BU Chosen for Pilot Program to Help PhD Students Prepare for Careers
University is one of eight in new AAU initiative to improve culture in doctoral programs
Boston University is one of eight universities chosen by the Association of American Universities (AAU) to participate in a pilot program aimed at helping PhD students prepare for career paths and outcomes both inside and outside of academia.
Called the AAU PhD Education Initiative, the program hopes to change the culture surrounding doctoral education at its 62 member institutions. From BU, six units representing a cross section of disciplines will participate: classical studies, pharmacology, counseling psychology and applied human development, biostatistics, sociology, and biology.
“At a time of introspection and change within graduate programs, BU is excited by the opportunity to join a cohort of our peers in collaboratively working to develop truly student-centered doctoral education programs,” says Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer. “The values this initiative will promote in doctoral career pathways—visibility, value, and viability—build upon many of the key principles underlying Boston University’s current strategic planning process.”
In BU’s application to participate in the pilot program, Daniel Kleinman, associate provost for graduate affairs and a College of Arts & Sciences professor of sociology, and his collaborators explained why BU was eager to participate in the pilot program.
“We are at a crucial juncture in the history of US PhD education,” the proposal says. “University leaders and faculty nationwide increasingly recognize that high attrition rates and lengthy times to a degree are not acceptable. Our research universities are producing more PhDs than there are tenure-track positions available in most fields.”
Kleinman and his collaborators state that this is no time to stand still: “Career opportunities for people with PhDs are changing, and PhD education has to change too. Across BU, we have been rethinking PhD education for the 21st century, and working with our AAU peers as part of the AAU PhD Education Initiative will allow us to move further and faster in productive directions.”
In addition to BU, the other pilot program participants are Duke University, Indiana University Bloomington, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Iowa, the University of Missouri, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Virginia.
“Boston University is motivated to join this cohort of peer institutions,” Kleinman says, “because we believe that we have developed innovative ideas to support the next generation of PhD scholars, but have much to learn as our doctoral programs continue to evolve.”
“The AAU PhD Initiative’s mission is to promote more student-centered doctoral education at AAU universities by making diverse PhD career pathways visible, valued, and viable,” the AAU announced in a statement. The organization, comprising leading US research universities, said that during Phase I of the program, the eight member universities in the pilot program—representing 34 academic departments—will implement reforms within STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, as well as arts and humanities PhD programs. “These reforms will address the culture, behavior, policies, and practices necessary to construct student-centered educational environments and successfully prepare doctoral candidates for careers both within and beyond the academy,” the AAU said.
“The Initiative will support our efforts to increase data transparency around the effectiveness of doctoral programs and will help us transform the culture within departments to support the wide array of career paths available to our doctoral students,” according to the statement issued by the University about participating in the pilot program. “BU recognizes that institutional cultures and behaviors are not just developed centrally, but within departments. Among our chief goals is creating a community of faculty and staff dedicated to ensuring BU doctoral students achieve core competencies that represent the knowledge and skills required to succeed within and outside the academy.”