History Department

University of Kansas

Overview of the CID

We invite visitors to browse the innovations we devised for our graduate program in the History Department at the University of Kansas, and to learn more about the philosophy that underlies them and the process we used to create them.

For more information, please contact Eve Levin, Director of Graduate Studies: evelevin@ku.edu.

Becoming a teacher
Learn more about KU's innovative approach to integrating preparation to teach into the graduate program

KU History Department website
Come see more about our outstanding department!

Curricular changes
Read about the innovations we made in our program.

Our CID team

Carl Strikwerda, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of History, wrote the proposal that earned the University of Kansas History Department a place in the CID. The department established a special committee for its participation. Carl Strikweerda chaired the original team, and Eve Levin, his co-chair, carried on after he left to become dean at the College of William and Mary.

Team members:

  • Bob Blackstone, PhD student, US
  • Luis Corteguera, associate professor, Europe
  • Greg Cushman, assistant professor, environment
  • Jerry Frank, PhD student, US
  • Megan Greene, assistant professor, China
  • Ernest Jenkins, assistant professor, medieval
  • Eve Levin, professor, Russian/East Europe
  • Emily Lowrance-Floyd, MA student, Britain
  • Krystle Perkins, PhD student, medieval
  • Becky Robinson, PhD student, US
  • Tony Rosenthal, associate professor, Latin America
  • Steve Sodergren, PhD student, US, military
  • Carl Strikwerda, professor, modern Europe
  • Ted Wilson, professor, US, military, international
  • Karenbeth Zacharias, PhD student, Britain
  • Don Worster, professor, US, environmental
  • The CID team benefits from the broad diversity of its members. Faculty committee members represent all ranks (full, associate, and assistant professors), and a wide range of temporal, thematic, and geographical fields. The granduate student members represent all stages of the degree program, from MA to ABD. In addition, the team members come from diverse backgrounds, incuding a Latino, an African-American, and a Native American.

    Our CID process

    Contemplating: In the first year, we thought seriously about our program. A scheduled external evaluation of the graduate program provided us with needed perspective. The team members who attended the first Convening at the Carnegie Foundation brought back a wealth of ideas from peer departments and from the CF staff. We surveyed faculty, current students, and alumni to learn their impressions of the graduate experience. We tried to recover statistical information: What sorts of jobs do our graduates hold? What fields of study do our students choose? How long does it take for them to reach certain milestones (MA degree, ABD, dissertation defense)? How are our students supported financially? Towards the end of the year, we held a faculty retreat in which we first identified problem areas and then envisioned solutions.

    Acting: Beginning in the second year, we began to design new provisions for the program, and to improve old ones. After discussion of the problem and possible solutions in the CID team, one or two members drafted a proposal. The team then refined it. At that point, the proposal entered the department's usual governing structures: it was presented to the Graduate Board, and then (sometimes with additional refinements), it was brought to the department (faculty and voting student members) for approval. As of August 2006, proposals are still being generated.

    Assessing: We are monitoring the effects of changes, and making corrections as necessary. For example, we can document that students speed their progress to ABD status by six months to a year by using the portfolio exam system. The new system for processing GTA applications has been refined twice to lessen graduate students' anxiety concerning refunding. The long-term consequences of our new policies and procedures, in terms of students' employability, retention, time-to-degree, and satisfaction can be determined only in the future.

    The Graduate Director as agent of change
    About the roles the faculty head of a department's graduate program can facilitate innovations.

    It's not all about money

    One obstacle to success is the belief that more resources are needed in order to accomplish anything: "If only we had dissertation fellowships--research grants--speaker funds--better office space--faculty in X field, etc., etc., we could really have a great program!" But out of necessity, we needed to concentrate on innovations to our program that could be accomplished without any significant change in the department's budget.

  • It doesn't cost a penny to change the content of courses, or to refine our foreign language policy, or alter our method of comprehensive examinations, or provide students with a "road map" through the program.
  • Better money management allowed us to use our GTA funds both to support current students and recruit the most promising new ones.
  • The department established its own "Teaching Exchange"--an on-going conversation about pedagogical issues--with no cost bust for the light refreshments.
  • Guest speakers invited to present lectures can also be "scholars-in-residence," joining the department in informal give-and-take about scholarly issues.

  • If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

    Some aspects of out program, upon consideration, didn't need to be changed at all.

  • The intellectual strength of the department. We have a good balance of eminent senior faculty and promising junior faculty, and the opportunity to continue to make strong hires in the future.
  • Graduate student representation on committees. KU already had a policy to include students as voting members of most deliberating bodies. Students are involved in all decisioin-making concerning the graduate program in the History Department.
  • The MA degree. We decided to retain it as the usual "first step" for graduate students who enter the program with a BA. From data analysis, we confirmed that doing the MA did not slow students' progress towards the PhD. However, we did confirm the decision made five years previous to eliminate the MA thesis.
  • Fields of study. We have both geographically/temporally defined fields, and thematic fields, all broadly define. We found no compelling intellectual or programmatic reason to modify them. However, we are contemplating expanding the list of pre-approved minor fields.
  • Number of fields. We have the traditional three fields (a major and two minors, or two majors and one minor). Although we couldn't identify any reason (beyond the theological) for our fascination with the number 3, we couldn't come up with any good reason to reduce the number of fields or expand it.

  • Don't just talk--do!

    While the CID team was generating ideas about constructive ways to change the graduate program, some changes took place on the initiative of department members.

  • Professor Steven Epstein redesigned the introductory course for graduate students (History 805), to refocus it on orientation to the historical profession.
  • Graduate Director Eve Levin streamlined the processes for admitting new students and selecting GTAs.
  • The department's History Graduate Students Organization founded a peer mentoring program, pairing each incoming student up with an established one, as well as their own workshop series.
  • Team member Tony Rosenthal solicited seed money for pre-dissertation research grants from Graduate School dean Diana Carlin, who also made a personal contribution. The fund is now named in memory of graduate student team member Rebecca Robinson, who passed away in 2005.
  • Assistant professors recast the department's beginning-of-theyear orientation for GTAs.

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