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September 15, 2003

History Department To Participate
In Carnegie Initiative On The Doctorate

UConn's history department is going to help shape the future of doctoral education.

The department has been selected to participate in the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate, a three-year research and action project aimed at improving doctoral education at universities across the nation. The UConn department has been selected as one of 10 partner departments in history.

The project is sponsored by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

One of the project's goals is for each department to examine all aspects of its doctoral program and determine whether it is educating students appropriately to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

"We'll be discussing what doctoral education should accomplish," says Altina Waller, professor and chair of the department. "We're training students to become the next generation of stewards of the discipline, and we need to ask ourselves, 'Are we still training our doctoral candidates for today's world?' We'll be exploring what ideally we want to accomplish, what we've already accomplished, and what kinds of changes we need to make in order to reach our goals."

Waller says that while the department has made significant changes over the past few years - such as instituting a methodology course for all entering students, and offering more opportunities to choose topical or comparative fields rather than traditional geographical and chronological ones - she views the Carnegie Initiative as "a wonderful opportunity to rethink and revisit our program."

Faculty and graduate students will meet to discuss goals for graduate students and the discipline, Waller says. Meetings are also planned for partner departments in the initiative to discuss their progress, and a team from Carnegie will visit UConn this fall.

History is one of six fields of study selected for the project. The others are chemistry, education (educational psychology and curriculum and instruction), English, mathematics, and neuroscience . Faculty and departmental leadership in the disciplines is a crucial focus of the initiative.

Being selected as a partner is an indication of the quality of the University's history department, says Ross MacKinnon, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "This is significant recognition on the part of a very prestigious foundation of the high quality of our history department."

Chris Golde, a Carnegie Senior Scholar, says the selection process for partners was a difficult one "because of the number and quality of schools that applied. We had to pass over many wonderful departments to assemble a group of history departments that were committed to the process and goals of the Carnegie Initiative, and that represented a diverse group of high quality departments."

Golde says the Carnegie team will work with departments, encouraging them to deliberate among themselves and propose some experiments and try them.

He says that although the United States is the leading producer of doctorates in the world, "there is increasing evidence that there are many ways the system doesn't work. A lot of people start Ph.D. programs imagining they are going to get faculty jobs, particularly in the humanities, like history or English. But the data show that only maybe half to two-thirds of them will ultimately get those jobs. There is also data that shows students are well prepared to be good researchers but not so well prepared to be good teachers."

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