Full Programme

The 2020 DRAFT programme is available. Download here. 

2020 Keynote Speakers

First Keynote Address:
The Changing Nature of Doctoral Education Success

Dr Susan Porter

Dr Susan Porter is the Dean and Vice-Provost of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the University of British Columbia (since 2013), and Past President of the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies. She is also a Clinical Professor in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UBC. A strong focus over the past six years has been the advancing of national and international conversations and action towards a rethinking of the core of doctoral education – students’ research, dissertations, mentorship, and assessment – to better meet the urgent needs of the 21st century. Among other initiatives, she co-led a national task force on the subject, and implemented an award-winning program at UBC (the Public Scholars Initiative) that demonstrated the value and legitimacy of this perspective. She currently serves on an Expert Panel commissioned by the Canadian federal government to report on The Labour Market Transition of PhD Graduates, is a Board Member for the ETS Graduate Record Exam, and serves on the Council of Graduate Schools advisory committees on Graduate Student Mental Health and Wellbeing and on Supporting Diversity in Graduate Education.

The Changing Nature of Doctoral Education Success

The parameters of success in doctoral education as defined in the 20th century are outmoded. Our world is beset by increasingly complex and urgent problems not addressable by 20th century approaches, the relationship between the academy and society is shifting, our modes of research are changing, and our graduates’ careers and career pathways are rapidly diversifying. Reform in doctoral education intended to meet these challenges has been slow and incremental, primarily focused on the addition of extracurricular experiences while maintaining the fundamental relationships, values, structures, and assessments established at the birth of the research PhD in the 19th century.

Most would agree that the original measure of success in doctoral education, the cultivation in students of the ability to create significant and original new knowledge, should endure. Questions are arising, however, as to the definitions of ‘significant’, ‘original’ and ‘knowledge’, and about whose interests are served by these definitions. Traditionally, and still primarily, these concepts are defined by faculty and their disciplines, and success of doctoral students is defined and measured by faculty, usually in the same ways they themselves were measured. Thus, doctoral education, arguably, has been primarily faculty-centric.

As our world and doctoral futures are changing, graduates are contributing to society in ways their mentors may not recognize. Many or most will not be approaching scholarship as their mentors did, nor asking the kinds of questions their mentors did, nor communicating or working as they were taught; they will likely have different values in their scholarship, and different professional identities. They will be challenged to think in different ways, relying more on lateral, abductive thought processes and on practical and creative intelligences, in addition to analytical thinking. Although in many areas faculty are moving in these kinds of directions, it is not yet so common or accepted that students routinely benefit from their mentorship through their doctoral programs.

There are calls worldwide for a more student-centric approach to doctoral education. Here, success might look different, and be distinctive for every student. This talk will explore the changes that are happening and that need to happen at the core of doctoral education, including a reimagination of doctoral research, the dissertation, mentorship, assessment, and programming.