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First Cohort of Open Graduate Education Students

March 23, 2012

Nine graduate students are pioneers in the Graduate School’s Open Graduate Programs, each creating their own expanded graduate curriculum.

The pilot program has allowed doctoral students the flexibility and resources to pursue a master’s degree in a secondary field while they earn their doctorates at Brown University. The aim is to enhance the educational options for top graduate students, catalyze new interdisciplinary pursuits, and prepare students for the demands of the job market.

“It’s very beneficial to have broader horizons,” said Seth Thorn after learning his application had been approved. The first-year PhD candidate in German Studies came to Brown University because of the potential to continue his music studies, as well. Under the program, he will undertake master’s work in Multimedia and Electronic Music Experiments. “Only through openness and experimenting can you find novel ways … and come up with new knowledge.”   

The first cohort includes:

  • Sean Dinces, doctoral candidate in American Studies, pursuing a Master’s of Arts in Urban Education Policy
  • Diana Dukhanova, Slavic Studies, seeking a Master’s of Arts in Religious Studies
  • Susan Herringer, Engineering (Materials Science), pursuing a Master’s of Arts in Archaeology and the Ancient World
  • Ioana Bogdana Jucan ‘11, Theatre and Performing Arts (TAPS), seeking a master’s of Arts in Philosophy
  • Patrick McKelvey, TAPS, seeking a Master’s of Arts in Anthropology
  • Jie Ren, Cognitive Science, pursuing studies in Biostatistics
  • David Stout, Biomedical Engineering, pursuing a Master’s of Public Health
  • Seth Thorn, German Studies, with Multimedia and Electronic Music Experiments
  • Yao Zhang, Chemistry, pursuing a Master’s of Computer Science

Applicants to the program were invited to propose a combination of studies, explain their rationale, describe their career plans, and list the courses to be pursued for the master’s program. The Graduate School received 20 applications, which were reviewed by a team of deans and faculty spanning disciplines. The program kicks off with the academic year 2012-2013.

“We congratulate all the applicants for proposing ways to broaden their knowledge and differentiate their credentials,” says Peter M. Weber, Dean of the Graduate School. “They thought through the nuts and bolts of the combined studies and how they would apply the additional expertise. The first cohort now has the chance to execute self-designed studies.”

Those formally crossing disciplinary lines include Herringer, who will add studies in the Humanities to her training in the Physical Sciences; McKelvey, who will straddle the Humanities and Social Sciences; and Stout, whose work in the Physical Sciences will broaden to include the Life Sciences more formally.

Herringer, a second-year Engineering student, already felt like a “human bridge” to the Archaeology program after declaring it as one of her two minors. The Open Graduate Education program, she says, gives her support and camaraderie, and prepares the way for a career as a materials scientist aiming to work with archaeologists to dissect scientific problems. “Brown is willing to recognize this bridge,” she says. “Brown wants more multidisciplinary work.”

Partially supported by a $2-million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the pilot initiative will enable doctoral students from any discipline at Brown to pursue a master’s degree in any other discipline offered by the University. Graduate students already enjoy the latitude to pursue interdisciplinary scholarship, but this program expands and formalizes the opportunity. The program also more closely aligns the Graduate School with the spirit of Brown’s open undergraduate curriculum, a cornerstone of the University’s pedagogy.