American Higher Ed: History, Culture, and Challenges

Note re: 2021 Cohort

In 2021, this GLC will focus on graduate education. Please join us virtually for "Graduate Education: Then, Now, Next," which will be introduced in late April at the GradFUTURES Forum. If you are interested in participating, please email

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Princeton Graduate Students: join us for an engaging dinner workshop series that works as a discussion community. Graduate students are at the heart of that community, but we extend it to the whole university. The gatherings offer you a chance to talk to people from parts of the university you may not often see (junior and senior faculty members from different fields, and administrators ranging from deans to university press editors), in a setting that emphasizes common cause, not hierarchy. We meet every few weeks from October through early December, with two site visits (to a state college and a community college to meet with Presidents, Faculty, and Students) after the winter break, followed by a final social gathering early in the Spring semester. A full list of sessions (dates, subject matter) is below. While the conversations are wide-ranging, the reading load is minimal; we know that everyone is busy. 

Designed for graduate students pursuing tenure track careers, as well as those considering a range of careers in higher education, this GLC takes a long view of American higher education, framing its problems and prospects in historical terms. How did we get here? Where are we headed and why? Where should we be headed? Participants gain a deeper understanding of the history and culture of the academic landscape. Session topics range from the rise of the PhD as the central academic credential, to graduate education’s role in the research university, to the role of faculty in university governance.

As you know, these are challenging times for our institutions and our profession. This workshop focuses on subjects we all need to think about—and discuss—together.  

The cohort will be limited to approximately 15 eligible graduate students, and preference will be given to Ph.D. students in the Humanities and Social Sciences. This series is a joint venture between the Humanities Council and GradFUTURES.

Read more about the Series

Questions? Contact James M. Van Wyck,

Sample Schedule

Session 1: an overview of higher education in America 

Session 2: the history and growth of graduate education in America, and elsewhere

Session 3:  International Perspectives (Europe, Asia)

Session 4: Data Science and Higher Education 

Session 5: Professionalization 

Session 6: Tenure: Past, Present, Future?

Site visits to local higher education institutions.


Yuzhou Bai, GS, EAS
Professional Development Associate

"I'm excited to support my fellow Ph.D.s in at least two ways: to highlight recent job market trends and consult on new career options for graduate students and to use career outcome data to illuminate the diverse career paths of our graduate alumni. Feel free to reach out through e-mail or LinkedIn!"

Sarah Carson, *20, HOS
GradFUTURES Learning Cohort Participant
"The small-group seminar setting was fruitful for refreshing conversations that demystified how "the university" works and keyed me into current debates and challenges for its future."
Leonard Cassuto
GradFUTURES Learning Cohort Convener

Leonard Cassuto is a professor of English at Fordham University and a columnist on graduate education for The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is the author or editor of nine books on subjects ranging from crime fiction to sports. His last two books center on the state of American graduate education: The Graduate School Mess

Rebecca Giblon, GS, HIS
GradFUTURES Learning Cohort Participant
"The mix of faculty, administrators, and students from a variety of disciplines provide a wide range of perspectives on how the higher education system works."
William A. Gleason
Hughes-Rogers Professor of English and American Studies;
"It's exciting to see how many new initiatives and opportunities for graduate student professional development are emerging here on campus, in communication, teaching, leadership, wellness, career management, and other crucial areas."
Stanley N. Katz
Professor of Public and International Affairs;
"The Higher Education Workshop has been a boon for me as a scholar-teacher with a long commitment to the study of higher education policy."
Josh Kotin
Associate Professor, Department of English
"The workshop is an important forum for exploring graduate student professional development in the twenty-first century."
Lucy Partman, *21, ART
University Administrative Fellow

"I believe graduate students and PhDs can be agents of innovation, change, and leadership both inside and outside of academia."

Dylan Principi, GS, MUS
University Administrative Fellow
“Within Princeton’s burgeoning GradFutures initiative, I am excited to help cultivate a space for graduate students to explore the critical role of communication in all sectors of the 21st-century academy: the professoriate, administration, public scholarship, and publishing.”
James M. Van Wyck
Assistant Dean for Professional Development
Office Phone
008 Clio Hall

James M. Van Wyck is the liaison for the Humanities & Social Sciences. He manages graduate student professional development programs, strategic communications, the GradFUTURES Fellows program, including the University Administrative Fellows Program, and the Community College Teaching Initiative.

James Watson-Krips, GS, EAS
University Administrative Fellow

"I have come to see that there is no single path to academic career development -- skills learned outside the academy can be of great use in one's academic work, and the methodologies we employ as Ph.D. students can similarly help in a variety of careers beyond the academy."

Shengyu Yang, GS, EAS
Community College Teaching Fellow
As a Community College Teaching Fellow, and a American Higher cohort member "I learned how to balance my research and teaching in a safe yet challenging environment."