Trying to recruit grad students into a PhD program where the PhD is BRAND NEW can be tough. In fact, I need the Internets’s help.
So here I am, a new faculty member in a new department (sorry, sorry, SCHOOL), eager to do cool research and with startup money to burn.
Okay then. Where are the graduate students? Lemme get my hands on some graduate students. I just was a grad student, you can bet that means I’ll treat them nicely.
Oh shoot. There aren’t any who want to work with me.
The first challenge has been that I started my job after all the graduate students who were starting in the fall had already been paired up both a) advisors and b) funding. So no one who was starting wanted to change their plans. Understandably.
Then I was put on the graduate recruiting committee, which I thought would be good for making sure I was able to share my work and recruit some graduate students to my group. It hasn’t worked out that way for a bunch of reasons, but one that seems to be relevant is that many of our students gravitate to a graduate program in engineering education because first and foremost they care about teaching in engineering. So they want to work with people who directly study teaching: the practice, the motivation, the impact of on student learning, the assessment of, and so on.
I don’t really do that. I do this weird social theory stuff that involves history and philosophy and feminism and critical theory and none of it is stuff that undergraduates in engineering have usually had any experience with. And the word “feminist” probably scares a bunch of people off. Indeed, probably the people I need to look towards have degrees in anthropology and/or sociology, but our grad program has required that admitted students be able to accomplish the technical program in engineering, and anthropologists and sociologists would likely have no interest in doing so. Let alone folks in women’s studies who might be ideal.
Finally, there is no “pipeline” (although I hate that metaphor) of schools or programs into our kind of program. More mainstream engineering faculty don’t know about it and so don’t advise students to consider it, and we have no undergraduate programs to recruit from.
Now I’m contemplating my second fall with no students, and serious pressure to get some more significant research going. ACK!
So I want to pose some questions to you, dear Internets, to see if you can help me plan a graduate recruiting strategy for a program that has had only 1 graduate so far.
- if you have been to graduate school, what lured you to the place you went, or pushed you away from the places you didn’t go?
- if you haven’t been to graduate school, what are the kinds of things that might draw you to one place or another?
- for folks who were heavily recruited – what about the recruitment process was appealing or compelling to you? or damaging?
- for the hip folks, what ways would you find out about novel and innovative programs?
- for the less adventuresome, what would convince you to sign on to a graduate program that may not have proven itself with respect to the job market yet?
These questions may be too general to be answerable – in which case, tell me about your (past, present, or future) hopes and aspirations about graduate school (in the hopes that we can design our program towards those ideas rather than getting mired in all the problems).
In addition, as we are trying to recruit graduate students into engineering education who generally already have a master’s degree and may have been working in industry already, how would you try and get the word out about a new program they may not have thought of before? How would you find them?
Thanks in advance for your thoughts that (if they’re good) I’ll want to blatantly incorporate into our graduate recruiting strategy. Although maybe I can cite you if you like. And tell you how well it works.