Just today I heard the news that a grad student is jumping ship (heading to the larger and more prestigious Columbia). It's disappointing to me to repeatedly witness folks using our program as a mere stepping stone. We have lost faculty to USC, Columbia, and Yale since I have been attending, and students who have followed them.
Hearing about our most recent loss just reminded me that no matter how hard you work to build a strong program, to work as academic collaborators, inspiring and promoting ideas for research - ultimately, people will opt for their own self-preservation, and jump for the bigger more established ships.
In some circles our program is seen as a cutting-edge program, and lots of people are gaining recognition from being a part of it. I just wish that more people would stick around to see their work through to its final potential.
I guess the main lesson to learn is that academia is really a group of individuals all vying for a position at the "top."
I am not immune to this myself - because of the culture of individualism I have to constantly strategize my own position. Last year when my adviser moved to Columbia I also thought for awhile about moving with her - and in the end my decision to stay in the Program was due to the fact that I would be set back so far in my work towards the PhD that it wasn't worth it. It really had nothing to do with my department.
However, I do feel a sense of loyalty and commitment to the program. Am I alone in this thinking? Should I be thinking more about myself?