Grad School dean retires after 6 years

Sheila Burt

Graduate School Dean Richard Morimoto will step down from his position at the end of the academic year, officials announced Wednesday.

During Morimoto’s nearly six years as dean, the university increased diversity and expanded interdisciplinary programs in its graduate schools. He will return to his faculty position in Northwestern’s biochemistry, molecular biology and cell biology department next year.

“I feel a strong urgency to get back to my research and teach,” he said.

Morimoto said he hopes to focus his research on understanding Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

A search committee formed by members of the Graduate School’s administrative board and the General Faculty Committee will seek his replacement, said Provost Lawrence Dumas in a university press release. The search will be internal.

“There are special advantages to having this important position filled by a person familiar with Northwestern,” Dumas said.

Morimoto began his position as Graduate School dean in 1998.

“He’s done a great job,” University President Henry Bienen said. “We really pressed him to stay longer.”

As dean, Morimoto established minority and international student recruitment committees.

Morimoto said the Graduate School actively recruits from historically black institutions, such as Howard University and Morehouse College, and colleges with larger Hispanic populations, such as the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“Brilliant scholars come from a variety of backgrounds and our job is to seek brilliant scholars,” Morimoto said. “In doing so, I think we really achieve a rich diversity (of students).”

According to a university press release, minority student enrollment increased 30 percent during Morimoto’s tenure.

Morimoto also created a financial aid program that allows all doctoral students to receive funding for four years and a stipend of about $15,000.

School of Communication Senior Associate Dean James Webster, who oversees the school’s graduate programs, said the policy has helped double the school’s student enrollment rate.

“With every doctoral student that we admit, we make that promise of funding,” Webster said. “And when our programs make that promise, the strength of our program has produced these yield rates that are in the 60 to 80 percent range.”

Recruitment weekend, which allows applicants to visit NU and explore the programs each graduate school offers, was another recruitment effort created under Morimoto’s tenure.

Webster said such programs helped identify “people who are a good fit for our programs and who are more likely to succeed.”

Creating more interdisciplinary programs among the graduate schools also has been an important focus during Morimoto’s tenure.

Morimoto worked with deans of other NU schools to look at each doctoral program and evaluate where graduates ended up professionally.

“I think that’s the (essence) of Northwestern —