Final Report from the Task Force on Doctoral Education

We are pleased to announce that the Task Force on Doctoral Education has released its final report. Drawing on broad engagement with the community and extensive review of data, the report offers a robust overview of doctoral education at Brown and recommendations for further enhancement. We invite you to review and provide feedback on the report by November 18, 2022 using the form below. The feedback gathered will shape the Graduate School’s development of an operational plan to act on the recommendations.


Charge to the Task Force on Doctoral Education

Attracting, training, and mentoring the very best graduate students is critical to the University’s mission and to its ambitions. Outstanding doctoral education is integral to the goals set forth in the University’s two most recent strategic plans: the Plan for Academic Enrichment and Building on Distinction. Further enhancing Brown’s excellence as a research university requires excellence in graduate education. 

To this end, the Task Force on Doctoral Education at Brown University was charged with developing recommendations for promoting outstanding, innovative graduate education that supports the University’s excellence in research and teaching while also preparing graduates for desired career outcomes. A particular concern was how to structure collaboration between the Graduate School and other units, specifically the Dean of the Faculty, the School of Engineering, the School of Public Health, and the Division of Biology and Medicine. 

In focusing on program excellence and the best way to organize the relationship between the Graduate School and individual graduate programs, the task force was charged with building on the University’s recent additional commitments to graduate student funding and the Graduate School’s expanded support for the “whole student.” Though student experience was not a part of the charge, it was a central consideration for the task force. 

In order to ensure that the task force was forward looking, not simply emulating past models, the group committed time early in the process to educating itself further on the current landscape of graduate education and likely scenarios for the near future.

More specifically, the task force was asked to make recommendations in three areas:

1. ELEMENTS OF EXCELLENCE: The task force was charged with identifying key elements of excellence in doctoral education and developing strategies to advance these at Brown. At a minimum, the task force was asked to consider the following areas:

  • Curricular revision designed to achieve greater educational training excellence and closer alignment with post-training placement (e.g., expectations regarding the number of courses or recommended exam structures);

  • How to promote inclusion of historically underrepresented groups and to foster research in historically understudied research areas;

  • How to encourage and support cutting-edge work in fields;

  • Best practices in graduate advising; and

  • Extra-departmental opportunities, such as the Open Graduate Education program, Doctoral Certificates, and proctorships.

2. INSTITUTIONAL STRUCTURES: The task force is charged with defining the most effective structures of collaboration between the Graduate School and the Dean of the Faculty, School of Engineering, School of Public Health, and the Division of Biology and Medicine.

3. ACCOUNTABILITY: The task force is charged with examining how we appropriately hold programs accountable for their improvement, as well as whether the institution would benefit from additional mechanisms to support faculty and to hold faculty accountable regarding their oversight of graduate students.

* * * 

The task force was composed of both faculty and graduate students and was informed by consultation with distinguished doctoral graduates working in and beyond academia. Faculty membership included faculty with records of excellence in advising and placing graduate students, as well as more junior faculty closer to their own graduate experiences. The graduate student members also collected input from other students through structures such as focus groups.

Task Force Membership

  • Thomas A. Lewis (chair), Associate Dean of Academic Affairs, Professor of Religious Studies

  • Elizabeth M. Doherty (staffing the task force), Deputy Provost for Academic Affairs

  • Amanda S. Anderson, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Humanities and English, Director of the Cogut Institute for the Humanities

  • Ugur Cetintemel, Professor of Computer Science, Chair of Computer Science

  • Nitsan Chorev, Harmon Family Professor of Sociology, Director of the Graduate Program in Development, Professor of International and Public Affairs

  • Theresa M. Desrochers, Rosenberg Family Assistant Professor of Brain Science, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior

  • Rachel E. Kalisher, PhD Student in Archaeology and the Ancient World

  • Sagen Y. Kidane, PhD Student in Sociology

  • Savvas M. Koushiappas, Associate Professor of Physics

  • Lawrence E. Larson, Sorensen Family Dean of Engineering, Professor of Engineering

  • Brian W. Meeks, Professor of Africana Studies

  • Carolina Mejia Peña, PhD Student in Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, and Biochemistry

  • Alycia Mosley Austin, Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion

  • Kimberly L. Mowry, Robin Chemers Neustein Professor of Biomedicine, Chair of Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biochemistry

  • Joel W. Revill, Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty, Associate Provost for Special Projects, Interim Chair of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies

  • James M. Russell, Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences, Chair of Earth, Environmental, and Planetary Sciences

  • Robert O. Self, Mary Ann Lippitt Professor of American History

  • Amal N. Trivedi, Professor of Health Services, Policy and Practice, Professor of Medicine

  • Audra van Wart, Director of University Postdoctoral Affairs, Associate Dean for Training and Program Development Division of Biology and Medicine and Director, University Postdoctoral Affairs, Assistant Professor of Medical Science