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Integral Education: Strategic Challenges and roadmap ahead (XXV): A new design for the Ph.D.

Good afternoon!


La Galette des Rois was eaten on Sunday at my home. January 6th, 2019

Wishing you the best week of the year. We celebrated the Epiphany and King´s day with my family last Sunday. I believe the Galette des Rois prepared this year was pleasing. This year it was my turn to bake the French version of the Roscón de Reyes, and I added hazelnut creme to the Frangipane filing. I think it was delicious because one of my nephews, Felix,  almost swallowed the little figurine of Baby Jesus. He was the lucky one with the piece of Galette where the hidden little Jesus miniature of clay was placed. In my family, the person who gets the little Jesus symbolizes a year of prosperity, blessings, and success; and the responsibility to bake the King´s dessert for the next year.

Let´s dig into our theme for today. I have envisioned a new proposal for the Ph.D. programs in each discipline and field. This is the slide (self-explanatory) I have prepared for you today:

Integral Education PHD Proposal Elie Escalante.jpg

Eleonora Escalante Strategy proposes a shift in the curriculum and the duration of the programme.  If you wish to see the last slide in PDF format, click here: Eliescalante integral education a new Ph.D. proposal. Let´s see the transformation and the rationale behind this model:

  1. Anyone with a master degree can join a P.h.D program of his or her interest. The Master degree is a requirement to join the Doctor of Philosophy degree in any area or specialization (engineering, arts, psychology, medicine, etc.). I believe this shift is needed because the Master Degree is an opportunity to meet people from all over the world, and it gives an organizational advantage in soft skills to P.h.D.s in the future.
  2. In addition, before joining the Ph.D., the applicants must have at least 2 years of work experience. This is a “must” pre-requisite. Some exposure to the working environment helps a lot in relation to job experience, teamwork, a vision of the corporate (public-private-academic) world, and the capacity to see things with a broad perspective gathered through a job are irreplaceable. Future P.h.D applicants will be able to understand something, a real-world set of expertise or practice, from outside the university by working at least two years before joining the Doctorate degree curriculum.
  3. The P.h.D. programme proposal is expanded from 4 or 5 years to 7 years.  Let´s see why? The first two years will be for fulfilling the required coursework which was not taught at the Master Degree level, to prepare the students to pass the qualifying examinations (quals). These tests are designed to ensure students have a grasp of a broad sample of their discipline. In addition, I believe some academic areas also require special field examinations (specials), which test the applicants in those narrower selected areas of concentration within the Ph.D. chosen.  For some sciences and many humanities disciplines, where students have not studied the discipline at the undergraduate level neither at the previous Master degree, “these exams are the first set and are based on the first two years graduate coursework and specific preparatory reading (sometimes up to a year’s work in reading). In addition, the university may or may not require a research paper, which helps the students to write at the level of future demands.
  4. The third year is basically to build the team, start drawing the sketch of the problem proposal to solve and find the advisors. This proposal goes from the individual to a team of 3 to 4 Ph.D. candidates from multidisciplinary fields or areas, and from different universities all over the world. Each Ph.D. candidate has to find similar interests of issues or problems and will need to travel to emerging markets to explore relevant issues in needed communities. To gather the right team takes time (I appreciate one year for this process). Once the team is already in place, they will need a team of advisors from different fields.  For example: a Ph.D. candidate team may be formed by one student from Bolivia (pursuing a Ph.D. in biology), a second one from Sweden (pursuing a Ph.D. in economics, a third one from India (pursuing a Ph.D. in transportation systems) and a fourth one from the USA (pursuing a Ph.D. in African studies). The problem to solve is already identified in Mozambique, Africa. And the academic faculty advisors will be from three universities (Stanford, China, and Mozambique). An additional two practitioner advisors come from Dubai and Denmark, and even though these last two are not a faculty member, one is a recognized experienced professional from the public sector of Dubai, and the second one is a partner of McKinsey in Copenhague. This is an example, but there are so many issues to solve in the world, and infinite themes and academic advisors or practitioners to choose which are so valid for any Ph.D. research with an integral view.
  5. During the fourth year, the team conceptualizes and defines the problem in all its complexity, and produces the hypothesis and different solution scenarios.  This is the time for a hypothesis validation to applicability and legacy in the poor nation of study (in the case of our example, this is Mozambique). The Ph.D. candidates team start to work to raise funds too (particularly for traveling and research expenses not covered by the universities, or expenses related to the country visits where the problem is located). The fundraising is an art and P.h.Ds need to learn these type of skills for the future,  to look for other sources of finance for the next research years has to be taught in real life. I would like to clarify, the Ph.D. research is not a project consulting or an advisory scheme. It is deeper and more difficult than that because it is supervised by academic and practitioner experts,  with standards of a melange of practicum and academic skills. Soft skills are taught by learning from this experience.
  6. Fifth and Sixth years are dedicated to full-time Research, Writing Dissertation Proposal, Submission and defense of the dissertation. This is the time for students to learn by doing, learn by interacting, learn by innovating, learn by re-learning and break the paradigms, to learn to stretch their critical thinking skills, to learn how to work within multidisciplinary teams, to learn to work with multiple types of advisors and to try to solve critical issues in poor nations without losing the high standards of the academic life.  Critical thinking involves finding the truth beyond the apparent. Critical Thinking is seeking info, analyzing, applying standards,  discriminating, comparing, applying logical reasoning, solving, predicting, transforming, evolving.
  7. I have added the seventh year for the job market search (which can be reduced to months, depending on the time for job placement). The placement of the P.h.Ds must be linked to the program. It is not possible to be graduated as a P.h.D without a job. The jobs can be of three different paths: As researchers in or outside a university, as professors to teach, and also for the corporate world. There will be a need from Ph.D.s in some intelligent corporate offices which will need talent development teachers (private or public sector), and these are options to be considered.

Like any proposal, this Ph.D. programme model has its pros and cons. Stay tuned, we will continue with this paradigm over the week…

Blessings, Thank you.bee

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