Wilhelm von Humboldt, the PhD and the modern research university

Recent conversations at multiple venues have prompted me to reflect on Wilhelm von Humboldt, the Doctor of Philosophy degree and the evolution of the modern research university.  First, the Swiss higher education system and the routine acknowledgement of Humboldt ‘s influence were discussed during the Input Seminar for the UniBasel Global Perspectives Program (March 18-19, 2013).  Two days later in Dublin at the EUA-CDE Global Forum on Doctoral Education (March 20-22), the topics of conversation included the evolution of doctoral education in Europe and the increasing emphasis on research in doctoral education (PhD).  During the last few class sessions of GRAD 5104 Preparing the Future Professoriate, our discussions focused on global higher education and several international students shared an overview of the higher education systems from their home countries.  This provided the opportunities to reflect on the historical perspective of higher education and their influences on universities around the world.  At the March meeting of the 2013 VT Global Perspectives Program, we discussed terminology and the similarities and differences to understand better the evolution of global higher education and the universities that we will visit in May.  And finally as I read through selected blog posts from GRAD 5104 and GPP Switzerland I pondered the themes of these ‘conversations’ and realized the underlying but un-articulated interconnectedness of the 21st century research university, the evolution of the PhD and the influence of Humboldt.  Humboldt, the German university and the man, are frequently referenced in discussions about the university in Europe but less so in the United States although his influence is part of U.S. history as well.

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Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835) was a 19th century philosopher, a Prussian diplomat, and an early ‘architect’ of national education including the ‘university’.  He is well known throughout Europe as the founder of the University of Berlin in 1810. Within a relatively short period of time, the University of Berlin (Humboldt) would soon became a model for 19th century European universities and ultimately would influence the development of U.S. universities. In recognition of Humboldt’s influence in shaping the modern university, the university was renamed Humboldt University of Berlin in 1949. The name of Humboldt reflects both Wilhelm’s contributions and those of his brother Alexander, a famous geographer and explorer.

Wilhelm von Humboldt espoused the view that the university should be a community of scholars and students.  In this ‘Humboldtian’ university, teaching and research were interconnected and vital to the work of the individual scholar.  Although important to advancement of knowledge and integral to the university’s mission, research was thought by Humboldt to be ‘ancillary to teaching’.  This notion persisted until the 20th century when research would finally be recognized as a ‘vital entity in itself’ thus setting the stage for the further development and prominence of the modern research university.

During the recent European University Association (EUA) – Council on Doctoral Education (CDE) Global Strategic Forum on Doctoral Education in Dublin, the PhD was described historically as a ‘license to teach’.  This makes sense when one considers that the original purpose was to prepare scholars to teach in universities.  For many years, the doctoral degree required advanced scholarship but not original research.  And once Wilhelm von Humboldt entered the discussions, the strong link between teaching and research was made that would change the university.  As the value of research expanded and the desire for original research increased throughout the last century, the Doctor of Philosophy degree changed and the PhD is recognized as a research degree worldwide.

The modern research university will continue to evolve and an emphasis on research will remain.  But the conversations about doctoral education must also continue about the importance of teaching and learning, the preparation for careers outside higher education, and the engagement between the university and society.  These conversations are happening within EUA-CDE regularly and will continue in the Future Professoriate graduate course (GRAD 5104) and especially the VT-UniBasel Global Perspectives Program.  I look forward to the ongoing dialogue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Graduate education and web 2.0

I’ve been thinking a lot about the World Wide Web and social media and their impact and utility in graduate schools.  Conceptually I have understood the functionality associated with Web 1.0 and 2.0 and have sought to utilize these phases for enhanced digital interaction and communication.  What follows are some of my initial musings.

As a 21st century institution, the VT graduate school has undergone a transition from the traditional role as an administrative office to ‘a place and space for graduate education.’  Throughout the last century, graduate schools (not unlike other institutions) tended to operate as “top down” offices providing information (policy, procedures) through “static” means (catalogs, manuals) to “users” (constituencies, especially students) as the receivers of information.  Words similar to these have been used to describe the early days of the World Wide Web (1.0) – users could only view (receive) information and not contribute to the “webpages”, users (constituencies) as consumers of content not active participants, and the information wasn’t dynamic.  Although available since 1993, the use of web technology by graduate schools began in earnest mostly in the 21st century and reflected the Web 1.0 approach of delivery to consumers.  We took what we did and delivered it electronically.

The onset of Web 2.0 in 2002 and the availability of interactive tools and social media ultimately challenged graduate schools (as well as universities and national associations) to examine our operations and to embrace the change which was well underway.  Web 2.0 allows for uses beyond the static delivery of content.  It allows users to generate, interact and collaborate in virtual community.  Web 2.0 tools include wikis, blogs, and numerous social networking sites.  The VT Graduate School was one of the first in the nation to move to Web 2.0 conceptually and to build interactive tools (e.g., on-line catalog, featured graduate student, upcoming examinations) and to embrace social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook), all of which are inter-connected on the Graduate School website.   These examples and the development of the virtual GLC (vGLC) are still works in progress and ones that draw upon the greater interactivity of Web 2.0.

Today graduate schools must actively encourage sharing of information, the creation on content, and collaboration among the constituencies.  Although there is some “content to be delivered” the message and tools of Web 2.0 challenges graduate schools to think differently about what we do and how we do it and I’m not just referring to the administrative functions but the whole of the graduate education.  Using web technologies, graduate schools (2.0+) must rethink graduate education, embrace change and redefine “space and place” to include the brick and mortar of the physical space as well as the digital space and build graduate community.

 

 

Gathering at CGS

A few of us were able to gather at the most recent CGS annual meeting in Washington DC and of course, we enjoyed some time at the first dinner.  Photos were taken of the food and of the Global Grad Deans and me.  It was special to see everyone and to share some of our memories.  Thank you.

Please keep posting updates on your global adventures!

Back to Basel

For the fourth time this year, I has the wonderful opportunity to visit UniBasel regarding the Global Perspectives program.  The “Input Seminar” as the beginning of the UniBasel GPP’12, the VTGPP ’12 visit to UniBasel, the Graduate Deans Global Perspectives visit in July and the November GPP ’12 Alumni event.   It feels so comfortable being in Switzerland and Basel.

The Alumni event focused on Careers paths in academia: How well do we select?  In attendance were GPP participants from all three years of the UniBasel program.  What a delight to see the alumni and to catch up with their lives – degrees finished, post doc positions, new jobs in academia and graduate studies in progress.  The visit enforced the desire to keep in touch with all Global Perspectives program participants – VT and UniBasel.  Stay tuned for the LinkedIn alumni site to be developed soon.

The Global Perspectives Program has a way of changing lives.  We meet  new people from different countries and cultures.  We explore topics facing global higher education.  We learn about our own higher education systems.  We share our thoughts in writing and through presentations and ongoing dialogue.  We learn more about ourselves and our ability to help make change in the world.  It was a privilege to watch the alumni offer their reflections on “access to and within higher education”, diversity and the purpose of the university.  Thanks for sharing and thanks for being a part of GPP!  It was a good trip “back to Basel”.

Invent the Future – The Future is Ours

Twice in as many weeks, an incoming graduate student asked me (and other admnistrators) what Virginia Tech’s tagline “invent the future” meant to us.  While “invent the future” can and does have multiple meanings and various interpretations, the video by Michael Marantz entitled “the future is ours” visually represents what “invent the future” means to me.

Michael Marantz created the video to inspire and it does.  I share Marantz’s view that the future is exciting and holds “immense” possibilities.  He challenges us to commit to possibilities and work hard to achieve them.  Further, I believe that his message has particular relevance for graduate education today, especially at a university with a tagline of “invent the future”.  For graduate students are indeed the future scholars, teachers, leaders, artists, entrepreneurs and more.  Their innovations and imaginations will continue well into the 21st century. They will help solve the grand challenges facing a global society and they will serve society (in keeping with VT’s motto ut prosim).  Graduate students independently and often in collaboration with others (faculty, staff and undergraduates) can and will “invent the future”.

“Invent the future” has been VT’s tagline for many years now and has helped to frame the university’s agenda.  Invent the future served recently as the foundation upon which the work of the Task Force on Instructional Technology: VT 2020 was designed.  In its report, the Task Force articulated its vision of the possible and next steps for technology at Virginia Tech.  The blog format allows for readers to engage with its critical reflections and commentary, informative narratives and perspectives, and of course links to timely videos and relevant materials available on the internet.  This report and others provided  the initial backdrop to the planning process for the university.  In its commitment to a “progressive agenda”, Virginia Tech recently prepared A Plan for a New Horizon Envisioning Virginia Tech 2012-2018.  The path forward to inventing the future is articulated in the plan and incorporates growth and expansion of graduate education at VT among its foci.  Graduate education is a critical component for the future of Virginia Tech.

Graduate education is about discovering and advancing knowledge and preparing for life and work as citizens in a globally diverse world. Graduate education is about innovation and creativity; it is about exploring possibilities and embracing change.  It is about knowing that the future is ours, truly.

R & R – Sort of!

With the end of the Global Perspectives visit we had some time to see Lugano on Thursday afternoon. A short boat ride on Lake Lugano revealed the beauty of the area and was quite relaxing. We returned to the hotel and met some folks for dinner in the town center. We found a casual place on a quiet square where we shared in pizza, insalada misto and pasta stuffed with spinach and cheese. We strolled back along the lake and had some delicious gelato. The Olympic Opening Ceremony was starting and we headed to our rooms to watch.

Saturday was a time to explore the nearby town of Bellinzona, a 30 minute train ride away. We strolled through the open air market area, a mixture of food stalls of cheese, bread, fruit, and meats as well as clothing and jewelry. Bellinzona is also known for 3 castles and after taking a few wrong turns we found the path to the first. After a a 30 minute climb upwards we reached the first castle and were treated to a great view of the area and the other castles. We also ran into the students from Virginia Tech. It is small world. After a rest we headed back down to search for the path to the second castle and trekked upwards once again. Another nice view and back down to street level where we found a restaurant for a lunch of insalada caprese and 4 cheese gnocchi.

Now back at the hotel and preparing to leave for Zurich tomorrow and our return to the US. It has been an invigorating educational experience with fellow graduate deans. I look forward to sharing my experience with my colleagues and students from FSU. I thank Karen DePauw again for sharing this with us. The passion she has for students and graduate education is special. Safe travels to all.

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R & R – Sort of!

With the end of the Global Perspectives visit we had some time to see Lugano on Thursday afternoon. A short boat ride on Lake Lugano revealed the beauty of the area and was quite relaxing. We returned to the hotel and met some folks for dinner in the town center. We found a casual place on a quiet square where we shared in pizza, insalada misto and pasta stuffed with spinach and cheese. We strolled back along the lake and had some delicious gelato. The Olympic Opening Ceremony was starting and we headed to our rooms to watch.

Saturday was a time to explore the nearby town of Bellinzona, a 30 minute train ride away. We strolled through the open air market area, a mixture of food stalls of cheese, bread, fruit, and meats as well as clothing and jewelry. Bellinzona is also known for 3 castles and after taking a few wrong turns we found the path to the first. After a a 30 minute climb upwards we reached the first castle and were treated to a great view of the area and the other castles. We also ran into the students from Virginia Tech. It is small world. After a rest we headed back down to search for the path to the second castle and trekked upwards once again. Another nice view and back down to street level where we found a restaurant for a lunch of insalada caprese and 4 cheese gnocchi.

Now back at the hotel and preparing to leave for Zurich tomorrow and our return to the US. It has been an invigorating educational experience with fellow graduate deans. I look forward to sharing my experience with my colleagues and students from FSU. I thank Karen DePauw again for sharing this with us. The passion she has for students and graduate education is special. Safe travels to all.

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Global Deans

In a recent blog, I wrote about our individual pathways and the Tour de Academe.  On Sunday, July 22nd our individual pathways converged in Paris and our collective journey started.  And now, the week-long Graduate Deans Global Perspectives program ’12 (GPGradDeans) has come to an end.  Our last meeting was a joint gathering with GPP Switzerland alumni from Virginia Tech and University of Basel at VT’s Center for European Studies and Architecture (CESA). Rich discussions were held and insights gathered.

During the program, the Graduate Deans visited University of Pierre and Marie Curie (UPMC) and the historic Sorbonne University, the University of Strasbourg, the University of Basel, and the University of Zurich. We discussed graduate education and the future of higher education with Presidents (Rectors) from three universities. We learned about their versions of graduate schools (e.g., doctoral college, graduate campus). We met with administrators and faculty.  And our program began with dialogue with colleagues from the European University Association (EUA).  For details of our visit, see itinerary and read associated links.

This visit was nestled between the end of the Tour de France In Paris and the Opening Ceremonies of the 2012 Olympic Games. The weather was perfect throughout the week (Paris, Strasbourg, Basel, Zurich, Lugano) – a little hot at times but virtually no rain.  Our visits required the use of three languages beyond English: French, German (more precisely Swiss German) and Italian. The cuisine spanned countries and cultures. We traveled by plane, bus, tram, metro, train, and quite often by foot – sometimes up hill and sometimes with luggage. Lakes, mountains, rivers, plains, and terraced hills (e.g., vines) surrounded us daily.  A collective journey of shared experiences and individual reflections….we have taken photos, blogged, and tweeted.  We had readers following our blogs and “followers” on twitter (@kpdepauw, @GPPVT and more).  We had families traveling with us who shared in our experiences on a daily basis.

The Global Perspectives program has touched many lives across many universities, many countries and across many years.  As a result, I believe that the Graduate Deans and GPP alumni now share in the responsibility to expand the reach and enrich the global experiences and perspectives of others.  It has been my great pleasure to share personal and professional experiences with my graduate dean colleagues.  Thank you for joining me on this adventure toward greater global understanding and enhanced global graduate education.

 

 

Lugano or bust – Thursday and Friday

At the end of a scenic train ride with views of the Alps we arrived in Lugano in the late afternoon on Thursday. We quickly caught another train for a short ride to Lugano Paradiso where we were staying. After managing to get all of our luggage off the train one last time we pulled it down the hill to our hotel on Lake Lugano. Air conditioning was a welcome relief and after a short rest we assembled to trek back up the hill to the train station and a brief ride to Capolago-Riva San Vitale, the location of the Virginia Tech villa. The walk to the villa from the train took about 15 minutes and we stopped briefly to view the oldest church in Switzerland dating to the 7th century. At the villa we were greeted by Daniella who takes care of the facility and assists with the planning for the various programs. She gave us a history of the villa. Several students who had participated in the program were present for a reception. We chatted and then were treated to a wonderful meal in the garden. It is clear that much dialogue and discussion takes place over a meal in Europe.

Friday morning we set out for the villa at 8:30. The rest of the morning we met again with the students to hear more about their experiences. We were also joined by students from the University of Basel and Eric Thaler who we had met with in Basel. These students had also participated in the global perspectives program and Global Summit. The students were impressive and represented diverse backgrounds and fields including biology, computer science, and law.The value of the experience to the students was clearly evident. At the end of our conversation we joined in one last delicious communal meal at the villa, said our goodbyes and headed back to the train.

I am still digesting all that I have learned and ate on this trip and thinking of ways to develop a program for FSU graduate students. I truly thank Karen DePauw for organizing this unique experience with help of her assistant Justin and I enjoyed the fellowship of the other graduate deans.

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Lugano or bust – Thursday and Friday

At the end of a scenic train ride with views of the Alps we arrived in Lugano in the late afternoon on Thursday. We quickly caught another train for a short ride to Lugano Paradiso where we were staying. After managing to get all of our luggage off the train one last time we pulled it down the hill to our hotel on Lake Lugano. Air conditioning was a welcome relief and after a short rest we assembled to trek back up the hill to the train station and a brief ride to Capolago-Riva San Vitale, the location of the Virginia Tech villa. The walk to the villa from the train took about 15 minutes and we stopped briefly to view the oldest church in Switzerland dating to the 7th century. At the villa we were greeted by Daniella who takes care of the facility and assists with the planning for the various programs. She gave us a history of the villa. Several students who had participated in the program were present for a reception. We chatted and then were treated to a wonderful meal in the garden. It is clear that much dialogue and discussion takes place over a meal in Europe.

Friday morning we set out for the villa at 8:30. The rest of the morning we met again with the students to hear more about their experiences. We were also joined by students from the University of Basel and Eric Thaler who we had met with in Basel. These students had also participated in the global perspectives program and Global Summit. The students were impressive and represented diverse backgrounds and fields including biology, computer science, and law.The value of the experience to the students was clearly evident. At the end of our conversation we joined in one last delicious communal meal at the villa, said our goodbyes and headed back to the train.

I am still digesting all that I have learned and ate on this trip and thinking of ways to develop a program for FSU graduate students. I truly thank Karen DePauw for organizing this unique experience with help of her assistant Justin and I enjoyed the fellowship of the other graduate deans.

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