Dean Francko oversees growth in grad school

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Ashanka Kumari

David A. Francko, associate provost and dean of the graduate school, said that having the power to make a positive difference to the lives of many graduate students and faculty is immensely gratifying.

“Coming to the University of Alabama was a wonderful opportunity to help an already strong university become even stronger and more student-centered with regard to graduate education, research and outreach to the state and nation,” Francko said. “Being able to shake the hands of record numbers of students each commencement as they walk across the stage to receive their graduate degree makes it all worthwhile.”

Since Francko was first appointed to his position as dean in August 2006, the graduate school has seen an increase of nearly 1,000 students, said John Schmitt, associate graduate dean and assistant to the executive vice president and provost.

“In a time when many graduate schools across the U.S. are seeing enrollment decreases, the number of graduate students at UA has actually increased by 20 percent over the last three years,” Schmitt said. “UA currently has 4,774 graduate students.”

Along with enrollment, Francko is also concerned about graduate students remaining in school and completing their degrees, Schmitt said.

“Dean Francko has placed great emphasis on graduate school retention and graduation rates, which is partly due to the major increases he has brought about in graduate student financial support,” Schmitt said. “Assistantship and fellowship programs have grown markedly, and he has increased the graduate student research and travel support fund from approximately $75,000 six years ago to a projected $500,000 this year.”

Natalie Adams, assistant dean of the graduate school, said Francko has done well in building the reputation of UA’s graduate school.

“Under his leadership, we have created two nationally recognized programs targeting graduate students: The Graduate Parent Support for graduate students who must juggle family and school responsibilities, and Tide Together, a mentoring program for graduate students,” Adams said.

Francko was also instrumental in the program to provide graduate student healthcare insurance for the first time, Schmitt said.

“Francko has placed UA among the top graduate schools in the U.S. for making graduate education accessible to students from diverse backgrounds, to first-generation graduate students and to graduate students with dependent children,” Schmitt said. “He is one of the most student-friendly people with whom I have had the pleasure to work, and his goal is always graduate student success.”

Francko is not only an effective dean but also continues to teach a class every semester and works as an active researcher, Adams said.

“He has an open door policy and emulates personally the mission of UA’s graduate school to be a student-friendly, student-centered graduate school,” Adams said.

As dean, Francko oversees more than 100 graduate degree programs and works to advocate for graduate education on and off campus.

“We are well on the way to becoming one of the preeminent student-centered graduate schools in the Southeast, a destination school of choice for the best and brightest graduate students across the U.S. and internationally and are now considered one of the nation’s leaders among the 50 flagship university campuses in creating a welcoming and inclusive graduate student community,” Francko said. “The future of UA’s graduate programs, like the University as a whole, is virtually unlimited.”