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Melissa Sturge-Apple named vice provost and University dean of graduate education

June 6, 2019
Melissa Sturge-AppleMelissa Sturge-Apple ’92, dean of graduate education and postdoctoral affairs in Arts, Sciences & Engineering and professor of psychology, has been named vice provost and University dean of graduate education. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Melissa Sturge-Apple ’92, dean of graduate education and postdoctoral affairs in Arts, Sciences & Engineering and professor of psychology, has been named vice provost and University dean of graduate education. University Provost and Senior Vice President for Research Rob Clark announced her appointment, which is effective July 1. Sturge-Apple succeeds Margaret Kearney, who is retiring at the end of June after serving in this role for eight years and at the University for 14 years.

The vice provost and University dean of graduate education oversees nearly 100 graduate education programs across the University, fosters important interdisciplinary ‎collaborations, chairs the University Council on Graduate Education, and serves as the central administration’s liaison with graduate student organizations. The position selects chairs of PhD candidates’ final oral defenses, as well as administers several highly selective fellowships offered to entering students.

“Melissa brings a great energy, motivation, and strategy to our academic team,” said Clark. “She is a highly regarded administrator and scholar who cares very deeply about our graduate students and their academic and student experience while they are here. She has done a great deal to address graduate student needs around career placement and personal development, and has a very collaborative approach to leadership. Because of her impressive experience in AS&E, she is an ideal choice to serve as vice provost and University dean.

“I also want to recognize Maggie Kearney for her work in this role that has vastly strengthened and enriched our graduate programs. I am extremely grateful for her contributions and wish her well upon her retirement from the University,” said Clark.

“I am delighted to continue my work with graduate students and postdoctoral trainees and to build upon Maggie’s accomplishments and achievements,” said Sturge-Apple. “My research and training as a member of the faculty focuses on families and children, and stresses the importance of belonging, structure, and opportunity. This perspective informs and guides my work as dean of graduate students and postdoctoral trainees. I believe that graduate education is essential to the intellectual life of a university, as well as provides the foundation for building the next generation of scholars, educators, and scientists. I want to continue to provide the highest quality educational and research experience for them, and foster a culture of respect that embodies our Meliora values.”

In July 2016, Sturge-Apple was named dean in AS&E, responsible for strengthening and growing its graduate programs and fostering more cohesion among AS&E master’s and doctoral students. Spanning the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering, Sturge-Apple directs the programs of study for approximately 1,300 graduate students, including about 1,000 PhD students in 23 PhD programs, and about 300 master’s students in 22 master’s programs. She also oversees many different aspects of graduate education, including setting policies and procedures related to the academic programs; working with departments to develop new programs; creating professional development opportunities for the students; and providing a sense of community and engagement for graduate learners.

During her service in AS&E, she conducted a holistic evaluation of the graduate programs to better identify the changing needs of graduate education and postdoctoral affairs. As a result, she was responsible for renaming the program to Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs in Arts, Sciences & Engineering to be inclusive of the growing community of postdoctoral trainees.

She is known for her engagement with graduate students and graduate alumni. She has worked closely with the AS&E Graduate Student Association, an elected body of graduate students who serve as a liaison with administration, to create new policies and procedures around academic training and student grievances, host workshops and professional development opportunities, and facilitate collaboration between the graduate student body and administration. She has created a graduate alumni group, visited with graduate alumni in cities around the United States, instituted a career and placement survey for graduate students to guide alumni support, and developed advancement opportunities to support graduate education through fellowship or research support.

As an accomplished scholar, her research broadly focuses on family processes, parental functioning, and child development with a particular emphasis on families at risk. Her work is conducted at the University’s Mt. Hope Family Center, where psychologists, researchers, and clinicians provide evidence-based intervention and prevention services, mentoring, and training to children and families in Rochester. In addition, she gives her time to mentoring programs and groups focused on supporting students at the University and serves on the board of the local non-profit CURE Childhood Cancer Association.

Sturge-Apple holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and economics from the University of Rochester, and a master’s and PhD in developmental psychology from the University of Notre Dame.


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