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Brandeis revises the doctorate. training in humanities

Most doctoral students will not end up securing a tenure-track faculty position because there are far more potential assistant professors than available positions. Brandeis University is one of a growing number of institutions to face this reality head-on. He encouraged graduate students, faculty members, and academic programs in the humanities and social sciences to complete the traditional doctorate. training with skills development and experiences that are not centered on faculty work. Some departments have also adopted major curriculum reforms.

Much of this work has been part of Brandeis’ connected Ph.D. initiative, which is now three years old. The program was launched with a four-year, $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For students, the program funds professional development experiences, including scholarships (something like paid internships) on campus or at external locations identified by the candidate. Past scholarships – some of which have led to permanent jobs or other lasting relationships for the student – ​​include those from Brandeis’s Center for Teaching and Learning, Brandeis University Press, Brandeis’s Educational Justice Initiative, the International Institute of New England , the Society for Cultural Anthropology, the National Women’s Law Center, and Boston Public Schools.

Anthony Lipscomb, Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern and Judaic studies and one of two students who received a connected doctorate. funding to work with Brandeis University Press, is now the full-time press coordinator, a position offered to him after his fellowship. He said he was initially interested in a press fellowship because of his previous experience as a research assistant on faculty publishing projects and a general desire to diversify his “perspectives” in light of the difficult faculty labor market.

“Looking back, I feel extremely lucky to have had this opportunity,” Lipscomb said this week. “I now work full time with the press while writing my thesis. Where does this road lead, who knows? Academic publishing is important work, a partnership between publishers and scholars to shape fields of knowledge. I see myself flourishing in this company on both sides of this partnership.

Sue Ramin, press director, said her operation has benefited from her membership in the Connected Ph.D. program, too. Although doctoral studies are not a prerequisite for publishing jobs, she said, graduate fellows bring valuable “independence” to their work. It’s nice to have someone who, if they don’t know how to do something, figure out how to do it.

While Brandeis-based scholarships have proven especially convenient during COVID-19, when closures and travel restrictions have limited some community work, external scholarships and engagement have continued throughout the pandemic.

Kaitie Chakoian, Ph.D. social policy candidate, said her 2020 connected doctoral work at the National Women’s Law Center was an outgrowth of an earlier directed research course on gender-based violence taught by Anita Hill that she took at Brandeis. At the center, Chakoian helped conduct a national survey of survivors, contribute to the political platform for the survivors’ agenda, and plan a national summit.

“It was an incredible experience, mainly thanks to the network of leaders, activists and survivors that I was able to work with that summer,” Chakoian said. “I was on committees with frontline workers, executive directors and community organizers from so many groups and organizations that do the real work on the ground supporting survivors and working to end gender-based violence. Now finishing her dissertation, she said: ‘The connections I’ve made working with the Connected Ph.D. helped me frame my research. She also works as a campus policy officer with End Rape on Campus, an organization involved with the Survivors’ Agenda.

Some students have received Connected Ph.D. funding for skills building and accreditation, to enroll in courses and workshops on digital tools, methods, and design outside of Brandeis. The university also now allows Ph.D. students to enroll in additional online courses through the Rabb School of Continuing Studies at Brandeis, namely: Cognitive and Social Psychology of User-Centered Design, Principles of Design and Writing learning experiences for digital environments.

“As teachers, we have an ethical obligation to prepare students for the jobs that are out there, and those jobs are different than they were 10, 20, 30 years ago,” said Wendy Cadge, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Brandis. “It’s just realistic. I mean, if you’re going to invest in a Ph.D. students, you want them to succeed. And I think they need a wide range of skills and the ability to be flexible – and, honestly, an awareness of what the job market is like when they start their PhD. program, so that they can make the decisions that are best for them.

Apart from the connected Ph.D. funding opportunities, Brandeis doctoral students benefit from guaranteed 9-month funding for five years.

Doctorate connected. also provides faculty members with funding for course development and program innovation.

A “bridge” from academics to careers

Jonathan Anjaria, Associate Professor of Anthropology, is involved in many aspects of the Connected Ph.D. program as Brandeis’ first faculty director of professional development for the graduate school. In the latter capacity, Anjaria offers highly personalized career consultations with individual graduate students in the humanities, social sciences and arts (another mentor and other services are available for graduate students in the sciences). It also plans career seminars and conferences and engages with alumni working inside and outside of academia, who also help guide current students down various paths.

Anjaria said recently that “the reason we thought this position was very important was that we wanted to create a bridge, a position that connects academic work that takes place in departments at the university level, and career services and others career support”. Often, he said, students graduate through academic sense and follow an “unspoken rule” of not discussing “practical,” “professional,” or “financial” topics with their immediate faculty mentors, which which hinders their career planning.

“When I meet students, the typical scenario is someone says, ‘Well, I’m in my fifth year, my sixth year of a PhD, and I feel like I’ve been trained to be an expert. in this field. , and I now realize that the chances of me getting a tenure-track job in this field are very slim. I’m really worried that I was only trained for this one thing and not having the ability to get another job,” Anjaria said. “And so a lot of my work is career exploration, to get people out of that mindset. Saying, “Actually, even if you’re in the most humanities-oriented field or whatever, there are a lot of options out there,” including, but not limited to, work of teacher.

These options increase with careful planning, Anjaria continued: “The two graduate tracks are assumed to be the academic tracks. [job] track or a non-academic track, but what I’ve seen is that both tracks actually go through graduate school thinking about jobs versus going to graduate school without thinking about jobs.

Sarah Gable, Ph.D. candidate in history, worked in the provost’s office through Connected Ph.D., researching how undergraduate majors can better align their course offerings with direct learning objectives. She has since moved on to other projects within the Provost’s Office and remains invested in career diversity (she has stated that her interest and involvement in career diversity work predates Connected Ph.D., in part because she worked outside of academia before grad school and now has young children, is unwilling to “bounce” across the country for a series of temporary postdoctoral positions while she is in the job market leading to tenure).

“I’m really passionate because I want to stop people having this really emotional grieving process” in the job market, even though Gable’s own thoughts on the future of faculty have been more “hands-on,” said she declared. “I want people to be prepared and I want people to know – especially with the humanities, where we sort of walk around justifying our existence – that there is value in the doctorate, even if you don’t get into a permanency-work path Your skills and everything you’ve learned is actually needed outside of academia because a lot of people are talking about the issues we’re talking about in the humanities around the world, and not just talk to other academics.”

Brandeis is now working to secure funding for the fellowships to continue even after the Mellon Grant ends in a year. But other elements of his approach to rethinking the doctorate. the training costs little or nothing, and will continue. Example: curriculum reform, which several programs have already approved.

John Burt, president of English, said COVID-19 had sparked discussions in his program about changing the curriculum, in 2020. Studying alumni’s career outcomes was a big part of that effort. The changes, which will be rolled out over the next few years, include asking applicants for admission to share career plans that may include work outside of the traditional faculty stream, expanding a course on writing for academics to cover other types of writing (including grant proposals) and rewriting a pedagogy course to include different types of teaching. Other plans include the addition of a fourth-year internship and the flexibility of the final research project, which means it doesn’t have to be (in Burt’s words) “a proto-book”.

“There are so many features in this project,” he said.

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