Tag Archives: skills

css.php

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: October Report

Overview

The main goal of the Core Working Group during its October meeting was to finalize curricular changes suggestions for sharing with a wider faculty audience in various Graduate Center humanities Ph.D. programs. The meeting served as a continuation of the August discussion on curricular changes, as well as a response and synthesis of the inaugural September meeting of the Project Steering Committee.

Discussions centered on two main topics: (1) rethinking the dissertation and (2) creating alternative programmatic pathways.

Rethinking the Dissertation

In order to rethink the possibilities of what a dissertation in the humanities might be, the Working Group first set out to analyze the purpose of the dissertation. A key question that arose during discussion was the relationship between the dissertation and alt-ac careers: How much do (non-academic) employers care about the dissertation? Is the research process, subject matter, form, content, or mere completion of the dissertation most important for obtaining and advancing in alternative careers? Multiple committee members commented upon the credibility that having a Ph.D. provides even if no one knows the form or content of the dissertation itself.

The discussion then turned to alternatives to the dissertation monograph. Within many humanities disciplines, the possibility of curating some type of exhibition and then submitting an accompanying essay seems to be a likely monographic dissertation alternative. For students interested in such projects, a practical project might better align with particular non-academic careers because it demonstrates field-specific abilities.

The main dissertation alternative discussed was the creation of digital projects. One committee member commented upon the flexibility already in place within some Graduate Center Ph.D. programs for digital projects, although evaluation criteria for such projects is still unclear, as is the digital dissertation archival process. Specific, digital components of this new dissertation have yet to be identified, although committee members generally agreed that the most meaningful components of any dissertation are those which demonstrate career-oriented skill sets.

One major concern that the planning committees will need to address is faculty discomfort in accepting dissertations without print components.

Although the possibility of alumni sitting on dissertation committees was discussed, most committee members felt that such a change would be additive. While some alt-ac participation might be beneficial and add something of value in specific circumstances (notably the inclusion of musicians within the Music Program), there is no clear preparation for such inclusion.

Creating Alternative Programmatic Pathways

The second topic of discussion for the Core Working Group was alternative programmatic pathways. Various committee members addressed pre-existing conditions at place in the Graduate Center and higher education at-large that hinder progress towards the development of non-academic skill sets. Two major hurdles are (1) the ongoing myth perpetuated by students and professors alike that all current students will have future academic careers and (2) the fact that students come mostly into contact with academics and don’t know anything else. Along with these hurdles, the academic career-path is perpetuated by many humanities courses that use a final seminar paper as the only assignment.

One suggestion under serious consideration was the creation of a public humanities certificate program, which, in addition to core coursework centered on the public humanities and alternative career paths, could have an internship component. While there is some enthusiastic support for this idea amongst a few committee members, others fear that all certificate programs at the Graduate Center are additive, meaning that the program would add additional requirements to willing Ph.D. students rather than open up new programmatic pathways for all students. Additionally, the structure of certificate programs at the Graduate Center is already problematic as most rely on multiple doctoral programs for course offerings and are therefore under serious threat due to ongoing budget cuts.

Spurred on by the discussion regarding the creation of a public humanities certificate program, the conversation turned to ways of embedding the same ideas into every doctoral program, such as by pushing for a professional development module as part of every first year class. The first step in initiating this would be to gather course syllabi from each program in order to see what information they already present about professional development.

Moving Forward

Ultimately, though, it’s yet unclear how such changes could be incentivized for individual programs.

In moving forward, it’s become apparent that any changes to curriculum will require support from a network of people. The committee will need to make the argument to programs that providing students with reengineered training will benefit both them and their students.

Working Group: August Agenda

Yesterday was the first meeting for “The New PhD: A Renaissance of Public Education.” This inaugural meeting of the Core Working Group covered some general housekeeping and project overview, as well as beginning discussions regarding our first planning theme: curriculum. We will create another update post shortly with some details from our discussion.

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

Core Working Group Meeting
August 30, 2016

Meeting Agenda:
  1. Outline project priorities
  2. Planning themes: curriculum, data, partnerships
  3. Set meeting schedule for the academic year
  4. Discuss best practices for sharing working documents, etc.
    • Platform possibilities: Dropbox, Google Docs, Commons, Basecamp, Slack
  5. Discuss inclusion of individuals on Project Steering Committee
  6. Discuss possible curricular changes to doctoral programs
    • Using qualifying exams to develop real world skills
    • Embedding elements of GCDI Praxis course into early stages of doctoral coursework
    • Changes to the form and structure of the dissertation
    • Receiving academic credit for internships, externships, and job shadowing experiences