UCI is first public institution to pair shorter degree time with postdoctoral positions

Irvine, Calif., June 23, 2015 – The UC Irvine School of Humanities has received a $2.7 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to fund a pilot program that transforms graduate education by streamlining the time to degree, providing full funding throughout the degree program, and establishing a teaching and research position of up to two years for all candidates who complete their dissertation in five years. UCI is the first institution to couple a shorter time to degree with postdoctoral appointments to create an integrated program designed to launch humanities scholars successfully into academia and alternative careers.

With 40 percent of UCI humanities Ph.D.s finding tenure-track university positions within three years of completion and more than 80 percent finding full-time employment within the same time frame, the school is building upon its strong foundation of graduate program success to lead the national conversation about timely graduate education in the humanities.

“This new partnership between the School of Humanities and the Mellon Foundation is a prime example of how we are pursuing excellence through innovation. UCI has always been known as a leader in the humanities, and this support from the foundation ensures the kind of new thinking that will allow us to maintain that leadership in the years to come,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman.

The 5+2 program consists of a five-year Ph.D. program supported by fellowships and teaching assistantships, followed by up to two years in an assistant professor position, teaching in the Humanities Core course, a yearlong, integrated freshman program of lectures and discussions that develop critical reading and writing skills. Graduate students making good progress toward timely completion will also receive summer research stipends allowing them to maintain scholarly momentum throughout the years leading to the doctorate.

“We believe a shorter and more generously supported pathway through graduate school will attract more underrepresented students into our graduate programs and thus eventually into the faculty cohort, helping to achieve a diversified instructional staff that appropriately reflects our highly diverse undergraduate population,” said Georges Van Den Abbeele, dean of the School of Humanities. “Our hope is that this will become a national model not only to support graduate studies more effectively but also to improve the preparation of our future professors for the kinds of teaching and research needed in the 21st century.”

Nationally, graduate programs in the humanities have long been criticized for their Ph.D. students’ extended time to degree and lack of preparation for postdoctoral employment. The Modern Language Association’s 2014 “Report of the MLA Task Force on Doctoral Study in Modern Language & Literature” states that the median time to degree for 2012 humanities Ph.D. recipients at U.S. universities was nine years from entry into graduate school. Historically, there has also tended to be a large gap between graduate program funding and normative time to degree. With the 5+2 program, students are funded for the entirety of their program.

Three graduate programs – philosophy, history and visual studies (offered jointly by the art history and film & media studies departments) – are piloting the 5+2 program. With the Mellon Foundation’s funding, all incoming Ph.D. students in those fields will be eligible to pursue the 5+2 opportunities. If the program is successful, other departments may participate as well.

The postdoctoral teaching and research component of the 5+2 program is of particular importance because HumCore, while housed in the School of Humanities, has campuswide impact. It satisfies lower-division writing and general education requirements and, therefore, exposes non-majors to the humanities. In fact, 1,000 students enroll in the course per academic quarter, with 70 percent of them majoring in the biological, physical and social sciences. Beyond creating gateways to humanities majors, what happens in general education affects undergraduate perspectives on how to view – and interact with – the world at large.

About the University of California, Irvine: Currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $4.8 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.

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