Rebooting Graduate Training

I am hoping we can discuss creative approaches to graduate training within given disciplines as well as across them. In the humanities, there has been a groundswell of interest in reforming graduate education, revising masters and PhD expectations (most notably the dissertation), and integrating with other departments and programs within the university. These discussions link to, and in some ways anticipate, the increasingly conspicuous attention to alternate academic (#altac) careers. In what ways can we imagine, promote, and support new forms of graduate training at our own institutions or even across them? How can we construct programs or degrees that formalize what has been, at least in the digital humanities, the cherished narrative of the tinkering autodidact, learning ad hoc and hybridizing on her own time? This discussion might draw from current experiments in humanities graduate training (e.g. the Praxis Program in the UVa Scholars’ Lab; the Stanford Lit Lab) and further imagine fruitful collaborations with libraries. What are the skills grads need to know now? And what traditional forms of graduate training should endure, as their values become more apparent by contrast? How will these configurations adapt (or not) to online and distance education, to collaborative possibilities across institutions? And how do we develop the infrastructure to support student and institutional innovations?

(Link to session’s notes / Google Doc.)

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About pfyfe

Assistant Professor of English, History of Text Technologies program (HoTT), Florida State University. Research and teaching in Victorian studies, media history, and digital humanities.

4 Responses to Rebooting Graduate Training

  1. Yes! Awesome! I started developing an “Intro to Grad Study” course after reading Bethany Nowviskie’s “extinction event” article/challenge in the Chronicle. I’d love to see what other people are thinking in terms of courses, graduate programs, and the way that research can be used for developing transferrable skills for graduate students.

  2. Laurie says:

    In addition to being reformed, it needs to be formed. At the MLA panel on the dissertation and possible changed forms, I think (and could be misstating) that under 50% of departments had any sort of guidelines or best practices for what the dissertation should be (aside from a general assumption that it should be a proto-book of more than 100 pages). Reforming the dissertation will require (re)forming the existing infrastructure that supports, and may in fact constrain, students. I agree with Roger that this is particularly exciting in terms of how we can help students can develop (and perhaps better recognize) transferrable skills.

  3. If this session goes forward, I hope you’ll share your notes!

  4. Rebooting Graduate Education

    A session at THATCamp SE, 10 March 2012, University of Georgia


    David Lee Miller, University of South Carolina, English and CDH
    Franky Abbott, Emory University, DiSC
    Paul Fyfe, Florida State University, English and HoTT
    Richard Urban, Florida State University, SLIS
    Robin Wharton, Georgia Institute of Technology, Writing and Communication Program
    Stewart Varner, Emory University, DiSC
    Donna Lanclos, U North Carolina Charlotte, Libraries
    Moya Bailey, Emory University, DiSC
    Roger Whitson, Emory University, DiSC


    This document created by session participants and

    licensed Creative Commons, Attribution

    Rebooting Graduate Education THATCamp SE 2012


    Core Competencies

    What Are Students Being Prepared For?

    Institutional Issues

    Short Term Solutions



    Nontraditional/Multimedia Dissertations/PhDs



    How can we integrate #altac into graduate education? What is #altac training?

    David Lee Miller: in process of starting certificates, went to research methods course with this plan: read the Horizons report and start talking about changes in the disciplines. Lots of interest from the grad students (almost a sense of panic) in pursuing this.

    Richard Urban: MLIS transitions were similar in prepping librarians for digital work. Their approaches to core competencies could be useful for digital humanities programs as a model.
    Core Competencies

    Donna’s Q: Are there accepted core competencies? Are there accepted best practices? How do we train students to deal with problems we cannot yet anticipate? (As in CS programs that do not get hung up on specific programming languages?) How do we allow for institutional growth along with the development of these fields?

    PF: What would Cathy Davidson’s ideas of playful, self-structured pedagogies look like at the graduate levels?

    Franky Abbott: because DH is a totally different academic practice, has different ideas about production and labor. Involves talking about process, product, and what makes things successful or not. Very different kinds of research questions. Need to look in detail at the arc of a project rather than core competencies. Project management is better observed that taught.

    D. Miller: shouldn’t insist that these become part of the curriculum, but will always rely on some autodidaticism. What we teach is always an occasion for students learning to teach themselves. Modeling for students the confidence they’ll need to engage things we have not mastered. Curriculum should be to give them skills with the goal of promoting this confidence.

    Robin Wharton: analogy of competencies relative to field (e.g. Latin for medievalists). Perhaps there are core competencies but should be multiple ways for students to fulfill those competencies. Provide opportunities within the curriculum for this.

    Moya: how much does graduate training prepare students to talk across the disciplines? Especially as so much of DH depends on those conversations?

    Franky: does DH training come from within a department or from elsewhere in the university?

    R. Wharton: is the final artifact of graduate training adequate evidence of being a scholar in this field? (Relates to D. Damrosch’s argument about the “masterpiece” dissertation at MLA12.)
    What Are Students Being Prepared For?

    Q: what are students really being prepared for in the traditional sense anymore, especially considering the job market as it is?

    Franky: Need to fulfill the promise of this training in the ultimate product for the degree. (Not being able to put it into a PDF.) This also differs from traditional dissertation in the single-author model.

    David: formulate the question about the diss from its institutional afterlife, the places where it will be stored and shared. Not books, but repositories and work in the life of the institution.

    Donna: if new standards are going into T&P documents (a la Mark Sample), then we ought to allow graduate students to exercise the same flexibilities. Also, should be models ought there from non-humanities fields. What are the structures that help us define the effects of our fields? Where can they come together? Probably a library or a center.

    Robin: post-docs offer another model for flexing post-graduate training into new forms, allow credential disciplinists to start crossing those lines.

    Franky: likes the idea of separating what DH does from what disciplines do, allows for more fruitful exposure and interactions among methodologies.
    Institutional Issues

    R. Urban: this versus that model of graduate training is overdone: solitary versus group work. Instead, ought to conceptualize how this work extends the familiar forms of mentoring and support, embeddedness in the new structures of the institution.

    Donna: too easy to be provincial about graduate training when, internationally, all sorts of different models.

    R. Wharton: careful not to romanticize the laboratory and STEM models. The sciences have specific problems that it would be dangerous to import into the humanities. Need to stay conscious of them.

    Moya: sciences can use articles for their dissertations. What about different shapes of scholarly production and their aggregates? (Relates to Dan Cohen’s promotion of “right sizing” scholarship. Can we do that for graduate work?) Clearly this relates to the prevailing publishing model in these disciplines. But as that changes …

    The question: what is there to lose by changing? Pace Olsen article in the Chronicle.

    Issues of what is “useful” work. See “Fear of Being Useful” in Inside Higher Ed. Adopting this model in some ways impugns your advisors who have been doing “useless” stuff all their careers. But there’s a groundswell of attention to the public humanities, humanities advocacy, etc.

    Lots of institutional obstacles to even assembling committees. Example: has to be staffed by TT faculty with PhDs.

    R. Urban: the impulse to do traditional things extends all through the early career of faculty. The dream of doing different stuff keeps getting deferred. Get tenure, then go crazy. But by that point, you’re well programmed and skilled in doing the same.

    Franky: promotes the Praxis model for student work in hands-on stuff, theoretical discussions,
    Short Term Solutions

    Donna: so what do we do for our graduate students in the meantime?

    Robin: sub-specialize in Rhet/Comp. Really useful.

    Franky: work at a library or DH center. Build some skills.

    Donna: we need to model the kinds of possibilities for our own graduate students, to make visible the variety of endpoints for them, to meet a range of people that might have nothing to do with your intellectual comfort zone.

    Perhaps getting to students before they go to grad school. Undergraduate mentoring, advise at least a gap year, going to other jobs, go to a big city, travel. Come back to grad school as a capable professional and a knowledge worker, not just a student.


    Digital Scholarship Certificate Program


    Praxis Program


    Center for Digital Humanities


    Institute for Digital Arts and Humanities


    Bethanie Nowviskie

    “It all starts on day one”

    Cathy Davidson

    “Invisible Gorillas are Everywhere.”
    How Digital Humanists Can Lead Us to National Digital Literacy
    “Digital Literacy: An Agenda for the 21st Century.”

    Lisa Spiro

    Knowing and Doing: Understanding the Digital Humanities Curriculum

    Roger Whitson

    A Plea to Graduate Advisors and Programs

    Paul Jay and Gerard Graff

    Fear of Being Useful


    Profession 2011 (Requires MLA Membership)

    Nontraditional/Multimedia Dissertations/PhDs

    Gardner Writes

    The problem(s) of the multimedia dissertation

    Corydon Ireland

    Scholarship Beyond Words

    Alex Reid

    What Does an English Department Mean? And How Long Should it Take?

    Matt Bloch

    Exploring non-traditional dissertation forms

    Scott Jaschik

    Dissing the Dissertation


    What is a dissertation, anyway?


    Special Interest Group on Digital Libraries

    Developing Curriculum for Digital Libraries and Digital Curriculum


    Digital Literacy Curriculum


    Library, Useful Links

    U.S. Dept. of Commerce


    DH Syllabi


    Proposed Curriculum for Digital Heritage Studies

    University of Virginia

    MA Curriculum in Digital Humanities
    Final Report for Digital Humanities Curriculum Seminar


    MA in Digital Humanities


    Curriculum Development in Digital Humanities and Archival Studies


    Decoding Digital Humanities Bloomington


    iSchools & The Digital Humanities

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