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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.