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.
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.
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.