Responding to an expanded repertoire of graduate communicative tasks
University of Michigan
The traditional communicative tasks for doctoral students have changed dramatically over the years. On the speaking side, students used to be mainly involved in teaching discussion or lab sections, giving presentations in seminars, and defending proposals and dissertations. On the writing side, students once were mainly involved with course papers, exams, and proposals and dissertations, this last typically being in monograph format.
Today, we see doctoral students much more in the role of “pocket-sized professors.” They present more frequently at conferences; they attempt to publish more articles, singly or, more typically, with co-authors. They are increasingly expected to apply for competitive grants and fellowships. They are socialized earlier into disciplinary sub-groups and yet are increasingly expected to become inter-disciplinary. They are expected to have some kind of display of their scholarly selves on the Internet. They are encouraged, particularly in science, to become involved in communications for audiences outside their disciplines, in events such as the Three Minute Thesis that are designed to enlighten the general more academic public. When they are on the job market, they face academic job applications that have become more daunting, with tricky additions such as Diversity Statements and Statements of Community Engagement. If they have decided on a career outside academia, they must find ways to communicate with those whose interests lie mainly in solving everyday problems in cost-efficient ways. These exigencies suggest the need to create many and varied opportunities for students to develop communication agility. How we might best accomplish this is the focus of our talk.
“Maybe I’m just not cut out for this”: The consequences of institutional discourses about writing for doctoral researcher identities
In this talk, I share data from a cross-institutional and cross-disciplinary study of doctoral writing at Canadian research-intensive universities to trace how institutional discourses about writing surface in the research writing experiences of doctoral students. Drawing on survey responses from 3000 doctoral students and interviews with 50 doctoral students, I examine how institutional discourses about writing shape assumptions about research writing in doctoral programs, how doctoral students take these discourses up, and what consequences these discourses have for doctoral researcher identities. The purpose of this talk is to invite participants to share and explore strategies for engaging those charged with doctoral education in reflecting on the consequences of inherited institutional discourses about writing, which have traditionally escaped reflection, but have significant consequences for the scholarly identity development of doctoral researchers.
Pathways to inclusion: Identity, difference, and institutional innovation
University of Rhode Island
As has been noted, many graduate colleges in the U.S. context are taking much-needed steps to enhance the demographic diversity of their student populations. Still, graduation and retention rates for students from historically underrepresented groups are not increasing in corresponding proportion. Although a rich tradition of scholarship in applied linguistics, composition, and TESOL has successfully promoted a more complex view of graduate communication—one that acknowledges writers’ identity shifts and variable processes of disciplinary enculturation—in many cases, reductive views of writing persist in institutional practice. These reductive views of communication contribute to structural issues that exclude some writers more than others and result in equity gaps for underserved students. What often gets elided in discussions of graduate writing programs and interventions is epistemic injustice (Fricker; Godbee)—where difference becomes a barrier in the mind of the institution and the advisor, where a student’s way of knowing is discounted or dismissed, and the reasons for attrition are presumed to reside within the student’s body. In this talk, I draw on survey and focus group interview data to highlight equity and justice issues that impact graduate student writers. Ultimately, I suggest that graduate writing specialists are well-positioned to become advocates (Inoue; Perryman-Clark) and ally-accomplices (Green), and I offer strategies for challenging exclusionary writing policies and practices.
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