Category Archives: Core Working Group

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Full Meeting: June Agenda

This will be the final joint-meeting of both the Core Working Group and Project Steering Committee. Our main objectives this month are to evaluate the May 4 event and then move into critical discussions about our project—discussions that will be incorporated into our white paper.

Below is the meeting agenda:

Full Meeting
Core Working Group and Project Steering Committee
June 6, 2017

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Review of May 4 Event
    • Student and alumni sessions
    • EO lunch
  2. White paper discussion
    • What is working in programs?
    • What does it all mean?
    • What’s next?
  3. Grant next steps and final meeting
    • Working Group: July 11 at 4:00 p.m.

May 4 Event Report

Our May 4 event, Post Grad (Center): Engaging Publics with a Ph.D., was attended by about sixty students and alumni throughout the day. We were pleased with this turnout, especially after speaking with various committee members who noted a surprising drop-off in student attendance at events this entire academic year.

Our check-in and morning panel was in the Segal Theatre at the Graduate Center. We distributed programs and personalized event swag (bound notebooks with event information inscribed on the cover) as our attendees arrived for coffee and a light breakfast. Our event began with an introduction from Provost Joy Connolly who provided an overview of the Next Generation Humanities Ph.D. Planning Grant and the project undertaken by the Graduate Center. We then moved right into our first panel, “Why the Humanities,” which featured three alumni panelists with diverse career paths and trajectories. Stacy Hartman, the Project Director of MLA’s Connected Academics, moderated the session and included some opportunities for audience questions.

Lunch corresponded with our keynote talk. Dr. Fatimah Williams-Castro spoke with students and alumni on making connections and networking. This was the highest attended portion of the day, likely due to both the draw of a “keynote” and the timing of the event to coincide with lunch, which was provided. Student feedback about Dr. Williams-Castro’s talk was particularly positive. We even arranged to have Dr. Williams-Castro return for another, related Career Planning event at the beginning of June: “Discover Your Options.”

While the keynote talk was happening in the Segal Theatre, the Provost, program Executive Officers, and key members of the Core Working Group met to discuss the ideas for curricular change generated thus far during project meetings. The key discussion points included the following:

  1. Career development for a wider range of careers at all stages of doctoral coursework
  2. Alternatives to the monographic dissertation
  3. Internships and other types of service for doctoral students
  4. Expanding mentorship
  5. Collaborative work
  6. Diversifying admissions

Although the EOs did not voice strong enthusiasm for curricular changes, there also was not a sense of resistance. This was the first time that many of the EOs heard any details about the project, so most of their questions focused primarily on specific curricular questions. The primary action item for the EOs is to begin devising professional development modules within their own programs that are geared toward career choices. It’s still unclear whether the faculty have a true awareness about the lack of available tenure-track positions and the actual student placement outside of academia. It’s also become apparent that the faculty need to be made more aware of the work of our institutional offices, such as the Office of Career Planning and Professional Development, the Graduate Center Digital Initiatives, and the Futures Initiative.

After lunch, we directed event attendees down to the Concourse Level for alumni breakout sessions. The sessions were organized primarily around different types of public engagement. The first two panels were “Communicating” and “Making and Supporting Tools”; the second set of panels were “Creating Content” and “Building Programs, Research, and Advocacy.” These afternoon alumni panels each had about three panelists in attendance and one additional alumni connecting via Skype, and they were moderated by graduate students. (For a complete list of panelists, please see our program webpage.) Our moderators guided the discussions so as to emphasize the multitude of pathways and opportunities open to graduates.

We moved back into the Segal Theatre for our final talk of the day. Jason Pedicone, the co-founder and president of the Paideia Institute, gave a talk titled “Beyond the Tenure Track: A Legion of Opportunities.” Dr. Pedicone highlighted the public engagement of his company and shared data regarding the placement of Classics Ph.D.’s across business sectors. In particular, the job placement data incited discussion and curiosity amongst both students and alumni in attendance. Transparency regarding alumni placement is undoubtedly of interest to many seeking careers outside academia.

Dr. Pedicone’s talk led directly into our end-of-day reception. Attendees were encouraged to eat and drink while networking and continuing Next Generation Ph.D. discussions.

While extending gratitude to the various alumni panelist participants, we solicited feedback regarding what they would have liked to have seen during their time as students at the Graduate Center. Much of the alumni feedback lauded the work that the project committee has been doing because of its importance and usefulness for students. Simply seeing examples of types of jobs and careers Ph.D.’s have and could pursue can be eye-opening. Helping students think about careers outside of academia from the very beginning of their graduate training might enable them to accumulate relevant experience prior to entering the job market and thus to have a better sense of a desirable, attainable career path. Above all, those students pursuing “alternative” careers (meaning: everything beyond the academy) need to feel supported. More than one alumnus stated that their own graduate program did not provide support or encouragement for intellectual and professional aspirations that veered from the tenure track. Most of our programs continue to celebrate faculty placements above and beyond job placements in other careers. Events such as this one seek to change the conversation and to help students identify individuals and centers at the Graduate Center who celebrate professional diversity.

Other ideas include items that have come up during our Working Group and Steering Committee meetings: more career panels featuring alumni or other professionals from non-academic careers, funding opportunities for students to work outside academia (especially in professions that acknowledge the benefits of advanced degrees, e.g., libraries, museums, foundations, and NGOs), and organizing workshops and courses around such topics as academic publishing and networking (which would benefit both those seeking careers inside and outside academia).

One alumni who is a seasoned learning technologist argued that the Graduate Center should be doing more to help academics become digitally savvy: “So long as the university model is part of this equation of preparing tomorrow’s knowledge workers, academics—especially humanities academics who have some training that could help here—are able to participate in being positive agents of change either within the academy in tenure-track positions or outside the academy.”

For more insight about our event, see what our participants had to say on Twitter by following our hashtag: #PostGC2017.

Working Group: May Agenda

We’re just a couple days out from our May 4 event, Post Grad (Center): Engaging Public with a PhD. (See the schedule on our event page.) At our meeting this afternoon, we will need to finalize details for the event and begin discussions about the project white paper.

Core Working Group Meeting
May 2, 2017

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Final details about May 4 Event
  2. Discussion about E.O. Lunch during May 4 Event
  3. Graduate Career Consortium Meeting in Houston, TX, Tuesday through Friday, June 27-30, 2017
  4. Overview of white paper (report of activities)
    • NEH requirements regarding final performance report for challenge grants
    • Plan for disseminating white paper (inc. submission to NEH website)
    •  Deadline
      • Self-imposed deadline in our proposal timeline: July 11 meeting
      • NEH official deadline: 90 days after the grant ends
  5. Brainstorm white paper content

Working Group: March Report

Overview

The majority of this Core Working Group meeting focused on discussions around the development and implementation of internships for graduate students. We had an alumna of the Graduate Center’s Political Science MA Program join our Core Working Group, which added greatly to our conversations about creating networks connecting alums to the GC.

Response to Curricular Review and Innovations from the Provost

The meeting began with an overview of the Provost-led discussion from last week’s meeting of the Steering Committee. Core Working Group members were encouraged to respond to the takeaways.

One committee member noted that there’s undoubtedly resistance to the proposed changes, likely because individual writing is being valued more than collaborative work. There is also resistance to on the job training being done outside of the classroom. Another committee member expressed a belief that the most effective tool for implementing new policies is changing opinions. Perhaps the best thing to do now is to begin acting upon our ideas. We need to put the policy into action and provide an example of its implementation in order to gain support from faculty members and students. When ideas stay in the abstract, people can more easily doubt the rigor and benefit of proposed changes.

Discussion about Internships

The third planning theme of our project is partnerships. We want to create more opportunities for students to experience work from a range of fields while still in graduate school, and we want to establish databases and practices for connecting students to both external organizations and alumni.

One idea is to reach out to those students at the GC who’ve already done internships outside of academia.

Another suggestion that interested multiple committee members is to focus on the skills-building perspective of internships. There’s an assumption that internships are usually focused on one task. Many internships and non-academic careers require some basic, ubiquitous skills, such as budgeting, event management, and working collaboratively. These are skills worth learning. Praxis classes have already been working on skill building.

There are opportunities for the Graduate Center to partner with the Social Science Research Council (SSRC). The SSRC is a scholarly environment and already has a structure in place to bring on young people and young staff members. Their graduate interns are often short-term hires, and they are given a range of tasks, not just one thing.

Discussion around Implementation

As the conversation shifted from general ideas about internships to a more strategic discussion about their implementation, the Project Leaders posed a few questions for consideration: What’s the output that we’re looking for? What are we trying to create—a road map, or a list of obstacles? What additional components would the individual programs add?

Members of the Core Working Group agreed that we need to lay out the discussion about the training currently offered by the programs in order to have a better perspective about broader opportunities. For example, there’s currently a name change going on in the Theatre Program. (They are expanding to be called Theatre and Performance.) One committee member thinks that this expansive thinking can be extrapolated and brought to the other programs as a possible way to spin the resistance.

One of our alumni members expressed a contempt for teaching at the CUNY campuses while at the Graduate Center. The alum desired a more collaborative approach to pedagogy. She’s concerned about how much acknowledgement there is in programs about shrinking academic paths. Is there discussion regarding the value of having people with degrees in the world? Best strategies need to be laid out for students.

There was ample discussion about student funding and the possibility of retooling budget allocations. One committee member asked if the institution could afford to buy students out of their teaching fellowships. It doesn’t seem like a huge ask to have 5 or 6 students a year working outside of the building. Some of the constituent CUNY colleges have had to turn away teaching fellows because there is a limit to the number of open classes.

There’s also some opportunity for fellowships within the various project and student centers represented by our various committee members. For example, three different fellowships are offered through the Digital Initiatives, who uses a standard set of procedures: (1) orientation process – politics of institution, (2) shared code of conduct, (3) peer to peer mentoring, (4) self-evaluation / strengths, and (5) identify areas of growth (personal, academic, program). Similar procedures could be employed by other centers. However, it is important to acknowledge that not every office has the same caliber of program. Procedural changes for fellowships will take time. Also, sometimes the richer the caliber of experience is dependent on what management staff and student employees need.

One suggestion that has come up repeatedly is the desire to front-load a WAC (Writing across the Curriculum)-like internship in the second year of doctoral study. Holding off on WAC fellowships until the fifth year curtails students’ professional development.

Moving Forward

At the end of our meeting, we briefly discussed how to deal with our lack of student involvement in this planning grant process. The agreed-upon solution will be to go back to the DSC and ask for another round of recommendations. Students should be assured that the project requires a low level of commitment from them.

The next month will be spent finalizing plans for our May 4 event.

Working Group: March Agenda

During our upcoming meeting of the Core Working Group, we hope to make some substantial headway in our discussions on both alumni data collection and building alumni and employee partnerships. This will be the last discussion-oriented meeting of this project. Our Town Hall event, which we’ve named Post Grad (Center): Engaging Publics with a PhD (see our January meeting report for more details), will be held on May 4. Our final committee meetings in May, June, and July will be used to draft, comment on, and edit a white paper and evaluation plan for implementing project ideas.

Here is the agenda for the upcoming meeting:

Core Working Group Meeting
March 7, 2017

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Summary of January 30th Project Directors’ Meeting
  2. Review of last week’s Steering Committee Meeting conversation
    • New alumni committee members
    • Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement
    • Curricular review and innovations from Provost Joy Connolly
    • Planning for the May 4th event
  3. Recommendations and strategies around alumni data collection
    • Streamline communications between programs and administrative offices
    • Metrics for assessing effectiveness of future curricular changes
    • Launch of an alumni mentoring database
  4. Recommendations and strategies around partnerships
    • Best practices for connecting with external organizations
    • Launch of an employer network
  5. Graduate Career Consortium Meeting in Houston, TX, Tuesday through Friday, June 27-30, 2017

Working Group: January Report

Overview

The Core Working Group used our January meeting to make headway in planning the May 4 Town Hall event.

Event Proposal

As outlined in our grant project proposal, the May event (under the working title Town Hall Meeting on Careers for Humanists) is an opportunity to encourage discussions between faculty, students, and alumni about possible career paths for humanities PhDs.

The event was conceived as an extension of an event hosted by the Office of Career Planning and Professional Development in December 2015. That event, called “Post Grad (Center): Putting Your Graduate Skills and Training to Work,” included twenty alumni from across the humanities and social sciences. These Graduate Center alums met and networked with approximately sixty students who attended the event.

Event Planning

The title for our May 4 event will be “Post Grad (Center): Engaging Publics with a PhD. Building off of the December 2015 event, we will bring together university scholars and PhD professionals outside academe, Graduate Center students, faculty, and alumni for panel discussions, breakout sessions, and a keynote address. We want everyone in attendance to join in the efforts of The New PhD: A Renaissance of Public Engagement to reimagine the possibilities opened up by doctoral study in the humanities and related disciplines and to help us give shape to a new PhD for the work of the next generation.

Following coffee and registration, our morning session will be a curated panel of scholars from a range of professional backgrounds. The panel will be centered around the notion that there are countless ways from both within and outside academia to continue one’s scholarly and research interests after graduation.

Attendees will break off into two groups for lunch. Students and alumni will participate in facilitated roundtable networking. Meanwhile, faculty members and program Executive Officers will participate in a facilitated discussion around the ideas generated during our monthly project meetings. We will discuss the cross-disciplinary initiatives that we have been developing to integrate professional development for public-sphere humanities into existing curricula. The goal of the grant has been to produce concrete plans that will transform the humanities PhD to meet the labor demands of the twenty-first century—preparing students for careers outside as well as inside academe—and we hope to win the support of Graduate Center faculty in order to put these plans into action.

During the afternoon, we hope to offer an array of breakout panel sessions on a range of topics related to careers for humanists, such as public service, journalism, and NGOs. There will also be a keynote talk prior to a reception during which participants can continue to network and discuss the day’s proceedings.

Moving Forward

With a tentative agenda in place, our project leaders and committee members can begin extending targeted invitations to alumni and guest speakers.

The next project meeting will bring together the Steering Committee to discuss ideas for developing an alumni mentoring database and to continue plans for this May 4 event.

Working Group: January Agenda

Although we’re excited to continue the conversations about data that we started during our December meeting (see meeting report here), our meeting this afternoon will focus almost entirely on our May 4 event because we need to solidify our plans so that we can begin contacting prospective participants.

Core Working Group
January 17, 2017

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Plans for May 4 event: Town Hall Meeting on Careers in the Humanities
    • Event title
    • Event structure
    • Event participants, inc. potential keynote speakers
  2. May 4 event publicity and invitations

Full Meeting: December Report

Overview

This was the first full meeting of both the Core Working Group and Project Steering Committee. In this joint-session, we wanted to summarize the curricular changes that we thoroughly discussed in our previous meetings and then jump into our discussions about current and desirable data collection practices.

Discussion of Proposed Curricular Changes

The group began by examining a summary document of ideas for curricular changes that were generated during our past months’ meetings. The ideas have been divided into the categories that follow below.

We want continued conversations that might actually be useful and produce changes that are feasible. The goal of all curricular changes is to add additional opportunities without adding any additional time to degree.

The generated document will be what we move forward with for curricular changes pending any possibility for future implementation.

(1) Career/professional development modules

The English Program’s spring Intro to Doctoral Studies class will pilot a combination of career and professional development modules. The goal is to ground discussions of non-academic careers. The module will hopefully address the concern of faculty members who feel underprepared or unqualified to teach about careers that are outside of their own experience. Such courses are already overburdened by articulating examination requirements and program expectations. The modules could also sign-post various offices and centers at the Graduate Center in order to help promote the activities that they are already doing.

Another possibility will be to cull first-year working hours for a professional development free-floating workshop. Students could be given a menu of programs to choose from. The idea has already been enthusiastically received by a majority of the humanities EOs. One key concern while developing this workshop is that it assumes that the majority of students are on a Graduate Teaching Fellowship. How can we not show prejudice against students who have different fellowships?

During our discussion, it was asked if we could find a way for interested students to participate in another program’s professional development? This would require each program to distinguish between those events that are localized within the program and those that should be interdisciplinary.

(2) Alternatives to the monographic dissertation

Suggestions regarding alternatives to the monographic dissertation are perhaps more challenging and require implementation from the individual programs. But, making such changes would put us in step with a national conversation about the dissertation.

The dissertation is not a unified concept; it varies greatly across disciplines and time. Is it a practice vehicle for academic writing? Is it evidence of a research practice? The institution needs to consider what the dissertation is across the humanities. There is a need for coherent guidelines outlining the required components of such a project that includes elements like sustainability and thinking about audience accessibility. The library is currently involved in working with students and advisors to construct data sets and present their work publicly based on current and future interests of working with that data. Expectations for longevity need to match formats.

Next steps might be:

  • Resuscitating the digital dissertation group.
  • Working on a program by program level to look at comparable institutions with policies already in place for proposal, execution, and evaluations phases.
  • Looking internationally (at places such as the U.K., Australia, and Canada) for how to address alternatives to the monographic dissertation, such as the incorporation of a practical component.

(3) Internships

There are semi-structured internship opportunities available during the summer. We might be able to take all of the students who have participated in such projects to form a cohort and organize a larger event (or smaller events within each program) in order to inform other students about larger opportunities available to them.

Most of these institutions who offer such internships have an underlying goal of how to make their current projects more public, whether through blogging or catalog-writing. This speaks to a key concern in the Working Group about addressing a wider audience. How do you take the theoretical information and communicate it to the public?

(4) Expanding mentorship

We continue to ask: How do we expand our alumni engagement with students in productive and organized ways?

Look at Current GC Alumni Data

We shifted to discussions of our second planning theme, data: collecting and publicly disseminating data about retention rates and student post-doctoral career paths.

We had two graduate students come to speak about and share the alumni data that currently exists as part of an internal study conducted by Institutional Research (IR). The study began in the spring of 2015 in reaction to an extremely low alumni survey response rate. IR first contacted programs to find out what data they had on their alums. The researchers then began to discover alumni information through web searches, institutional pages, and LinkedIn. The study has tracked 90% of GC graduates between 2003 and 2014. The remaining alums that are undiscoverable (about 10%) are mostly presumed to be international students who returned to their country of origin.

Lots of data exists, but it is yet unclear how the data should be aggregated.

The researchers created an executive summary of the data in order to demonstrate some possible things that can be expressed with the alumni data that exists.
We came up with a brief list of questions that we hope the data can answer. We’re particularly interested in looking across years in order to recognize trends relevant to our project:

  • A comparison of numbers between alums working inside and outside academia.
  • What happens to ABDs and/or other students who are leaving programs before completing the dissertation?
  • How can we take into account that decreasing enrollment numbers at the institutional-level might be affecting data?

Other things that have been considered include: Who is the audience for this kind of data? What can the data be used for by people within the institution?

According to the researchers, we don’t currently have the infrastructure to continue tracking data as alumni change positions.

Discussion of Data Collection Practices

The Project Leaders outlined three key issues for us to address:

  • What can we do to better support programs in keeping data? What can we do to make this kind of tracking easier?
  • Is this something that we need to ask students about when they enter the program? Should we ask students what they intend or hope to do with their degree? How do we measure students’ intentionality and then discover if we are meeting their expectations? Should this data be shared with incoming students?
  • Can we create a better process for alumni to report their information or status with us? Both quantitative and qualitative data results are interesting. It is a shared responsibility across the institution. There’s also a lot of room for cross-disciplinary force.

We need some standard on how programs are gathering and sharing alumni data. It was suggested that the administration require programs to keep track of alumni information.

Sharing information on program websites seems to be a successful way of keeping track of the information. Thus, we need to highlight those programs that are already doing well at collecting and publishing data. The Theatre Program has been identified as one humanities program that is particularly good about collecting and publishing alumni data. Could we intervene at the APO meeting to highlight processes that are effective?

If we’re trying to get programs to contribute to data collection, we need to outline a series of questions that the numbers actually answer. What do we know? What other things might we want to know? Can we formulate the findings as prose rather than as data only? What questions might more articulated data collection help us answer?

One committee member suggested that the Graduate Center create a better alumni feature on the institution’s website.

An ongoing question we’ve had is: Can we work backwards from our data to craft professional development support? We might also consider both how our data is limited by what our programs have already articulated as job possibilities and how we might account for serendipitous career outcomes.

Beginning Plans for May 4 Event

We turned to opening discussions of the May 4 event, which has been tentatively titled as a Town Hall Meeting on Careers in the Humanities. The ultimate goal of the event will be to foster communication between alumni, students, and faculty.

Moving Forward

The next project meeting is scheduled for mid-January. At that meeting, the Core Working Group will finalize recommendations for data collection practices. This meeting will also serve as the transition from our second planning theme (data) to our third (partnerships). We will begin developing recommendations and strategies for building, fostering, and maintaining better partnerships with both alumni and employers.