At a Crossroads

A Tale of Three Ph.D.s

Academic Exchange September 2000
Contents Page

At a Crossroads: The Future of Graduate Education at Emory

We need to develop a broader curriculum . . . to better prepare students for non-academic career paths.
--Bryan Noe, Director of the Graduate Division of Biological and Biomedical Sciences.

Changing the curriculum to prepare students for non-academic careers could be a gross mistake.
--Pam Hall, Director of Graduate Studies in Women's Studies

New findings on Emory graduate students

Mark Ledden completed a Ph.D. in English in 1996 at Emory and is now a senior communications specialist for McKinsey and Company, an international consulting firm. Ledden recently agreed to be a mentor for a Woodrow Wilson Foundation program to help humanities Ph.D.s find non-academic careers.

"I don't think doctoral programs need to broaden their focus. English departments, at least, have plenty to do without trying to teach business or business communications. They should, however, do a better job in helping people who don't want traditional teaching careers pursue other options by cultivating relationships with non-academic employers and linking students with alumni working outside academe. At a minimum, they should drop the active antagonism some faculty feel towards business. Our company has been reaching out to humanities departments at schools like Duke and Vanderbilt. We even recruited at the South Atlantic Modern Language Association meeting last year. But when I told a director of graduate studies at Emory that we were looking to hire two people and asked for his help contacting potential candidates, his response was, `It's not the department's job to stock McKinsey's shelves.' That was unfortunate. It closed a door."

Sergei Pilyugin completed a Ph.D. in math in 1998 at Emory and is now an assistant professor of math and liaison with applied science departments at the University of Florida.

"The narrowness of graduate training is absolutely necessary to dig deep into your topic. I had always focused on pure math, but a conversation about job markets with my adviser persuaded me to get some additional training in biology before graduating. That really turned things around and created many opportunities for my job search. I do think students who want to pursue non-academic careers should have some support, though. Perhaps university career centers are the logical place to develop programs for graduate

Susan Anderson completed a Ph.D. in English in 1995 at Emory. After three years of juggling teaching and a commuter marriage, Anderson resigned from a tenure-track appointment at Longwood College in Virginia to become a visiting assistant professor at Spelman College and live with her husband and daughter in Atlanta.

"The depth of current Ph.D. programs is important for honing research and critical skills, but graduate schools must provide breadth as well. At Longwood, I was often called upon to teach subjects far outside my area of specialization. But it's not really the curriculum that needs changing as much as the admissions process. Given the state of the job market these days, departments everywhere need to be more reasonable about the number of students they admit. Also, graduate mentors should be open to the possibility that their students may, for one reason or another, decide to pursue careers beyond academia." A.B.B.