November 20, 2011

New Winter Break Program Seeks to Assist Ph.D. Students

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Eighteen second-year humanities graduate students will participate in an intensive, four-day January immersion course provided by the Cornell Library to give graduate students resources to help them complete their doctorate degrees.

The program, which is offered in partnership with the Cornell Graduate School and the Knight Writing Center, will address the problem of high attrition rates among doctoral students in the humanities, according to Susette Newberry, assistant director of research and learning services, who is working on the project.

The course will employ a combination of speakers and hands-on workshops to cover research skills, information management, personal organization, time and project management, new technologies and writing, according to a press release.

The new winter break course is the outgrowth of a recent user-needs study conducted by Cornell and Columbia University as part of the 2CUL partnership, with the objective of determining if and how library services can impact and hasten completion rates for humanities doctoral students.

According to a press release, fewer than half of all doctoral students nationwide in the humanities finish their Ph.D.s within 10 years. At Cornell, the average time to complete a humanities degree is 6.7 years, the press release stated.

The press release stated that the main goal of the course is to foster a sense of community for humanities doctoral students and ease the transition from student to teacher and dissertation research.

Newberry emphasized the supportive nature of the program.

“Cornell is huge, and there are so many different units and centers that support graduate students on campus. It is really hard to learn where to go for what. The Graduate School does a great job, and the library can help by a program like ours,” Newberry said.

The program is being funded by a new grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

“The nature of the grant was that we were to create something that was a model that other institutions could adapt,” Newberry said. “IMLS was placing their trust in us, given our experience. We hope the program is scalable for other institutions.”

The topics that will be presented over the four-day period, in the format of lectures and workshops, range from “Copyright and the doctoral candidate” and “Writing and the Dissertation” to finding grant opportunities outside Cornell and using a camera as a research tool.

According to Newberry, the experience will be a rich one. The selected students will be immersed in both traditional and cutting-edge library and research skills.

Barbara Knuth, vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, will be giving the keynote address on what makes a successful graduate student at Cornell.

Newberry said that this year, the program will serve graduate students in the departments of English, Classics, History and Medieval Studies, but that they would like to open the program to different fields in the future.

Original Author: Danielle Sochaczevski