|VOLUME 20||THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MILWAUKEE | GRADUATE SCHOOL||NUMBER 1|
Transforming an Institution
nationally recognized doctoral research center.
George W. Keulks has been at UWM for 31 years and presided over the Graduate School for 22 of them, having been appointed acting dean on April 1, 1975. "There may be some significance to that date," he says with a grin. He will retire this summer from his administrative duties and return to his first love - teaching and research in the chemistry department.
Keulks's degrees are all in chemistry - a bachelor's from Washington University, an MS from the University of Arkansas, and a PhD from Northwestern. He did postdoctoral research at The Johns Hopkins University in 1965-66, joined the UWM faculty in 1966 as an assistant professor of chemistry, and was named full professor in 1974.
Throughout his years as dean, Keulks has continued to supervise several doctoral students and remained actively involved in catalysis research. In addition, he has traveled throughout the United States and quite literally around the globe to deliver presentations as plenary and senior lecturer at international conferences and symposia in China, Japan, Germany, England, France and Hawaii, and in several cities in the former Soviet Union. Keulks also served as a consultant to Kuwait University on the development of doctoral programming.
He has authored more than 40 scientific papers that have appeared in prestigious publications such as the Journal of Catalysis, the Journal of Physical Chemistry, the Journal of Organic Chemistry, and the Journal of the American Chemical Society. He received an award from the Milwaukee Section of the American Chemical Society in 1991, and he is cited in American Men and Women in Science, Who's Who in America, and Who's Who in Wisconsin.
His expertise has led to memberships on the boards of directors of a number of organizations including the Milwaukee County Research Park, WiscNet (a statewide computing network), and the Mayor of Milwaukee's Advisory Council on Science and Technology. Keulks also has served on the Milwaukee Public Schools' Task Force on New Technology, the UW System Task Force on University Resources for Business and Industry, and as university representative to the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Council for Chemical Research.
UWM was founded in 1956, but in the early years its graduate programs were operated entirely through UW-Madison. The UWM Graduate School did not become autonomous until 1965.
"In those days we always had to explain that we weren't Madison," Keulks recalls. "Today, UWM has earned national recognition as an outstanding and highly respected comprehensive urban research university. It's nice to go to meetings around the country and not have to explain who you are."
The early days of the Keulks administration in the Graduate School were anything but tranquil. "When I was appointed acting dean in April of '75, Chancellor (Werner) Baum was actually considering abolishing the Graduate School," he recalls. "But he agreed to appoint a panel, chaired by then-Dean Fred Landis of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, to look into the matter. The Landis Commission, as it was called, came out with a recommendation that the Graduate School should be strengthened rather than abolished."
"What I inherited was a graduate school that was primarily responsible for admissions, records, and degree certification for graduate students," Keulks explains. "We also worked with the Graduate Faculty Council on program reviews. The school was very different from what it is today; the budget was smaller, of course, and there were only about a dozen employees. Today the budget is $7.3 million and there are 80 employees."
After the Landis Commission drafted its recommendations and the Graduate School got a new lease on life, the first major change took place. "The former Office of Grants and Contracts, which had been housed in Administrative Affairs, was moved to the Graduate School and renamed the Office of Sponsored Research," Keulks explains. "That was to emphasize the coupling with the extramural funding component, and it was a good opportunity to restructure the office."
As a barometer of the school's growth since he became dean, Keulks points to increased funding. "In 1975 the Graduate School's extramural funding base amounted to about $2 million. Today we have hundreds of active accounts, and research and instructional funding exceeds $18 million annually."
When Keulks joined the UWM faculty in 1966, he was only the third faculty member in the chemistry department with a research background. "When I became dean, I considered it a high priority to create a climate in which research and scholarship could flourish," he says. "We wanted to help people understand the advantages of research and scholarship, that they were tied in with our plans as a campus to develop graduate programs. In 1975, however, those activities were not encouraged in some areas at UWM."
Keulks recalls that in 1978, "Chancellor Baum asked what I would do with $3,000 if he allocated that amount to the Graduate School. We decided to award $1,000 to each of three faculty members in the form of research awards. Although the campus had teaching excellence awards for faculty, there had been no recognition of research up to that point. That started the annual (Graduate School/UWM Foundation) Research Award program, which has become very important in creating a climate that encourages and fosters research and scholarship."
Between 1968 and 1985, the Graduate School added 27 master's and doctoral degree programs. From 1976 to 1988, additional institutes, research centers and a unit devoted to technology transfer were established: the Institute on Race and Ethnicity; International Studies and Programs; the Office of Industrial Research and Technology Transfer; the Center for Math/Science Educational Research; and the Marine and Freshwater Biomedical Core Center.
In 1976, the Graduate School developed the proposal that led to the formation of the UW System-wide Minority and Disadvantaged Center. "That was the beginning of the Graduate School's involvement in cross-college, campus-wide centers," Keulks points out. At that time the Urban Research Center (now the Center for Urban Initiatives and Research) was already located within the Graduate School. In 1978, all of the funding for the Laboratory for Surface Studies and the Center for Great Lakes Studies was moved to the Graduate School. In 1981, the Center for Women's Studies became part of the Graduate School with the idea that it would become a research center.
"We focused on areas defined by UWM's mission statement, including contemporary humanistic studies and the fine arts, lake studies, surface studies, and urban studies," Keulks says. "There's no doubt in my mind that the centers are a major factor in attracting distinguished faculty to UWM. They have allowed us to achieve national and international recognition in these areas and to compete effectively for extramural funding."
When Frank Horton was appointed chancellor in 1980, his charge to Keulks was to become more proactive and to take a more aggressive posture in the research area. "He was very much in favor of emphasizing the importance of research and scholarship to UWM's development. That led us to establish the Research Incentive Program, which stimulates external funding by providing increased time for faculty to develop competitive grant proposals," Keulks says.
"By the mid 1980s, we had started to look like a doctoral university. Faculty were coming from prestigious doctoral universities, and all faculty hired from 1975 to 1980 had expectations of doing research and scholarship. Promotion and tenure guidelines became pretty clearly rewritten with an emphasis on scholarly productivity as a new component."
During Chancellor Horton's administration the Graduate School became more aggressive in helping faculty identify funding, write proposals, and navigate the bureaucratic waters in Washington. In addition, the Information Library was established to identify funding sources, a critical function of the expanded emphasis on research.
Clifford V. Smith, Jr., was appointed chancellor in 1986 and, Keulks says, "took research a step further. He felt that it was vital to establish UWM as a research university. There was some backlash on the campus because of some concern that UWM was putting more emphasis on research and not enough on undergraduate teaching."
When John H. Schroeder was named chancellor in 1991, "He was faced with all these factors that were in conflict with what UWM had been doing up to that point," Keulks says. "When UWM was designated a Research II University by the Carnegie Foundation in 1995, that put in perspective what the university was trying to accomplish over all these years, and I think it helped temper the backlash that had developed earlier. To be a doctoral university, you have to pay attention to scholarship, hire top quality faculty, attract excellent students, and give them the best possible training. That is still the aspiration for the campus."
One of the achievements Keulks takes great pride in is the evolution of Research Profile, the Graduate School magazine that has grown from a one-page, mimeographed sheet focused on funding opportunities to a prestigious publication highlighting faculty research. The magazine continually garners high praise from other universities as well as from members of the Milwaukee community. "Our issue on Milwaukee's Sesquicentennial, for example, was very well received," Keulks says. "Research Profile is a critical component of the Graduate School in describing the variety of research that is being conducted on this campus."
As Keulks looks back on the surge of new programs during the 1970s and '80s and the major transformations that have taken place in the Graduate School, he takes pride in what has been accomplished.
"Looking back, it was a very interesting time on campus. It was truly the complete transformation of an institution, and it was exciting to be part of it."
She now works in UWM's University Relation office.