Rocking the Academy podcast episode: On hope as a practice

It was a privilege to join Roopika Risam and Mary Churchill to record an episode of Rocking the Academy. If there’s one thing I want to hold onto from the interview, it’s what I said at the end: That hope is a discipline, something we can practice even—and especially—in difficult times.

The episode and notes are cross-posted below.

Episode Summary (cross-posted from Rocking the Academy)

In this episode of Rocking the Academy, co-hosts Roopika Risam and Mary Churchill talk with Katina Rogers, co-director of Futures Initiative at CUNY Grad Center and author of Putting the Humanities PhD to Work (Duke UP, 2020). We talk with Katina about the changing face of graduate education, misalignment between values and structures within higher ed, and her innovative work trying to change that. Find us on Twitter: @roopikarisam, @mary_churchill, and @katinalynn.

Episode Notes

Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • Katina’s journey from comparative literature Ph.D. to advocate for transforming graduate education.
  • The role of foundations in shaping scholarly fields.
  • The need for graduate training to shift to be more intentional about what post-Ph.D. career paths might look like.
  • The significance of professional associations for setting norms and expectations in disciplines, from adjunct wages to evaluation and dissemination of scholarship.
  • Universities should receive enough public funding that they don’t need to rely on private support.
  • Private funding is not a solution to the challenges of higher ed today.
  • The Mellon Foundation’s shifting priorities to support community colleges and access oriented institutions is important to ensuring that private funding doesn’t reinforce hierarchies and prestige.
  • A key problem in discussing graduate education in careers is that the conversation gets separated from questions of equity, inclusion, and labor structures.
  • Even institutions that prioritize access can be governed by structures that govern elite institutions, even when they don’t serve the values of the institution.
  • Failure to re-evaluate alignment of structures and values leads to status quo acceptance of everything from requirements for tenure and promotion to what a dissertation might look like to what graduate education and faculty careers look like.
  • The importance of revisiting tenure and promotion criteria when strategic planning to ensure faculty are positioned to help with university goals.
  • Within CUNY, as at many institutions, the structure of the institution becomes increasingly white and male in areas of more traditional prestige.
  • The importance of the humanities for community college students at a time when vocational education is being emphasized.
  • Hope can be understood as a discipline that we practice.

Resources Discussed in this Episode:


The Futures Initiative
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016-4309