March 26, 2009

Daily Report – Day 3 – Wednesday, March 25

“What actions could you take tomorrow as administrators to point us in a new direction for graduate education?”
– Forces and Forms III Early Career Researchers, March 25, 2009

Just as the weather warmed up today, so did the pace and intensity of action-oriented discussion about key issues in doctoral education worldwide.

The day started with constructive challenges in the early morning presentation from the Early Career Researchers (ECRs), a group of 13 scholars. The group urged participants to consider how results could become genuine action beyond rhetoric.

The primary focus of the morning was a presentation and far-ranging reactions to the work of Task Force Two: Diversity of Students in Doctoral Education in an International Perspective.

This group gathered a great deal of data from many countries to document what is known about diversity in doctoral education. In the future, the group hopes to inventory policies, strategies, and support mechanisms for diversity in doctoral education from various countries. The concept of “diversity” generated much discussion and debate within the task force and among the larger group of workshop participants. Beyond the data, preliminary group findings, recommendations, and action steps included:

  • Generate a narrative that takes nation-based data and commentary, and present it in thematic sections.
  • Define a common classification or taxonomy to allow analysis of diversity.
  • Conduct regional case studies to compensate for different countries collecting different data in different ways; for example, some countries gather no data at all in categories taken for granted in some parts of the world, or even forbid data gathering.

The group also encouraged study of under-represented groups and more attention to disability as a dimension of diversity.

(Video) Ian Haines introduces Task Force 2:

Expert perspectives about diversity in doctoral education were provided by:

Dr. Jean Chambaz of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and Chair of the European University Association Council of Doctoral Education Steering Committee

Dr. Christiane Wüllner of the Ruhr-University Research School (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) – representing Roland Fischer, Dean of the Ruhr-University Research School

Highlights of Chambaz’ presentation:

  • He addressed issues about equity and inequality in doctoral education, and how diversity “expands the richness of research.”
  • “We need to shift internationalization from being such a means of economic production toward greater ends of serving society for those who need answers…it is the future of our world that is in question.”
  • Increased access to doctoral education can complement the quality of doctoral education. Discussion ensued and consensus reached on this point.

Highlights of Wüllner’s presentation:

  • Her comments about diversity were from the unique perspective of serving within a newly founded graduate school, funded through the framework of the German Excellence Initiative.
  • She presented the Ruhr Research School’s innovative approach to structuring doctoral education since its founding in 2006; key characteristics are open access and the Research School serving as a kind of catalyst and broker for fostering interdisciplinary research and teaching.

Sandra Elman, President of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (USA), responded to the work of the Task Force by expressing commendations: the group’s data collection may be unprecedented, and the possibilities for using the data are exciting. Her suggestions for Task Force Two: provide more clarification about objectives for the data gathered; develop a conceptual framework as a basis for analysis; address definitions of difficult concepts such as “ethnicity”; clarify who is defining the problem and to what end.

Early in the afternoon the three task forces met to refine their ideas, take into consideration the presentations, and refine their reports toward issuing policy recommendations and action steps;

Additional presentations and speakers in the afternoon included:

“Changing Demographics Behind Diversity Issues and Challenges for PhD Education” – Dr. Angela Ginorio of the University of Washington

“Programs to Increase Women and Minorities in Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics Fields” – Dr. James H. Wyche, Division Director, Human Resource Development, National Science Foundation (NSF), USA

“How to Communicate Results and Recommendations to the News Media and Policymakers” – George A. Martinez, Communications Director, University of Washington Graduate School