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For Alt-Acs: Lose the Dissertation Requirement, PhD programs

“What might a PhD program designed specifically for alternative-academic careers look like” asks Joshua Kim in the Inside HigherEd article “Collaborative Work, Academic Training, and Alt-Ac Careers.” It’s a good question. Kim’s article points out how much PhD work – the prospectus, the lit reviews, the research, analysis, and the dissertation, are all done as solo efforts. But alt-acs “do almost all of their work in collaboration.” True. Nearly all of my work is as part of a team. Yes, there is a rhythm between doing individual tasks independently (writing curriculum, writing training workshops, etc.) but that is balanced in at least equal amounts of time by coming back together to work with a team (instructional designers, web developers) on how the curriculum I’ve written will be developed and delivered as eLearning. The other alt-acs I work with – their work is largely structured the same.

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Bite-Sized Career Development

In my day job, I manage professional development programs. And in that field the trend has moved to offering bite-sized training. Appetizers, if you will. Rather than committing someone to a full three-course meal (or more!) of training, we know adults learn best when single-tasked and focused, and in smaller chunks, particularly as we get bombarded with more and more information. This applies really well to graduate school training too.

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Campus Jobs as Graduate Assistantships Lead to Better Outcomes

One of the foremost thinkers in how we can overhaul the graduate school experience to address career planning is Leonard Cassuto. In addition to his excellent book The Graduate School Mess (which should be required reading for anyone interested in the topic), he also writes a series for the Chronicle of Higher Education called the Graduate Adviser. His latest post, “Outcomes-based Graduate School: The Humanities Edition” illustrates how one university – Lehigh – tackled overhauling its graduate curriculum in English. There’s several things to note in how they went about this.

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