Regina Vasilatos-Younken, dean of the Graduate School, announces retirement

January 28, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Regina Vasilatos-Younken, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, has announced that she will retire from Penn State on Dec. 31 after 45 years at the University.

Regina Vasilatos-Younken

Regina Vasilatos-Younken, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School, will retire at the end of 2021 after 45 years at Penn State.

IMAGE: Penn State

Vasilatos-Younken has led graduate education at Penn State since 2013, when she was named interim dean, before being appointed to the role permanently in May 2015. Previously, Vasilatos-Younken served as senior associate dean of the Graduate School from 2000 to 2013.

A national search will begin immediately to identify Vasilatos-Younken’s successor.

“Under Jean’s longtime leadership, the Graduate School has become one of the nation’s largest and most highly renowned. Penn State’s graduate student enrollment has increased significantly in size and diversity, and the number and quality of graduate degree programs continues to grow,” said Nick Jones, executive vice president and provost. “We are very grateful for Jean’s commitment to excellence in teaching, research and service over several decades, and we wish her all the best as she embarks on the next chapter in her life.” 

Over the course of her tenure in the Graduate School, Penn State has seen a University-wide increase in graduate applications of approximately 50% and an increase in total enrollments (resident and World Campus) of more than 37%. The Graduate School at Penn State is one of the largest in the nation, with fall enrollments of more than 14,000 students across the University Park, Behrend, Great Valley, Harrisburg and Hershey campuses, as well as online via Penn State’s World Campus. The breadth of graduate degree programs also has expanded to 100 doctoral and more than 200 master’s degree programs during Vasilatos-Younken’s tenure, including a growing portfolio of approximately 95 online professional master’s degrees delivered via the World Campus.

Vasilatos-Younken said Penn State’s world-class graduate faculty, many of whom are nationally and internationally recognized for their scholarship, and the University’s stature as a leader in interdisciplinary research and education, set it apart from other institutions. Penn State has several unique graduate program models to facilitate interdisciplinary study, she added, as well as cross-cutting research institutes.

“When our students complete their advanced degrees, they are well prepared as interdisciplinary leaders who advance knowledge and understanding, drive innovation, and make extraordinary contributions in solving some of society’s most complex problems, and increasingly with a commitment to social justice and equity,” said Vasilatos-Younken. “I could not be prouder than to have served these emerging researchers, scholars and leaders.” 

Under her leadership, the Graduate School has focused on increasing the diversity of the graduate student body. To further this goal, expanded support has been provided to the Graduate School’s Office of Graduate Educational Equity Programs; undergraduate pipeline programs such as the Summer Research Opportunities Program, the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, and a multi-college STEM open house have been prioritized; and funding has been redirected to increase diverse student recruitment, retention and degree completion.

“What I’ll miss most are our students and the daily interactions with an extraordinary group of academic administrators, staff and graduate faculty in the Graduate School, who are truly committed and passionate about our student-centered mission, and tireless in their efforts to seeing that mission realized.”

 — Regina Vasilatos-Younken, vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School

As examples of these funding efforts, the Bunton-Waller Graduate Awards Program, designed to recruit individuals from traditionally underrepresented groups for graduate assistantships, was remodeled to provide more competitive funding packages, and a new scholarship for diverse students, the Dean’s Distinguished Graduate Scholarship, was established that is added to a University Graduate Fellowship (UGF) package for eligible students, helping to yield greater diversity among University Graduate Fellows.

Increasing financial support for graduate assistants and fellows has been a particular point of emphasis for Vasilatos-Younken.

“A major challenge facing graduate education is assuring adequate financial support for our students so they can focus on their education and training,” she said. “A minimum stipend grade has been established, total support packages were enhanced, the Summer Tuition Assistance Program was expanded, and administrative policies revised to better assure stipend adequacy and equity.”

Graduate student assistantship support packages now include full tuition grant-in-aid, stipends that meet or exceed the minimum required, payment of the Student Initiated Fee, summer tuition assistance, and medical, dental and vision insurance premium subsidies.

“These support packages are critical in enabling our graduate students to focus on their educational programs, while developing professional skills as researchers and educators, and meeting their degree requirements,” Vasilatos-Younken said. “The priority of raising graduate student support was further advanced by advocating successfully for funding to significantly raise the stipend value and number of our University Graduate Fellowships, the most prestigious award for recruitment of highly competitive Ph.D. students to Penn State, to levels that are nationally competitive, and with the number of UGFs increased from 80 to 100.”

Other priorities for Vasilatos-Younken have included developing major Graduate School alumni initiatives; supporting technologies to better serve the graduate education community; and improving the overall quality of graduate programs across the University, with a focus on aligning programs’ learning objectives with student career pathways. 

Vasilatos-Younken also is professor of poultry science, endocrine physiology and nutrition in the Department of Animal Science in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences. After earning a bachelor of science degree in animal and pre-veterinary science from the University of Maine, she began her Penn State career in 1976 as a graduate research assistant and earned a research doctorate in animal nutrition in 1982. She joined the faculty as an assistant professor of poultry science in 1983, was awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in 1989, and has been a full professor since 1999. From 1999 to 2000 she served as chair of the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Physiology before embarking on a career spanning more than two decades in the Graduate School.

“What I’ll miss most are our students and the daily interactions with an extraordinary group of academic administrators, staff and graduate faculty in the Graduate School, who are truly committed and passionate about our student-centered mission, and tireless in their efforts to seeing that mission realized,” said Vasilatos-Younken. “Their contributions and support of graduate education at Penn State are immeasurable, and I have been absolutely privileged to work together with them as colleagues and friends.”

Last Updated February 02, 2021