway needed to reinforce the world class status of this institution. I hope that I will live to see the day that the institution is named a University, which would simply recognize the institution for what it already is.  This is easily done, and can be done while retaining all its lovable characteristics which make it unique in the world of higher education.”

by Wesley Whitaker

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