In 2016, the SSRC selected Cornell as one of five host universities, with the goal of transferring its Dissertation Proposal Development (DPD) program to local campuses with support for a three-year period. Cornell’s Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies (Einaudi Center) led the program with financial support from the Graduate School and several colleges. In […]
In 2020, the Dissertation Proposal Development (DPD) Program came to a close. Since its inception in 2007, the DPD Program has served over 700 students and existed in two iterations, a national fellowship and a university initiative—applying the DPD graduate student training model on five university campuses. The goal of the DPD Program was to help graduate students in the social sciences and humanities develop cogent, successful dissertation funding proposals that speak to a wide range of disciplines, through two workshops bookending funded summer research. The hallmark of the DPD Program was its emphasis on interdisciplinary peer critique—requiring students to give and receive critique across disciplines in a collegial, productive manner. In the University Initiative phase of the DPD Program (2016–2020), the SSRC supported five universities—Cornell, Northwestern, University of California, Santa Cruz, UMass Boston, and University of Minnesota—in their attempts to institute similar trainings, providing hands-on guidance, expertise, and financial support.
Each university was different—some private, others public, some with robust graduate student infrastructure and others with fledgling graduate programs. Each adapted the “SSRC model” and experimented with different pedagogies and structures of the course of the three-year grant with the SSRC. As the Mellon Foundation and SSRC hand over the funding and organization of these programs to their universities, it is a natural moment to reflect on questions of how to measure the impact of a program, especially one that occurred concurrently at fived universities. What makes a program meaningful? How does a program gain enough momentum to become institutionalized at a university? There are many different responses to this—from the DPD Program intervening at a vulnerable moment in graduate student training to its role as professional development for the faculty involved.
As we glean the lessons from this experiment in graduate training, we have collected reflections from students who participated in the university trainings, administrators who organized and supported the trainings, and our advisory board members—senior faculty who facilitated DPD workshops during the national competition and offered crucial guidance to our five university partners. Through their varied reflections we hope to better understand the different components of the DPD Program—from the impact of student scholarship, the ways universities evolved the trainings to be responsive to the changing needs of their constituencies, and what convinced the advisory committee to buy-in to this program and its impact on them as teachers and mentors. As the DPD Program comes to a close, join us as we reflect on the challenges and successes of implementing interdisciplinary proposal development trainings on five universities.
Reflections on the Dissertation Proposal Development Program University Initiativeby Stephanie Brehm
“In 2016, Northwestern was chosen by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) as one of five universities to bring together humanities and social science scholars in pre-doctoral research summer institutes. Faculty from across clusters, certificates, and disciplines actively guide humanities and social science PhD students, who are in their second and third years, in designing […]
Breadth and Scope: Combining the Social Sciences and Humanities for Better Writingby Jahara Matisek
The SSRC’s Dissertation Proposal Development (DPD) program was highly influential in facilitating my doctoral studies in political science. From the application process to preparing for each meeting, it gave me a structured way of organizing my thoughts for conducting my dissertation research—something every graduate student needs—enabling me to complete my PhD program in less than […]
A Planner in an Interdisciplinary Workshopby Nidhi Subramanyam
I was the only planner or member of the field of city and regional planning in the 2018 Einaudi-SSRC DPD cohort at Cornell University. As planners constitute a mere handful of prior DPD or IDRF winners, I was anxious about how my peers would interact with my ideas and the scholarship that I was engaging […]