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PhD Professional Development Innovation Initiative

I.   Background

The Johns Hopkins University was founded for the express purpose of expanding knowledge and harnessing that knowledge for the benefit of humanity. From our founding as America’s first research university, doctoral education has been fundamental to the Johns Hopkins mission. Over recent decades, however, the landscape of PhD education, and where it leads, have changed. PhD education nationally has come under growing scrutiny, as time to degree has lengthened for many fields, and fewer students move into academic jobs. At the same time, many of society’s most pressing problems, from multiple sectors, demand the ability to think deeply about and apply innovative techniques to complex challenges and to synthesize and analyze considerable information from varied sources—features central to the training of a PhD student.

An area where the PhD landscape has changed considerably over recent decades is in career trajectory. Fewer and fewer PhD graduates nationally, and across disciplines, have careers in the professoriate. For some fields, academic careers are simply less available. For others, students are interested in the array of opportunities available to them after doctoral training and the ways they can use their training to make an impact on the world. It is our responsibility to ensure that Johns Hopkins PhD students, while immersed in their training, can learn about, have exposure to, and begin to explore a range of career options relevant for their field, and for their lives.

II.   Types of Awards

To further the above goals, Johns Hopkins University is made funds available, on a competitive basis, to expose students to a range of career options, and to develop new and innovative professional development programming. Three funding mechanisms were available, designed together to provide exposure, skill-building, experiential learning, and/or networking and community-building relevant to learning about career paths for given fields. Each of the three initiatives is described below.

A.  PhD Program Career Eventsshort term ($750-$5,000): This mechanism provides an opportunity for a single, or group of, JHU PhD program(s) to organize and host one event, or a series of events, that provide exposure to professionals in their field working in non-academic careers. Examples of event(s) for this type of award might include bringing alumni or other professionals from the program(s)’ or related disciplines to campus to participate in panels or as speakers. The expectation is that all or most of the guests would be in non-academic career positions. The goal is to allow current PhD students to hear the experiences of professionals with a PhD in their (or a related) field, to learn more about the types of careers people with their degree successfully pursue, and to allow students to network with these guests, develop contacts, and ask questions.

B.  PhD Non-Academic Careers Innovation Programlonger term ($25,000-$200,000): This mechanism provides an opportunity for a JHU PhD program, a group of JHU PhD programs, a JHU school, a set of schools, or a University-wide initiative, to provide non-academic career professional development opportunities and experiences for JHU PhD students. Funds are available to design, create, organize, and implement activities such as training, exposure, internships, skill-building, networking, immersive experiences, or other initiatives relevant to non-academic career professional development for current PhD students. Programs should be developed with an eye toward sustainability. Programs may be targeted (e.g., underrepresented PhD students in STEM; humanities students pursuing non-profit careers; PhD students seeking policy internships), or programs may be broader and for students across JHU and from multiple fields. Programs may provide greater depth and be of longer length for what may be a smaller number of students, or may provide more time-limited experiences, workshops, or training for larger numbers of PhD students. Through either approach, the goal is for JHU PhD students to have the opportunity for deeper exposure, skill building, hands-on experiences, and preparation for a range of non-academic professional career options relevant to their scholarly area of PhD education.

C.  Diversity Networking, Mentoring, and Professional Development Programs ($25,000-$75,000): This mechanism is for individuals, programs, schools, or JHU offices to create additional networking, social, and/or mentoring opportunities for underrepresented PhD students to interact with other underrepresented and/or diversity-affirming PhD students, postdocs, faculty, alumni and/or other career professionals. Evidence suggests that minority graduate students often experience more isolation and have less access to mentors, role models, and professional connections than their non-minority peers,[1] particularly when from backgrounds with fewer informal professional networks.[2] Programs should be developed with sustainability in mind. The goal is to create an ongoing networking or mentoring program and set of activities from which JHU PhD students can benefit, particularly in terms of career development.

[1] Girves, JE, Zepeda, Y, Gwathmey, JK. “Mentoring in a Post-Affirmative Action World”. 2005. Journal of Social Issues. 61:3;449-479.

[2] Thomas, KM, Willis, LA, Davis, J. “Mentoring minority graduate students: issues and strategies for institutions, faculty, and students.” 2007. Equal Opportunities International. 26:3;178-192.




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