What if graduate education serves ALL students and the public good?

Last fall, we issued a call for proposals to scholars across the U.S. to think together with us on these questions:

How can our institutions reshape graduate education to support different futures?

How, in so doing, may we also serve multiple publics and communities and engage in the most pressing problems of our time?

 

We were thrilled to receive answers to our call from a diverse array of participants: graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, university administrators, and practitioners in the field. Their proposals stem from a wide range of experiences, many having been involved with research, teaching and learning across multiple institutions. Their exciting ideas make up the program of Graduate Education at Work in the World, a conference organized by the Futures Initiative and co-sponsored by the Publics Lab at the Graduate Center on April 30 and May 1st. Responding to our call, the participants engage with these questions:

How can we redesign graduate education to serve students and the public good?

What are career pathways for graduate students inside and outside the university?

How can we resolve issues of access to (graduate) education?

What is the “public” in public scholarship?

What is the relationship between scholarship and activism?

How can we develop sustainable models for academic labor systems?

How can mentorship address issues of inequality and promote inclusion in higher education?

How does critical pedagogy foster relationships between learning and equality?

How can we build collaborative partnerships between institutions to provide broader graduate training?

 

At the Futures Initiative, we have been having conversations about many of these questions for some time. Just during this academic year, my colleagues have organized workshops on being a scholar in public, reimagining classrooms as transnational spaces, uncertainties facing non-resident graduate students, as well as collaborative teaching and writing projects as part of our “University Worth Fighting For” series. This month, we will be talking about how public science initiatives throughout New York City are working to create equity in STEM. We host a fellowship program that fosters mentoring and leadership skills among students across CUNY campuses, and we have been building a digital community of students who are rethinking pedagogy, learning, and research. Together with our partners at the Humanities Alliance program, we are helping train graduate students in community college pedagogy, while fostering humanities education at the community colleges.

All this, and we are only one of the many initiatives across CUNY that seek to address questions of equity and the public good!

Therefore, it is not an exaggeration for me to say that we are ecstatic to be able to host participants from across the country and hear about their experiences in striving for more equal and innovative higher education programs. I believe that The Graduate Center is exceptionally well positioned to host such conversations — while it is primarily a public research institution training graduate students, it also has organic connections to undergraduate education and other institutions in our city. At the Futures Initiative, we have been trying to take advantage of these organic connections, and we are looking forward to hearing more about other initiatives to connect higher education and scholarship to the public good.

This past fall, I was one of the lucky readers of our co-director Katina Rogers’ forthcoming book, Putting the Humanities Ph.D. to Work: Thriving in and beyond the Classroom, as I assisted in its last stages of publication. In it, she shifts the conversation about graduate students and careers by inviting us to think about why the world needs people trained in research and critical thinking, and stressing the need to create more equitable labor structures for all rather than focusing on singular cases. As a doctoral candidate nearing the end of my training, I could not have imagined a better way to reflect on the graduate school experience and what comes after, than editing Katina’s book and organizing this conference.

In my research as well as in my work as a graduate fellow, I reflect on the question of how people’s engagement with technology, economy and politics shape possible futures, not just for individuals but for societies as a whole. As an anthropologist engaged in historical questions, I care deeply about connecting what we have learned from the past to the present moment, so we can better anticipate and create our futures. Facing a global climate where questions about our future on earth are ever-present, we are building a university worth fighting for and sharing the collective wisdom accumulated in it, for ALL students and for society as a whole.

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