University of California, Santa Cruz

Bridging disciplinary-based doctoral training with institutional interdisciplinary goals

The University of California, Santa Cruz–SSRC Dissertation Proposal Development (DPD) Program is hosted by the university’s Institute for Humanities Research in conjunction with the Division of Graduate Studies. It seeks to bolster the ability of graduate students to pursue and benefit from the university’s existing multi-disciplinary degree programs, interdisciplinary research hubs, and cross-disciplinary research initiatives. To do so, UC-Santa Cruz’s program will incorporate cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives when doctoral students first begin to conceive and explore dissertation research topics and formulate research methodologies. The new trainings will engage students with one another in a variety of instructional settings and support each with varied types of individually-tailored mentoring.

UC-Santa Cruz’s program will add to and benefit from other interventions that strengthen interdisciplinary and cross-institutional graduate education at the university such as the Mellon-Foundation funded Integrative Graduate Humanities Education and Research Training (IGHERT) and a current planning grant for NEH’s new Next Generation PhD program.

UC-Santa Cruz’s program will span twelve months and include:

    1. A late summer “bootcamp-style” workshop on research fundamentals and interdisciplinarity;
    2. A series of monthly workshops on specific topics;
    3. Summer exploratory research; and
    4. A concluding dissertation proposal workshop.

Program Cycle:
Beginning in late summer 2017, students just prior to beginning their second year of graduate study will participate in an three-day workshop that will introduce them to research fundamentals and principles of interdisciplinarity, methods, and ethics. While guiding the students to frame the development of their projects in relation to broad key conceptual distinctions (e.g. ideographic and nomothetic, quantitative and qualitative, analytic and interpretive, critical and creative) the workshop will also help them to choose between and employ a wide range of specific writing strategies, modes of scholarly communication (including digital platforms and social media), research methods, and standards of evaluation. Over the next three academic quarters, the students will meet in monthly interactive workshops to explore selected topics in greater depth, build the foundations of their research proposals, and prepare for exploratory summer research. Following summer investigations, the students will reconvene for a concluding research colloquium to discuss the implications of their findings, and present drafts of preliminary dissertation proposals for peer critique.

In subsequent years, the program may incorporate a limited number of additional students from across the UC system in conjunction with the UC Humanities Research Institute.

Faculty Engagement:
UC-Santa Cruz’s program has created an interdisciplinary faculty advisory group representing relevant social science, humanities, and arts-scholarship PhD programs. Other faculty from these programs will help facilitate workshops throughout the program cycle.

Additionally, the program places emphasis on the faculty’s employing a “three-dimensional” model of mentorship while incorporating Individual Development Plans tailored to the needs of social science and humanities doctoral students. “Multiple mentorship” will increase the number and disciplinary diversity of faculty working with each student; “distributed mentorship” will broaden the institutional positions from which faculty provide assistance, both within and outside the academy; and “layered mentorship” to provide beginning students with peer guidance by more advanced students who will have completed their research proposals.

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