American Museum of Natural History's Richard Gilder Graduate School Receives Full Accreditation main content.

American Museum of Natural History's Richard Gilder Graduate School Receives Full Accreditation

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Historic vote establishes AMNH as first American Museum approved to grant Ph.D. Degrees

The Richard Gilder Graduate School at the American Museum of Natural History—the first Ph.D.-degree granting program at an American museum—has received full accreditation from the New York State Board of Regents which voted in Albany at the Regents' most recent meeting on November 17, 2009.

This historic accreditation awarded by the Regents, for which the Museum applied in the first year it was eligible, constitutes the final step in the formation of the Richard Gilder Graduate School. The American Museum of Natural History first received authorization from the Board of Regents in 2006 to establish a Ph.D.-degree granting program in comparative biology within the Museum and has since admitted two classes of Ph.D. students.

"This has been a historic journey for the Museum with a triumphant conclusion," said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. "The accreditation of the Museum's Richard Gilder Graduate School by the Board of Regents represents both a landmark decision and a strong affirmation of the Museum's scientific and educational leadership."

During 2008-2009, the Museum undertook a comprehensive application process for accreditation, which included a March 2009 visit by a peer review team. The team met with the Dean of the Gilder Graduate School, John J. Flynn, faculty, students, and administrators; examined the facilities and academic, research, and administrative resources; and observed instruction. The team then submitted a report to the New York State Education Department recommending accreditation for five years, without condition. The Board of Regents ratified this recommendation on November 17.

The Museum's Ph.D. program in comparative biology—one of the biological sciences' most exciting and challenging research areas that covers the origins, history, and range of life on Earth—is a natural extension of the Museum's legacy of excellence in field discovery and theoretical advances. The Ph.D. program of the Gilder Graduate School is grounded in the Museum's world-class scientific resources, including its internationally recognized staff of curators and scientists, who serve as faculty; a strong tradition of field science, with scientists embarking on more than 120 field expeditions globally each year; and its world-renowned collections of more than 30 million specimens and cultural artifacts, one of the world's greatest natural history libraries, as well as some of the most advanced, state-of-the-art scientific facilities in the world. The program builds upon and extends the Museum's longstanding graduate training program in partnership with major universities—Columbia University, City University of New York, New York University, and Cornell University. These partnership programs continue at the Museum, now part of the Richard Gilder Graduate School.

The Ph.D. students take classes and undertake research in the graduate school complex on the fifth floor of the historic 77th Street building of the Museum that houses a teaching lab, lecture hall, and a two-story-tall graduate student center and mezzanine with individual student work stations. As part of their training, students conduct independent research including field work around the world.

Following are the current students in the Richard Gilder Graduate School's Ph.D. program in Comparative Biology:
Class 2008

  • Zachary Baldwin (University of Washington)
  • Bryan Falk (Portland State University)
  • Antonia Florio (City College of New York)
  • Sebastian Kvist (bachelor's and master's degrees from Sweden's Gothenburg University, certificate in conservation biology from Lund University, also in Sweden)
  • Shaena Montanari (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

Entering Class 2009

  • John Denton (bachelor's degree from Harvard University, master's degree from Stanford University)
  • Alejandro Grajales (bachelor's and master's degrees from Universidad de los Andes in Colombia)
  • Edward Stanley (University of St. Andrews in Scotland, master's degree from Villanova University)
  • Isabelle Vea (bachelor's and master's degrees from Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, France)

For more information on the Richard Gilder Graduate School, visit

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