From the AHA Activities column in the April 2002 Perspectives

Update from the Committee on Graduate Education

Philip M. Katz, April 2002

In October 2001, the Committee on Graduate Education (CGE) began a series of site visits to selected graduate programs across the country—including both well established and brand-new programs, in big and small departments, at public and private universities. These trips will continue through early May, by which time the CGE will have visited eight different departments: Northeastern, Howard, Florida International University, Columbia, University of Michigan, University of South Carolina, Ohio State University, and Stanford. In the course of each visit, committee members meet separately (and confidentially) with the department chair, director of graduate studies, other faculty members, graduate students, and university administrators. In each case, the goal is not to critique (or even praise) an individual graduate program, but to clarify the larger issues involved in graduate training and to identify lessons, models, areas of concern, areas of improvement, and so forth, that can be shared with the rest of the discipline.

On behalf of the CGE, I would like to thank these departments for allowing us to visit and learn from them. Unlike the typical committee of external reviewers, the CGE has refrained from offering the departments any specific advice or feedback about their own graduate programs—which makes their participation in our work all the more generous. These intensive visits have reinforced the findings of the extensive survey of doctoral programs conducted by the committee last spring and summer, while adding a wealth of "local knowledge" that could not be captured through a survey questionnaire. A preliminary analysis of the doctoral survey was presented at the annual meeting of the AHA in January 2002, and can be summarized by the "Six C's" that define doctoral education in history today: Complexity, Concern, Change, Careers in Transition, Complacency, and (Mis)cues between faculty and graduate students. (A more detailed analysis of the data will appear in the next issue of Perspectives.)

In other news from the annual meeting, the AHA Council endorsed an extension of the CGE's work on graduate training until at least June 2003, with the explicit purpose of devoting additional time and effort to an investigation of master's degrees. In any given year, at least four times as many master's degrees as doctorates are awarded in history, and this reckoning does not include many of the master's degrees with a content focus on history that are awarded to secondary-school instructors. More Americans learn history from holders of master's degrees than they ever do from historians with PhDs, in such diverse settings as secondary schools, community colleges, National Park Service sites, and historical museums. At the same time, the amount of scholarly research devoted to master's degrees of all sorts is small compared to the amount devoted to doctorates. The CGE has just started its own research on master's degrees, and we welcome the suggestions and advice of all AHA members, but especially of those who are currently enrolled or teach in a terminal master's degree program in any area of history.

Philip M. Katz is research director of the Committee on Graduate Education.