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Planning Themes

The "Living Humanities" Ph.D. for the 21st Century project includes 1/ key stakeholders who will serve as the critical human inputs, including a Core Planning Group and a Constituent Advisory Group; and 2/ an integrated planning framework that informs all project work in a coherent, stepwise fashion.

The principal activities we plan to undertake center on six priority themes that have emerged as being the most relevant to both students and faculty, the University and its mission, and our community both in the Bronx and the greater New York City area. They include:

Ensure Access and Inclusion

This theme lies at the heart of Fordham’s mission as a Jesuit institution of higher learning, and requires seeing beyond our certainties to ensure that humanities departments and programs embrace progressivism, promote a greater social justice in word and in deed, and empower their students, faculty, and communities. A new humanities Ph.D. model must address the concerns and requirements of students from underrepresented, underserved, and marginalized communities. Current Survey of Earned Doctorates data tells us, for example, that the percentage of first-generation college students (traditionally hailing from underrepresented and minority communities) who go on to complete Ph.D.s has fallen from two-thirds in 1963 to one-third in 2014. Coupled with this worrisome trend, the prevailing structure of Ph.D. program admissions emphasizes narrow specialization and presumes one possible outcome: an academic career in the professoriate. Any attempt to include a variety of outcomes in a model Ph.D. program that also is accessible to these communities must center on recruitment and admissions.

  • How can we reimagine the role of recruitment and admissions as mutually reinforcing platforms to advance meaningfully the goals of attracting and retaining a diverse and inclusive student body and faculty?
  • In what ways can the application process itself be reconfigured to attract communities of Ph.D. applicants which are currently not being reached? How should humanities Ph.D. programs rethink the notion of a model applicant/student?
  • How can we develop new models of financial support that promote inclusion and advance the goals of reforming time to degree?
  • Are there modes of pre-Ph.D. mentoring and preparation that can be designed to serve potential applicants from our community in becoming successful humanities Ph.D. program applicants (both here at Fordham and possibly elsewhere)?

Resources for “Ensure Access and Inclusion” Meeting


Posselt, Julie R. Inside Graduate Admissions: Merit, Diversity, and Faculty Gatekeeping. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015.

Articles/Book Chapters

Cassuto, Leonard. “Admissions.” In The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015. 17-56.

Cassuto, Leonard and Julie R. Posselt. “Inside the Graduate-Admissions Process: A Study Finds the Pervasive Misuse of Test Scores and Too Much Homophily.” Chronicle of Higher Education, January 31, 2016.

Davidson, Martin N. and Lynn Foster-Johnson. “Mentoring in the Preparation of Graduate Researchers of Color.” Review of Educational Research 71, no. 4 (2001): 549-74.

Flaherty, Colleen. “Feeling Isolated and Excluded.” Chronicle of Higher Education, October 20, 2016

López, Marissa. “On Mentoring First Generation and Graduate Students of Color.” Race and Ethnicity: The Site of the Committee on the Literature of People of Color in the United States and Canada.

Mason, Mary Ann, Nicholas H. Wolfinger, and Marc Goulden. “The Graduate School Years: New Demographics, Old Thinking.” Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2013. 8-26.

Smith, Sidonie. “Diversifying the Humanities.” In Manifesto for the Humanities. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015. 165-9.


Committee on Diversity and Inclusion. “2016 GPSS Report on Race, Diversity and Inclusion.” Yale University Graduate and Professional Student Senate, 2016

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.” Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan. See especially the sections on “Key Findings, Themes and Recommendations” and “Selected Examples of Rackham DE&I Programs, Initiatives, and Resources.”

Task Force on Inclusion and Diversity. “Report to APA Board of Officers for the November 2014 Meeting.” American Philosophical Association, 2014.

Yale Graduate and Professional Senate Releases Report on a Survey of Students’ Experience with Bias.” Yale News, October 17, 2016. Provides a little infographic summing up some of the findings of the report.

Revitalize Learning Outcomes

Consideration of a new model for the humanities Ph.D. must begin by re-imagining the learning outcomes our students aim to achieve. What will Ph.D. holders of the future be required to know? What will they be required to know how to do? How will their experience as Ph.D. students be transformative for themselves and the public sphere?

  • What are the key student learning objectives (SLOs) for the Ph.D. in a humanities discipline today and for the future?
  • How must the design of the doctorate be re-imagined to meet these new SLOs?
  • What types of requirements will be helpful in facilitating the achievement of these SLOs?
    • Is the dissertation still the necessary formative experience of the Ph.D. in the humanities? If not, what other formative experiences might be proposed? If yes, what alternative formats might the dissertation take? What are the SLOs for the dissertation in particular?
    • What role might experiential and practical learning play in a new humanities Ph.D.?
    • How might collaboration and team approaches figure into a new humanities Ph.D.?
    • How will a model humanities Ph.D. ensure the mastery of the discipline while remaining open to interdisciplinary possibilities? Or is this a false opposition?
    • What might the progression of requirements look like in a particular discipline?
    • What is the ideal time to degree for a humanities Ph.D., assuming that there is consensus that current average times to degree are too long? How will the SLOs be met in that new time frame?


  • Smith, Sidonie. Manifesto for the Humanities: Transforming Doctoral Education in Good Enough Times Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2015. 1-32 & 111-174.

Other Key Readings

Inhabit the New Learning Ecosystem

Graduate education must be re-imagined in the context of the emergent learning ecosystem, which involves not only digital technologies as tools but, rather, constitutes a fundamental shift toward learner-centered, active approaches to curriculum design, study methods, curation of knowledge, and research protocols.

  • What are the appropriate learning environments and delivery formats to meet the SLOs?
  • How will we ensure that a new model makes the doctoral candidate the active center of all learning?
  • What “classroom” formats will be most appropriate?
  • What pedagogies should be explored, deployed, and taught?
  • How will the design of new Ph.D. programs facilitate new learning and new knowledge discovery?
  • How will a new model facilitate collaborative and interdisciplinary thinking, collaborative research, and collaborative writing? How will a new model respond to the dominance of the “solitary scholar” paradigm in the traditional humanities?
  • How will a new model prepare students to engage with digital methods of scholarship, communication, and pedagogy?

Key Readings

Mentor the Whole Person: Career-wise Counsel, Promising Partnerships

A new model for humanities Ph.D.s must remain cognizant of the fact that approximately 50% of doctorate holders nationally go into careers outside of academia and that Ph.D. programs must, therefore, support these multiple career outcomes. At Fordham, we have traditionally emphasized the Jesuit value of cura personalis - care for the whole person. We now propose to embed this principle more deeply as a hallmark of our Ph.D. degrees as well.

  • What fundamental transferrable habits of mind and skills do Ph.D. candidates acquire in their degree programs? How can programs support the development of these skills, and help candidates make these skills visible and flexible?
  • How will the role of faculty mentors shift and evolve?
  • What other types of advising structures should be developed to support doctoral candidates?
  • How can alumni of humanities Ph.D. programs be deployed in re-imagining mentoring and advising of doctoral candidates?
  • How can we include community partners and prospective employers in mentoring and advising Ph.D. candidates? What experiential/practical/shadowing opportunities can be created to facilitate career options?
  • How will Ph.D. program curricula imaginatively include outcomes other than academic placements, in addition to academic placements?
  • How will the new Ph.D. in humanities operationalize relations with non-academic partners to support career opportunities for graduates?

Essential Readings:

Leonard Cassuto, “The Job Market Reconceived,” In The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015. 183-208.

Anne Krook, “From Being to Doing: Mobilizing the Humanities.” Plenary Talk, Future Humanities: Transforming Graduate Studies for the Future of Canada Conference, Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas (Montreal: McGill University, May 2015)

Vimal Patel, “Opening Doors for the Ph.D.,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 29, 2017

L. Maren Wood, “How Administrators Can Help Prepare Ph.D.s for Nonfaculty Careers,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 29, 2017

“5 Ways to Broaden the Doctoral Curriculum,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 29, 2017


Katina Rogers,“Humanities Unbound: Supporting Careers and Scholarship Beyond the Tenure Track,” University of Virginia, 2013

Council of Graduate Schools and Educational Testing Service. Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers. Report from the Commission on Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service, 2012.

Additional Readings

Leonard Cassuto, “The Alt-Ac Job Search: A Case Study,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 23, 2015

Anne Krook, “How Faculty Can Support Graduate Students and PostDocs Looking for Non-Academic Work,” Anne Krook: Practical Workplace Advice

Vimal Patel, “Helping History Ph.D.s Expand Their Job Options: An Interview with James Grossman” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 29, 2017

Incorporate Service and Community Engagement

We see service and community engagement as a key theme for our planning, not just because of Fordham’s traditional emphasis on service learning but because this mission-driven focus connects with the needs of today’s students and the professional landscape they will inhabit and enrich.

  • How can we meaningfully build partnerships with community organizations into the design of our curricula?
  • Can we viably integrate doctoral study and service without compromising the academic rigor of the one and the steadfast commitment required by the other? Or is this a false dichotomy?
  • How can we ensure that our service partnerships benefit both the University - its students, faculty, and academic culture - and the members of the community and their institutions?
  • How can we effectively cultivate and redeploy the skills acquired in service projects and community engagement for conducting research and completing a doctorate?
  • How might our study of the humanities enrich the communities we serve?
  • What would success look like for a humanities doctoral program with a service component, and what methods will we develop to assess and monitor it?

Cultivate and Curate a Living Humanities Ph.D. Model

Establishing a new Ph.D. model for the humanities should not be considered the ultimate endpoint that is reached following a long and difficult journey. Rather, the new model is the beginning point of constructing social change. As we plan for this new model, we must reconsider the space in which we are operating; the resources and information that are available to us (and that can be created); and the attachment points and relationships that bond the process in its entirety. Ultimately, the change processes we will engage in will be sustained through the creation of dynamic, flexible, context-based platforms that are able to adapt and respond to new challenges and environmental shifts.

  • How can we build hubs and platforms that better connect faculty and students across different humanities disciplines?
  • How can we devise effective data collection and analysis frameworks that can be synthesized into measures that not only quantify but qualify the outcomes of our model?
  • In what ways can we tailor assessment methodologies and instruments at all levels to inform and create productive feedback that is then utilized to revise and adapt - and improve the platforms we create?
  • What roles and responsibilities should we ask our humanities Ph.D. students to assume as curators of the model?