Background and Goals

For nearly a decade, the DPD Program coordinated fellowship competitions, workshops, and exploratory summer research for graduate students in the humanities and social sciences in order to help them prepare dissertation research proposals. Central to the DPD Fellowship Program’s approach was exposing students to multiple perspectives grounded in the theories, literatures, methods, and intellectual traditions of different disciplines. The program’s workshops fostered peer critiques within small groups under the guidance of faculty with extensive experience working with doctoral students in interdisciplinary contexts. See the DPD Program’s student and faculty competition pages for further information.

In assessing the DPD Fellowship Program’s benefits for students, program staff found that alumni were, on average, significantly more successful in winning dissertation research grants and quicker in obtaining doctoral degrees than were students who did not participate in the program. Student participants also reported overwhelmingly that the program’s activities helped them to develop professional skills in writing clearly and explaining their research to broad audiences, giving and receiving critiques from colleagues, and developing academic networks that furthered their career advancement.

The DPD Program’s University Initiative is working in partnership with five US-based universities over three years to establish interdisciplinary training programs in the spirit of the DPD Program’s goals, adapted to their own particular educational goals, organizational structures, and available resources. Each partnering university’s program was selected through a competitive application process and based on the following criteria:

      • Contribution and fit of the proposed training within the applicant university’s broader educational curriculum, organizational structures, and available resources.
      • Background and skills of the proposed program’s administrative and faculty leadership.
      • Appropriateness of institutional location for the proposed program.
      • Innovative design and likely effectiveness of the proposed interdisciplinary approach to training humanities and social science students.
      • Opportunities for exploratory student research.
      • Likelihood of institutionalization of the proposed training program after the three year University Initiative will end.
      • Potential for future program expansion within the university and/or through collaborative activities with other universities participating in the program or other universities.
      • Potential for the proposed program to become a model for other universities to emulate.

In addition to helping the five partnering universities pilot and institutionalize interdisciplinary proposal development programs on their own campuses, the DPD Program seeks to design and share resources for non-participating universities who wish to develop interdisciplinary proposal development trainings on their campuses. At the end of the three-year initiative, the DPD Program will organize a conference for a wide range of university administrators and faculty to help disseminate the experiences, results, and best practices of the University Initiative’s pilot programs.

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