University of Massachusetts, Boston

Infusing social justice–oriented dissertation research with transdisciplinary approaches

The University of Massachusetts, Boston–SSRC Transdisciplinary Dissertation Proposal Development (TDPD) Program, housed within the Office of Research, Strategic Initiatives, and Graduate Studies, will organize transdisciplinary trainings for graduate students who seek to embark on dissertation research that will contribute to social justice. Transdisiciplinary research integrates theories, methods, and/or concepts from different disciplines to create new theories, methods, or fields that go beyond any one discipline. As part of a university that serves a diverse population, including first-generation, immigrant, and low-income students, the program seeks to support doctoral student retention, enhance student competitiveness, and increase minority representation within the academy and beyond.

The new program will contribute to the Office of Graduate Studies’ goal for the University of Massachusetts–Boston to become a national leader in inter- and transdisciplinary research and teaching.

The TDPD Program has two main components:

    1. An academic-year-long and for-credit Workshop for Dissertation Writers in Social Justice
    2. An intensive three-week summer Transdisciplinary Research Methods Bootcamp

Students will be able apply to participate in one or both components. They will also have the opportunity to apply to the program to subsidize exploratory dissertation research expenses.

Program Cycle:
The year-long workshop will commence in fall 2017 and meet bi-weekly through the spring semester. The workshop is designed for doctoral students at the dissertation proposal development stage. It aims to provide practical guidance, mentorship, and a structure for developing and completing dissertation research proposals. It also will serve as an intellectual forum to foster competencies in interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary intellectual integration and research design, particularly for projects that challenge injustice, contribute to human rights, and promote diversity.

The Transdisciplinary Research Methods Bootcamp will be first offered in the summer of 2018. The bootcamp will be an intensive 3-week program to help students develop solid skills in transdisciplinary approaches to research design and methods. Its curriculum is to be drawn heavily from an existing graduate course in transdisciplinary research methods offered through the university’s master’s program in Transnational, Cultural, and Community Studies. Through the bootcamp, students will learn how to apply transdisciplinary research methods to complex societal issues and problems and will move toward completing draft dissertation research proposals.

Faculty Engagement:
The TDPD Program has been designed by faculty leaders who have been active in building a “pipeline” for underrepresented student populations to enter graduate school. Additional faculty have been recruited to form an Executive Team from multiple departments and schools to design and manage the proposed program. The team will continue to draw upon additional faculty both within and outside the university who are committed to the program’s goals.

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