a Crossroads: The Future of Graduate Education at Emory
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.
tale of three Ph.D.s
findings on Emory graduate students
Pam Hall is also the Massee-Martin/NEH
Distinguished Teaching Professor and director of graduate studies
in women's studies. Her current research concerns ethics.
The Academic Exchange Where
would you say is the greatest need of reform in graduate education
Professor Pam Hall One change I would like to see is greater
attention paid to matters of professional expertise. Things like
putting together job application materials are left to ad hoc
mentoring-the student's advisors or some friendly faculty mentor.
And with the dearth of job opportunities, it's a matter of conscience
to teach students those processes.
Graduate students are really hungry for a better understanding
of how universities work as institutions. This is also important
to teach them.
AE How would you characterize the state of mentoring at
PH I--and I know many of my colleagues--take mentoring
very seriously. But I think faculty also feel caught among a
number of obligations-teaching, research, service, and then mentoring
on top of all that. So from a graduate student's perspective,
I think it's hit or miss in terms of who they end up working
with and how seriously that person takes those responsibilities.
Perhaps advising responsibilities could use some reinforcement.
And by reinforcement, I mean something fairly crass: how you
tenure, promote, reward. Mentoring should be taken very seriously
as part of faculty evaluation.
AE You mentioned the dearth of academic jobs for humanities
Ph.D.s. Do you think departments bear some responsibility to
prepare their graduate students for alternative careers?
PH As faculty members, what we know is faculty life and
what it means to be an academic. If we took up other topics,
we would just do them badly. And changing the curriculum to prepare
students for non-academic careers could be a gross mistake. It
might disadvantage students in their search for faculty positions.
After all, there are only so many resources, so many courses
they can take.
On the other hand, there may be ways to accommodate some of those
concerns without warping the graduate curriculum. I would like
to hear more sustained conversation about what kinds of jobs
outside the academy might be viable for our Ph.D.s.
If we're going to bring in Ph.D. students at the same level,
we need to think very carefully about what they are going to
be doing to earn their living. That seems at least our responsibility,
AE Nationally, graduate education has been criticized
for the increasing narrowness of training and emphasis on research.
Do you think we're doing a poor job of preparing people for what
many will be doing every day in the classroom, especially with
the growing emphasis on undergraduate education in the higher
PH That's hardly a new problem. We've always had to narrow
and specialize, but how that is construed is sometimes a problem.
I think for graduate students and faculty, it would help to bring
to bear more philosophical or theoretical imagination in forming
research questions so that they are more readily opened up to
other issues and more deeply related to one's teaching.
I'd like to see more experientially based learning used to enrich
graduate education. A number of us who teach undergraduates have
benefited from participating in the Theory/Practice Learning
initiative run by Bobbi Patterson in religion. That facilitates
applied learning in a number of curricular contexts and bridges
the gap between classroom and community. Such experiences could
really advantage our students on the job market because experientially
based learning is becoming of great interest nationally.
AE Do you think the booming general economy is luring
desirable students from graduate school?
PH Women's studies is holding pretty steady, though I've
heard that enrollments have declined somewhat across the graduate
school. I'm not altogether disturbed by that, given the scarcity
of jobs. I'd like to hear a serious, sustained conversation across
the graduate school grappling with job placement statistics and
how many Ph.D. lines we should have.
One thing that is increasingly needful--just in terms of brass
tacks---is enhancing the stipend substantially. I'd like to be
able to offer students support for five years and health insurance.
There seems to be heightened competition from other schools for
our top candidates. It used to be Emory could outbid anyone,
but that's no longer the case.
AE What do you think is needed in graduate education to
cope with these changing contexts?
PH I'd like to see the academy become more open to innovation
in graduate education. We can always find ways to accomplish
our traditional goals more effectively. And the world has changed
so much in recent decades in terms of what the Internet has made
possible and in terms of international issues. We need to consider
how our curriculum is fitted to those environments. I'm not saying
you become trendy. I'm a big believer in tradition. But I believe
in a tradition that is alive as opposed to mummification.