Publication Date

February 1, 2003

Perspectives Section


The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching has chosen history as one of the six focus disciplines for its recently launched project, the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate (the other five being chemistry, education, English, mathematics, and neurosciences). Calling upon history departments to actively participate in this important project, the directors of the project write:

The Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorateis a multiyear research and action project intended to enrich and invigorate the education of doctoral students and includes three strands. Conceptual: The core premise of the initiative is that we need to return to first principles and start with the question, “What is the fundamental purpose of doctoral education?” The foundation’s answer is that doctoral education should prepare “stewards of the disciplines.” The degree should signal a high level of accomplishment in three facets of the discipline: generation, conservation, and transformation. Experimental: We will identify four to six history departments to conduct multiyear “design experiments” in doctoral education. Selected departments will commit to designing and implementing doctoral programs that foster stewardship of the discipline. Research: Training a scholarly eye on the experiments, we want to facilitate the broad adoption of successful models.

Why undertake the initiative? At the start of the 21st century, we take great pride that American doctoral education is the strongest in the world. There is strong evidence that American-trained historians are excellent researchers and can look forward to rewarding careers in a variety of settings, both academic and nonacademic. Nevertheless, we should not be complacent. It is surely opportune to ask in what ways traditional doctoral preparation works well, and in what ways it can be done better. The forthcoming AHA report on doctoral education, The Education of Historians in the 21st Century, will be a crucial foundational resource for the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate in history.

This spring we are seeking departments interested in participating in the initiative. We strongly believe that faculty and disciplinary leadership are indispensable for the success of the initiative. Partner departments will commit to deliberating about the current and future goals and purpose of the doctoral program, and will propose appropriate changes.

The invitation to become a partner department in the initiative will be sent to all doctoral-granting history departments in February 2003. The application deadline is May 20, 2003. Details, including the text of the invitation for participation, are available at

The project is led by George Walker, senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation and vice president for research at Indiana University. Chris Golde, senior scholar at the foundation, is the project research director. She can be contacted at 650-566-5513 or through e-mail to

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