Graduate education for the public good.

Our commitment to the public good defines doctoral and master’s education at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York — the most public of public universities.

In the nearly 60 years since The Graduate Center was established, we have become one of the leading Ph.D.-granting institutions in the country. We are especially proud to rank among the country’s top 10 institutions in awarding doctorates to students from underrepresented minority groups.

In serving the public good, graduate education prepares students for careers within the academy — as teachers and researchers — and increasingly for careers outside of the academy. Ours is a world in which creative, problem-solving expertise is more important than ever—and that’s what we’re about.

Read the full statement from President Robinson and Provost Connolly
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Unprecedented Support

Generous gifts and grants change our students’ lives and advance research, scholarship, and teaching at The Graduate Center. 

This past year, we benefited from remarkable support that is already making a difference.

That’s the audacious goal set by The Graduate Center and backed by a five-year, $2.265 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Among other initiatives, the grant will fund doctoral student fellows who will pursue internships and participate in other career preparation activities as a central part of their doctoral education.

The Graduate Center’s leadership in preparing doctoral students to teach undergraduates received a boost this year in the form of generous funding from Leonard and Judy Lauder and The Charina Endowment Fund, Inc. Both gifts went to The Graduate Center’s Teaching & Learning Center, one of the very few teaching centers dedicated to working exclusively with graduate student instructors. Our students teach in thousands of CUNY classrooms each year and contribute to CUNY’s success at propelling its diverse students into the middle and upper classes. The benefits of these two gifts are exponential, effectively reaching hundreds of thousands of students.

Assisting students facing unexpected health issues. Supporting a student to relocate after a fire. Helping another to go home to visit a sick family member. Generous support from The Carroll and Milton Petrie Foundation provides quick-response grants for Graduate Center students facing short-term financial emergencies. For students living on tight budgets, the funds can make all the difference, allowing them to stay focused on their studies and achieve their graduate degrees.

Professor Andrea Alù, director of the Photonics Initiative at our Advanced Science Research Center, was awarded a $7.5 million grant from the Department of Defense to lead a team of researchers from The Graduate Center, Columbia University, Stanford University, and the University of Michigan in cutting-edge metamaterials research. The grant is the largest of its kind on record to a Graduate Center faculty member. Alù envisions that the research it supports may lead to breakthroughs in wireless communications, radars, and optical computing.

Acknowledging “The Graduate Center’s prestigious research reputation and its commitment to scholarship as a public good, especially with respect to Latin American and Caribbean studies,” Luis A. Miranda Jr. and his family endowed the Miranda Fellowship to elevate research on Puerto Rican migration and communities in the United States. Cathy Cabrera Figueroa, the first recipient of the fellowship and a first-year Ph.D. student in history, is interested in capturing the migrant experience through oral history and the perspectives of women.

Conversation Starters, New York to Hollywood

Setting the Little Rock Nine to a New Score

Tania Leon with performers

Civil rights history is the inspiration for the opera-in-progress, The Little Rock Nine, one of the latest works by Tania León, professor of music at The Graduate Center and Brooklyn College. The New York Times praised the composition, calling it a “musical tapestry of jazz, gospel and snippets of ragtime,” distinctive combinations that have defined León’s style since she emigrated from Cuba 50 years ago.

The performance of the opera was just one of the highlights in an exceptional year for León, whose career was honored with a major award from United States Artists. 

A very busy musician, whose compositions are performed all over the world, León is equally dedicated to developing new talent. She collaborates closely with her students at The Graduate Center, encouraging them to discover their compositional styles. With her United States Artists award, she plans to create a series of lectures and talks to inspire tomorrow’s musicians. “I want to encourage young people that any career in the arts is possible.”

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Davidson Book Cover: Greater Gotham, by Mike Wallace A “manifesto” for 21st-century education: The new book by Distinguished Professor Cathy Davidson (English), director of The Graduate Center’s Futures Initiative, profiles educators designing new paths to learning. Aciman Book Cover: Call Me By Your Name, by Andre Aciman Novelist and Distinguished Professor André Aciman (Comparative Literature and French) wrote the book that was made into an Academy Award–winning film. Williams Professor Bianca Williams (Anthropology) examines the persistence of racism, sexism, and ageism in this firsthand account of African-American women seeking solace in repeated trips to Jamaica. Freeman The New York Times called this book by Joshua Freeman, distinguished professor at The Graduate Center, Queens College, and the School of Labor and Urban Studies, “required reading for all Americans.” Wallace Critics hailed the new book by Mike Wallace, distinguished professor of history at The Graduate Center and John Jay College, as a “magisterial sequel” to his Pulitzer Prize–winning Gotham. Verdery In her acclaimed memoir, Distinguished Professor Katherine Verdery (Anthropology) reveals that she was surveilled as a spy while studying village life in communist Romania. Dawson Ashley Dawson, professor of English at The Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island, details the devastating effects of climate change on coastal cities in one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of 2017.

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Science That Breaks Barriers

Adding Algorithms to Neuroscience

Big data, machine learning, cognitive neuroscience — this is the scientific intersection where Fahd Alhazmi conducts his research. A doctoral candidate in psychology and biology, Alhazmi uses his training as a software engineer to understand the intricacies of the human brain. Working with Presidential Professor Tony Ro (Biology and Psychology), he applies algorithms — similar to the ones used to teach computers to act without explicit instructions — to brain wave data to explore how the brain processes routine tasks, such as eye movements. But Alhazmi’s vision goes beyond the lab. He has amassed nearly 20,000 followers on Twitter and has contributed bylined articles to popular Arab media outlets. “Science needs selfies and stories in order to combat misinformation and restore public trust,” he says.

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Exploring the Physics of Life

With major support from the National Science Foundation, The Graduate Center and Princeton University joined forces this year to create the Center for the Physics of Biological Function. This interdisciplinary initiative creates new research opportunities for graduate students and inspires advanced undergraduates (our future master’s and doctoral students) with specialized summer classes. Featuring major scientists, such as Visiting Presidential Professor William Bialek (Physics), the center’s free events and programs bring exciting research and theory to the public. This center and The Graduate Center’s Initiative for the Theoretical Sciences advance our vision of promoting leading interdisciplinary scientific research and discovery for the benefit of this and future generations.

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Slide PRIMED FOR COLLABORATION Form follows function at The Graduate Center’s Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC). All 200,000 square feet of the ASRC are designed for creative collaboration among its cutting-edge fields: nanoscience, photonics, structural biology, neuroscience, and environmental sciences. ASRC scientists are carrying out the building’s promise for promoting research across disciplines. They are making discoveries in nanomaterials, in understanding the mechanisms of myelin production and the potential for treating certain central nervous system diseases, and their innovative work has garnered significant funding. Living up to The Graduate Center’s commitment to science in the public interest, the ASRC welcomes the youngest “scientists” starting in kindergarten for tours; opens events, conferences, and symposia to public participation; and has just completed its IlluminationSpace, an exploratory learning center for middle and high school students.

Slide TACKLING ALZHEIMER'S FROM THE ASRC While still a post-doc, Professor Shana Elbaum-Garfinkle (Biochemistry) made a breakthrough discovery about proteins and cell structure. Today, as head of her own lab — part of the Structural Biology Initiative at The Graduate Center’s Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) — Elbaum-Garfinkle and her colleagues are building on that research, opening potential new pathways to treat Alzheimer’s disease.

Her interdisciplinary background in physics, biochemistry, and biochemical engineering is the perfect fit for the collaborative energy of the ASRC. “It’s the place where my research program can really thrive because it’s very, very rare to have people with such diverse expertise — nanoscience, neuroscience, structural biology, environmental science, and photonics — in one building, meeting weekly. Here, every week, every day, we’re cross-pollinating. For me, that is tremendous because I’ve always been at the interface of fields,” she says.

Public Scholars

ACTIVIST SCHOLAR For Do Lee, research has inspired activism. Focusing on the immigrant New Yorkers whose livelihoods depend on electric bikes to deliver food quickly around the city, Lee’s research has given voice to the immigrants’ concerns, and his expertise has made him invaluable in bringing their stories to the public. SCIENTIST SCHOLAR Julia Castello’s research on a protein named CK2 may be a key to more effective antidepressants. Lead author of a paper detailing the breakthrough, Castello says that, “Identifying new targets broadens our understanding about the cause of depression as well as the action of antidepressants, which could lead to new antidepressants that work more efficiently and faster for more people.” CURATOR SCHOLAR When New York’s Museum of Modern Art mounted its first fashion exhibition in 70 years — Items: Is Fashion Modern — co-curating the show was Michelle Millar Fisher. Working in MoMA’s design department was a dream come true for Fisher, who said that her courses and the collaborative experience at The Graduate Center made all the difference in landing this position, and her new curator role at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

“A Community to Grow With”

Raven Gomez

In 2017–2018, The Graduate Center launched new master’s programs in some of today’s most dynamic disciplines: cognitive neuroscience, data analysis and visualization, data science, digital humanities, international migration studies, and quantitative methods in the social sciences. The programs are extending opportunities for graduate education and attracting a growing and diverse group of students like Raven Gomez.

Gomez is convinced that technology empowers students. That conviction led her to The Graduate Center’s new digital humanities master’s program, where she intends to develop high-tech ways to benefit nontraditional students like her.

Gomez’s own path to a master’s degree took some unexpected turns. Health problems kept her from completing high school, but she earned her GED, entered LaGuardia Community College, and earned a scholarship to Smith College. Smith exposed her to the field of game studies and to the concept of incorporating games and technology into learning. She chose The Graduate Center’s digital humanities master’s program for its commitment to digital technology in education. Gomez says that, “This was the kind of community that I wanted to grow with.” Already, she is eyeing The Graduate Center’s Ph.D. programs.

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In Unexpected Places

Graduate Center alumni make their mark in academia and well beyond with roles that may surprise and inspire you. This past year, a number of our graduates made news for impressive career jumps and achievements. Their success is evidence that The Graduate Center changes lives.

Carrie Rebora Barratt

The Graduate Center was my portal to New York City, providing the path so museums, gardens, libraries — a cultural world I learned to navigate with joy and curiosity.

Carrie Rebora Barratt, (Ph.D. '90, Art History)
Named president and CEO of the New York botanical Garden in February 2018
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J. Phillip Thompson

My Graduate Center experience changed my life fundamentally.

J. Phillip Thompson, (Ph.D. '90, Political Science)
Named NYC Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives in February 2018
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Tiffany Perkins-Munn

People often say to me, “How did you end up in financial services? You’re a psychologist.” But they don’t recognize the rigor of a Graduate Center degree in psychology.

Tiffany Perkins-Munn, (Ph.D. '03, Psychology)
Named the global head of decision sciences at Black Rock in April 2018
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Daniel Porterfield

The Graduate Center’s program in English was both a superb intellectual experience and a springboard for the rest of my career. I saw firsthand the power of a national-level graduate program to contribute to the life of the city and the needs of society.

Daniel Porterfield, (Ph.D. '95, English)
Former president of Franklin & Marshall College, named president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in November 2017
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Patricia Chapple Wright (Ph.D., Anthropology)
President’s Distinguished Alumni Medalist (2018)

Primatologist, professor, award-winning conservationist

Patricia Chapple Wright

Patricia Chapple Wright was a social worker with a young daughter when a paper she researched on the parenting habits of owl monkeys led her to The Graduate Center to study with world-renowned primatologists and pursue her Ph.D. in anthropology. With her new doctoral degree, she traveled to Madagascar to search for the greater bamboo lemur, a species thought to be extinct. She found it and then discovered the golden bamboo lemur, a brand-new species. With a passion to protect the lemurs and Madagascar’s biodiversity, she partnered with the government and local communities to create the Ranomafana National Park and, later, established the Centre ValBio, a sustainable research station for wildlife science, environmental arts, community health, and conservation education.

Wright’s story and work are the focus of the 2014 IMAX film Island of the Lemurs. She won the 2014 Indianapolis Prize, considered the Nobel Prize for conservationists, and was named a MacArthur Fellow.

Now a distinguished professor of anthropology at The State University of New York at Stony Brook, Wright told NPR that The Graduate Center’s philosophy of graduate education for the public good resonates with her. “I feel that my responsibility now is to use my Ph.D. to train the next generation of primatologists, tropical biologists, and conservationists.”

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Leading Conversation

This past year, The Graduate Center welcomed leaders in politics, economics, education, the arts, and activism — part of our effort to promote dialog and kindle new ideas, perspectives, and understanding. We put the public at the center of the conversation with free lectures and events.

Click the photos below to explore some of the event highlights of 2017-2018.

Graduate Center by the Numbers

We are…

3,900+ doctoral and master’s students taught by 130+ faculty members appointed at The Graduate Center and 1,700+ faculty members from throughout CUNY.


Graduate Center faculty and students are winners of the Nobel and Pulitzer prizes and Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, among many other accolades.

15,000+ doctoral graduates. Of graduates from 2003 to 2014: 68% work in education, about 20% work in private industry or business or are self-employed, and just over 10% work in either the government or nonprofit sector.


Ranked #8 among institutions in awarding Ph.D.’s to Hispanic or Latino students.

21% of incoming doctoral and master’s students identified as underrepresented minorities.

23% of doctoral students are international, representing nearly 80 countries.


180,000 CUNY undergraduates are taught by Graduate Center students every year, making the GC an important part of CUNY’s success at propelling almost six times as many low-income students into the middle class and beyond as all eight Ivy League campuses.

100+ free public programs each year draw 20,000+ attendees.


90% of incoming doctoral students receive five-year fellowship packages.

45% of incoming doctoral students are guaranteed to receive summer support for five years.


18% of doctoral applicants are admitted.

2017-2018 Budget by Spending Category

Total Tax-Levy Budget: $130,695,304*

View more detailed budget information at

*This budget includes funds allocated to CUNY’s Macaulay Honors College as part of the University Center academic entities as well as funds allocated to the Advanced Science Research Center, which joined The Graduate Center in 2017.

Donor Impact

Thank you to our donors who generously supported The Graduate Center last year.

GC Commencement

This past year, through private philanthropy, The Graduate Center was able to:

  • Offer 31 dissertation research awards
  • Make 44 emergency grants in support of immediate student
    financial need
  • Provide funding for 32 students to engage in summer
    research projects
  • Sustain the quality of our programs and embark on new
    initiatives that will advance our standing as a national leader
    in graduate education

Donor Support

1,355 Total donors
618 Alumni donors
24 Planned gift donors (Mina Rees Society)
10 Gifts of $100,000 or more
60 Gifts of $10,000 or more
134 Gifts of $1,000 or more
811 Gifts of $100 or more

Sources of Support

The Graduate Center Foundation Board of Trustees

The Graduate Center Foundation supports the mission of The Graduate Center by raising and managing funds to supplement government funding, by publicly advocating for the goals and interests of The Graduate Center, and by serving in an advisory capacity to The Graduate Center’s president, provost, and senior administrators.

The trustees are not scholars but rather civic minded New Yorkers from a variety of professions who believe in and want to support the mission of public higher education generally and of The Graduate Center in particular. This mission is predicated on the belief that everyone with curiosity, talent, and ambition ought to be able to pursue formal education as far as those qualities permit without regard to wealth or other forms of privilege.


Chair: Peter Darrow
Headshot: Peter Darrow
Vice Chairs:
Lin I. Bildner
John MorningTreasurer:
Myron S. GlucksmanSecretary:
Dwight E. Lee


Karen C. Altfest
Cyrus Amir-Mokri
Darren M. Fogel
Lynn P. Harrison 3rd
Michael Hecht
Christoph M. Kimmich
Joanna Migdal
Howard L. Morgan
Vivian Pan
Raymond Quinlan
Robert F. Raucci
Ramine Rouhani
John Harrison Streicker
Byron Tucker
Caroline Urvater
Jide J. Zeitlin

Contact The Graduate Center

GC Commencement
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