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


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

Steering Committee: February Report


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