Author Archives: dshallcross

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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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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Humanities Institute Fellowship Opportunity

Current Ph.D.s or recent post-docs look into this fellowship from our partner, The New York Botanical Garden.

Deadline: January 13, 2017

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The Humanities Institute—a research division within the LuEsther T. Mertz Library at the New York Botanical Garden, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—engages an intellectual community of students, fellows, and visiting scholars, whose research focuses on areas of inquiry connecting natural history to the human experience. The Institute creates a forum for stimulating new thinking on subjects that reconnect the sciences and humanities.

The Humanities Institute is pleased to offer a full-time, residential Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship for 2017 for current Ph.D. students or recent post-doctoral researchers. Candidates are invited to submit a proposal for independent research in the environmental humanities. The application deadline is January 13, 2017.

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Application and instructions can be found here.

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“Words Matter” Graduate Conference Call for Proposals!

Words Matter: Politics, Rhetoric, and Social Justice
Indiana University Bloomington
March 24-25, 2017

Submission Deadline: December 16, 2016
iugradconference@gmail.com 

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Indiana University Bloomington is issuing a Call for Proposals for scholarly and creative submissions for the 15th Annual Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference entitled “Words Matter: Politics, Rhetoric, and Social Justice.”

Hosted by the English Department, this conference aims to interrogate politics, rhetoric, and social justice in moments of national and international upheaval. They aim to address these terms individually, but also their entanglements across historical moments and geographical locations.

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What are the modern and pre-modern histories of these terms? How do literary and visual texts engage questions of politics, rhetoric, and social justice? What are the physical and material manifestations of these concepts? How do genre, discipline, and methodology impact the representation and study of these topics? What roles do both written and spoken words have in politics? Who/what has a voice and who/what is silenced socially and politically? How is rhetoric informed by politics, and what are the implications of their entanglements? What do we mean by “social justice” and how has this term been shaped historically? How do digital and virtual cultures intersect with social justice, and how have those cultures changed our perceptions of political movement and rhetorical engagement?

They invite submissions from all disciplines addressing, but not limited to, the following topics:

  • Black Lives Matter, critical race studies, (anti-)colonial and postcolonial literature;
  • materialisms, phenomenology, object oriented ontology;
  • testimony, witnessing, civic duty;
  • anatomy, bodies of texts (corpora), the blazoned body;
  • language(s), translations, textuality, signification, vernacular/discourse studies;
  • advertising, memes, slander, mudslinging, rumors, gossip, virality, trolling, verbal abuse;
  • articulations of remembrance, monuments, postmemory han, therapy writing, memoirs, trauma study;
  • tattoos, body art, graffiti, banners;
  • protest literature, pamphlets, broadsides, community activism, grassroots politics;
  • reproductive rights, gender and sexuality studies;
  • legality, legislation, legal personhood, “the letter of the law,” sovereignty;
  • writing as activism, digital activism, Twitter, journalism, letter-writing campaigns, epistolary cultures;
  • communication studies, composition studies, pedagogy;
  • lyrics, music/sound studies, poetry;
  • global citizens, peace studies, area studies, nationhood;
  • vocality, muteness, silence, censorship, animal advocacy, post-humanism;
  • storytelling, myths, typology, “a people’s history;”
  • close/distant readings, scales of reading, big data, text mining;
  • structuralism, poetics, aesthetics, formalism, figurative language;
  • sacred words, religion, naming

They invite proposals for individual scholarly papers, creative works, and panels organized by topic. Please submit (both as an attachment and in the body of the email) an abstract of no more than 250 words along with the following personal details: name, institutional affiliation, degree level, email, and phone number.

Email submissions to iugradconference@gmail.com.

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This conference is generously supported by the IU Bloomington Department of English, Department of Anthropology, Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, and Cultural Studies Program.

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Message to the GSAS Community

Dear Members of the GSAS Community,

Now that we begin to grapple with the significance of today’s historic election results, it is vital for us to reaffirm our purpose as a community of scholars, teachers, and students. This morning, as we woke to deep divisions and yet-to-be-fathomed realignments, I recalled the words of the GSAS mission: “Guided by its Catholic and Jesuit traditions, we aspire to prepare students for teaching and leadership in a global society, by welcoming learners from diverse religious, economic, and cultural backgrounds into full participation in a scholarly endeavor.” We should be proud to belong to a community that defines itself in these diverse and inclusive terms in the service of knowledge, wisdom, and the common good.

Today I am asking all of us—professors, students, and administrators–to rededicate ourselves to the university and to our academic community because it remains a vital embodiment of that hope that only education can offer to the poor, the marginalized, the fearful, the oppressed, and the disenfranchised. Never has the power of education in creating spaces of choice, hope, and possibility been clearer. I am grateful for the depth of commitment you bring to the work of research, reading, experimentation, analysis, and teaching–to all those minute daily motions of academic freedom that end up expanding the funds of knowledge and shrinking the domains of prejudice.

Eva Badowska,
Dean, GSAS

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Upcoming Event! Understanding and Handling Inclusive Teaching

 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016   |   Lincoln Center, McMahon Hall, Room 206   |   1:30 – 2:30 p.m.

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Interested in developing your pedagogy skills?

As campus and national events play out in the news, it is more important than ever to engage in discussion of diversity in our community. Join us for a presentation and discussion on diversity and pedagogy at Fordham.

While the classroom can be a space for open, respectful discussion of sensitive or controversial topics – such as those related to identity and inequality, religious beliefs, or political ideologies – facilitating such discussions can be a challenging prospect.

 What is Inclusive Teaching?

 Inclusive teaching and learning refers to modes of teaching and learning that are designed to actively engage, include, and challenge all students. The practice of inclusive teaching can help instructors broaden and expand their understanding of their own disciplines and of what they hope to accomplish in teaching and in research.

Learn how to:

  • Include Diverse Content, Materials, and Ideas in the Classroom
  • Create an Inclusive Environment
  • Encourage a Growth Mindset
  • Strive for Equality of Access to Instruction and Assistance
  • Use Feedback to Refine and Improve your Methods

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by | October 27, 2016 · 8:11 pm

“Living Humanities” Ph.D. Grant Project Kicks Off at Fordham!

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded GSAS and Fordham University a Next Generation Humanities PhD grant for the project entitled “The “Living Humanities” Ph.D. for the 21st Century.” For more on this project, see its website.

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The inaugural meeting of “The ‘Living Humanities’ PhD for the 21st Century” project took place on Friday, October 14. The meeting started on a somewhat bleak note – the unhappiness of graduate students. In his introductory talk, featured speaker Leonard Cassuto highlighted that, in the current plan of graduate education in the humanities, professors teach graduate students to want something that their professors can’t supply – the tenure-track academic position – so they’re effectively teaching their students to be unhappy. Drawing on two chapters from his 2015 book, The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It, “Admissions” and “Conclusion: In Search of an Ethic,” Cassuto charted how we got to this point, giving a snapshot of graduate education and job placement since the 1950s. Most damningly, he suggested that current doctoral education is designed for people who could be the grandparents of our current students – the doctoral candidates who graduated during an academic job boom in the 1950s and 60s.

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Having established this pressing need for change in doctoral education, the meeting then turned to how we can change, focusing on five key questions:

  • How can we connect what we teach with what our students do with their degrees?
  • How can we embrace the teaching mission of graduate study?
  • Should the PhD be reconceived with skills-based approaches, and what would these skills be?
  • What are the goals for the PhD degree, and what would it mean to reconceive doctoral education in the humanities as liberal education?
  • How should the PhD go public?

Meeting participants engaged in a World Café format, discussing these questions in groups of five and taking copious notes to share with the group.

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With these discussions, the tone of the meeting became a lot more uplifting, with participants discussing ways to make change and programs that had already started this process. Participants questioned what students get out of their degrees – how do we connect how we teach with what our students do with their degrees? What skills do students develop during the PhD? They also debated how to balance discipline-specific requirements with more universal skills – should graduate education be skills or content-driven (and is this an either/or question)? Are the disciplines dinosaurs? A common theme across the five topics that merits further exploration was what students actually do once they graduate from PhDs – are there recognizable categories of non-academic jobs that students go to? What options are available to humanities PhD graduates, and what do employers outside the academy value from a humanities doctoral education?

One key theme across the topics was the value of collaboration and interdisciplinarity. Many participants emphasized the value of collaborative assignments for students, but also encouraging students to look beyond their departments for resources and providing teaching opportunities that weren’t just field-specific. They also highlighted current initiatives across the GSAS that help prepare graduate students for a range of positions, such as the proseminar for first-year students in Philosophy that provides professional orientation, or the Teaching Practicum in the English department that prepares graduates to teach at a range of institutions. New initiatives were also mentioned, like the Preparing Future Faculty program at GSAS and a proposed Eloquentia Perfecta seminar in Public Communication for graduate students across the humanities.

Other resources from outside Fordham were also suggested. In a discussion of post-PhD careers, one participant suggested the “Humanities Unbound” project, which promotes careers beyond tenure-track academic jobs and investigates what alt-ac activities are already being pursued by graduate students and academics across the US (see this paper by Katarina Rogers from the University of Virginia for details). In a discussion of internship opportunities for PhD students, several people mentioned the MLA’s Connected Academics Proseminar for alternate careers to academia, currently in its second year. In a discussion of taking scholarly research public, the “Knowledge Unlatched” portal was mentioned, which hosts Open Access publications that are proposed by publishers and then supported by libraries.

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Throughout the meeting, participants highlighted avenues for improvement and expressed a strong desire to implement such changes. They also considered both potential gains and losses from the evolution of graduate education, and emphasized the need for humility in looking to new models. The practicality, enthusiasm, and wealth of suggestions from PhD students and graduates across disciplines and careers set a promising precedent for “The ‘Living Humanities’ PhD for the 21st Century” project’s ongoing mission this year.

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

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Margaret Yardley Fellowship Opportunity

Female graduate students who are residents of New Jersey, look into this opportunity from NJ State Federation of Women’s Clubs of GFWC.

Deadline: March 1, 2017

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$1,000 fellowship granted annually to a female graduate student. Must be a resident of New Jersey, active in a graduate program (in AY 17-18), and have financial need. The award is granted annually to a deserving woman who is a graduate student doing advanced work in a special field of study. For more information on the fellowship and instudctions on how to apply visit the NJSFWC website.

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Smithsonian Libraries Research Opportunities 2017-18

Hey students! Check out this fellowship opportunity from the Smithsonian!

Deadline January 15, 2017

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Smithsonian Libraries – Opportunities for Research 2017-2018
The Smithsonian Libraries, situated at the center of the world’s largest museum complex, is a vital part of the research, exhibition, and educational enterprise of the Institution. The Libraries offers exceptional research resources ranging from 13th-century manuscripts to electronic journals. We are happy to offer the following fellowship opportunities for the 2017-2018 academic year.

The Baird Society Resident Scholar Program: $3,500 per month for up to six months to support scholarly research in the Special Collections of the Smithsonian Libraries in Washington, D.C. and New York, NY, in an extensive range of subject areas. Doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars are welcome to apply. Collections include printed materials on world’s fairs; manufacturer’s commercial trade catalogs from the 19th and 20th centuries; natural history rare books (pre-1840 works on topics such as botany, zoology, travel & exploration, museums & collecting, geology, and anthropology); air and space history (late 18th to early 20th centuries); James Smithson’s library; rare materials in European and American decorative arts, architecture, and design (18th to 20th centuries); and history of art and artists (exhibition catalogs, catalogues raisonnés, serials, dissertations and artists’ ephemera).

The Dibner Library Resident Scholar Program: $3,500 per month for up to six months for individuals working on a topic relating to the history of science and technology who can make substantial use of the Dibner Library’s Special Collections in Washington, D.C. Doctoral students and post-doctoral scholars are welcome to apply. The Dibner Library of the History of Science and Technology has manuscripts and rare books dating primarily from the 15th to the 19th centuries. Collection strengths are in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, classical natural philosophy, theoretical physics (up to the early 20th century), experimental physics (especially electricity and magnetism), engineering technology (from the Renaissance to the late nineteenth century), and scientific apparatus and instruments.

The deadline for all programs is January 15, 2017 for appointments between September 1, 2017 and August 31, 2018. Fellowship recipients are expected to be in residence during their appointments. For further information about the Smithsonian Libraries’ Resident Scholar Programs listed above, including application information, visit the Smithsonian web site.

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