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Metathemes from 2000 Conference

Reducing the rich discussion which took place at the April, 2000 Conference in Seattle on "Re-envisioning the Ph.D. to meet the needs of the 21st Century" to a set of recommendations has been a daunting but promising challenge. Throughout the two-day discussions within and across the 9 sectors represented at the conference (research-intensive universities, teaching-intensive universities, K-12 education, doctoral students, government funding and hiring agencies, foundations, professional societies, educational organizations, and doctoral students), a high level of consensus emerged regarding the following seven propositions:

  1. Shareholders in doctoral education must create between and among themselves fundamental, necessary mechanisms to effect change. This will spread the risk of experimentation and improve accountability within and outside of the Academy. Change will require carefully planned, systematic collaborations among and between the various groups.
  2. It is essential to make transparent to prospective doctoral students what doctoral education consists of and requires.

  3. More systemic, long-term approaches to diversify the American intellect are needed. Recruiting and retaining to completion underrepresented minorities and women--especially

  4. Numerous levers/forces can be organized to effect change including institutional/departmental program reviews, government funding agencies' policies, foundation funding, doctoral student voices, NRC ratings criteria, accrediting agencies, and expectations of employers within and outside of higher education.

  5. Preparation for teaching, (both within and outside the Academy), must be strengthened. Teaching must be demonstrated and assessed.

  6. More robust and better-integrated professional development experiences must be developed.

  7. The nature/structure of faculty incentives to support and nurture doctoral student development must be developed and implemented for long-lasting change to occur, particularly within the cultures of the research-extensive institutions.

None of these major Meta-themes from the conference can be addressed unless members of all sectors identify what they can provide to achieve the shared goals. Moving forward should be based on addressing the concerns in policies, practices, and goals for doctoral education.

Jody Nyquist is Associate Dean of the Graduate School at the University of Washington and Principal Investigator of the Re-envisioning the Ph.D. Project.

Bettina Woodford is Program Officer at The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

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