Sharing the Report of the Humanities Doctoral Education Advisory Working Group

A Message from Dean Cooley

February 15, 2021

Dear GSAS faculty, students, and registrars:

One of Yale’s principal areas of excellence is humanistic study at all levels, and as Dean of the Graduate School, I am honored to support that tradition through the training of doctoral students. The humanities are vital to our mission to improve the world today and for future generations.

In May 2020, I announced the formation of a working group, co-chaired by Deans Kathryn Lofton and Pamela Schirmeister, charged with identifying areas where Yale can continue to lead in doctoral education in the humanities. In August 2020, Katie and Pam appointed a joint student group, co-chaired by Maria del Mar Galindo and CJ Rice. The twenty members of the Humanities Doctoral Education Advisory Working Group (ten graduate students and ten faculty members) met tirelessly throughout Fall 2020. The working group read widely in contemporary and historical literature on the humanities and doctoral education; reviewed the Graduate Program Review (GPR) reports on each of the humanities doctoral programs; debated among themselves and with colleagues at town halls, at group meetings with the twenty doctoral programs, and at a meeting of the departmental registrars; and assessed nearly 350 survey responses from faculty and graduate students.

Today, I am delighted to share the Report of the Humanities Doctoral Education Advisory Working Group. It advances Yale’s place as a leading educator of doctoral students in the humanities through specific recommendations aimed at spurring innovation. It argues for an inclusive collaboration between faculty members, students, and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, recommending programmatic reforms, new options for student progress and development, and the means by which the Graduate School will evaluate program success. The report makes specific suggestions for possible changes in admissions processes, curriculum, the format of the dissertation, advising, pedagogical training, and the evaluation of program outcomes.

In the months and years ahead, faculty and graduate students at Yale will collaborate to institute reforms at the departmental level, as well as in the development of programs connecting faculty and students outside of existing structures for doctoral degrees. The report serves as a provocation to new thinking and a compass for innovation. As Dean, I welcome the conversations it will start, and agree to work to serve its principles. I encourage everyone, across divisions, to read this report and share your feedback through this webform (this form has closed). Deans Lofton and Schirmeister will be following up with further guidance to humanities faculty and students about working with the recommendations offered in the report.

I am deeply grateful to the co-chairs of the working group for their stewardship of the charge, and to all the group members who made the report such a strong representation of our best thinking. I thank them for their dedication to advancing research and educational excellence at Yale. The importance of their work is best captured in the report itself and I close with a passage from its conclusion:

Support of the humanities is our most important weapon in the battle against anti-intellectualism and misinformation. The humanities teach us the rhetorical and critical skills to together make worlds that seek greater justice and beauty. The university, one of the greatest inventions of the past millennium, is the best vehicle for the cultivation of citizens and leaders who will build a world equal to our highest aspirations and abilities. The changes recommended in this report focus on building a strong future where Yale leads in an ongoing national and international commitment to humanities doctoral education.

I look forward to working with all of you to build on our extraordinary foundation in the humanities—to solve problems, discover new opportunities, and lead the charge toward a better future.

Lynn Cooley

Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
C.N.H. Long Professor of Genetics
Professor of Cell Biology and of Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology