Kathleen Hutnik, previously associate dean for graduate student life, has been named associate deputy provost for graduate education. In support of the deputy provost for graduate education role the university established in 2019, this newly created position is designed to enrich and strengthen the graduate student experience at Lehigh and reflects the outstanding work that Hutnik has been doing in support of graduate students, said Nathan Urban, interim president and provost and senior vice president for academic affairs.
Working closely with Oliver Yao, interim deputy provost for graduate education, Hutnik will provide leadership, coordination, direction and oversight related to the activities and initiatives that support the academic, personal and professional success of graduate students. She will also identify and address barriers to the success of academically qualified graduate students, and lead collaborative efforts to develop strategic initiatives that strive for continuous improvement in the delivery of an excellent and inclusive graduate educational experience.
“The deputy provost, and now the new associate deputy provost for graduate education, play a critical role in our efforts to develop an even stronger, more diverse graduate student experience,” said Urban. “Kathleen’s deep commitment to our graduate students and their success are a tremendous asset to this work.”
Hutnik said the creation of the deputy provost for graduate education two years ago put Lehigh in a better position to advance not just graduate education, but the graduate experience at Lehigh “by centralizing key initiatives that hadn’t been possible when everything was completely decentralized.” With the addition of this new role, Hutnik said, these two positions help to create the educational environment that students need to do their best work.
Said Yao, “During her many years of service to Lehigh, Kathleen has been a true champion for our graduate students. In this new role, she will be able to focus even more clearly her work toward strengthening the Lehigh graduate student experience. I look forward to working with her on behalf of our graduate students.”
A Commitment to Graduate Students
Hutnik received a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature from Lehigh and a Ph.D. in English language and literature from Indiana University Bloomington. She returned to Lehigh as an employee in 2001, serving as an assistant director of academic support for seven years before being named director of graduate student life in 2007, a role she held until she was named associate dean for graduate student life in 2014.
As associate deputy provost, Hutnik, who for 14 years has focused on ensuring a stable and supportive environment for graduate students at Lehigh, will seize the opportunities this new position opens for the graduate student experience, she said.
“It’s critical that we pay attention to the environment in which our grad students are working,” said Hutnik. “As human beings, we have to have a sense of security in order to really focus on higher-level work. We’ve made some strides, but now with these new structures in place, it's going to be so much more effective. One of our goals is to bring in more underrepresented voices to graduate education, and so this needs to be an environment where people feel comfortable and welcome. With the deputy provost and associate deputy provost for graduate education positions, we’ll be able to do more for the students we have and attract more wonderful students to Lehigh.”
In her prior role, Hutnik played an essential role in supporting graduate students in all aspects of graduate life.
Over the past year, she partnered with the Office of International Affairs and the deputy provost for graduate education to create the Hire-a-Grad program, which provided paid professional employment to graduate students who lost jobs and internships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She also ensured the meaningful recognition of the achievements of doctoral students in 2020 by working with LTS to create an online Doctoral Wall and celebration in lieu of the traditional doctoral hooding ceremony.
A Supportive Living & Learning Environment
Hutnik is the primary author of Lehigh’s paid parental leave policy for funded graduate students; the leave of absence policy; and the guidelines for doctoral students and faculty to foster healthy and productive mentoring relationships, which was endorsed by the Graduate and Research Committee. She has established emergency loan opportunities for graduate students, as well as an emergency fund for graduate students to begin in Summer 2021.
Hutnik also made the free-standing Graduate Student Center in Packer House a true home-away-from-home for graduate students, with programming that strives to connect students, lower stress levels, and encourage mental health, persistence and retention. During Hutnik’s tenure, participation in graduate student events and programs has grown eightfold. In addition, she created and hosts an annual awards banquet to honor outstanding graduate students.
In support of the academic and professional development of graduate students, Hutnik developed the graduate writing and academic support program within the Office of Graduate Life, and partnered with graduate associate deans and the vice president and associate provost for research and graduate studies to author the “Vision and Goals for Graduate Education,” with an accompanying framework for graduate program review. She worked with the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning (CITL) to create the teacher development program for graduate students, with the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD) to expand professional development for graduate students, and with the CCPD and the Office of Creative Inquiry to create the Creative Scholars Institute for doctoral students, currently on hold due to the pandemic.
Hutnik has served on a number of committees and boards, including as an executive committee member of the Council for Equity and Community (CEC) and as a member of the Task Force for Graduate Education, which developed a strategic plan for the growth of graduate education and led to the creation of the deputy provost for graduate education position. She served for two terms on the Lehigh University Alumni Association (LUAA) Board to foster engagement with graduate alumni, initiated an annual gathering of graduate students and the Board of Trustees.
“I think as we come out of the pandemic, we see more than ever that our master’s and doctoral students will be making critical contributions to improving our world,” she said. “Here at Lehigh we can create a living and learning environment that will allow our students to concentrate on the work they want to do. When students have a decent place to live, enough money to live on, health insurance, a community, and just generally a supportive environment, they are more likely to thrive. And I think the students, as they go out into the world, will be more likely to say that Lehigh made it possible for them to be successful because they had excellent academic opportunities and that Lehigh cared about their personal and professional development and their well-being.”