Evolving PhD education: Trends in Europe and United States

in 2010, I was invited to speak at the European University Association – Council on Doctoral Education (EUA-CDE) conference in Berlin on a panel on doctoral education in U.S. and Europe. The 2010 report which included the update to the original Salzburg principles (2005) had just been released and these guided my comments comparing U.S. and European doctoral education.  The ten Salzburg principles included the following:

  • The core component of doctoral training is the advancement of knowledge through original research. At the same time it is recognized that doctoral training must increasingly meet the needs of an employment market that is wider than academia.
  • Embedding in institutional strategies and policies:universities as institutions need to assume responsibility for ensuring that the doctoral programmes and research training they offer are designed to meet new challenges and include appropriate professional career development opportunities.
  • The importance of diversity: the rich diversity of doctoral programmes in Europe – including joint doctorates – is a strength which has to be underpinned by quality and sound practice.
  • Doctoral candidates as early stage researchers: should be recognized as professionals – with commensurate rights – who make a key contribution to the creation of new knowledge.
  • The crucial role of supervision and assessment: in respect of individual doctoral candidates, arrangements for supervision and assessment should be based on a transparent contractual framework of shared responsibilities between doctoral candidates, supervisors and the institution (and where appropriate including other partners).
  • Achieving critical mass: Doctoral programmes should seek to achieve critical mass and should draw on different types of innovative practice being introduced in universities across Europe, bearing in mind that different solutions may be appropriate to different contexts and in particular across larger and smaller European countries. These range from graduate schools in major universities to international, national and regional collaboration between universities.
  • Duration: doctoral programmes should operate within an appropriate time duration (three to four years full- time as a rule).
  • The promotion of innovative structures: to meet the challenge of interdisciplinary training and the development of transferable skills.
  • Increasing mobility: Doctoral programmes should seek to offer geographical as well as interdisciplinary and intersectoral mobility and international collaboration within an integrated framework of cooperation between universities and other partners.
  • Ensuring appropriate funding: the development of quality doctoral programmes and the successful completion by doctoral candidates requires appropriate and sustainable funding

In identifying the Salzburg principles, the European University Association (EUA) signaled specific focus on doctoral education across the European universities and its critical components. The topics addressed in these principles are quite similar to components of doctoral education in the United States and issues for doctoral education needed for the 21st century. One of the significant results of the Salzburg principles was the development of Doctoral Colleges and the concept of graduate campuses at European Universities. Graduate Schools have long existed in the U.S., doctoral schools/colleges is a new concept but one that has helped facilitate change in doctoral education in Europe.

Conversations about doctoral education and doctoral education reform in Europe and U.S. have continued in the last 10 years.  Today there are more commonalities and convergence about doctoral education than throughout history. In 2018, the publication of two significant reports has provided a lens into the evolving PhD education: Graduate STEM education in the 21st century (NASEM, 2018) and Doctoral Education in Europe Today (EUA, 2019).

The report entitled Graduate STEM Education for the 21st Century (2018) was published by the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM). The report included the identification of core competences for the Master’s and PhD degrees and recommendations for 21st century universities.  Although the report focuses on STEM programs, the competencies and recommendations apply more broadly to graduate education beyond STEM.  The core competencies for the ideal PhD degree fall into the following two broad categories: (a) Develop Scientific and Technological Literacy and Conduct Original Research and (b) Develop Leadership, Communication, and Professional Competencies

Recommendations for implementing quality graduate education in the 21st includes the following:

  • Rewarding Effective Teaching and Mentoring
  • National and Institutional Data on Students and Graduates
  • Ensuring Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive Environments
  • Career Exploration and Preparation for Graduate Students
  • Structure of Doctoral Research Activities
  • Funding for Research on Graduate STEM Education
  • Stronger Support for Graduate Student Mental Health Services

“Importantly, this report also calls for a shift from the current system that focuses primarily on the needs of institutions of higher education and those of the research enterprise itself to one that is student centered, placing greater emphasis and focus on graduate students as individuals with diverse needs and challenges.” (2018, p.3)

During this same time period, the EUA-CDE conducted a survey of European universities about doctoral education throughout Europe.  The survey of doctoral education was based upon the Salzburg principles and designed to collect data in the following areas:

  • Organizational structures
  • Training and activities
  • Career development
  • Funding
  • Mobility
  • Time to completion
  • Supervision
  • Application and admission
  • Decision-making processes
  • Completion rate

The EUA-CDE doctoral education report includes data on the topics above and resulted in the identification of strategic priorities for European doctoral education moving forward.  The strategic priorities included the following:

  • Funding for doctoral students
  • Ethics and scholarly integrity
  • Attracting students from abroad
  • Career development
  • Gender equality
  • Open access/open science
  • Health/wellbeing of doctoral candidates
  • Increasing number of doctoral candidates
  • University-business cooperation
  • Societal engagement of doctoral candidates

As shown in the figure above, the top three strategic priorities for universities in Europe were funding for doctoral students, ethics and attracting students from abroad.  For more information about the findings, recommendations and suggested actions, see the report.

In addition to these specific doctoral education topics and priorities, universities in Europe and the U.S. continue to explore evolving issues facing the 21st century university.  Among these are focus on teaching/learning, diversity and equity, open access, innovation and entrepreneurship, technology, academic freedom and accessibility.  Changes in doctoral education are critical for the 21st century university and doctoral colleges/graduate schools can help lead the path forward.

References.

Doctoral education in Europe today: Approaches and institutional structures (2019).  European University Association

Graduate STEM education for the 21st century (2019).  National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM).

Salzburg Principles II Recommendations (2010).  European University Association (EUA).

Graduate Education Week 2019

Graduate education week is an annual event sponsored by the VT Graduate School to acknowledge the efforts and thank the graduate students, graduate advisors/mentors and the faculty and staff for their outstanding contributions to graduate education. This year marks our 19th year through which we:

  • highlight the importance of graduate education to the university
  • increase the university’s awareness of the contributions to teaching, research and engagement missions of the university
  • enhance the graduate student experience through professional development programs and celebratory events.

The theme for 2019 is “Find your Balance” and many of the events are focused around this very important topic of balance in the lives of graduate students.  The session entitled “spring into balance” included tips on relaxation, time with therapy dog Moose, personal training tips and healthy food consumption.  Specific events include managing conflict, combating imposter syndrome, “balance games” and a teach-in about valuing the students’ lived experiences.  Another feature is the Graduate Life Center (GLC) Cafe, a weekly gathering of graduate students for engaging conversation.

During the week, the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) hosts its 35th Research Symposium and Exposition followed by the Research Symposium Keynote featuring science communicator and educator Joe Hanson.  Joe Hanson hosts and writes “It’s Okay to be Smart“.  In addition, the Academy for GTA Excellence hosts its annual teach-in and a reception is held honoring VT Graduate School Citizen Scholars.

One of the highlights of the week is the Graduate Education Week Awards Banquet.  At this event, graduate students are recognized for their achievements in teaching, research and service; are honored as outstanding college doctoral and master’s students; receive outstanding dissertation and master’s thesis awards; and more.  In addition, outstanding faculty mentors from each college nominated by graduate students are recognized.

The week ends with the Big Cookout in which graduate students and their families join the Graduate School faculty and staff plus the Graduate Student Assembly on the lawn in front of the Graduate Life Center.

Although this week (March 25-29, 2019) we focus on graduate education, graduate education is a year-round endeavor. Thanks to all graduate students, faculty and staff who contribute to graduate education excellence and the creation of an innovative, interdisciplinary, and inclusive graduate community!!

It Depends

There are many times in our professional or personal lives when the answer to a variety of questions/queries is “it depends”.  This isn’t really surprising or uncommon. Frequently the answer/response falls somewhere along a continuum rather in a binary category.

One in particular comes to mind. It was apparent to those of us in the space that the facilitator wanted a definitive answer or at least an answer that was headed in one direction.  Among the audience, the answer we offered was “it depends”.  Although we were in agreement about the general direction of the conversation and goal of the workshop, there were too many unknowns or not-clearly-knowns that the response continued to be “it depends”.

In a graduate class I teach entitled “Preparing the Future Professoriate”, we take topics such as the description of an institution of higher education (e.g., college or university), definition of a faculty member, the role of faculty, mission of the university, funding for higher education, future direction of higher education, international higher education and much more. Obviously these topics are rather broad and there is no single definitive answer. “It depends”.

The fable of the elephant and blind “men” comes to mind here. How each of these individuals would describe the elephant “depends” upon the part of the elephant they touched.  The university is frequently described in this same manner. Those from a specific discipline or administrative home will offer their view based upon that discipline or administrative unit. The roles and responsibilities of a faculty member “depends” upon the academic discipline as well as institution type (e.g., “extramural funding is required”, “a book is the primary scholarly product”, “a 3-3 teaching load is standard”).  In other words, “it depends”.

Even topics of academic freedom and scholarly integrity, the hallmarks of higher education in my view, don’t always allow us to conclude with a definitive answer of yes or no.  Yes, we in higher education have academic freedom but questions are raised (e.g., is academic freedom an absolute, is academic freedom defined in various contexts and are their limits or conditions of academic freedom).  Around the world and even in the U.S., academic freedom is being challenged.  (Note: this is a topic for another blog post).

The complexity in which we live and work in higher education requires additional perspectives.  Many of the “grand challenges” and “wicked problems” require interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary efforts. As we work in these settings, there is no definitive answer from a single disciplinary perspective but rather an evolving academic journey informed by the multiple perspectives in the conversation.  The initial answer is “it depends” and requires interdisciplinary thinking.

As change continues in higher education and the 21st century university evolves, we must not only anticipate and expect but embrace “it depends”.

Holistic admissions

Increasing diversity in graduate admissions has become regular conversation among graduate deans and graduate school personnel.  The Council of Graduate Schools has include sessions on diversity and inclusion at its Annual Meetings and summer workshops for many years and recently actively promoted holistic admissions through a funded project and publications.  In 2015, Hobsons funded a CGS research project to explore existing practices and strategies for creating a more diverse graduate student population.  The results were shared with the graduate education community through a CGS publication that includes promising practices for holistic admissions and an overview of existing resources.  As graduate dean at Virginia Tech, I was invited as one of the participants to share our holistic admissions process.

Since then, I have also been invited to participate in ETS sponsored breakfast panels for increasing diversity in Graduate School at the 2018 CGS Summer Workshop and 2018 Annual Meeting.  These were focused generally on strategies used by selected Graduate Deans for creating inclusive graduate education and increasing diversity in graduate school and followed the development of the ETS GRE Holistic admissions website. In November 2018,  ETS hosted a webinar entitled “Diversity in Graduate Education: Looking at – and beyond – admissions”.  The panel was moderated by Jamal Eric Watson, Executive Editor of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

At Virginia Tech, we have developed a holistic admissions process that involved a modification of the on-line application to facilitate admission decisions based upon more than quantitative measures including test scores and GPAs (or the university from which they graduated).  Applicants are “more than a number” to us.  We value the following characteristics as success critical attributes and use them as relevant factors in admissions:

  • Community involvement/service
  • Leadership
  • Social, economic, physical, and other barriers overcome
  • Personal/professional ethics
  • Achievement
  • Research and scholarship

While it can be argued that the characteristics are often articulated in the applicant’s statement or letter of application and frequently incorporated into letters of recommendation, VT Graduate School has added sections to the application itself and created the ability to “sort” by these characteristics as well as GPA and test scores.  We added questions to the application and for the reference letter section.  These modification have encouraged academic units to select those additional characteristics of importance for admission and to “sort in” the applicants who demonstrate these within their pool of qualified candidates.

In modifying our application, we considered data provided by our academic departments about the additional criteria that were used in the review of the application materials.  Specifically, we modified the application so that applicants could provide additional educational experience for consideration in admissions including the characteristics/attributes identified above.

We also modified the letter of recommendation form based upon the personal attributes critical to academic success studied by Educational Testing Services in its development of the Personal Potential Index (PPI).  Specifically, reference letter writers are asked to evaluate the applicant on the following attributes: communication skills, ethics and integrity, initiative, innovation and creativity, planning and organization, and teamwork. They are also asked to provide a brief statement about the most compelling reason to admit the candidate.  Although the full letters of recommendation are still to be submitted, the characteristics/attributes can be used to sort-in those with the desired experiences.  The historic context, rationale and process are articulated in a short presentation.

Based upon anecdotal evidence and our initial data collection, our holistic admissions approach allows for the inclusion of a more diverse pool of applicants than use of quantitative criteria primarily.

University mission statements

Some background before discussing mission statements….

Transformative Graduate Education (TGE) is a university-wide initiative offered by the Graduate School at Virginia Tech. Through the implementation of unique programs and opportunities, TGE pushes the boundaries of traditional disciplinary academic education and aims to significantly change how graduate students prepare to become the next generation of scientists, educators, scholars, engineers, artists, and career professionals.  One of these programs is the Future Professoriate graduate certificate.

Every semester for the past 15+ years, I’ve taught a graduate course entitled Preparing the Future Professoriate which is one of the required courses to earn the certificate. The purpose of the class is to provide graduate students the opportunity to learn about universities and especially the roles and responsibilities of faculty members.  Each semester 55+ master’s and doctoral students from our 8 different colleges (e.g., Engineering, Science, Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Business, Architecture and Urban Studies, Natural Resources and Environment, Agriculture and Life Sciences) enroll in the class.

One of the early assignments for the class is to find, share and blog about mission statements from two college or universities, U.S. or international. Over the years, I have found this assignment and the discussion that follows to be important in raising awareness about the various types of colleges and universities around the world and their different and yet sometimes similar mission statements. As a result, I have continued to reflect upon the purposes for mission statements, similarity in the words included in the mission statements, the audiences for mission statements, and changes that have occurred over time.  And in the past few years, I have used digital polling software (e.g. Mentimeter for interactive presentations) to share the results with the class for discussion.

The first question I ask for each to share three to four words that they found in the mission statements.  And the second question was for them to identify the type of institution they selected.  I was curious about the words contained in the mission statements and I wanted to learn how they would characterize the university they selected.

Below I’ve included word clouds from the mission statements as shared by the graduate students in the class for the past three semesters. (Please note that this is not intended as a scientific analysis but more of an observation). As you can see, there are some words like research, community, knowledge, service and more that seem to be found in many of the mission statements. Teaching (learning), diversity (access), and global also appear in many mission statements. None of these words are surprising.  But what is surprising is that the word “student” (students) doesn’t appear as often as one would think.  Student or learner (and teaching/learning) seems to be implied rather than directly mentioned. In the figures below, private universities, liberal arts colleges, community colleges were in the mix.  If we were to sort by higher education institution type (e.g.private universities, liberal arts colleges, HBCUs, and community colleges) the key words in the mission statements would reflect more about the specific mission of the institution.

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the word clouds for the mission statements, the second question was about the type of college or university selected by these students.  Two examples of the word clouds are shown below.  As you can see, public research universities were common among the universities selected – not surprising because VT is a public research university and perhaps is the most familiar and of interest to the graduate students.   I found it interesting that “PWI” was used as a popular description for many of the entries but likely this was related to the recent in class conversation about PWI (predominately white institution), HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and MSI (Minority serving institutions) institutions.

 

 

 

In January 2018, I was pleased to read a blog by Julian David Cortes-Sanchez entitled “What do universities want to be? A content analysis of mission and vision statements worldwide”.  Although this isn’t the only analysis completed on mission statements, I found his findings pertinent to the mission statement assignment for my graduate course.  Cortes-Sanchez did an analysis of mission and vision statements and found that the most frequently used terms were research, university, world, knowledge and education. These are very similar to the words identified through the class assignment; not surprisingly.  The terms of global or world seem to be newer addition to mission statements as universities strive for a more global presence.

Although there are some very similar words used in mission statements, close attention to the words used can provide a greater understanding of the unique mission of the institutions of higher education.

 

On being inclusive

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the terms diversity and inclusion – how they are used, what they mean and how they are connected. My reflections have evolved over the years and rather than write a long narrative with historical perspective, I will be brief. In terms of which comes first, I will argue that it is inclusion that should be mentioned first and thereby guide our thinking and actions.

Diversity and inclusion are words that do have historical significance and context; at least dating back in the mid 20th century.  Diversity tended to be defined in terms of gender and race initially and recently more broadly in terms of the multiple and intersecting human social identities (e.g., age, LGBTQ, ability, religion, country of origin).  As a term, diversity has often been focused on difference as well as the value that these differences bring.

Inclusion in the 20th century was commonly associated with mainstreaming and integrating children with disabilities into regular schools (e.g., PL 94-142 Education of all Handicapped Children’s Act).  Inclusion has taken on a broader meaning today in the higher education landscape especially inclusive excellence and inclusive pedagogy. Through my higher education lens, inclusion must be defined as active, intentional and ongoing engagement with the full range of diversity topics and the multiple social identities in the curriculum and community.  Inclusion is about changing the culture so that individuals could be and are included.  It’s about having choice and choices. An “inclusion” approach (attitude and actions) empowers the creation of welcoming, affirming and diverse communities.

We hear frequently diversity and inclusion used together and usually in that order.  But I believe that our philosophical approach and actions should focus on inclusion and the creation and sustainability of inclusive affirming environments. Obviously we must incorporate both – inclusion and diversity – but here’s my main point.  If we are truly inclusive (attitude, actions) we will be diverse.  If we focus primarily on diversity, inclusion doesn’t always follow.  As administrators, faculty, staff and students we should focus “on being inclusive”.

p.s.  Virginia Tech Graduate School will begin the 3- year implementation of a new inclusion and diversity requirement for graduate students starting Fall 2018.

Effecting change in graduate education

It seems like I’ve been advocating for change in higher education for a long time now.  In some of my presentations dating back 1990s and recent blogs include posts about a ‘futurisktic‘ perspectives, university for the 21st century (Duderstadt, 2001), a call for embracing the ‘conceptual age‘ (Pink, 2005) and more. As a strong advocate for change in higher education, I want to share an example of change for graduate education.

Last week (June 12-14), the VT Graduate School hosted a conference on creating a space and place for graduate education drawing upon the 13+ years of experience gained through the innovative Graduate Life Center (GLC) and the Transformative Graduate Education (TGE) initiative offered by the VT Graduate School.  Graduate education colleagues and student affairs professionals attended the inaugural gathering to participate in the conversations about the “places, spaces, services and collaborations it takes to support the unique needs of graduate students”.

The conference was focused on the “what” and “how” of creating a space and place for graduate education.  In my opening remarks, I focused on the “why” and the historical context that prompted the development of the GLC and the TGE programs.  To begin….the call for change and the confluence of Duderstadt (2001) and Pink (2005).

In his book entitled “A University for the 21st Century, Duderstadt (2001) wrote that if lasting institutional reform is to be achieved, it will require changes in graduate education, with greater emphasis upon the integration of the disciplines and their applications to societal issues.  Daniel Pink (2005) argued in his book “A whole New Mind” that society has moved from the agricultural age to the industrial age to the information age and for the 21st century, the conceptual age.  Specifically, he wrote that “we are moving from an economy and a society built on the logical, linear, computer-like capabilities of the Information Age to an economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of what’s rising in its place, the Conceptual Age.”

Although other reports, books and professionals have called for change, Duderstadt and Pink were very influential in my rethinking and re-imagining graduate education and the leadership role that Graduate Schools could play.  Graduate schools and graduate deans have and must accept the responsibility for creating a space and place for graduate education. This can be done physically regardless of the size of the space and can definitely be accomplished conceptually in building and growing academic community(ies).  At their core and among the underlying principles, Graduate Schools and Graduate Deans must be responsive, integrative, interactive, inclusive & innovative. We (graduate deans) have the power to convene and we must be lead the transformation.  The calls for change in graduate education are loud including the most recent document from National Academies of Science, Engineering and Mathematics (NASEM, May 2018) entitled Graduate STEM education for the 21st century.  Although the report is focused on STEM, the recommendations are applicable to graduate education in general.  We (Graduate Schools, Graduate Deans) have responsibility for change, must be strategic and lead the transformation.

 

Obviously there are differing perspectives and views of and from the different parts of the university not unlike the fable of the blind “men” and the elephant.  Although many within the university community might want to see the Graduate School in a more traditional sense and less transformative, leaders needs to see things differently and look for that which is “unobvious” to others.  Times have changed and we have the responsibility to create a new culture for graduate education by developing meaningful and relevant programs. In doing so, I found the following strategies to be useful:

  • programs (e.g., workshops, classes) that provide added value (e.g., career development) to the degree
  • programs and opportunities that compliment not duplicate departmental efforts
  • incentives for participation including graduate certificates and academic credit
  • resources need to be identified within Graduate School and utilized to offer programs and opportunities
  • programs and opportunities should be innovative, dynamic and evolving and especially meaningful and relevant to current and future graduate students
  • strong commitment from the Graduate Dean (e.g., advocate, champion for change)

The consensus study report (NASEM, 2018) indicates that “it would be wise to acknowledge and understand the current and future challenges facing this system (higher education) and take steps now to ensure that it remains vital, adaptable, and relevant for many generations to come. To neglect graduate education, or to ignore threats to its success, puts the economic, social, and cultural well-being of the nation at risk. (p. 19, 2018)

Graduate education needs to change and we can transform graduate education through by understanding cultural change and building a new culture with new traditions and expectations for graduate education for the 21st century.  We don’t need to do this alone; we can develop partnerships and collaborations.  The charge to graduate deans is to take the lead and the challenge to our student affairs colleagues is to join us.  We can create a space and place for graduate education.

Eve of departure: Global Perspectives Program 2018

For nearly two decades now I have been actively engaged with higher education around the world (which provided the impetus for the establishment of the Global Perspectives Program).  I have watched with great interest the emergence of the  Bologna Process in Europe in 1999 and now the extension of the Bologna process for another 10 years.  Universities around the world have been and are challenged to become 21st century universities and this requires change.  There is no need to abandon the rich history of many universities, but change requires colleges and universities to rethink the who, how, where, when and even the why of higher education.

Universities around the world are grappling with a number of issues, many of which are local or national.  These often differ by country, institutional structure, political climate, financial constraints and more.  Recently, I have noticed that many European universities with the encouragement of the European University Association (EUA) are embracing some of the timely topics which are also lively topics within the United States.  And these will inform the discussion of the participants during our journey known as #GPPVT18.

This is year 13 for the VT Graduate School Future Professoriate: Global Perspectives program (GPP) in Switzerland. Thirteen years and it seems like yesterday when I flew to Zurich to initiate the program.  It is truly amazing how time passes so quickly and how much the program has evolved.

Although we visit the same countries (Switzerland, France, Italy) and the same universities in those countries, the same hotels and even some of the same restaurants, the experiences are different due to the GPP participants and the new places and people within the universities we visit. This year there are 13 graduate students traveling plus the GPP Graduate Assistant Abram and me. Abram was a participant last year and has switched roles for #GPPVT18. The participants come from 13 different degree programs located in five different colleges (4 from Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, 3 from Agriculture and Life Sciences, 3 from Engineering, 2 from Science).  The diversity of academic disciplines, lived experiences, social identities and perspectives is rich and serves to enhance the experience.  I look forward to meeting up with the group at Hotel St. Josef on Sunday, May 27th at 15.00 (3 pm).

Each year we identify a theme which focuses our attention on trends, challenges and issues facing higher education in Europe especially Switzerland.  This year’s theme is “Evolving European and U.S. higher education”.  The GPP’18 participants will explore four timely topic areas (teaching/learning, open access, inclusion/diversity and doctoral education) during the university visits, engage in group dialogue at the GPP summit in Riva San Vitale, and ultimately at the global seminar at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington D.C. in June.  The exploration of these topics will be invigorating and the dialogue rich.

Check out the website (futureprof.global), read our blogs, and follow up on twitter (#gppvt18).

 

Citizen Science: Engaging citizens in research

The 2018 Annual Conference of the European University Association was held in Zurich, Switzerland April 5-6, 2018 using the theme of “engaged and responsible universities shaping Europe”.  Topics included social responsibility, lifelong learning, sustainable Europe, social inclusiveness and diversity, open science, scientific integrity and ethics, and more.  The sessions included lively discussions and live tweeting (#EUA2018Zurich).  It was informative to hear about the EUA perspectives on these topics and to reflect on these same topics as discussed (or not) among higher education leaders in the U.S.  The presentations can be found on the EUA website.

A fascinating presentation on Citizen Science closed the conference and is the focus of my comments here.  In the U.S., we have frequently referred to the social responsibility of the university and public engagement as part of the university mission especially land grant universities.  We have used terms including ‘citizen scholars’ (eg., VT Graduate School Citizen Scholar program), ‘scholar citizens’, ‘scholar activists’ and to some extent citizen science.  The programs and opportunities vary across universities but highlight the connections between the university and society.  Citizen Science in the U.S. seems to be a relatively new entity (first conference in Oregon in 2012), books authored recently (e.g., C. Cooper, Citizen Science: How ordinary people are changing the face of discovery, 2016) and often associated with the environment issues (e.g., Citizen Science Association).

In his introductory comments at the EUA Hot Topic session and overview, Daniel Wyler (University of Zurich) identified Citizen Science as an element of open science and described Citizen Science as able to “enlarge the scope of research in all fields of science and able to enhance public education and the understanding of science”.  He argued that “many scientific and societal issues need citizen science” in areas such as the environment, aging, and energy” and could be helpful in providing the foundation for long-term policy decisions.  He shared guidelines for universities and policy makers and introduced the Citizen Science Center Zurich which is jointed operated by the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich. The goal of the Center is to enable “researchers and citizens to create and conduct research collaborations that produce excellent science” in support of the UN 2030 Agenda 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Examples of citizen science in the European context were shared by Kevin Schawinski (ETH Zurich), Sabine Stoll (University of Zurich) and Julia Altenbuchner (University College London).  The three shared distinct examples of science conducted at universities that actively engaged citizens in the research.  As part of the process, citizens could become actively engaged in the design of research projects, data collection and analysis, developing recommendations, and shaping research agendas and public policy.

Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) is one example and can be described as “a situated, bottom-up practice that takes into account local needs, practices and culture and works with broad networks of people to design and build new devices and knowledge creation processes that can transform the world.”  Current projects include: Doing it Together Science (DITOs), Extreme Citizen Science: Analysis and Visualisation (ECSAnVis), WeGovNow, and Challenging RISK (Resilience by Integrating Societal and Technical Knowledge).  Check out these exciting projects and see how citizens are helping with research.  And there’s a free new online course entitled “Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing”.

Another example comes from Kevin Schawinski who engaged citizens in his research on galaxy and black hole astrophysics.  He and his colleagues initiated a project entitled Galaxy Zoo which can be found with Zooniverse.  Zooniverse is the “world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research.”  Zooniverse provides many opportunities for citizens to engage in meaningful research with professors and currently lists 84 very diverse projects on their website.  These range from arts to literature to medicine to space and demonstrate the real projects and publications as a result of Citizen Science. Very impressive.

Universities have a responsibility to society and a Citizen Science approach provides the opportunity to reframe science through ‘people-powered-research’, to challenge our existing paradigm of research, to redefine “expertise”, and to empower genuine public engagement.

“Take up the baton”

In January 2018, the Moss Arts Center at Virginia Tech hosted a live performance of The Mountaintop as part of the 2018 current tour for the Los Angeles Theatre Works (LATW).  It was a powerful performance with a very important message and challenge for us to continue the work of Martin Luther King and to “take up the baton”.

The Mountaintop, winner of the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Play, provides the audience with “a glimpse at the human side of Martin Luther King Jr.”  The performance focuses on the evening hours of April 3rd after his famed final speech including the statement that he had “been to the mountaintop” and his assassination on April 4, 1968.  Throughout the play, the racial tension of the 1960s is highlighted and the parallels to today’s struggles are revealed. One of the messages of The Mountaintop is the challenge to take up the baton for social justice and equity.

Nationally, many opportunities to “take up the baton” have arisen recently out of which ‘movements” and initiatives have evolved including but not limited to #MeToo movement, Women’s March on Washington, BlackLIvesMatter, Transequality, and most recently, the March for our Lives.  Made visible through these movements are the concerns of many and their actions in support of equity and social justice.  I believe these “movements” are testimony to the impact of the work of Martin Luther King Jr. some 50 years ago and at the same time examples of the work that still needs to be done.

Education is critical to an informed citizenry and universities often provide the space and place for increasing awareness, understanding and engaging with issues of social justice and equity. These efforts are championed by offices of inclusion and diversity, academic departments (e.g., sociology, women and gender studies, cultural studies) in which scholarship and coursework focuses on social justice and equity, events and gatherings offered by cultural centers (e.g., connect-lunch, lavender graduation, international street fair, Tribal pow-wow), and history month programs (e.g., Black History, Hispanic, LGBTQ, Women).  Examples of these exist at Virginia Tech and include specific initiatives and programs offered by the VT Graduate School (e.g., citizen scholars) and through the Graduate School’s Office of Recruitment, Diversity and Inclusion (VT_ORDI) (e.g., diversity scholars, Bouchet graduate honor society, mentoring circle). The educational opportunities are many and typically help university constituencies engage in the difficult dialogues and contribute to the creation of affirming and inclusive communities within higher education and beyond.

Education begins with awareness and progresses to understanding and active engagement.  As part of our individual and collective journey, we can no longer be silent or simply be an observer and bystander to acts of social injustice, bullying, harassment or abuse and violence.  It is important to consider the multiple ways in which each of us can become (more) active bystanders, advocates and allies for civility, equity and social justice. Please choose the issue(s) important to you and  “take up the baton”.