Chapter 2. Necessary Discussions
The Committee on Graduate Education's general impression is that historians are acutely aware of major changes in the intellectual agenda of the discipline, the issue of demographic change in higher education (including the importance of diversity in the profession), and the changing ecology of employment. This awareness has not, however, led many historians to rethink the basic missions, structure, and practices of graduate education. For example, while many historians recognize major shifts in faculty and student interests toward transnational, comparative, thematic, and interdisciplinary approaches, this knowledge has not affected the structure of doctoral curricula in significant ways. Nor has there been much change in the way graduate programs describe the larger enterprise of doctoral education in history. There is a good deal of unease—even angst—about the plight of students in a grim employment market, but there seems to have been little sustained reflection on the causes or cure of this situation. Action has been quite limited.
There is perhaps a fear of acting hastily or irresponsibly. Caution is entirely appropriate. Universities have survived for nearly a millennium partly because of their conservatism; it enables them to preserve learning in difficult times. With full regard and respect for these conservative virtues, the Committee on Graduate Education believes that the present both invites and demands serious discussion of changes in doctoral education. We hope to encourage a boldness of thought and action reminiscent of our predecessors who, more than a century ago, established doctoral education in this country. Change, not stasis, seems the more advisable strategy. The academic and public standing of history may be at stake, as well as the lives of many young historians. That several of the issues we are here addressing have been discussed before, perhaps perennially, suggests their difficulty. Perhaps they cannot be resolved in any final way. Acknowledging that there are no permanent solutions to the complex challenges of educating historians is not to counsel passivity. It means only that our approach to the problems must be realistic and understood in terms of the very specific circumstances of the discipline and profession at this moment in its history.
In this chapter, we address general, profession-wide issues, but ones that are not, usually, susceptible to a single national solution. We hope to stimulate local discussions that are national in scope yet point toward local resolutions of the problems we here identify. In the next chapter, we will make recommendations of very specific improvements—some in the form of "best practices" already adopted by individual graduate programs—that we hope all departments will adopt. If, in this chapter, the Committee resists recommending any specific "one size fits all" solutions, it should quickly become evident that we favor particular approaches to some of them.
The situation of history is distinctive, but other disciplines are also engaging in critical self-examination. A recent statement by the Association of American Universities, which represents sixty-two major research universities, points to five areas of general concern in doctoral education: (1) the overproduction of Ph.D.'s; (2) narrow training; (3) an overemphasis on research at the expense of teaching; (4) graduate students being used as cheap labor; and (5) insufficient mentoring, career advising, and placement assistance. The statement further "encourages each university and each department ... to examine the size, scope, and performance of its graduate programs to determine whether these programs are meeting the interests of students in preparing them for the diversity of careers to which they may aspire."1 This general assessment of doctoral education is on target, and it applies to history.
Two broad issues stand out as central to our necessary discussions. First, as a profession we must be clear about the mission(s) of graduate education. Second, individual history departments must be willing to ask hard questions about their own graduate programs—questions about purpose and mission, size, effectiveness, placement record, overall quality, and especially the fit between program goals and available resources. Without clear evidence of successful realization of its mission, the continuation of a program must be questioned, with discontinuation a real option. Meeting national or regional needs are adequate justification for a program, but other rationales, such as continuing a weak program for purposes of institutional prestige, better funding formulas and teaching loads, or as a supply of inexpensive graduate student instructors, are not. These are not appropriate—or ethical—justifications.
Again and again the Committee has been struck by the importance of a department's culture to both the effectiveness of its graduate program and the satisfaction of its students and faculty. The culture and daily practices of a department constitute a powerful hidden curriculum that is very important in the professional formation of graduate students. The point is perhaps obvious, but no less important for that fact. Obviousness, unfortunately, may suggest that a supportive department culture will develop on its own. It will not; it requires leadership and self-conscious strategy.
Effective departments work hard at developing a local participatory academic culture that:
- Respects the department's collective obligations;
- Provides a sound curriculum with committed teachers;
- Understands the department as a lively intellectual community open to students and faculty alike and is a community that discusses teaching as well as research;
- Values and commits itself to demographic and intellectual diversity and maintains a collegial professionalism in spite of possible personal conflicts;
- Has clear standards, guidelines, and transparent and equitable procedures for evaluating and rewarding faculty and students;
- Recognizes the value of highly skilled and appropriately compensated support staff;
- Maintains ties with graduate alumni, understanding them as both extensions of the department and valuable representatives of the "real" world, with various careers and perspectives on professional history that they can describe to current students;
- Recognizes the importance of developing leaders (in the plural) within the department.
The closer a department approaches this ideal, the greater its capacity will be to address changes in the discipline and profession—and the more effective it will be in developing strategic plans and securing adequate resources from university administrators. We cannot overemphasize the importance of the collective development of strategic plans by history departments. These plans should not only respond to disciplinary and professional trends but also underscore the potential contributions of a strong and vital history department to an institution's undergraduate liberal arts mission.
This Committee, like the profession at large, clearly seeks to promote diversity in the profession. Too often, however, this concern focuses exclusively on admissions, ignoring the equally important task of creating a departmental culture that embraces diversity in its daily practices. Diversity is about commitment, a commitment to a positive environment of achievement for every student who is admitted. In other words, diversity is not merely a statistical matter. It is realized in a department's culture, in the development of a way of life that is marked by mutual respect and recognition of the nuances of communication in a culturally diverse community. While there is much talk about and praise for openness and inclusion, both anecdotal comments and survey research reveal that many faculty and administrators—often without being aware of it—take for granted the "intellectual inferiority" of students from underrepresented groups, especially African American and Latino/a students. Such intellectual racism has no place in higher education. Departments must self-consciously build a culture of inclusion and achievement. The principle proposed here is simple: Do not accept students you do not believe in; believe in every student accepted. Equally important is a practical intellectual respect that expects all students to meet the uniformly high challenges of doctoral education.2 Such principles of respect and expectation, in fact, ought to be intrinsic to academic culture in general, embracing all undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.
Three additional aspects of department culture deserve attention. First, a successful department and university will reward institutional commitment or citizenship, recognizing and valuing the faculty who enrich the institution. Faculty members need to be assured by colleagues and deans that their achievements as scholars, teachers, and colleagues will be rewarded without their having to constantly play the national academic market to get noticed and valued at home. There is encouraging evidence of change in this direction, and it holds promise for significant improvement in doctoral as well as undergraduate education.3
Second, an open department with clear procedures and responsibilities offers faculty and graduate students an experiential education in the range of faculty institutional responsibilities and opportunities. This, in turn, is an argument for graduate student participation in departmental affairs and service on relevant departmental committees. The education of future leaders can and should begin early.
Third, we wish to point out that embedded within the structure of modern graduate education is a medieval institution: the "master" and "apprentice" system of craft education. The model has many virtues but also a very large defect. Under the apprenticeship model, the standard of success is emulation of the mentor, and the essential task of the mentor is replication. The aim of doctoral education, however, is not replication but rather the nurturing of an original, creative scholar. Moreover, the old model invites the exercise of overbearing power. In the past such relationships were tolerated, but today they are anachronistic.4
Speaking more practically, the model simply cannot work today when the overwhelming majority of students will not have careers that replicate their mentors'. The likely result is a sense of failure on the part of students and advisors alike. The tight teacher-student relationship that traditionally has defined doctoral training needs to be opened up. Departments must find ways of structuring relations among students and faculty members that provide space for more diverse intellectual influences and for multiple student paths to professional success. Many of the suggestions in this report tend to encourage a fuller set of mentoring relations and a greater sense of plural possibilities.
Departmental Mission and Program Requirements
In most cases, the requirements of doctoral programs seem to be the result of accretion, developed in ad hoc fashion over the years. Rarely is a broad, philosophical approach taken; usually faculty seek either the replication of the graduate training they experienced or the opposite of that system. Mission statements, if they exist at all, are generally vague and change little over time. At this moment of transformation in the discipline, the profession, and history careers, we strongly urge departments to reconsider and give specificity to the aims or missions of their graduate programs. Why have a doctoral program? What special contribution, if any, does your doctoral program make to the overall ecology of graduate education, either regionally or nationally? What is the appropriate size for your doctoral program, given your available resources and the opportunities for placing graduates? How do the requirements of the doctoral program fulfill its specific goals?
To facilitate such a discussion, we have adapted a list of specific questions from a recent report of the Modern Language Association, distributed to its member departments as a prompt and aid to self-examination.5
1.Why do you have a graduate program? What purposes does this particular program serve for students, for faculty, for the university, for the community, for the discipline? Can its present size be justified on the grounds of student aspirations, educational quality, and the professional opportunities of its graduates?
2.What is the range of your faculty members' views regarding the aims and purposes of graduate education in the department? What do various faculty members want the department to be distinguished for in the next five years?
3.In thinking about the aims of your doctoral program, how do faculty members distinguish the work of doctoral education from the department's undergraduate and master's programs and from the general role of the department in liberal arts education at your institution? What priorities do you assign to these different aspects of history education? Does the present allocation of resources reflect these priorities? How might conflicts among these different aspects be resolved?
4.How does your department characterize the Ph.D.: as preparation for a research career; for teaching in four- and two-year colleges; for teaching in secondary schools; for employment by the government, museums, other historical agencies, or not-for-profit organizations; or for careers in journalism, publishing, and related professions?
5.In defining the aims of graduate education in your department, what priority do faculty members give to training for research and publication? To communicating the value of undergraduate teaching and broad humanistic education? To the education of historians with multiple career options and to the engagement of historians with the broader public? To the continuing education of secondary school teachers? To fostering new developments in the discipline? What specific activities or requirements are deployed to achieve these aims?
6.Why do graduate students apply to your specific doctoral program? What purposes or goals do they have in applying and matriculating? Have they been asked specifically? Do prospective (and current) students know and appreciate the aims of graduate education in your department, as articulated by the faculty in response to the questions above? Is there a mismatch in the expectations of faculty members and graduate students? How should any mismatch be addressed by the department?
7.To what extent is your department vulnerable to the charge that a significant reason for maintaining a doctoral program is the ready availability of graduate-student teachers, who reduce the teaching burden of the regular faculty?
8.Have your department's goals—and/or your institution's goals for the department—changed substantially in the last five years? If so, how and why? Does your department have the resources to achieve its present goals? If not, how do you propose to obtain them? Is there a strategic plan for the department? Do you have a procedure for establishing a strategic plan?
Without strong mission statements and strategic plans, departments have less access to institutional resources. Moreover, they become vulnerable—in the dean's office and beyond—to the kinds of simplistic and arbitrary criteria used, for instance, by U.S. News and World Report to rank programs.
Most doctoral programs have acknowledged the explosion of historical literature by reducing the coverage expected from their students. In many cases, the older terminology of "comprehensive" exams has been replaced by "preliminary" or "qualifying." Rather than testing comprehensive knowledge, the exams—which are now commonly based on approved reading lists—are intended to test the capacity of graduate students to think historically (that is, to use the knowledge they have mastered to fashion historical arguments). Because fields are—as we will discuss below—of varying size and because the positioning and purpose of the exams may vary, no set number of books is universally applicable. But it seems that between sixty and seventy-five books for a major field is a fairly common number for these lists. It should be noted that the reading lists referred to here define the parameters of a particular exam. The numbers do not refer to the reading a student should and will do beyond these lists. While some fear that finite lists represent a lowering of standards, these numbers are slightly higher than the number of books commonly read in preparation for exams in the 1950s.6
Still, we hope that more radical inquiry into the examination system will be undertaken. During the course of its inquiry, the Committee has observed a certain lack of rigor or consistency in defining what constitutes a field for the purposes of graduate examinations. Even within a given program, the bounds and definitions of different fields may be incommensurate. Africa, with more than fifty nations, and Latin America, with more than twenty, are usually treated as one field each, while the United States may constitute two or even three or four fields. Should all the fields in a given department be roughly equal in scope (whether measured by time, geography, or quantity of literature), or are there benefits to idiosyncrasy?
Once a field is established, is it internally homogeneous? In other words, are all aspects and periods to be equally prepared and examined? Are such expectations realistic? Is the field the same for all students? Can a modern Europeanist be examined in one nation, another in a different nation? Or should there be a mix of a single nation in depth and Europe more generally? How would the mix be defined? Can a modern Chinese historian or an American historian focus on and be examined on just the nineteenth century or some other portion of the four centuries of modern history? What is the relation of thematic fields to regional and chronological ones? Are they equivalent to each other and thus interchangeable? Or are they different yet complementary? What or who determines the limits of fields and ensures rough parity from student to student? We have seen many permutations in the examinations, but one thing—unfortunately—seems consistent: an awkward fit between coursework, directed reading, student preparation, the mode of examination, and the purpose of the exams. The logic of the relations among these things is seemingly impossible to explain, perhaps because there is rarely an articulated purpose for the examinations.
Save for being a "rite of passage," the precise function of the exams is rarely probed, nor is the particular value of a timed, sit-down exam—which, as students so rightly complain, has little to do with the way historians actually work. With a clearly articulated mission statement and a firmer sense of the goals of graduate training, it should be possible to develop alternative forms of examination. These might include "take-home" exams in various formats, a change already implemented at some institutions. Or one might consider the preparation of a lecture or the development of a bibliography or course syllabus as part of the examination process. Graduate exams could also be severed from their current role as the "certification" of competency in various teaching fields (a letter from the advisor who supervised the student's preparation in a particular field would serve this need very well). Oral exams might take the form of a seminar discussion, perhaps based on a preceding written exam or a paper prepared in one or more fields. In some departments, the oral exam is centered around a dissertation prospectus, a practice that raises the question of whether this is another example of sacrificing general education in the interest of the increasing focus on the student's research project.
Many graduate advisors comment that their students' exams are often disappointing; students of known talent somehow fail to display that talent on the exams.7 By itself, this phenomenon should prompt some rethinking about the logic of graduate exams and the preparation for them. Does graduate education in history today concentrate too much on the exercise of analytical/critical skills and not enough on content (a fund of historical knowledge) or on developing students' synthetic skills as thinkers and writers? It seems to us that the latter skills are not only useful for exams but are essential to teaching and to the public presentation of historical scholarship.
The Committee urges history departments to revisit the examination system with three formal guidelines in mind. First, exams should have a clear purpose, one that relates to a graduate program's explicit aims. Second, exams should have some clear relation to a program's other requirements (including coursework) or an open acknowledgment that in certain respects they do not. Third, history departments should be committed to fairness in both examination procedures and the substantive content of exams—and this commitment should be clear to faculty and students alike.
Two issues pertaining to the number and structure of examination fields emerged during the Committee's investigations. First, what is a sufficient number of fields to sustain a doctoral program in any given department? Second, what is the appropriate breadth and distribution of fields for the professional education of individual students? A third issue also relates to fields but concerns the distribution of research fields among faculty members and graduate students—particularly the tendency in many departments toward a high (and growing) proportion of Americanists. Balance and breadth, however an individual department defines these, are crucial to intellectual cosmopolitanism and should be part of every historian's training.
Some history departments with limited resources have decided to focus on particular areas of historical study in which they have competitive advantages. These advantages may derive from geographic location, an existing concentration of faculty interests, the local availability of specialized research materials or employment opportunities for graduate students, the existence of complementary programs at the same institution (or a neighboring institution), or even the availability of significant external support. The strategy of finding a niche where one has superior resources and advantages impresses us and should be encouraged. But there is more to be said on the subject. Can one maintain a sufficient degree of intellectual cosmopolitanism in a program with only one major field of inquiry leading to the Ph.D.? Fifty years ago, a predecessor to this Committee recommended a minimum of five broad fields for a viable doctoral program in history.8 In general, that standard still makes sense, though a case can surely be made for a doctoral program that sacrifices some breadth for quality. Three fields may be viable, but one field is not—though building special strength in one field (out of three or more) in order to achieve competitive advantage in that field may be effective.
It might be argued that the dangers of parochialism (as well as the related danger of marginalizing or underutilizing faculty in less-favored fields) are overstated in the case of world history or even in comparative fields, transnational thematic fields (such as the African Diaspora or the history of ideas), or fields defined by transregional interactions and exchange (such as the Atlantic World). Perhaps. Certainly, such a conversation is worth having.
A related question of faculty resources also needs to be discussed: How many faculty members must be engaged in research in a given field to support it as a major field for the doctorate? We think that one is insufficient but two or three may be enough.9 Area studies programs are often a source of additional specialists; this option is a good reason for cooperation among history departments and area studies programs. Another possible solution to a shortage of faculty members in a given field is for history departments to share their resources. We are skeptical of consortia that lead to a "joint Ph.D.," but more limited consortial arrangements that expand graduate student access to faculty and library resources at other institutions offer a great deal and are much less difficult to institute or manage than a joint degree program. Such arrangements offer students access to more courses as well a larger pool of potential members for examination and dissertation committees.
Most consortia are likely to be limited to nearby doctoral institutions, but there is good reason to include nondoctoral institutions with significant faculty research strengths. Faculty members at these institutions should be given the opportunity to teach graduate courses at the doctoral institutions as part of their regular teaching load. At the same time, the nondoctoral institutions might provide teaching opportunities and mentoring to advanced graduate students, who could be introduced to a wider variety of faculty roles and teaching environments in the process. At least in metropolitan areas, where the logistics are manageable, such arrangements would seem to benefit students, faculty, and even deans seeking efficiencies. Similarly, arrangements might be made with museums, historical societies, and archives with relevant research scholars, with a reciprocity that would provide internships for interested students.
A concern for intellectual cosmopolitanism lies at the heart of this discussion of field size and distribution. Over the past quarter-century, the number and scope of required fields for doctoral students has declined, and for good reason. The explosion of monographic literature makes the idea of a "comprehensive" examination in one field, let alone several, utterly implausible. But there is a second reason for the contraction that seems less sound. Many changes in requirements or structure (modest as they have been) point in a particular direction. They put more emphasis on the student's research field and enable the student to move more quickly to dissertation research. While the Committee has no wish to further lengthen doctoral training, it is concerned that the balance has tilted too far in the direction of research interests and the dissertation field at the expense of intellectual breadth and a wider sense of the discipline.
We have no formula to propose, but we strongly believe that an ideal program should have at least one field distinct in time and place from the major field.10 Such an arrangement would work against parochialism and open the possibility of significant comparisons and larger than national contexts as well as the transfer of methodologies. Again, our aim is not to prescribe a specific formula but only to encourage departments to reconsider the balance between depth and breadth in their graduate programs, recognizing the value of a genuine outside field in that equation.
The disproportionate increase in doctorates in American history during the 1990s again raises the unavoidable question of parochialism. American history accounts for 54 percent of all Ph.D.'s in history, and 60 percent of the dissertations in American history focus on the twentieth century.11 Such numbers seem to cut against a definition of history as the study of places distant in time, space, and culture. Is the discipline becoming more presentist and parochial at the same time it is becoming (or trying to become) more cosmopolitan?
Some historical context is useful here. In the first third of the twentieth century, as many as 57 percent of dissertations were on American topics, and by the mid-1950s 45 percent of doctorates were still in the U.S. field.12 During the 1950s, the notion of American exceptionalism framed American scholarship in the humanities and the social sciences, and the cold war prompted American colleges to require U.S. history courses for undergraduates. At the end of the decade there were jobs in that field for nearly every graduate of a history doctoral program.13 Today, by contrast, a very large percentage of unemployed or underemployed historians are in the field of modern American history. Moreover, there is little reason to anticipate new positions in the field (as opposed to replacements for retiring historians). In other fields, however, new positions should be anticipated. For example, half of the departments in the country still offer no undergraduate course in the history of the Middle East, and nearly a quarter lack courses in Asian history.14 Whether for pragmatic reasons related to employment prospects or to sustain a broader, less presentist sense of the discipline as a whole, departments should be sensitive to field balance.
The increase in the proportion of Americanists raises another very difficult question. Is American history simply easier for both students and institutions? Surely library materials, research travel, and other necessary resources are easier to provide for Americanists. But is finding an inexpensive way to mount a Ph.D. program a sound basis for shaping the intellectual agenda of a discipline? Differences among institutions make this question even more pertinent. In history departments ranked in the top quartile by the National Research Council (NRC), the proportion of Ph.D.'s in American history is significantly lower than average (44 percent), while the highest numbers of Americanists, reaching as high as three of four students, come from institutions in the bottom quartile. Perhaps the most discomfiting consideration concerns language training. Is the inflation of the American field in part the result of the reduction of general language requirements?
Over the years, language requirements for the Ph.D. have been relaxed at many departments; indeed, 24 percent of the departments in our survey of doctoral programs indicated a change in language requirements during the last five years, which usually meant a decrease rather than an increase in expectations (especially for students in the U.S. field). We regret that the acquisition of a foreign language is now often treated, especially in the American field, as a hurdle rather than a resource. As thematic, comparative, and transnational topics gain in importance, students will need greater, not lesser, language capacities.
To make language a tool, it must be functional. If a student is certified in a language, then he or she can fairly be expected to read materials in that language for a course, even if the course is outside the student's main field. The instructor should not be expected to provide an alternative text in English. Whenever possible, the foreign-language capacities of students should be enhanced as an active tool.
But if language skills are to be taken seriously, then history departments—in cooperation, perhaps, with area and international studies programs—must demand effective language training, not only in the commonly taught languages but in the less common ones as well. There must be appropriate courses for graduate students and funding to support language study, during both the academic year and the summer, including opportunities for immersion courses abroad.15 Departments must also recognize that graduate students in fields requiring difficult and/or rarely taught languages, or students whose work requires multiple languages, will frequently take longer to complete their degrees. They should be accorded some flexibility in this regard when it comes to progress-to-degree and funding schedules, and, if necessary, departments should inform graduate deans and other university administrators about this issue.
While advanced language training in graduate school is of crucial importance in many fields, departments should think more seriously than many now do about language skills at the point of admission. It may be unwise to admit a student who does not have a working knowledge of one foreign language. Such a student can be deferred until that deficiency is remedied. Too few undergraduate advisors of history students make the case for languages (or study abroad) early enough or strongly enough to students considering graduate education in the field. Were graduate departments to adopt more rigorous language requirements at the point of admission, it would also become essential for undergraduate advisors to insist on the importance of languages and inform students of the necessity of arriving at graduate school with competence in at least one foreign language, whatever their field.
As a matter of simultaneous invention, a number of history departments have recently developed introductory courses for their doctoral students. These courses tend to share two purposes: first, to introduce students to the intellectual agendas of the discipline across the entire span of space and time—or at least as far as the instructor(s) can reach; and second, to create a self-conscious peer group from the cohort of incoming students. At their best, these courses emphasize the breadth of the discipline, becoming an introduction to the professional study of history that transcends any specific field.
We think this is a very important development, and we welcome it. Both socially and intellectually, the introductory courses provide the foundation for an expansive sense of the discipline. As doctoral programs grow smaller, graduate students must look beyond their own geographical, chronological, thematic, or methodological specializations to find colleagues and peers with whom to share ideas and work in progress. These courses can also encourage students to think beyond the established boxes of fields and methods and to examine new ideas and methods from other fields of history. Finally, they can provide a useful foundation for students who are inclined to engage in the comparative and transnational studies that have become increasingly common.
However important these courses seem to be, we have learned that they are very difficult to teach. While students like the idea of an introductory course, they are often dissatisfied with the courses in practice. Indeed, the Committee heard students at different institutions complain that the courses were too focused on theoretical issues (such as postcolonialism or gender studies), not focused enough on theoretical issues, too concerned (or not concerned enough) with the historical development of the discipline, incoherent, idiosyncratic (depending on the instructor's own research interests), or simply irrelevant to the student's already (prematurely?) defined interests. It may be that, like the intellectual culture they attempt to map, these courses will always be in process and subject to contention. Students may have to learn to accept that fact; instructors may have to develop a kind of "focused openness" that encourages the same in the students. Selling one's own point of view seems out of place in such a course, given the work of establishing a collective discussion about the extent and diversity of our discipline. But neither can the instructor be intellectually passive. It is a difficult course.
So far as we can tell, chances of success tend to increase when there is broad faculty commitment to the course. The wider the faculty's participation in the development of the pedagogical aims and major themes of the course, the better. Often they are team-taught, but there seems to be no clear correlation between team versus singular teaching and success. While visiting lecturers can be a useful component of these courses, too many visitors showing off their wares will undercut the primary task of the introduction to the field: a continuing conversation about the substance and practice of history, mostly carried out by nonspecialists, that critically examines and incorporates questions and theories into a broadened sense of the discipline.
Interdisciplinarity and Theory
One of the earliest introductory courses was launched at Princeton in 1965 by Lawrence Stone. Beyond the aims noted above, History 500 had the additional goal of introducing students to relevant (or potentially relevant) work in other disciplines, mainly, then, the social sciences.16 Today, the interdisciplinary reach is extended, with perhaps a greater emphasis on anthropology, which is more and more convergent with history, and on literary and visual culture studies. Often this interdisciplinary work is described as "theory," which is correct in some literal sense, if theory is defined as concepts that can travel from their points of disciplinary origin.
Neither "interdisciplinarity" nor "theory" is new to historians. In fact, all disciplines are porous to some degree, and many of the ideas that establish or accelerate new disciplinary agendas come from the outside. More than most disciplines, history openly welcomes ideas and methods regardless of their origin, as evidenced especially by the voraciousness of the Annales School, which treated everything human and nonhuman as within the scope of the historian. In the early part of the twentieth century, geography had an important impact on historical work in the United States; Marxism was widely influential in the interwar years; many historians in the middle part of the century embraced the social sciences (especially sociology); and so on. More recently, critical cultural theories have inspired considerable interest among historians, especially graduate students.
When in the 1950s the social sciences drew the attention of historians, they valued their engagement with current social science theory because it was believed to be a conduit linking historians to the broader intellectual culture of their time.17 This function remains an important justification for attending to the various theories that come into history from other disciplines, including emergent disciplines.
Many graduate students today "pick up" these outside theories on their own. They need and deserve proper introductions to them, whether in the history department or in collaboration with other departments or programs. The same point should be made about interdisciplinary work more generally.
The word interdisciplinary is used rather casually. We should be more specific about what interdisciplinarity means to us and how it might contribute to the education of historians. Among the plethora of related words circulating today--transdisciplinary, postdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, even pluridisciplinary--interdisciplinary may be the easiest to describe and the most difficult to master. If interdisciplinarity means anything distinctive, it is the incorporation of the concepts and methods of another discipline (or disciplines) into one's own historical work. There may be a question asked in another discipline that has not been asked before by historians. Or there may be an explanatory concept or methodology associated with another discipline that seems to illuminate a particular historical problem. The danger in pursuing interdisciplinary work is that of not knowing enough about the other discipline to really understand the concept, question, or interpretation being borrowed and incorporated. For that reason, some rigorous education in the other discipline is usually necessary, whether through coursework or specific consultation with a scholar working in that discipline.
There is always an escalation of expectations with interdisciplinary work. The first scholar to borrow ideas or methods from another discipline gets credit for just thinking of it, even if the borrowed ideas are sometimes used amateurishly. The next generation is expected to know the other discipline from the inside, not as a mere visitor. Students need and deserve the level of interdisciplinary preparation their projects require, and graduate programs should have the flexibility to enable their students to acquire that knowledge.
When we describe the incorporation of ideas or methods from other disciplines, we do not mean the mechanical application of a template borrowed from somewhere else. What we have in mind is intellectual engagement or even transformation. We historians can modify and enrich outside theories in the process of incorporating them into particular historical inquiries. Moreover, historians can develop new concepts and theories in the process of doing their own work. They can generate ideas that travel beyond history, as in the case of subaltern studies, which radically changed the way cultural hegemony and the transition from colonial to national experiences are understood, especially in the South Asian field. Indeed, as a uniquely open discipline, history is well positioned for the intellectual border-crossing that many expect will characterize the best scholarship of the future.
The recent increase of comparative and transnational research sometimes reaching a global scale has pointed historians in the direction of world history. At the same time, for good civic reasons, more and more state and local school boards are mandating instruction in world (or global) history at the K-12 level. There has been important scholarly work in this field and a significant increase in the number of world history courses offered at the undergraduate level, especially in community colleges. But very few history departments are offering world history courses at the M.A. level, which history teachers in the schools need to teach the newly required courses and to prepare students for the new Advanced Placement examination in the field. Since many M.A. and Ph.D. graduates, whatever their specializations, will be asked to teach world history courses, departments ought to—at a minimum—establish some kind of forum for the discussion of the problems and various strategies of teaching world history.
But the question at hand is specific preparation in the field. Does the structure of doctoral education (and the influence of this structure on the discipline as a whole) account for this seeming lag in the development of courses and teachers in the field of world history? Or, put differently, is the discipline unduly limiting its intellectual horizons by not developing world history as a research and doctoral field? The nub of the matter is the link between research and doctoral training. Doctoral training is grounded in specialized research in original sources. This report agrees with the basic premise that research is the core of doctoral education, though the Committee is critical of excessive narrowness in much of this education. Such specialization works against the breadth of education needed to teach or do research on a scale that prepares one as a researcher or teacher in the field of world history.
Should world history as a doctoral field be more widely institutionalized? Is a research degree in world history possible? Or is world history something to be undertaken well into one's career, with many years of both theoretical reflection on the field and a cumulative fund of historical knowledge that goes well beyond the usual boundaries? Arguments can be made either way, but the immediate point is that historians are being trained in world history at the University of Hawai'i, Northeastern University, and elsewhere (sometimes under more traditional rubrics).18
There is at present a lively discussion about the best way(s) to structure doctoral training for students who are interested in world history.19 There is as yet no consensus on how to proceed; moreover, there are skeptics who are uneasy with the notion of world history as a doctoral (research) field. But two views on training at present seem to be the most viable. One assumes that world historians are best trained as researchers through comparative or transnational projects or through projects that focus on long-distance exchanges (or engagements) in either the cultural or material realms. The other does not treat world history as a major field for the doctorate but rather as a secondary field that serves as an available frame of reference within which the major field is set, thus contextualizing the dissertation field. In both cases, the research training is linked to and extended to the exploration of various intellectual strategies for synthetic scholarship and teaching world history.
For some time, the discipline has seen new fields developed; many of them have developed within established rubrics or subfields and then achieved independence and became freestanding. Others, however, have been explicitly designed to transcend established fields and to link them in new ways—the African Diaspora, Atlantic studies, and Mediterranean studies, for example. World history is more like the latter type than the former. Rather than endorsing a specific institutional form, which we do in regard to no other field, the Committee urges continued institutional and intellectual creativity to develop world history at the doctoral level. And we do so because it has important contributions to make to both current research and teaching agendas. In addition, regardless of whether a given department seeks to develop doctoral training in world history, it is important that they develop undergraduate and master's-level courses (if they have master's programs) in world history to meet the urgent demand for teacher preparation in this area.
Oddly, given the impulse to make better citizens that has contributed significantly to the development of world history requirements in the public schools, there has been a tendency to isolate American history from world history and vice versa. In order to achieve its civic purpose—and to adequately describe global processes—world history must be taught in a way that incorporates American history into the larger history of human development. American historians should be trained with sufficient breadth to enable them to join their colleagues from other fields in teaching world history.20 Finally, we note that world history offers a special and timely opportunity for university-based historians (and their graduate students) to establish mutually rewarding linkages with high school teachers and colleagues in schools or departments of education.
Undergraduate Education and the Education of Teachers
Our survey of doctoral programs revealed little direct interest in the broader liberal arts mission of American undergraduate education or in the preparation of K-12 teachers. Such a finding hardly requires explanation, some might say; these concerns are separate from the work of doctoral education. It is not so simple. There is, in fact, an important role for the faculty of doctoral programs and their students. Levels of commitment to and attitudes toward undergraduate education and broad courses devoted to the liberal arts are formed in graduate school. If disdain or a lack of interest in the liberal arts curriculum is present in the departmental and professional cultures that young historians absorb from their graduate teachers, it is consequential. We raise this issue because 60 percent of the departments surveyed by the Committee reported that their students do not receive "any exposure to teaching in the liberal arts (or humanities), broadly defined," as part of their doctoral training.
In a related fashion, we found that in most history doctoral programs neither faculty nor students tend to think of themselves as part of a K-16 community of educators, all devoted to history. We believe that university faculty and their doctoral students are in fact an extension of that community; they have a responsibility to it and a vested interest in seeing it flourish. For academics to lose touch with that community undermines history education at all levels. The discipline cannot afford such shortsightedness, and we urge that greater attention be paid to instilling in doctoral students—by example as much as by precept—an awareness of their inclusion in this community of educators, and of the roles they can play in enhancing the whole.
The AHA has a long history of concern with K-12 education, but the sustenance of a vital community of teachers of history must begin with the undergraduate education of teachers. It is in the interest of the historical profession—to say nothing of the children of America—for college history faculties to be locally engaged in the education of teachers, perhaps in collaboration with schools or departments of education, to ensure that certified social studies teachers have a solid education in history. For models, one might turn to the description of teaching collaboratives described on the AHA Web site. The site also has information regarding the U.S. Department of Education funding for "Teaching American History," which makes very substantial grants for collaborative projects with schools.
In addition, graduate students have something to gain through opportunities to engage with high school teachers—such as those available through UCLA's National Center for History in the Schools—that enable them to spend some time in a high school classroom. All historians have much to gain by closer relations with secondary teachers who know both history and pedagogy. With such mentors, graduate students will find an opportunity to bring their fund of historical knowledge into practical contact with pedagogical strategies.21
Common Education, Plural Careers
Although historians have always tried to engage general audiences in a variety of public settings, "public history" as a named enterprise only began to take shape in the 1970s.22 This development sparked an ongoing discussion within the profession about the necessary differences, if any, in the training of public historians.23 Should historians pursuing nonacademic careers be trained differently than those who have academic careers in mind? A growing number of graduate programs train students for public history careers, typically at the master's level, though some doctoral programs also emphasize public history training (or at least offer public history as a secondary field). Many history departments see in public history an opportunity to increase the employment possibilities of graduate students. As one department chair informed the Committee, his department's decision to "add a public history track [was] prompted by perception that our graduates were indeed getting jobs, but outside academe."
Our Committee explored the issue of education for public historians through consultations with public history practitioners, historians teaching in public history programs, and academic historians, as well as by surveying employers of public historians. In general, we believe that every effort should be made to reduce disciplinary and professional distinctions between academic and public historians. Employers in the field of public history indicated that they seek well-trained researchers who are intellectually quick, flexible, able to work collaboratively, possessed of excellent writing and oral communication skills (including a capacity to adapt presentations to different audiences), and reliable in meeting deadlines. These skills should be valued for all professional historians.
Some specific skills beyond these are welcome as well, particularly knowledge of local history and skill in local historical research; but if the other qualities are present, employers are prepared to train new employees for the particular tasks of the position.24 Our survey of public history employers revealed that historical training is not particularly favored in museums, historical sites, and even historical societies. The disciplines of archaeology, historic preservation, museum studies, and library and information science are at least as common as history among staff members. The other disciplines established niches in museums at a time when most historians looked elsewhere for careers. But that is not the whole story. Our survey of employers also revealed that historians are reputed to be inadequately prepared to engage the local and community history research and interpretation activities central to the work of many museums and historical societies.
While there are, therefore, some particular issues that require special attention in preparing students for public history careers, it would be a mistake to sharply distinguish between the training of academic and public historians. Graduate programs can and should avoid making unnecessary distinctions in the education of students with different career interests. We have three reasons for this position. First, as noted in the previous chapter, we believe in a unified discipline; professional history can be pursued in many different occupational settings. Second, flexibility and adaptability should be encouraged in the face of uncertain career opportunities; we should avoid locking any student into a single career path. Third, while it should be clear that research training is equally appropriate for academic and public historians, we believe as well that many of the skills identified as necessary for public historians are, in fact, useful for all historians. These include a capacity to present synthetic accounts of current historiography in concise language that is accessible to a variety of audiences; the use of new technologies in the presentation of historical knowledge; an ability to engage in collaborative research; awareness of the uses of film and other visual representations of history; the interpretation of material objects; knowledge of particular research strategies and interpretive issues in local and community history; a knowledge of archival management; grant-writing skills; and the ability to work within bureaucratic institutions, whether universities, museums, government agencies, or businesses. Both academic and public historians-in-training would benefit from workshops or classes that focus on teaching history to various audiences.
That being said, public historians do have special career-specific needs and interests that should be reflected in the practices of graduate education. At least one practicing (or former) public historian should be on the faculty of any history department claiming to train public historians. The public historian(s) should be responsible for teaching (at least) a general introduction to the field. Beyond that, specialized courses or workshops should be taught by a combination of academic historians and practitioners (who can offer specialized expertise in such areas as information technologies and nonprofit management). There should also be formal internship programs for public historians.25
The history department at Arizona State University, which has a substantial commitment to public history, has an interesting parallel approach to career preparation. It has developed a program that prepares public historians for the particular professional roles and responsibilities they will find in their careers; the program is paralleled by the department's participation in the Preparing Future Faculty project, which does the same for those seeking academic careers.26
In addition, history departments should regularly invite public historians to participate in the intellectual life of the department, as speakers, presenters, and commentators. Equally important, permanent connections should be made on the local level with public historians, whether in archives or nearby museums and historic sites. Guest lectures by research scholars from such institutions might be arranged, and an academic historian might be invited to participate in the development of an exhibit as a guest curator. Every effort should be made to recognize such careers as a respectable and equivalent option for professional historians, not as an alternative career if an academic one fails to materialize.
The unity of the profession must be defended. When evaluating history graduate programs, external reviewers do not always consider placement in public history positions as a genuine placement. A recent state-sponsored review of doctoral programs, for instance, did not consider placement of students in historical museums as a successful outcome of doctoral education. Too often, our colleagues who teach in doctoral programs make the same error.
A final word is in order here. According to the recent Pew survey of advanced doctoral students, historians are more aware of nonacademic career paths than are graduate students in any other humanities discipline. But this knowledge only makes them more committed to an academic career, not less.27 This is an unexpected and important finding. Of course, it is reasonable to go to graduate school with an academic career as one's goal—and to hold on to that goal. We are concerned only that students fairly weigh their options. To do so, they need and deserve a departmental culture that welcomes such consideration and reconsideration.
Why do so many students think of a career in a museum, federal or state historical agency, or historical site as an unsatisfactory occupational outcome? It behooves the profession to understand what makes these careers seem unsatisfactory. If students have an accurate perception of professional work conditions outside the academy, the profession must strive to bring those work settings into reasonable conformity with professional standards. Or do the students have unrealistic notions of professional work conditions in the academy, thus producing a false comparison of careers? If so, doctoral programs should address such misunderstandings.
But perhaps the problem is different and closer to home. Are these preferences largely shaped by the (only partly) hidden department ranking of careers? A respondent to the survey of graduate students conducted by the Committee concisely makes this point: "Nonacademic career possibilities are not discussed, described, or much respected in my department, which is extremely discouraging." Another student, at a different institution, makes the same point in a particularly poignant way:
My interest in nonacademic careers is entirely covert: I have kept my concerns about my employability and competence in the profession a closely guarded secret because I feel such pressure from my advisor to find a job at a good four-year university. I worry that, should she ever find out about this, she will decide that spending her time or the department's resources on me is wasteful. So I feel that I am in a bind: I try to please my advisor so that I can finish my degree, which I do want, at the expense of any future I may have in this profession.
One wishes this were an impossible, misplaced fear. But in fact such a worry is not improbable in many departments. Too many faculty members are described here. Doubtless, the communication of such values to our students is unintentional, but the result is no less harmful for that reason. Students in such a situation cannot help but conclude that a nonacademic career is an admission of failure. The hidden curriculum needs to be identified and transformed. Some difficult self-scrutiny is required.
Directors of Graduate Studies and Graduate Administrators
The unsung heroes of doctoral education are the directors of graduate studies (DGS). A successful DGS has an enormous impact on both the quality of graduate education and graduate students' sense of expectations and equity. Whatever can be done to increase the status of the DGS position, provide more support for the position, and keep successful directors in place for a reasonable term should be done.
The importance of a departmental staff person designated as graduate administrator is too often underestimated—and equally unsung. The DGS and the graduate administrator work as a team, one permanently in place, the other usually rotating. There is a strong correlation between the presence of a career administrator—well skilled and well paid—and program efficiency, as well as student and faculty satisfaction. Such an administrator reduces bureaucratic alienation by guiding students through the regulations and the bureaucracy. It is a crucial administrative investment that was evident in the Committee's site visits.
We emphasize that the proper work of the DGS is not bureaucratic. The DGS is principally an advisor and regulator, someone with a view of the whole program and the overall preparation of each student constantly in mind. As such, an effective DGS is indispensable. A director who has the confidence of faculty and students alike can negotiate the inevitable conflicts that arise in even the best-run programs, protecting everyone involved. To do this work effectively (and without undue personal sacrifice), the director should be spared the bureaucratic work demanded by graduate deans and the additional work this Committee will recommend in a later chapter. The position of the DGS is most effective (and possible) when graduate schools themselves recognize the importance of the position and provide departments with the necessary resources to maintain adequate staffing, something quite impressively evident at Stanford University and the University of Michigan (two departments visited by the Committee). There should also be specific and visible forms of compensation for the DGS, such as course relief, a stipend, research assistance, leave time, or additional research travel funds.
Professionalism and Premature Professionalization
There has been some concern in the profession about excessive and premature professionalization of history graduate students.28 It is a complicated issue. We of course encourage students to become "professionals," but a distorted professionalization of graduate students can seriously undermine a student's education by limiting the freedom to explore his or her profoundest intellectual passions. Pleasure is replaced by strategy, intellectual adventure by prudent career planning.
Both the problem and the solution may be partly obscured by semantic confusion. Whether the symptoms observed are an unfortunate side effect of professionalism or market-driven careerism makes a difference. One can distinguish between professionalism and the market; indeed, professionalism at its best partly resists the values of the marketplace. Yet our Committee has found little evidence in any doctoral program of a systematic discussion of professional values and ethics.29 We encourage such discussions as a formal part of doctoral education. Important ethical issues should be addressed, including the limits of academic freedom and the responsibility it entails, plagiarism, an instructor's relations with students, grade inflation, multiple submission of manuscripts, letters of recommendation, the importance of confidentiality, reviewing manuscripts, and more. We think a more robust sense of professionalism can help counter the corrosive effects of the market and careerism.
How can one reduce the incentives to play the careerist game while also recognizing that career preparation is a significant part of graduate education? Part of the solution lies in hiring practices. We urge faculty recruitment committees to seek out job candidates who offer impressive qualities of mind and a breadth of knowledge, rather than just a record of hyperproductivity. One outstanding article often indicates far more intellectual capacity and professional promise than four routine ones. Take a closer look at candidates who follow their own intellectual passions, at those with the originality, imagination, and courage to plot their own paths, avoiding both fashion and convention. In this way, recruitment committees will find outstanding colleagues while helping create professional space for the better education of all historians. And they will set an example for the department's own graduate students.
Formal instruction in professional ethics and the ethos of professionalism (whether in workshops or seminars) inevitably encompasses at least an introduction to the history of the discipline, the philosophy and history of academic freedom and tenure, the development of higher education in the United States, and the history of museums and other public historical agencies. More generally, one of the obligations of any profession is a contribution to civic life, and knowledge of various modes of civic engagement is necessarily part of the ethos of professionalism. We have discovered almost no systematic education in any of these areas.30
Program Size, Funding, and Diversity
As we discussed in the previous chapter, many history departments are decreasing the size of the entering classes of doctoral students while improving financial aid packages. A few institutions, mostly private, are moving toward multiyear funding for all doctoral students. These changes all seem to be in the right direction. We applaud any increase in financial support for graduate students and—despite the caveats in the next few paragraphs—strongly endorse departmental funding of all doctoral students with equal stipends. Such funding removes unhelpful competition and avoids what too often becomes an ungrounded yet invidious distinction among students.
But we worry that multiyear commitments of substantial funding may have an unintended cost. Will the considerable up-front investment entailed by these financial aid packages make admission committees excessively cautious, fearful of risking so much? Might one result be a reduction in the number of nontraditional students and those applying from institutions not thought to be natural "feeder" schools? Will groups already underrepresented in the profession be disadvantaged by these changes? Will committees invest large sums in those interesting students of seeming promise whose dossiers are nonetheless lacking in one respect or another? Will they invest in evidently well-qualified graduates of nonselective institutions, whose grades may be difficult to evaluate? The Committee is concerned that two commendable policies may be in conflict here: on the one hand, a policy of decreasing the production of doctorates while enhancing financial aid; on the other, a policy of expanding access to underrepresented groups and to students who might seem "risky investments" by an accident of geography, family resources, or simply being a "late bloomer."
We urge individual departments to take whatever precautions they can to ensure that a reduction in cohort size does not result in a reduction in access for these vulnerable groups. At some institutions, this danger is countered by dedicated fellowships for underrepresented groups. In the case of a promising student whose credentials have some questionable aspect, we encourage departments to bring the student to campus for an interview that probes into that question. It has become common in recent years to invite admitted students to campus, frequently as part of a recruitment day or weekend. This is a commendable practice. But a few graduate programs go even further: they invite (and pay for) a short list of finalists to visit before any final admission decisions have been made. This provides an opportunity to base their admission decisions on more detailed information about the student, thus reducing the risk of bad decisions and avoidable mismatches between student goals and department resources.
The up-front risk can be reduced by having a serious program of annual reviews (as recommended in the next chapter). Multiyear and universal funding should be subject to performance standards, and reviews will identify instances where the student's performance is below par. In such reviews, any indication that the student will not complete the program should be taken very seriously. It is unfair to both the student and the program to carry such a student. These students should be counseled out of the program. Such counseling should not be based on the judgment of a single faculty member, and for this reason—among others—this report repeatedly urges collective responsibility and the involvement of several faculty in the training and support network of each student.
Master's degree programs can also play an important role in sustaining broad access to doctoral education in history. The Committee has noticed that a growing number of students apply to doctoral programs after earning a master's degree at another institution (often a local public institution with relatively low tuition). Frequently these are students who had some low grades as undergraduates or were not history majors. The master's degree is a way to demonstrate their capacity to do graduate work in the field. Others have gone to schools whose reputation (or lack of reputation) is likely to weaken any application to a strong doctoral program. For them, too, the M.A. is a way to demonstrate a readiness for graduate work by successfully doing it.31 These candidates, who are obviously committed to the discipline of history, deserve a very close look from admission committees.
Most of our comments so far refer to actions in relation to applications already in hand. The real challenge is to increase the applications from individuals who are members of underrepresented groups. Here the curriculum and culture of the department is relevant. So is institutional commitment at all levels. The perceived appropriateness of the department influences applications. A department with little diversity among its faculty—especially at an institution where this is typical—will present a less-appealing department culture. Likewise, a curriculum that does not represent a commitment to regions beyond the United States and western Europe or recent scholarship on race, identity, and gender will raise questions in the mind of a potential applicant.
Making connections with regional institutions that have substantial populations of students from underrepresented groups promises to increase undergraduate interest in advanced study in the field and to foster a larger applicant pool. Such a strategy benefits all parties. Collegial relationships with faculty at these institutions, including library privileges and invitations to talks and seminars, open a possible path to more-inclusive admissions. Likewise, summer or other special programs introducing undergraduates from the region, as well as one's own students, to research in history and to graduate education generally might well encourage students underrepresented in the profession to consider graduate work in history. And these undergraduates might well apply to the history department most familiar to them.
Graduate Assistants and Unions
What graduate assistants generally seek in unions is an important matter, but it concerns only a part of graduate education. Unions promise three things: advocacy for a fair reward for work done, participation in defining working conditions, and an appropriate mechanism for expressing grievances. In fact, every department should be committed to fair and equitable wages, to a dialogue about working conditions, and to fair and open grievance procedures, with or without a union. Whatever the limited purpose of unions, they doubtless have broader implications for graduate education and higher education more generally.
Graduate assistant unions have existed at some institutions (such as the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin) for many years. There is, however, a new vigor in the movement since the National Labor Relations Board opened the way to unionization in private as well as public institutions.32 Whatever one's personal view on the role of graduate student (or faculty) unions, the movement deserves the close attention of professional historians for at least two reasons. First, a local push for a union by graduate students may be an important indicator of dissatisfaction with the available means of addressing educational and work issues they consider important. Second, the efforts to organize unions, whether or not they succeed, will inevitably affect the context of graduate education.
The Committee feels strongly that it is not appropriate for the American Historical Association or any individual history department to take a position on the merits (or lack of merits) of student unionization. Graduate students have a legal right to seek union representation. The decision to form a union or not is theirs exclusively. This right must be respected, and it will be enforced by the National Labor Relations Board. The only legal and viable position for faculty is neutrality. As individuals, of course, faculty members retain a First Amendment right to speak publicly or privately about the advantages or disadvantages of unionization. But graduate advisors cannot legally or ethically "threaten" students in either specific or general terms.
Union organizing can be a divisive experience. Whatever their personal views, faculty members should be conscious of the need to preserve (or restore, if necessary) the mutual regard of students and teachers before, during, and after a labor conflict. If a move to establish a union is successful, it is essential that departments build on mutual regard to ensure that the introduction of a new actor (the union) is managed in a way that sustains the educational goals of faculty and students.
Foreign Area Studies
Area studies programs represent important extradepartmental resources for history doctoral education at many universities. As programs become smaller, area studies students may help sustain a critical mass of students and faculty in some fields. In addition, as interdisciplinary programs they offer interested students a path into interdisciplinary work. Both of these advantages of close cooperation between history and area studies were evident to the Committee at the University of Michigan, but no doubt there are other notable examples.
Area studies programs are an important ally and resource for language studies. Like history, area studies is beginning to cross borders and to examine transnational aspects of regional studies, so here too it offers opportunities for intellectual collaboration. As historians become increasingly spatial in their analysis, area studies theorists and programs may be helpful partners, while history departments can offer area studies programs, many of which have historical foundations, historical training for their students. And, like history, many area studies programs are moving toward the humanistic disciplines. In addition, despite recent cuts in federal funding programs, there is often government funding for graduate fellowships, research expenses, and language study that is funneled through area studies programs.
It is a commonplace to observe that humanities faculty have been slow to adopt new technologies.33 The Committee's survey of doctoral programs inquired about graduate instruction in multimedia and other new technologies and found almost none—which seemed to confirm this observation.34 But the matter is more complex. To be sure, the average quantitative social scientist (or even salesperson) is more likely than a historian to know how to make a PowerPoint presentation. Yet historians have been remarkably fast to embrace other new digital technologies. Historical scholarship as well as departmental business has been greatly enhanced by e-mail; departmental, institutional, and personal Web pages; H-Net and a myriad of specialized e-mail lists; electronic distribution of papers in advance of publication and electronic publication in a variety of formats; and access to the catalogs of distant libraries, archives, and specialized databases and Web sites. There has been a veritable technological revolution in the field, and the worry that historians are somehow essentially Luddites appears to be misplaced.35
New media technologies and digitization have implications for research, teaching, and the public presentation of history. Not only has the Internet made the catalogs of many of the world's great libraries available to scholars anywhere, but it has made a substantial amount of primary research material immediately available in digital form—searchable by key words. Scholars are beginning to use and cite this material, and conventions of citation will have to be developed and incorporated into the bibliographic training of historians. Those who establish sites will have to stabilize the identification and organization of these sites to make subsequent access as sure and direct as possible.36 Yet as we encourage familiarity with newer electronic resources for research, we worry about the current adequacy of library skills and archival research. These "old-fashioned" skills remain essential.
Adoption of new technologies seems to be proceeding more slowly in classroom instruction and in public programming. But here too we can expect the incorporation of new technologies as opportunities present themselves. The initial push for the use of new technologies for teaching came from administrators and legislators seeking to reduce costs. Fortunately, the leadership of higher education is now past that phase and focus is moving toward the ways in which new technologies might enhance the knowledge base and critical thinking skills of students. Indeed, some historians are beginning to address the larger intellectual, even epistemological issues involved in the creative deployment of electronic resources in teaching.37
Graduate faculties tend to think that their students are generally more technically proficient and comfortable with computers and thus ready to bring electronic resources into the classroom.38 But, of course, the issue is not so much technique as pedagogy. It is about understanding learning and the contribution electronic resources can make. For that reason, students should be made aware of whatever resources are available in the department and the institution for pursuing the broader pedagogical issues.
The field of public history may be more welcoming of the practical applications of new media, and some programs are formally integrating electronic resources into the education of public historians.39 Some of the most effective uses of new technologies can be found in historical museums, though surely much is yet to be done in this area.40 Of course, there are limits. One of the central gifts museums offer is the presence of the authentic object, whether a manuscript, a painting, or a utensil. The value of new media technologies is to extend the possibilities of visual inspection and to elaborate context.41
What, if anything, should graduate programs do to prepare students for possible applications of new technologies? At a minimum, history departments should make sure that whatever local resources exist are available to their graduate students, and they should provide their students with information about these resources. Most universities now have centers for interactive technology (IT), and there is usually at least one staff member dedicated to facilitating the use of this technology by humanities faculty. But their approaches are typically generic. History departments must not only be in contact with such centers, but they also need to press them into dialogue about discipline-specific applications of the learning theories and technologies in the field. Discipline-specific development of IT depends upon the participation of historians.
An outstanding example of collaboration between historians and an IT center can be seen at the University of Virginia, where Edward Ayers's project The Valley of the Shadow, http://www.jefferson.village.virginia.edu/vshadow , drew upon the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) to develop resources for research, teaching, and reaching large public audiences, including K-12 educators and students.
A different but equally important new media initiative is the Center for History and New Media, developed by Roy Rosenzweig and his colleagues at George Mason University, http://www.chnm.gmu.edu/index1.html . Besides being a gateway to many digital historical resources for teachers and researchers, its History News Network regularly places public issues in historical perspective, using discussion formats and including links to key documents. A compendium of essays posted on the center's Web site includes some of the best thinking on the use of electronic resources in teaching (see http://www.chnm.gmu.edu/assets/historyessays/essaystoc.html ).
Yet another kind of digital project has been developed at Ohio State University. Prompted by a publisher, the history department at OSU has developed curricular materials for both American and European history. These materials are currently used by more than a hundred colleges and no doubt many high schools. Income from the project goes to the department and its Goldberg Center (see http://www.goldberg.history.ohio-state.edu ), a computer lab and multimedia resource center where multimedia skills are integrated into graduate education. It is also home of the Teaching Institute, which serves the department and teachers in Ohio schools.
Centers for Teaching Excellence/Preparing Future Faculty
In 1958, the most common complaint of new Ph.D.'s in history was that they were not adequately prepared to teach. Not much has changed. Students still feel unprepared for careers as teachers.42 Better teaching was even one of the issues of the early student movement of the 1960s, but during the past decade or more, state legislatures demanding accountability and parents saddled with rising tuition costs have forced a new focus on teaching. One result has been the development of "centers for teaching excellence" on many campuses and a variety of initiatives to improve the preparation of teaching assistants (TAs) at research universities.43
Most history departments are well aware of these developments. According to the Committee's survey, a large majority of history doctoral programs (71 percent) are at universities with teaching centers—but only 30 percent of the respondents from that subset of universities said their departments worked closely with the teaching centers. That is unfortunate. The best teaching centers—such as the Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford, which has close and long-standing ties to the Stanford history department—can contribute a great deal to the preparation of students as teaching assistants and future professors.44 They are also valuable resources for beginning faculty members.45 Although most teaching centers can provide tips on lecturing effectively, stimulating discussions among students, and preparing for classes, history departments can and should engage them and push them to examine quite specific discipline-based learning and teaching strategies. The best teaching centers also help graduate students (and faculty) negotiate the complex trade-offs among research, teaching, and the auxiliary responsibilities of a faculty member.
At the departmental level, the Committee also found increasing numbers of courses and workshops on teaching. Not all of them have enough content to satisfy the students, partly because they are seemingly inattentive to the growing scholarship on teaching and learning in the field of history.46 Their present limitations notwithstanding, they are important parts of the department culture. They are symbols of the faculty's own commitment to undergraduate teaching, and they provide practical assistance for graduate student teachers. Such courses are an important way of establishing formal and practical departmental policies for training graduate students as teachers. Vague assurances that advisors informally prepare their students as teachers or that instructors can prepare their TAs are not enough. More is demanded by students and more is needed—both for the immediate teaching responsibilities of graduate students and as part of their preparation for later careers as faculty.
Since 2000, the American Historical Association has been a partner with the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the Council of Graduate Schools, and several other disciplinary associations in Preparing Future Faculty (PFF), an important initiative for the professional development of graduate students. The AHA supports PFF programs at four clusters of history departments, each of which includes a doctoral institution (Arizona State University, Boston College, Florida State University, and Howard University) and several nearby institutions with diverse educational missions (typically a combination of liberal arts schools, public university campuses, and community colleges). Each of the doctoral institutions develops its own approach—in consultation with the other schools in its cluster—to preparing graduate students as teachers in a variety of collegiate settings.47
The PFF initiative is not just about issues of teaching styles and techniques. One aim is to help graduate students prepare for the transition to being a first-year faculty member, swamped with new course preparations and other professional duties. Becoming a faculty member means a whole range of new responsibilities, from student advising to committee work, from teaching diverse student populations to developing new courses, from time-management to constructing a new intellectual community. PFF tries to introduce students to these responsibilities in a structured and secure setting, rather than expecting students to face such challenges on their own once they enter an academic position. PFF is also designed to introduce graduate students to a range of different institutions, as a counter to the often unspoken prejudice against career paths at nonresearch-oriented institutions (as described earlier in this report). The Committee believes that the PFF programs have been an important enhancement to graduate education and should be emulated. Preparing Future Faculty and other local programs with similar goals, such as the one developed cooperatively among the University of Michigan, Oberlin College, and Kalamazoo College,48 deserve the attention of all history departments, whether they train Ph.D.'s or merely hire them. Establishing teaching opportunities at regional community colleges—with faculty mentors there—can make important contributions to the development of students as teachers. It will also acquaint them with the community college system, where the majority of introductory-level history courses in U.S. history and perhaps other fields are taught.
While better preparation of graduate students for their relatively limited roles as TAs is important, it is equally important to recognize that even the best TA training is not adequate preparation for future careers as full-time teachers. The long-term objective is to prepare a potential faculty member. Preparing a graduate student teacher is a part of that work, but only a part.
Publication and Tenure
Tenure is the major benchmark in an academic career, and during the past half-century a published monograph has become the single most important criterion for the award of tenure—not only at research universities, but also at comprehensive universities and liberal arts colleges. Unfortunately, the present economics of publishing have made it extremely difficult to find publishers for worthy monographs that are central to an academic career in history.49
The precise dimensions of the problem within the historical profession are unclear, and there is some variation by field. Certainly, the problem is more severe in literary studies than it is in history. Still, it is clearly critical enough in history to be taken very seriously.
For some, this concern has directed attention to the possibilities of electronic publishing. Two initiatives are underway: the ACLS History E-Book Project and the AHA's Gutenberg-e Project, both richly funded by the Mellon Foundation. Yet there remains considerable resistance to the idea.50 For now, electronic publication seems to have much greater potential and appeal as a medium for shorter works, including interactive scholarly communications.
The monograph problem raises many issues for historians, but we want to focus on three of them. First, the discipline as a whole and individual history departments need to ask whether the monographic standard is universally appropriate. Second, if the monograph remains so important, can we historians continue to "outsource" its publication to an economically troubled industry that by the admission of its own leaders cannot at present publish books on the basis of scholarly merit alone?51 Third, we historians need to ask whether too many books are being published—books that really should be two or three articles or a monograph of middling length, too long for an article and too short for a book?
There is no single response to these questions. Different departments and local administrators may have to develop criteria that recognize the limits of past conventions for evaluating contemporary scholarship. At wealthier schools, junior faculty often have access to publishing subventions. Yet there is also a role here for the AHA, beyond endorsing a plurality of evidences of scholarly capacity and accomplishment. This Committee recommends that the Association explore the practicalities of a new genre of publication (or, rather, recovery of a genre that existed a century ago): the monograph series.
The AHA might initiate a refereed, subscription-supported monograph series. Whether published in serial form or individually, these monographs might be longer than articles and shorter than books, perhaps 70 to 120 pages. The series could be affiliated with the American Historical Review or fully independent. Either way, we see two important virtues to such a monograph series: first, in publishing worthy scholarship that is not commercially viable or is of an "awkward" length that cannot easily be published either in a journal or as a book; and second, in bringing this scholarship to a significant audience, a larger audience than most monographs today reach. A series' direct affiliation with the American Historical Assocation and, perhaps, the American Historical Review should give it a position of centrality and a guarantee of rigor, which together should produce the institutional subscriptions necessary for a sound financial base. In addition, such a publishing program could be partially subsidized by contributions from the colleges and universities that would benefit from this solution to the monograph problem.52
The Matrix of Responsibilities
Graduate students and potential employers are asking a lot of doctoral programs. While graduate school is the most important single site for educating historians, the development of a professional historian is in fact a more lengthy process, with a multiplicity of responsibilities. The making of a historian reaches backward, often as far back as an elementary school history teacher, and it extends forward into the first years of the historian's professional career. For historians who remain in the academy, this period of making professionals extends at least until tenure—perhaps even a bit beyond, when historians begin to take the freedom that tenure offers to think boldly and reflectively about their scholarship, teaching, and civic responsibilities.
On the basis of our survey data and all of our conversations with historians and graduate students, the Committee is persuaded that graduate advising/mentoring needs to be improved. There also needs to be more clarity—procedural and substantive—about the rules and expectations on both sides of the mentoring relationship. Every faculty member who teaches or advises graduate students should know and be ready to articulate the aims of his or her particular doctoral program and its detailed regulations. Too many historians seem to believe that a knowledge of bureaucratic rules and procedures somehow represents an unhealthy compromise with convention and bureaucracy. Unfortunately, this attitude leads to advising errors that cost students much more than they cost advisors.
Students should take great care in selecting their advisors. The more factors students take into consideration during that selection process, the more likely they are to have a satisfactory experience in graduate school. Certainly, the advisor should be an accomplished scholar in the student's field, but students should also consider personal qualities, teaching style, and the potential advisor's reputation among fellow graduate students.53
Hiring departments and institutions must take on a larger mentoring role in nourishing the development of beginning historians. Here, too, it is vital to provide clarity about institutional procedures and expectations. When a new Ph.D. arrives for his or her first job, there should be more than just an "orientation" session. New faculty members deserve a continuous, multiyear mentoring relationship. The more fully and self-consciously developed the departmental culture, the easier this socialization and growth will be. Historians pursuing careers in government agencies, consultancies, historical societies and museums, and other settings deserve similar commitments from their colleagues.
This Committee is also convinced that graduate students must take more responsibility for knowing the published guidelines of their individual programs, graduate schools, and institutions. They must be proactive in inquiring about options, expectations, and different career prospects. Any worthwhile education requires an active learner, and in no place is this more true than in doctoral education, where the central aim is the development of independent scholars. As we have stated earlier, departments must provide clear information about the goals and procedures of their graduate programs, but it is the responsibility of potential students to discover these goals as part of the application process and later to attend to them. In a later section, we will offer recommendations to ensure that departmental goals and procedures are sufficiently transparent to students. But it is the students' responsibility to become informed.
The American Historical Association
What is the proper role of the AHA in doctoral education? The AHA has never been involved in accrediting history departments or graduate programs, and it is unlikely to assume such a role. Thirty years ago, an AHA committee on the state of doctoral education moved in the direction of accreditation by establishing a list of forty-eight "substandard" doctoral programs. But the Association's governing Council refused to allow the list to become public.54 No committee since then has proposed a qualitative examination of individual graduate programs, and this Committee does not propose any such regulatory or accrediting role for the AHA. Nonetheless, we believe the AHA can play a more active role in graduate education, especially in respect to gathering and disseminating information.
The AHA already collects a great deal of information, much of it published in the annual Directory of History Departments. That data collection can and should be expanded. The AHA can also encourage better data collection at the level of individual programs, such as tracking students, including information on attrition and placement; clear statements of mission and regulations; data on time to degree; percentage of students receiving financial aid and the types of financial aid, including both stipends and responsibilities; estimated cost of living for one year; information on courses actually taught and faculty scheduled to be on leave; information on current faculty teaching and research interests; career preparation, including some sort of preparation for faculty careers and other careers; demographic characteristics of faculty and students; and any special features (special library resources, interdisciplinary possibilities, unusual fields, etc.) of the program.
In order to make uniform information available to prospective students seeking to make choices among programs, the American Historical Association should develop a template—described in the following chapter—for a departmental Web page. Participation could be voluntary, but nonparticipation would, presumably, be a significant disadvantage.
The AHA has over the years maintained a vital interest in the condition of doctoral education. The Committee on Graduate Education is another example, and we anticipate a continuing role for the AHA in monitoring and providing leadership in responding to new challenges and opportunities. But in the end, the individual departments are the places where the work must be done, and for that reason we will suggest in the next chapter a stronger role for the AHA in the development of local academic leadership, strategic planning, and disseminating information.
Over the past three years, the Committee on Graduate Education has been impressed as well as enlightened by the lively discussions going on within the discipline. We have tried in this report to sharpen the focus of those discussions and move them out of local isolation in the interest of giving form to a national conversation locally conducted.