[See a recent essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education for context]
IUPUI believes one way to advance doctoral education is to build an interdisciplinary program through an academic field, rather than in a department or research center. The home for this integrated program is American Studies—a field with a track record of drawing on the social sciences as well as the humanities and a program at IUPUI with a legacy of bringing departments together. Moreover, it is time for a much stronger and conscientious effort to move beyond training Ph.D.s solely for academic positions. Michael Bérubé of Penn State University recently pinpointed what is often missing from the discussion of doctoral training: “We need to remake our programs from the ground up to produce teachers and researchers and something elses, but since it is not clear what those something elses might be, we haven’t begun to rethink the graduate curriculum accordingly.” Transforming doctoral education requires building new models that actively develop leadership potential beyond the academy with the same motivation and intentionality that, in the past, cultivated future faculty.
The Ph.D. American Studies at IUPUI does not tweak the traditional model, but builds an infrastructure for a collaborative and applied graduate school experience that closes the distance between academia and the world surrounding it. Internships will serve as the centerpiece of the program and replace the role teaching assistantships typically play. Internship sites will inform student research for dissertations and provide the foundation for future employment. Directors at these sites will assist faculty mentors in determining the coursework and skills students acquire through the academic side of the program–IUPUI serves as an academic laboratory for applied projects. The coursework and internships will often operate simultaneously, thus allowing students to work on problems and issues encountered during their internships in the courses they take. Moreover, faculty mentors and internship site directors will collaborate before, during, and after student internships, much as researchers interact with their partners when working on externally funded projects.