Monthly Archives: December 2016

UN Internship Opportunity

All current GSAS student look at this opportunity from the UN.

Deadline: ASAP  |  Start Date: January 2017

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The UN DPI- NGO Relations section is looking for interns for their office starting in January for 6 months full-time. The internship process at the UN requires that a student must be in his/her senior year of undergraduate studies or in a Master’s programme or above.

This dept at the UN is specifically looking for someone who has strong writing, research and computer skills. They will consider specifically Fordham students for this opportunity- Fordham candidates will be forwarded to UN directly for consideration.

If you want to be considered for this opportunity, please send an email to: impactinitiativefordham@gmail.com as soon as possible and include your cover letter saying why you are qualified and resume.

For more info about Fordham/UN:
http://www.fordham.edu/info/21334/programs_and_events/5158/united_nations

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Filed under Fellowships and Grants, Graduate Students, New York/Fordham Area, Professional Development

The Faulty Memory of Nostalgia

The December holiday season is steeped in nostalgia, whether we’re singing about sleigh bells ringing and roasting chestnuts over an open fire or reflecting back on past years as we look ahead to a new one. We constantly reminisce about a past that probably did not happen quite as we remember it. This fond, if flawed, recollection of the past is a constant presence in academia, from looking back at the good old days (remember when all Ph.D. graduates could get professorial jobs?) to invoking academic tradition to discourage innovation (the dissertation has always looked like this; why change it?).

This inaccurate recollection of the past of academia and how it can hinder the transition to a new model of doctoral education were two of the main topics under discussion at the most recent meeting of the “‘Living Humanities’ PhD for the 21st Century” project. Entitled “Revitalize Learning Outcomes,” this meeting featured guest speaker Sidonie Smith, Mary Fair Croushore Professor of the Humanities at the University of Michigan and the author of Manifesto for the Humanities: Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times (available open-access from University of Michigan Press).

There are many exciting developments happening in higher education in this digital age. In her presentation, Smith discussed the use of new media for scholarly communication, shifting knowledge structures that focus as much on collaboration as on individual research, and a distributed university that has graduate students working not only with one or two faculty members at their own institutions, but also faculty and fellow students at institutions around the world.

But alongside these steps towards a more digital, collaborative model for higher education, there is also resistance to change. Smith explained how these changes could be misunderstood by faculty members, who sometimes perceive projects that use this new model as a Ph.D. “lite,” as opposed to a Ph.D. based on the more traditional formats they are accustomed to – a single student writing a proto-monograph with the assistance of a select committee of faculty members. With their students’ best interests in mind, some faculty advisers fear that making changes to the doctoral degree or dissertation can harm candidates’ prospects on the academic job market, rendering them less able to compete with their peers. Addressing these concerns, Smith is very direct – if we stick to the twentieth-century model of graduate education, we are actually disadvantaging our students, as these normative standards do not assure academic excellence.

Not only are these so-called normative standards not a guarantee for excellence, but they have also not always been the norm for doctoral education. As I said, nostalgia can give a flawed perspective of the past that does not match the historical reality. For instance, one professor from English highlighted that the current gold standard for the dissertation in the field, a four-chapter proto-monograph, was not always the only option. Going back to the 1960s and 70s, he noted the accepted alternatives of the critical edition of a neglected text or the three-chapter dissertation. If dissertation structures have changed before, can they not do so again? In the same vein, another professor noted that our concept of the academic tradition is not as fixed as we would like to believe, but instead is made up of many subtle, continuous changes over time.

With so many avenues available for doctoral students and faculty in the humanities to create innovative projects and take research beyond the boundaries of the university, we need to take a hard look at the traditions that we cling to. So as we immerse ourselves in the holiday season and prepare to face 2017, let’s try to set aside our nostalgia about the academia of yesteryear.

To read more about the “Revitalize Learning Outcomes” planning theme, see its description on the website for “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century.” If you want to learn more about the meeting itself, read the full discussion in the official minutes. For the reading material for this meeting, see Sidonie Smith’s Manifesto for the Humanities: Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times.   If you want to learn more about the meeting itself, read the full discussion in the official minutes.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Mentoring

The following post is a response/reflection to the Third Meeting of NEH Project on The Living Humanities PhD in the 21st Century, “Ensure Access and Inclusion.” For an overview of the meeting see the minutes here or read through our overview posts here and here

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As we reexamine the reality and the possibilities associated with the Humanities Ph.D., the relationship between mentor and mentee should be central to our considerations.

While it is generally accepted that mentoring is integral to the experience of graduate students, greater clarity about the purpose – or purposes – of mentoring is needed.

  • Why is this relationship integral to the students, not just academically, but professionally and personally?
  • What do we hope to accomplish as a result of mentoring?
  • What are successful mentoring outcomes?

This seems obvious in the sense that institutionally successful mentoring culminates in the awarding of a degree. It is likely that many mentees share this perspective. But perhaps it is important to reexamine the various aspects of the student experience a successful mentor may affect. As we look at the humanities today it becomes obvious that the awarding a degree is not automatically equating to a tenure-track job, or even a satisfactory academic experience. A mentor is largely a guiding force toward the Ph.D., but a successful relationship and a lauded mentor often engage farther.

On November 15th, the “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century” group tackled the theme of “access and inclusion”— a theme that we cannot untangle from the issue of mentoring, especially considering retention and completion rates. If we look to diversify higher education at the doctoral level, it must also be our goal to strengthen existing mentoring processes and, if necessary, modify them to support our changing community and academic landscape. To do this, we need to examine the roles that mentors ideally fill.

If other outcomes beyond basic matriculation might also be considered components of successful mentoring, what should they be?  Below is a potential list of mentoring components and associated outcomes:

  • Academic– the mentoring relationship will support the mentee’s advancement toward completion of the degree.
  • Disciplinary– the mentoring relationship will support the mentee’s increasing expertise in a specific discipline as evidenced by advancement through the curriculum as well as participation in discipline-specific events (conferences, conclaves, and webinars).
  • Social– the mentoring relationship will support the mentee’s increasing social integration as evidenced by participation in “extra-curricular” events and the development of a social network. As studies show students in graduate programs feel they lack “community” this aspect seems extremely vital.
  • Professional– the mentoring relationship will support the mentee’s progress in the development of a professional network as evidenced by attendance at recruiting events, a completed CV and the development of a professional network. Professional mentoring and support should not be limited to academic careers, and a successful mentor, if not able to advise on alternative professional outcomes should be able to advise the student where to find them.
  • Ethical – the mentoring relationship will support the mentee’s growing sense of the ethical implications of holding an advanced degree as evidenced by measures specific to a given discipline.
  • Cultural– the mentoring relationship will support the mentee’s understanding of the complex nature (values, practices, norms) of academia and of a particular discipline. This last outcome seems central, especially given the exclusionary history of the development of these cultural norms and practices. Outcome measures seem more elusive.

If we look at this list, it becomes increasingly clear that the mentor serves as a touch point for most aspects of the student experience and that without responsible mentorship students will flounder even more in the uncertain landscape of Higher Ed. We need to better understand how departments (and who in them) are filling these roles. So, how can we as an academic community and institution evaluate and access mentorship across disciplines?

Perhaps the development of a rubric might serve to help broaden how mentoring is evaluated and how a successful mentoring relationship at GSAS is not limited to achieving the degree. This is helpful for the purposes of reporting – it may behoove us to have many dimensions along which mentors and mentees can experience success. A rubric might help with the development of training protocols for mentors, evaluating the effectiveness of mentoring and providing clear expectations for mentees.

  • Steven D’Agustino, Ph.D., Director of Online Learning, Fordham University
  • Dewis Shallcross, Director of Student Development, GSAS ‘14

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Helping Students to Navigate through Graduate School: Let’s Talk About Mentorship

This is post two on the “Ensure Access and Inclusion” theme- see part one here!

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Entering graduate school can be a bewildering experience. As well as struggling with the demands of coursework and the expectations of professors, students must also learn the norms of their new environment. For some, this process is a necessary component of preparing for a doctoral degree. For others, it feels needlessly punitive and even like a form of hazing.

The question of how to welcome new students into the community of the graduate school and into individual departments was a central component of the meeting on Access and Inclusion, especially for the group focusing on student retention and support. The discussion in this group centered on one possibility for helping students acclimatize to the department – mentorships between students and faculty members. A productive mentorship can open a window into departmental culture and practices for students, as well as fostering the passion for the subject that prompted them to enter graduate school in the first place. Ideally, faculty mentors could not only provide valuable resources to their mentees and increase their confidence, but also develop a relationship with them that is goes beyond the requirements for the degree.

These ideal mentorships can be an asset for a department, but they depend on one key element: the mentor him or herself.

While many graduate students develop beneficial mentorships with faculty members, some are less lucky. Different faculty members can have different expectations and rules for their relationships with students, which may be implicit, and students can also feel apprehensive approaching their mentors with their own expectations and issues. Stories of less-than-ideal relationships between faculty and students often circulate within departments, and students are subtly discouraged from pursuing relationships that could prove problematic.

Departments can help students create fruitful mentorships by encouraging them to develop relationships with several faculty members to evaluate them as possible mentors, but why should the burden of developing a mentorship fall entirely on the student? Drawing on their own experiences as current and former graduate students, meeting participants agreed that approaching faculty members can be a daunting task, especially for students who don’t feel they fit into the culture of the department.

Instead, why not ask students what they expect from a mentorship, and provide guidelines for both mentees and mentors that draw on? Departments might also consider building other forms of mentorship that could help bring students into their community. For instance, students may feel more confident sharing their problems with peers who are further along in their studies. Departments can also introduce students to their culture and expectations through a foundation class, such as the Graduate Proseminar in Fordham’s Philosophy department.

Mentorships can help students become happier and more confident members of the graduate school community. To reap these benefits, however, we have to consider the burden that we place on students to create strong relationships with mentors as well as the hidden expectations on both sides that can undermine these relationships.

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To read more about the “Access and Inclusion” planning theme (including a recommended reading list), see its description on the website for “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century.” If you want to learn more about the meeting itself, read the full discussion in the official minutes.

  • Samantha Sabalis, Graduate Assistant, NEH/GSAS Grant, The “Living Humanities” Ph.D. for the 21st Century

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Filed under "Living Humanities" Ph.D., Eva Badowska, GSAS Dean, Higher Ed, NEH

Opening the Gates: Ensuring Access and Inclusion During the Admission Process

On Tuesday, November 15th, “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century” held its second meeting, focusing on the planning theme of “Ensure Access and Inclusion.” For this meeting, the group was split into two parts, which will be addressed in two different blog posts (see part two here). In this post, I focus on the first group’s discussion on admissions, considering how GSAS programs in the humanities can attract and admit under-represented groups during the admissions process. A subsequent post will focus on the second group’s discussion on retention, mentoring, and student support for under-represented groups once they are attending the GSAS programs in the humanities.

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So what are these “under-represented groups” at Fordham? This term includes but is not limited to prospective and current students who are members of racial and ethnic minority communities, members of faiths other than Christianity, members of LGBTQ communities, and/or members of economically and academically disadvantaged communities. Meeting participants considered how these groups are not mutually exclusive and how diversity goes beyond racial differences, often including hidden identifiers that students may not be comfortable revealing.

And how can humanities programs in the GSAS attract members from these under-represented groups? The discussion focused on three elements: advertising the programs to create a more diverse applicant pool, rethinking how we evaluate applications to potentially create a more diverse student body, and above all considering the application process from the applicant’s point of view. Group members suggested advertising Fordham’s programs to promising applicants from under-represented groups by working more intensely with institutions in the neighborhoods around our campuses in the Bronx and Manhattan and using faculty contacts to forge links with institutions catering primarily to communities not well-represented at Fordham, such as historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

As well as reaching out to these communities, group members considered factors that could discourage promising students from applying to graduate school, such as the many costs that prospective students face and the uncertain payoff of a Ph.D. degree in the current academic job market. Applying for a Ph.D. is an expensive proposition, including hefty fees to prepare for and take the GRE test, but even after students are accepted they must reach further into their pockets to pay for moving expenses and the deposit on a new home. To address initial expenses, the group suggested forgiving GRE fees for admitted students and providing advance funding for the transition to start graduate school.

Mitigating these costs still leaves the price of the degree itself. The cost of attending a Ph.D. program must be balanced with the rewards at its conclusion – if students do not want traditional academic jobs or feel that the market is too competitive, they see no point to even applying. To address these perceptions of limited or lackluster job prospects, the group proposed showcasing a wider range of career paths for Ph.D. graduates on the university website that could appeal to a broader group of applicants.

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But encouraging promising students to apply is only half the battle; they must also be admitted into Fordham’s programs. The group confronted current markers of privilege in evaluating graduate applications and how to acknowledge them. For instance, they noted that committees rely heavily on the GRE General test as a marker for student potential, but higher scores on this test have been linked with higher socio-economic status. As GRE scores are used for university ratings, the group found it impractical to get rid of the test entirely. Instead, they suggested training admissions committees about its limitations as a marker of academic potential to encourage them to take a more holistic view of each student’s application. The group then considered looking at applications without any clues to the applicant’s identity. One innovative suggestion focused on a technique called Blind Hiring, pioneered in Silicon Valley, which strips all identity markers from application materials and has resulted in more diverse and talented hires.

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To read more about this planning theme (including a recommended reading list), see its description on the website for “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century.”

  • Samantha Sabalis, Graduate Assistant, NEH/GSAS Grant, The “Living Humanities” Ph.D. for the 21st Century

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