The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences has launched new initiatives to help doctoral students find work in an increasingly competitive job market.
Dean of the Graduate School Thomas Pollard said he plans to increase the number of internship sand postdoctoral fellowships for graduate students by collaborating with peer institutions and alumni. Humanities students struggle to find work more than students in other disciplines, according to a review of doctoral programs that Pollard released in August, and Pollard said he aims to reduce these discrepancies by providing opportunities for students in all disciplines.
“The downturn of the world’s economy over the past three years has created challenges owing to lower rates of hiring in essentially all fields,” Pollard said. “Our placement [of students into internships and postdoctoral positions] helps them to prepare for job searches, and we would like to increase the number of employment opportunities.”
In Pollard’s report, which focused on recommendations to improve mentoring for doctoral students, he said internships with companies could provide work both for graduates struggling to find academic jobs and for students who are considering working permanently in the private sector instead of finishing their dissertations. Also, new postdoctoral fellowships would be directed primarily at humanities students, the report stated, to give them teaching and research experience that would make them more qualified for academic positions. Students will have to compete for the fellowships, according to the report, and students who complete their dissertations in five years or less will have priority.
But meeting this standard is difficult in many departments: finishing degrees in humanities departments takes 6.7 years on average, according to the report. Eckart Frahm, director of graduate studies for the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department, told the News in September that postdoctoral fellowships would aid his students, but the nature of his discipline requires that students spend a relatively long time pursuing their degrees, making them less likely to be awarded fellowships. The average time to degree in Frahm’s department is seven years.
Pollard also plans to provide opportunities that will not involve competitive application processes. He said he will expand departmental activities such as mock interviews and alumni referrals, as well as integrate extracurricular activities into programming offered by the graduate career services office. He said he hopes that this will allow students to build their resumes and increase their chances of employment.
Victoria Blodgett, director of graduate career services, could not be reached for comment.
Three graduate students interviewed said they are pleased with the initiatives since they provide students with more opportunities to find work.
Patrick Cournoyer GRD ’12, a molecular, cellular and developmental biology student, said Pollard’s report includes recommendations, other than the increase in employment opportunities, that also better prepare students to find positions. For example, the report called for students to present their research more frequently, which Cournoyer said prepares students to speak about their dissertations when they are applying for jobs, he added.
“There has also been an effort to teach students how to give better talks, which I think has made a positive difference,” Cournoyer said.
Pollard’s report also included statistics on how much each department costs the Graduate School: The six-year cost to the Graduate School for a humanities student is $143,170 on average, while that number drops to $17,421 for a students in the natural sciences.