The New PhD: How to Build a Better Graduate Education - Discussion with the authors: Leonard Cassuto & Robert Weisbuch

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In their new book The New PhD: How to Build a Better Graduate Education, Leonard Cassuto and Robert Weisbuch reason that universities need to ready graduate students for the jobs they will get, not just the academic ones. Connecting scholarly training to the vast array of career options open to graduates requires a PhD that looks outside the walls of the university, not one that turns inward—a PhD that doesn't narrow student minds but unlocks and broadens them practically as well as intellectually. Cassuto and Weisbuch document the growing movement for a student-centered, career-diverse graduate education, and they highlight some of the most promising innovations that are taking place on campuses right now. They also review for the first time the myriad national reform efforts, sponsored by major players like Carnegie and Mellon, that took place between 1990 and 2010, look at why these attempts failed, and ask how we can do better this time around.

A more humane and socially dynamic PhD experience, the authors assert, is possible. This new PhD reconceives of graduate education as a public good, not a hermetically sealed cloister—and it won't happen by itself. Throughout the book, Cassuto and Weisbuch offer specific examples of how graduate programs can work to:

• reduce the time it takes students to earn a degree;
• expand career opportunities after graduation;
• encourage public scholarship;
• create coherent curricula and rethink the dissertation;
• attract a truly representative student cohort; and
• provide the resources—financial, cultural, and emotional—that students need to successfully complete the program.

The New PhD is a toolbox for practical change that will teach readers how to achieve consensus on goals, garner support, and turn talk to action. Speaking to all stakeholders in graduate education—faculty, administrators, and students—it promises that graduates can become change agents throughout our world. By fixing the PhD, we can benefit the entire educational system and the life of our society along with it.

PhD Plus provides the opportunity to graduate students, postdocs, faculty and staff at UVA to discuss graduate education with the authors. At this event, the authors will present a brief illustrated book talk followed by a question & answer session with the audience.

About the Authors

Leonard Cassuto is a professor of English and American Studies at Fordham University. With Robert Weisbuch, he is the author of The New PhD: How to Build a Better Graduate Education, just published by Johns Hopkins University Press. Cassuto is the author or editor of eight earlier books, most recently The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It (Harvard UP, 2015), which was inspired by his monthly column, "The Graduate Adviser," for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Learn more on his website-

Robert Weisbuch is Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan and leads Robert Weisbuch and Associates, a Higher Ed consultancy. He is co-author with Leonard Cassuto of The New PhD: How to Build a Better Graduate Education (Johns Hopkins UP, 2021). He previously served as President of The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and of Drew University. He has published books on Emily Dickinson’s poetry and on Anglo-American Literary Relations and numerous essays on 19th century British and American literature and on issues in education.


James M. Van Wyck is Assistant Dean for Professional Development in the office of the Dean of Graduate School at Princeton University. He is co-editor of the The Reimagined PhD: Navigating 21st Century Humanities Education (forthcoming, Rutgers University Press). Learn more on his website-


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