President's Biography

    Debra W. Stewart is the president of the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), the leading organization dedicated to the improvement and advancement of graduate education in the U.S. and around the world. CGS’s more than 525 member universities award over 92% of all U.S. doctorates and approximately 78% of all U.S. master’s degrees. CGS currently has more than 50 Canadian and international universities among its membership.


    Stewart came to CGS in July 2000. Under her leadership the Council launched a series of projects designed to strengthen the capacity of member universities to prepare graduate students to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Major initiatives addressing Ph.D. and master’s completion and attrition, research integrity and professional ethics, international collaborations, preparation of future faculty, and new approaches to science master’s education are producing innovative new models to ensure that U.S. graduate education retains its position of global leadership. She has also spearheaded the creation of a public advocacy program that communicates the impact of graduate education to elected officials, corporate leaders, and potential students themselves.


    Prior to coming to the Council, Stewart was Vice Chancellor and Dean of the Graduate School at North Carolina State University. She also served as Interim Chancellor at UNC-Greensboro (1994) and as graduate dean and then vice provost (1988-1998) at N.C. State. During her 12 years in leadership positions in North Carolina, Stewart worked to mobilize stakeholders inside and outside the university to advance university programs. She spearheaded a strategic plan for graduate education at N.C. State that created a framework for interdisciplinary curricula, significantly enhanced financial support for graduate assistants, and solved a long-term problem with a framework for tuition remission in graduate programs.


    Stewart's service to higher education includes leadership roles on the Graduate Record Examination Board, the Council on Research Policy and Graduate Education, the Board of Directors of Oak Ridge Associated Universities, and the Board of Directors of the Council of Graduate Schools. She was a Trustee of the Triangle Center for Advanced Studies and a member the American Council on Education Board. She has served on many boards and committees of the National Academy of Science, including the National Research Council Board on Higher Education and the Workforce, the National Research Council Committee on Educational Paradigms for Homeland Security, the National Research Council Assessment of the Research Doctoral Programs and the Engineering Ethics Center Advisory Committee (NAE), the National Academies Policy and Global Affairs Division Committee, as well as advisory boards for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, and the Migration Policy Institute, Task Force on Immigration and America’s Future. She also serves on the ETS Board of Trustees, the NAFSA Board of Directors, the International Advisory Board of the Freie Universität Berlin and the International Board of the Vienna University of Economics and Business.


    Stewart has written on a wide array of higher education issues. She lectures on higher education, research, and global competitiveness at major universities and education organizations in North America, Australia, the United Kingdom, China, Russia and continental Europe. She has also presented to business, government and foundation boards. She is the author or co-author of numerous scholarly articles on administrative theory and public policy. Her disciplinary research focuses on ethics and managerial decision making. With sustained support from the National Science Foundation, she has conducted research on political attitudes and moral reasoning among public officials in Poland and Russia.


    In November 2007, her leadership in graduate education was recognized by the Université Pierre et Marie Curie—Sorbonne Universités with an honorary doctorate. Her alma mater, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, honored her in October 2008 with the Distinguished Alumna Award. Stewart received her Ph.D. in Political Science from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, her master's degree in government from the University of Maryland, and her B.A. from Marquette University where she majored in philosophy and political science.  


    CGS is the leading source of information, data analysis, and trends in graduate education. Our benchmarking data help member institutions to assess performance in key areas, make informed decisions, and develop plans that are suited to their goals.


    CGS Best Practice initiatives address common challenges in graduate education by supporting institutional innovations and sharing effective practices with the graduate community. Our programs have provided millions of dollars of support for improvement and innovation projects at member institutions.


    As the national advocate for graduate education, CGS serves as a resource for policymakers and others on issues concerning graduate education, research, and scholarship. Based in Washington, DC, the organization provides its members with regular updates and analyses of legislative and regulatory proposals and policies that affect graduate education.
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    CGS is an authority on global trends in graduate education and a leader in the international graduate community. Our resources and meetings on global issues help members internationalize their campuses, develop sustainable collaborations, and prepare their students for a global future.