Innovations in Doctoral Education: Building Strong Partnerships between Programs and University Leadership

AHA Session 188
Saturday, January 5, 2019: 10:30 AM-12:00 PM
Stevens C-4 (Hilton Chicago, Lower Level)
Edward Balleisen, Duke University
William Adams, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Ann Ardis, George Mason University
Edward Balleisen, Duke University
Kathleen Canning, Rice University

Session Abstract

We are proposing this roundtable discussion for parallel sessions at both the AHA and the MLA. Participants include two historians, a literature scholar, and a political philosopher. Three of us hold senior leadership positions in our respective universities (Ardis and Balleisen are Vice Provosts; Canning is Dean of the Humanities). One of us (Adams) has served as President of two institutions of higher education, as well as Chair of the National Endowment of the Humanities, where he helped to formulate the Next Generation Grant Program to foster new directions in doctoral training; he now is Senior Fellow position at the Mellon Foundation. Two of us (Ardis and Balleisen) are program directors for NEH Next Generation Implementation Grants.

The Roundtable will focus on the challenges associated with fostering the sort of far-reaching innovation in doctoral education called for over the past 15 years by the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Mellon Foundation – that is, greater diversity in doctoral cohorts; more exposure to collaborative, interdisciplinary research; opportunities to explore digital and public scholarship; integration of quantitative analysis in humanistic research and teaching; experimentation with internships; reconsideration of preliminary examinations; a wider set of possible formats for the dissertation; greater focus on the development of excellent communication skills, through prose and speech; better integration of advising about intellectual pathways and career trajectories.

The reports resulting from these initiatives provide excellent analysis about the state of humanities doctoral training, crucial intellectual trends, and evolving job markets within and outside academia. They lay out compelling new directions that programs and universities might explore. And they have had important cumulative impact. At the same time, the pace of change has proved quite a bit slower than one might have expected, given the degree of consensus across reports and recommendations.

We see this Roundtable as a way for high-level administrators to engage with faculty and graduate students about the state of humanities doctoral education in the early 21st century, with a focus on: how ideas that bubble up from the grass roots can gain traction with university leadership; and how university leaders can best engage faculty in broader efforts at experimentation and reconfiguration of doctoral training.

Participants will reflect on:

  • the obstacles to more rapid transformation of doctoral training;
  • the sorts of arguments that have unlocked resources on their campuses or through national funders;
  • the relative advantages/disadvantages of departmental, division, and university-wide strategies for different aspects of reconfiguring doctoral education; and
  • lessons learned from efforts to enlist faculty and graduate students in reform efforts.

Each participant will offer commentary on the four main themes listed above. We envisage short initial statements and then a conversational format, among the panelists and with the audience.

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