At the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS), we provide promising scholars a place to hone their skills, deepen their interests and expertise, conduct cutting-edge research in world-class facilities, and work with renowned scholars on campus and across the Boston area. And the world is taking notice.

Under Associate Dean Emily Barman, GRS has experienced steady growth in master’s and PhD admissions over the past few years, including a 21 percent growth in MA, MS, and MFA enrollments in fall 2018, thanks to a concerted initiative to expand awareness of our programs. Dean Barman and her team have also developed new initiatives to better support graduate students. This past year, GRS launched the Graduate Student Affairs Council to hear graduate student perspectives about current student issues and initiatives. And the graduate school developed a resources fair for incoming students to introduce them to resources and groups across campus.

Robust Enrollment Growth

In fall 2018, our MA, MS, and MFA programs enjoyed continued enrollment growth, thanks to a strategic, multi-year effort to expand awareness of our programs. Four hundred and forty-three students accepted their offers of admission for fall 2018, a 21 percent increase over 2017 and a 72 percent increase over 2015. Our PhD programs are also experiencing steady growth. In fall 2018, 256 PhD students matriculated at GRS, a 6 percent increase over the year before and a 35 percent increase over 2015.

Enrollment Growth

Percent increase since 2015


MA/MS/MFA programs


PhD programs

The pool of applicants has grown, with over 800 more MA, MS, and MFA applicants for 2018 (5,168) than 2017 (4,336). This expanded pool has allowed GRS to maintain high standards for admissions. As a result, selectivity has remained steady for four straight years, with between 40% and 43% of applicants gaining admission. PhD selectivity has also remained steady despite the increase in enrollments, with 14% of applicants admitted each of the past three years.

Some programs in particular deserve mention. Professional master’s programs—including in computer science, economics, and statistical practice—increased their enrollment by over a third from fall 2017 to fall 2018. The MFA in Creative Writing program continued to be extremely competitive and selective, with all 18 admitted students (from a pool of 707 applicants) accepting their offers. And the MFA in Playwriting program admitted a new class (which it does every other year), with all five admitted students accepting their offers. Lastly, in fall 2018, the Graduate Program in Religion launched its first class and the anthropology program began accepting archaeological anthropology students.

New Ways to Support Students

The new Graduate Student Affairs Council is already making a difference in the lives of our graduate students, giving them greater access to GRS leadership to have their ideas and concerns heard and to collaborate on initiatives to improve student and academic life. Meanwhile, the inaugural resources fair for incoming students attracted student groups and student support services from across campus.

There have been a number of other new initiatives this past year that are improving the graduate student experience. The BU office of STEM Outreach & Diversity launched a new website, providing information about opportunities for faculty and graduate students to get involved with existing outreach programs, as well as a directory of BU STEM initiatives. And the Office of the Associate Provost for Graduate Affairs at BU and the BU Center for the Humanities (located in BU Arts & Sciences) launched a new Summer Internships for Humanities PhD Students program. Through the program, PhD students undertake paid internships throughout the city of Boston. Kelsey Gustin (history of art & architecture) worked at the Boston Public Library, Rachel Wilson (history) at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Christopher Stokum (American & New England studies) at the Boston Red Sox, and Ewa Matyczyk (history of art & architecture) in the mayor’s office.

Graduate Student Success

  • This fall, MFA in Playwriting recent graduate Alexis Scheer (GRS’19) will debut her play Our Dear Dead Drug Lord, which was developed at the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, in an off-Broadway production.
  • BU Women in Economics organized a very successful two-day conference, WERISE (Women in Economics: Research, Ideas, Solutions, Executions), which brought together leading scholars for a comprehensive overview of research on the status of women in economics to reach a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by women in the profession and to spur ideas for concrete solutions.
  • Work from the group of Chemistry Professor Sean Elliott, led by graduate student Kim Rizzolo, was published in Nature Communications. The work found “hot” intermediates stabilized by a new class of enzyme found widely in bacterial organisms.
  • Earth & Environment first-year PhD student Yasmin Romitti collaborated with the National Academy of Sciences to develop Negative Emissions Technologies and Reliable Sequestration: A Research Agenda, a report that establishes an agenda to assess the benefits, risks, and sustainable scale potential for carbon dioxide removal and sequestration approaches, and increase their commercial viability.
  • English PhD student Nausheen Eusuf, along with Associate Dean of Faculty for the Humanities Karl Kirchwey and Visiting Professor Nicole Sealey, was included in The Best American Poetry 2018—the most prominent annual anthology of contemporary American poetry.