Asee peer logo

Helping Students Navigate The Phd Experience: A Phd Seminar Model Used At The University Of Washington

Download Paper |


2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Mentoring Graduate Students

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.686.1 - 10.686.6



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Elisabeth Cuddihy

author page

Steve Lappenbusch

author page

Jennifer Turns

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session xxxx-xxxx

Helping students navigate the PhD experience: A PhD seminar model used at the University of Washington Jennifer Turns, Elisabeth Cuddihy, Steve Lappenbusch University of Washington

Abstract Graduate education is challenging. In this paper, we report on a PhD seminar model we have used to help enhance the PhD experience of graduate students in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington. Specifically, we provide detail on the model underlying the seminar, talk about how we instantiated the model during two different academic terms, and present results that shed light on the efficiency and effectiveness of the model. We offer this information for faculty or even graduate students who are interested in creating a similar experience on their campus.

Introduction Graduate education is challenging. Some suggest that the national attrition rate from PhD programs may be as high 50%. Studies of PhD students suggest that students may perceive their programs as failing to provide sufficient information, feedback and monitoring, and attention to understanding the range of possible careers1-2. Advisors and department administrators can feel frustrated when students ask questions that they have answered repeatedly and/or when students do not proceed as quickly through milestones as would be desired. As a result, educators are often looking for strategies that are both efficient and effective in enhancing the PhD experience. However, little information may be available to help such educators. In a review of research on graduate education, Galf suggests, “Because doctoral education is decentralized, it resembles a ‘cottage industry’ in which each faculty member establishes his/her own rules, little collective learning occurs, and minimal centralized standards or guidelines are available.” 3

In the Department of Technical Communication at the University of Washington, these issues are quite salient as we work to make our PhD program successful. Our PhD program is still relatively new, with our most advanced students just starting their third year. During the first two years of the program, we admitted three and two students respectively. As a result, the program had an intimate quality, and much of the PhD student support was informal and one-on- one. With the admittance of an additional five student cohort during the autumn of 2004, we are increasingly looking for efficient and effective ways to support our PhD students. A key issue is to find strategies that complement other types of support already offered. For example, we have a very active set of research groups. Our students regularly participate in two or more of them, thus receiving research experience and training. Helping the students to develop *their own* research idea, however, is another matter.

In the spring of 2004, we began offering a voluntary PhD seminar to address this need for additional support. Due to student interest, the seminar continued into the autumn 2004 term. In this paper, we describe the seminar approach and talk about how we instantiated the seminar

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition Copyright © 2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Cuddihy, E., & Lappenbusch, S., & Turns, J. (2005, June), Helping Students Navigate The Phd Experience: A Phd Seminar Model Used At The University Of Washington Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14764

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2005 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015