Defining a Sustainable Graduate Culture
By Dr. Patricia Campbell
Dean, Graduate Studies at American Public University
A thorough literature review on “graduate culture” reveals that the topic has largely been unexplored. However, most of us who experienced a traditional graduate education can fondly (or perhaps not so fondly) recall something akin to a “culture” that characterized our graduate school experience.
But what does the graduate experience mean today, in a world in which graduate studies continues to shift from a traditional brick- and- mortar, class- or seminar-based experience to variations that include blended (partially online/partially in class) programs and fully online programs?
Moreover, graduate culture has been affected by shifting demographics showing that today’s graduate students are often working adults who are not only older than their “traditional” graduate student counterparts but also not involved with a physical campus.
How does this new breed of graduate student connect with and relate to classmates, professors, departments, and institutions? In short, what does today’s graduate culture look like given these dynamic changes?
Inherently, culture is social. It conveys a sense of community in which interaction is required. It is also a set of beliefs, values, and practices learned through processes of enculturation and socialization leading to internalization. It is also characterized by the following:
- It is a symbolic construction;
- It requires a form of expression;
- It involves production for continuity;
- It involves constraint—models of behavior to which individuals must conform.
At American Public University, graduate culture is defined as a community of scholars, emerging scholars, and practitioners who share a commitment to research and scholarly integrity and a passion for engagement in the production of new knowledge—as well as the application of that knowledge in innovative interdisciplinary contexts. We have identified six cultural norms that work to create and sustain a graduate culture at APU.
- The pursuit of knowledge—commitment to mastering literature in the field and to independent research.
- Commitment to scholarly integrity—engagement in the responsible conduct of research.
- Participation in the broader scholarly and/or professional community—engagement with professional practices and professional development opportunities including networking and conducting research that can be presented at professional conferences.
- Commitment to service—involvement in community projects and student and/or professional groups.
- A focus on collaboration and support—mentoring, joint research projects, social media support, and networking sites.
- A respect for diversity and global citizenship—research, scholarly activity, and engagement in advanced professional practice require that our students are exposed to diverse viewpoints.
As students and faculty consider whether an online educational experience is right for them, they may want to explore how the institution they are considering supports the graduate experience by focusing on ways to enhance graduate culture.
About the Author:
Dr. Campbell has numerous publications in academic journals including Journal of Political Science Education, International Feminist Journal of Politics, African Studies Quarterly, Politics and Policy; and Africa Today. Her co-authored textbook on Global Studies was published in 2010 (Wiley-Blackwell). She has been active serving on various committees of the American Political Science Association (APSA), most recently she was elected to the APSA’s Committee on Teaching and Learning.