Knuth on Advisory Board for AAU PhD Education Initiative

Dean Barbara A. Knuth

By Elizabeth Ellis

Graduate School Dean Barbara A. Knuth has been appointed to the Association of American Universities (AAU) PhD Education Initiative Advisory Board. 

Funded by grants from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation, the PhD Education Initiative aims to make “diverse PhD career pathways visible, valued, and viable” by encouraging institutional changes, making program data widely available, and highlighting effective strategies.

Some of these goals are already underway at Cornell. President Pollack, as part of the Coalition for Next Generation Life Science, committed Cornell to making public all data pertaining to career outcomes for life sciences doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers.

Data transparency is nothing new for the Graduate School. Since 2012, publicly available data on graduate field metrics has included: applications and yield, enrollment, attrition and completion, median time to degree, and Ph.D. career outcomes, with postdoctoral data recently added. The data are filterable by degree type, discipline, and graduate field of study.

In addition, the Graduate School posts Cornell doctoral alumni career outcomes, from graduation to 20 years post-degree, based on research and survey results.

“It’s important for all students, but particularly prospective students, to understand what to expect in a PhD program and the typical career outcomes for each program,” said Knuth. “To support the needs of current doctoral students, we are developing a robust set of experiential career exploration programs for students interested in non-academic careers.”  

The Graduate School is developing a comprehensive suite of career exploration programs for students interested in both future faculty (CIRTL at Cornell) and non-academic careers (BEST).   BEST was originally conceived as part of a National Institute of Health grant (Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training) that called on institutions to explore ways of improving biomedical career development. At Cornell, BEST focused on experiential career exploration for STEM fields. This year, the BEST initiative transitioned to the Graduate School and was opened to doctoral students in all disciplines, including social sciences, arts, and humanities. 

The AAU PhD Education Initiative will support efforts like these by providing resources and implementing reforms in a pilot cohort of eight institutions.

“I am pleased to serve on the Advisory Board for the PhD Initiative. AAU has shown great vision and leadership, and I hope to use my experiences with doctoral education to help guide the initiative during this time of tremendous change for graduate education,” said Dean Knuth.

Founded in 1900, the Association of American Universities is composed of America’s leading research universities. AAU’s 62 research universities transform lives through education, research, and innovation.

Elizabeth Ellis is senior director of communications in the Graduate School.