Category Archives: Project Steering Committee

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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.

Steering Committee: February Report

Overview

The Project Steering Committee’s February meeting addressed feedback from the gathering of Next Gen PhD Project Directors. The meeting also included the Graduate Center’s Provost and a discussion about implementing curricular changes.

Discussion of Takeaways from Project Directors’ Meeting

Our discussion on the takeaways from the Project Directors’ meeting began with committee members identifying potential problems in designing project-based classes. There’s concern that digital projects and assignments organized by a faculty member won’t have the same currency or hold the same weight as independently-produced, individual research. Another committee member expressed that internships aren’t appropriate for students in his program because internships in that particular field aren’t equivalent to graduate-level engagement. Someone else raised the concern that work completed outside of the institution is inherently more difficult for instructors to evaluate.

This, in turn, raised the possibility of assigning someone the task of monitoring standards related to internships. This practice is already implemented in the Clinical Psychology Program. When students enroll in externships, a faculty member is responsible for coordinating the process. The faculty member checks on the appropriateness of the externship by conducting a site visit, talking to the potential supervisor, and creating a contract. Although the overarching process is laid out by the APA, faculty members are directly involved in supervising the process. Additionally, the companies involved benefit from student participation: They can bill for the hours and don’t have to pay the student, which is essentially free labor for them.

There was also some general discussion about how best to facilitate work in a public humanities research lab. The Center for the Humanities already offers some opportunities for students to engage in public humanities, as does the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, although the Segal Center could expand to include more interdisciplinarity. One committee member noted that there is also a public humanities program at work in the city called Humanities New York, which offers potential for future collaboration.

Council of Graduate Schools’ PhD Pathways for Program Improvement

The Council of Graduate Schools has issued an RFP regarding career pathways. The grant would provide funding for the implementation and analysis of surveys to current PhD students and alumni to better understand their career pathways and outcomes. The Graduate Center will be putting together an advisory group, which will be tasked with identifying stakeholders and advising on best strategies to disseminate and use the data collected during the project for program and institutional effectiveness and improvement.

This new project resonates with elements of our current project, especially as it pertains to Humanities students. One important thing to consider will be the difference between incoming and outgoing student expectations and accounting for how these expectations might change.

Discussion with the Provost about Curricular Review and Innovations

The Graduate Center Provost, Joy Connolly, attended our meeting in order to address her office’s current review of Graduate Center curriculum and the possibilities for upcoming innovations.

Some of the takeaways from Dr. Connolly’s talk are as follows:

  • We need more promotion of our activities and participation with the Next Gen PhD to reach potential students
  • We need to build into the current curriculum. We need to create exposure to these ideas in different, existing classes; we need to get faculty to incorporate these ideas.
  • The Provost’s Office will share the results of another curricular reviews conducted by the program Executive Officers, which required them to compare the curricular requirements of the Graduate Center with four other comparable, model institutions.
  • We need to continue to work on incentivizing flexibility.
  • Our biggest challenge will be to invite creative and flexible blue-sky thinking while simultaneously managing costs.

The committee members agreed about the importance of flexibility, especially as it relates to student funding. There was some question as to whether or not there has been a noticeable difference in the career trajectories of students in different funding tiers. Do those with tuition-only funding have to leave earlier? Is that an incentive towards a nonacademic career? One committee member commented that, in his program at least, those PhD students with tuition-only fellowships have proven much more flexible year after year.

One of our alumni committee members commented that during his time at the Graduate Center everyone kept saying that the job market was bad, but no one ever defined non-traditional pathways. Many students might be interested in fellowships that don’t require teaching undergraduate classes.

One of the major concerns regarding internship enrollment is that it has a knock-down effect in faculty teaching units. The current plan is to think through the issue logistically and the find the money. Faculty hires have been slowed, which has impacted multiple programs. Also, the size of the student body is still changing due to fellowship limitations.

Moving Forward

The next project meeting is scheduled for next week. The meeting will bring together the Core Working Group to continue our conversation around partnerships and to finalize some decisions for our May 4 event.

Steering Committee: February Agenda

The Project Steering Committee met yesterday afternoon. It was a very productive session and included some new alumni committee members. We will post our meeting notes in the next couple of days, but for now …

Here is the meeting agenda:

Project Steering Committee Meeting
February 27, 2017

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Introductions
  2. Report from the January 30 Project Directors Meeting
  3. Council of Graduate Schools’ PhD career pathways, Jennifer Kobrin
    (Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement)
  4. Curricular review and innovations, Provost Joy Connolly
  5. Planning for the May 4th event

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.

Full Meeting: December Agenda

Our first full meeting of both the Core Working Group and Project Steering Committee will take place tomorrow afternoon. Because the November meeting of the Core Working Group focused largely on wrapping up curricular discussions (see meeting report here), this meeting will be the first to fully address our second planning theme: data.

Our agenda for this meeting will cover both initial discussions and committee recommendations about data collection practices.

Full Meeting
Core Working Group and Project Steering Committee
December 6, 2016

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Presentation and short discussion of proposed curricular changes
  2. Look at current GC alumni data
  3. Discussion of data collection practices
    • Individual doctoral program methods of tracking and reporting data
    • Institution at-large methods of tracking and reporting data
      Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness (Provost’s Office)
      Office of Career Planning and Professional Development
      Institutional Research study of 2003-2014 graduates (spring 2015)
    • Tracking career outcomes for those who leave doctoral programs
    • National conversation about data from CGS, NACE, MLA, AHA
  4. Beginning plans for May 4 event: Town Hall Meeting on Careers in the Humanities

Steering Committee: September Report

Overview

The purpose of the Project Steering Committee’s September meeting was to share notes from the Core Working Group’s first meeting and continue the discussion of possible curricular changes with this larger group.

As the inaugural meeting of the Project Steering Committee, the first portion of the gathering focused on practical aspects of the planning grant. The Graduate Center’s three planning themes were discussed at length, as was the intended relationship between the Core Working Group and the Project Steering Committee. Time was also spent sharing ideas and best practices from other institutions and updates from the NEH and Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) regarding the Next Generation Humanities Ph.D. grant.

However, the majority of the discussion centered on sharing out and discussing possible curricular changes to (humanities) doctoral programs.

Possible Curricular Changes

The discussion began with the question of using qualifying exams to develop real world skills.

The Ph.D. Program in English recently revised its qualifying exam following a survey in which students expressed feelings that the previous exam felt stressful without any clear pay off. As a result, the program re-engineered the exam with a focus on (academic) professionally-oriented tasks such as preparing an annotated bibliography. A committee representative from the English Program admitted that the program’s Executive Committee hadn’t considered incorporating non-academic professional tasks into the exam. Nevertheless, the portfolio exam model is an example of a curricular requirement already at place in a doctoral program that might be reframed in order to interweave academic and non-academic skills.

The Ph.D. Program in Art History has begun such skill development with their Mellon grant for curatorial training. The program has twelve curatorial fellowships, which allow students to take off one year from their Graduate Teaching Fellowships to work in a museum. Although museums are often most likely to choose candidates with prior curatorial experience rather than career academics, the skills that lend themselves to teaching also lend themselves to curatorial roles. Students in the program also complete an exhibition proposal, and the student with the best proposal has an opportunity to bring their exhibition to the James Gallery. Unfortunately, the Art History Program also suffers when ABDs leave the program in order to pursue non-academic careers.

In contrast, one committee member noted that students in the Ph.D. Program in Theatre are often interested in academe because of the scarcity of stable, full-time theatre careers. Nevertheless, practical experience in professional theatre often helps students succeed in securing academic jobs. Those who do seek professional careers in the arts often must compete in an international job market. Key concerns for Theatre Program faculty include being more responsive to students interested in cultural or arts activism and supporting the endeavors of students who participate in their own theatre companies. However, best practices for building these types of practical careers have not been gathered.

Committee members familiar with the Graduate Center’s STEM programs were able to offer some insight into some developments outside of the humanities as well. For instance, the biomed programs have shifted to making their qualifying exam a grant application. Additionally, two students launched a biomed club to figure out what kinds of skill sets can help students succeed in biopharma. Meanwhile, the Ph.D. Programs in Math, Physics, and Computer Science are experimenting with courses in mathematical finance since so many students are interested in that pathway. One problem that many students within science programs face is the fact that many non-academic jobs require lots of writing. This is often a considerable challenge for international students in particular.

Confronting Current Curricular Requirements

The discussion progressed onto the question of developing multiple tracks within each Ph.D. program. Within the History Program, the question of a public history track has been a recent topic of conversation. Such a track could provide students with practical experience. Unfortunately, such experience often requires financial support. There are potentially summer opportunities through various institutions and organizations, such as the Morgan and the Altfest Internship Program, that are supposed to give students this type of experience pre-graduation, but it is unclear whether students who partake in such opportunities share their experiences with their colleagues. Reporting back might help students understand the link between their field of study and non-academic paths and subsequently generate more student interest.

The Graduate Center has a digital Praxis course already in place. The course is built around the idea of getting students to engage with digital methods early on in their graduate study. Perhaps there is a way to get students involved in professional development early on in their graduate study as well.

One hurdle that the committees must face is the problem that Ph.D. programs at the Graduate Center are already requirement heavy. The ultimate goal of the NEH initiative must be to change the programs themselves, not to add additional tasks.

Trimming requirements for doctoral programs would need to be an institution-wide initiative. Faculty buy-in would be imperative to reduce requirements. One idea that came up was the possibility of faculty development grants for developing courses geared towards a more flexible vision of professional development. Some programs have already begun to have conversations about helping students get to the dissertation earlier, but there exists, at least in some places, cultural anxiety about reducing requirements as faculty worry that this is a chance to cut staff.

Moving Forward

Committee members generally agreed that it would be useful to collect and aggregate data regarding graduate career placement. Notably, the percentage of students who pursue alternatives to academic careers is likely to vary widely between programs. Understanding where Ph.D. graduates end up might help the grant committees determine what additional skills students need to build in order to succeed in these settings. The Graduate Center has previously completed a “Linked In” study, and there is a possibility that career outcomes data could be pulled from that report.

Regardless of what careers students peruse, the institution needs to be more flexible with curricular pathways. Early research leads to early degree completion.

Steering Committee: September Agenda

We just finished our first Project Steering Committee meeting. There were lots of ideas regarding possible curricular changes that were brought forward and discussed in-depth. Our next post will detail some of that discussion.

For now, here is a copy of our meeting agenda:

Project Steering Committee Meeting
September 26, 2016

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Outline practical aspects of the grant
    • Planning themes: curriculum, data, partnerships
    • Meeting schedule for the academic year
    • Interactions between Working Group and Project Steering Committee
    • Sharing information
  2. Updates from NEH and CGS
  3. Discuss inclusion of additional committee members
  4. Share ideas and best practices from other institutions
  5. Share and discuss possible curricular changes to doctoral programs
    • Using qualifying exams to develop real world skills
          –
      Define desirable professional skills
    • Embedding elements of GCDI Praxis course into early stages of doctoral coursework
          –
      Identify possibilities of working within programs’ course requirements
          –
      Possibility of a for-credit interdisciplinary humanities professional development course
          –
      Possibility of a three- to five-course humanities professional development certificate program
    • Changes to the form and structure of the dissertation
    • Receiving academic credit for internships, externships, and job shadowing experiences
  6. Building consensus and support among faculty members for any proposed changes