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Open Graduate Education: Information for Prospective Applicants

Application Deadline: Second Friday in February

Program Summary
In a pilot program that started with the Academic Year 2012/13, Brown University’s Graduate School offers a small group of Ph.D. students from any discipline the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree in a secondary field. The objective of this pilot project is to enable students to combine fields in unique ways and acquire expertise in more than one area. Consequently, there is no constraint on the choice of the secondary field, which may be either close to or quite far removed from that of the doctoral studies.

The Graduate School envisions that the program will enable select doctoral students to write unique dissertations that require knowledge in more than one field. Additionally, the program may help Brown graduate students be more successful in an increasingly competitive job market. Our overarching idea is that the Open Graduate Education program will provide Brown graduate students with the opportunity to broaden their intellectual and scholarly horizons as they prepare to launch their careers.

Admission to this program is by application only, using forms provided separately. Importantly, students who wish to participate are asked to design a curriculum of their choice. The following guidelines apply:

  • Students need to be in good standing in the doctoral program and be making good progress. Students need to have a supportive doctoral program and research advisor (if they have one).
  • A student’s application needs to be supported by the proposed master’s program. This may be equivalent to being admitted to the master’s program. For some programs, it is a requisite that the student has undergraduate credentials that support an expectation of success in the secondary field.
  • Given that there are different ways in which master’s and doctoral studies could be successfully combined, we ask that students propose an anticipated path to the concurrent degrees. One path might be to take a continuous, light course load in the secondary field while pursuing the doctoral education, such that after 6 years of combined study (starting with the time of entry to the PhD program), both degrees are completed. Another option could be to complete the master’s degree early so as to feed the knowledge gained into the dissertation research. Or alternatively, a student could save the master’s coursework until after PhD coursework and other pre-dissertation work is completed. It is up to the graduate student to propose a viable path.
  • Students must have completed at least one year of their doctoral studies at Brown before the secondary field can be started. (The application for the Open Graduate Program can be submitted during the first year of graduate study.) Preference will be given to students who apply early in their graduate studies.
  • The Graduate School recognizes that pursuit of a secondary field requires additional time. For this reason, additional financial and mentoring support will be available to the students selected for this program.

The Graduate School encourages students to think broadly and creatively about their doctoral education and is looking forward to applications.

Further details about the Program

Financial Support
Students should realize that study of a secondary field requires significant effort and dedication. The application should include a realistic plan for dealing with the competing demands on time and for completing both degrees successfully. It is also important to plan with the 6-year time limit in mind. Graduate Students who remain in good standing in both fields of study throughout these six years will…

  • … receive support for the summer months prorated at the academic year stipend. This should allow students to focus on their studies and make up for any time possibly lost during the academic year. (Realize that three summers, for example after the 3rd, 4th and 5th years, add up to one extra academic year of study).
  • … receive an extension of the regular 5-year support guarantee to a 6th year of study. Stipend support from the Graduate School during the 6th year will be in form of a teaching assistantship. While not a requirement of the program, students at that stage can propose to their doctoral program and the Graduate School to teach a course that combines the two fields of expertise.

This enhanced support package is designed to enable students to finish both degrees within the 6-year time frame. No further stipend support will be made available after the 6th year.

Students on Research Assistantships
To make possible these benefits even for students who are on research grants, the following arrangements will be made:

  • During the academic year, the Graduate School will not charge to a grant the component of the effort that the student spends on the master’s degree. For example, if a student takes one course in the secondary field, while continuing research at a nominal effort of three courses, the Graduate School will assume one quarter of the student’s cost, while the research grant will be charged three quarters. This applies to all charges, i.e. the stipend, the tuition, the health insurance and the health fees. Over the course of the studies, this is expected to add up to at least one year’s worth of student support that will not be charged to the grant.
  • Additionally, the Graduate School will support a part of the summer stipends of all students in this program. For each summer within the program, the Graduate School will contribute an amount equal to 1/3 of the academic year stipend, minus the standard summer stipend. For example, with the academic year stipend at $ 21,500 and the summer stipend at $ 2,500, the Graduate School will contribute 1/3 x $ 21,500 -$ 2,500 =$ 4,667.

The Graduate School will work with students in the dual degree program to make sure that no unforeseen complications arise. To this end, a dean will be available to advise students. Additionally, all Deans of the Graduate School will be available during office hours. To create a sense of community, the Graduate School will host special social events for students in the program. After graduation, the Graduate School will be interested in career paths and the possible effects that the additional opportunities at Brown will have.

For programs that require a master’s thesis, an overlap of content with the Ph.D. thesis may be possible. However, the following rules shall be followed:

  • The same text cannot go into two theses. That is, the same principles apply as in publications: once material is published in one place, it cannot be published as original material in a second place. Even so, it is possible for content to partially overlap in the two theses. The acceptability of such overlap rests with the readers of the theses, who should be made aware of the situation.
  • From a Graduate School perspective, it may be possible to combine the two theses into one document. For example, it could be reasonable to include the master’s thesis as a chapter of a longer Ph.D. thesis. However, in all such circumstances, the readers in both programs need to be consulted well ahead of time and need to agree to such an arrangement.

Some additional details:

  • The master’s program is encouraged to review the credentials of a prospective dual degree student before writing the letter of support. To this end, the Graduate School will furnish upon request the materials that were submitted at the time of application to the Ph.D. program.
  • Students participating in the concurrent degree program are expected to fulfill all the duties associated with their normal course of study in the doctoral program. This includes, in particular, the standard contributions to teaching and research through TA and RA positions.
  • Master’s programs in Integrative Studies (see Graduate School Handbook, page 12) are possible, but require additional approval by the Graduate Council. Please contact the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs to arrange this.
  • No more than 2 courses can be counted for both the Ph.D. and the master’s degree.
  • It will not be possible to take undergraduate courses below the 1000 level with the goal of attaining prerequisites required for the master’s program.