TitleHumanities PhD Writing/Research Fellowship Request Date2012-11-30
DepartmentHistory and Philosophy
RequestorRobert Rydell Phone406-994-7929
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts American Studies
Proposed Dates Start: Fall 2013 End:  
We request Strategic Investment funding of $88,000 in base dollars and $12,000 in one-time funding to increase significantly the number of doctoral degrees conferred in the humanities and social sciences. Specifically, we are requesting $88,000 in base funding to provide 4 annual $22,000 research/writing fellowships to PHD students in History and American Studies, and $12,000 in one-time-only funds in 2019 for external reviews of both programs. Since doctoral education is vital to maintaining MSU’s Carnegie’s RU/VH ranking, funding this proposal will enhance MSU’s overall reputation for excellence.
This proposal primarily addresses Objective L.2/Metric L.2.2 in the MSU Strategic Plan to increase the number of doctoral degrees by 15% by 2019. Our goal is to graduate a total of 21 doctoral students by 2019. The Strategic Plan calls for graduating 56 additional doctoral students by 2019. We have every reason to believe we can help MSU get over a third of the way towards meeting this objective.

This will then also help address Metric D.1.3, to improve our “rank among Carnegie Classified Research Universities,” which is based partly on “doctoral conferrals.” We currently rank 106th out of the 106 tier-one Carnegie universities in the number of PHDs conferred. Because few, if any, Carnegie tier-one institutions exist that do not have successful PHD programs in the humanities and social sciences, it is vital for MSU that we sustain and enhance our PHD programs in these areas. By focusing on our two most successful programs in the humanities, both housed in the Department of History and Philosophy, we can significantly increase the number of degrees conferred, one of the most obvious ways to ensure our Carnegie status.

In addition, this proposal advances Objective D.3/Metrics D.3.1, D.3.2, D.3.3, and D.3.4.
Metric D.3.1: In addition to drawing on faculty in History (which has a PHD), the American Studies doctoral program involves faculty from non-PHD, and some non-graduate-degree programs, like English, Native American Studies, Sociology, Political Science, Film and Photography, and Art History. Because American Studies doctoral students are required to have faculty from multiple disciplines on their committees, we expect to involve some of this institution’s finest faculty in chairing and serving on doctoral committees. Our goal is to graduate at least 12 PHDs in American Studies by 2019 and we fully expect at least half of these committees to be chaired or co-chaired by faculty coming from non-PHD granting departments, thus “increasing the percentage of faculty who advise doctoral students.”

Metric D.3.2: With funding for doctoral research, we will be able to increase our doctoral enrollments in both History and American Studies by 20%: Currently, we have 8 doctoral students in History; and 17 in American Studies. We will increase those numbers to 10 in History and 21 in American Studies.

Metric D.3.3.: Between 2014 and 2019, we will graduate four PHD degrees per year in History and American Studies, thus helping MSU to fulfill its stated objective “that all doctoral degrees awarded will increase from 56 to 80 per year.” In addition, this proposal may assist in raising the number of doctoral degrees in the sciences, specifically the “interdisciplinary” EES degree.

Metric D.3.4: Doctoral candidates receiving research stipends will be expected to present at least two papers on the basis of their research at national and international meetings. This will increase “the number and proportion of graduate students presenting at national and international meetings…” As a result of these presentations we expect students to publish at least one article in a prestigious journal, thus helping them “garnering prestigious first job placements…” Although there is no specific metric for measuring prestige, we are particularly proud to note that our doctoral program in American Studies has been authorized by the MUS Board of Regents to work with Utrecht University’s American Studies Department to develop dual/joint graduate degrees between our universities that center on the study of the cultures of the American West. Already, our PHD students in History have published in the best journals in their fields, garnered prestigious fellowships and awards, won prizes for their work, served on prestigious committees in their discipline, and have accepted academic positions after defending their dissertations.
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Materials & Supplies              
Contracted Services              
Other Operations       88000  12000     
TOTAL 88000  12000     
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

The costs are based on comparable dissertation research awards at peer institutions, including the University of Minnesota (American Studies dissertation research support for one-year is $22,500), the University of Oregon (History dissertation research support is matched to GTA stipends which range from $24,000 to $29,000 per year).  In addition, we are requesting $12,000 to pay for an external review of both programs in 2019. Funding our proposal would make MSU regionally and nationally competitive for attracting top-tier graduate students in both History and American Studies.

Describe the Proposal

In 2004, the Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies created the first doctoral degree in the humanities and social sciences at MSU.  Supported with a prestigious National Science Foundation Small Grant for Training and Research, the Department has built a highly successful program as measured by its graduates (we graduated our first three doctoral recipients this past year); our current number of doctoral students (8); and our job placement record (to date, 3 doctoral students have obtained Visiting Assistant Professorships – at Southwestern, Idaho State University, and Lewis & Clark College).

The American Studies doctoral program was created in 2009 and is intended to broaden graduate offering across the humanities and social sciences at MSU.  The program, which is administered through the Department of History and Philosophy, currently enrolls 17 students and will be graduating its first doctoral recipients by 2014.

Sustaining the excellence we have achieved with both of these programs is not at issue here.  Our proposal specifically seeks to build on our current success and help MSU advance both the quality of our doctoral students and the quantity of students who earn their degrees here.  Because neither of our PHD programs in the humanities offer research funding (only graduate teaching assistantships), we are at a disadvantage in competing for top students and, no less important, in retaining those students we are advancing to candidacy for the doctoral degree.  If students do not receive funding for their research/writing, they are generally forced to obtain outside employment, which slows their progress towards degree.  This last point is particularly significant.  All of our most advanced students who are attempting to finish their degrees have been forced financially to teach their own courses.  Though, in some respects, this is both good for our department and good for the graduate student (to get teaching experience), it is anathema to the quick completion of a degree.  Said simply, the time and energy required to teach courses is taken directly from their ability to complete their dissertations and apply for jobs. By offering research/writing support, we can encourage students to complete their degrees within 6 years of obtaining their B.A. or within 4 years of obtaining their M.A. degrees.  The research/writing funding will make our programs a viable financial option for prospective students and encourage our best students currently in the program to make steady progress towards their degrees. 

In addition to helping ensure that our students work efficiently toward completing their degrees, we will also be extending the cross-disciplinary training of our graduate students to disciplines in the humanities and social sciences that do not have PHD programs.  This type of collaborative training is essential.  We need to train students to understand, assess, and anticipate the policy implications of decisions made at the intersection of society, science, and the environment.  We are moving beyond a “consequence” model of relations between societal forces and environmental degradation, which in turn requires a new model of understanding risk, uncertainty, and regulatory policy.  We must train students to collaborate not only across Colleges, but also with state and federal resource management and environmental policy agencies. Our proposal directly complements MSU’s “Social, Behavioral, and Economic (SBE) Research Initiative” through the Office of the Vice Provost for Research, Creativity, and Technological Transfer (VPR).  The goal was to help integrate SBE faculty more fully into collaborative research at MSU.  The VPR hired an SBE External Advisory Board, chaired by Kathie Olsen, the Founder and Managing Director of ScienceWorks, LLC.  The Advisory Board concluded that, while most STEM disciplines at MSU operate within a research university, the SBE sciences functioned more like a liberal arts college, primarily because most SBE department do not have graduate granting degree programs and thus did not participate in mentoring PHD students. The Advisory Board acknowledged that MSU was similar to other land grant universities in the Intermountain West.  It lacked the faculty to establish new PhD programs that could attract high caliber students. They suggested MSU focus on cross-disciplinary graduate programs, expanding the faculty in the social science and humanities who help train PHD students. 

This is precisely what we are doing in History and American Studies. Both of these programs are perfectly situated to continue to enact these suggestions.  History PHD candidates have included geographers, political scientists, and scientists on their dissertation committees.  PHD candidates in American Studies, a truly interdisciplinary graduate program, bring together faculty from all across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences.  These students are working on the history of stream restoration ecology, Crow science, eco-tourism in the Rocky Mountain West, and the legalization of midwifery in Montana.  Their broad and cross-disciplinary focus will continue to expand the faculty in the humanities and social sciences who chair and serve on their committees, train them in graduate classes, and mentor them as they enter the job market. It will create a more robust culture of teaching, help integrate social scientists and humanists in shared topics of research, and better positioning our students for important careers where science, ethics, policy, and the environment intersect. 

The impact will be immediate. In addition to teaching in the academy, our students will be better prepared to take jobs in, and advise, federal, state, and local agencies dealing with complex social, scientific, and environmental issues, such as directing the growth of the Mountain West’s technological sector and balancing industrial expansion with environmental quality.

We have already described how our proposal addresses a primary and secondary objective within the MSU Strategic Plan.  The scope of our proposal is much broader and will help MSU reach its Engagement Objectives as well, especially E.1 that states MSU will “[s]trategically increase service, outreach and engagement...” and Metric E.2.1 that mandates “[b]y 2019, the percentage of MSU students participating in cross-cultural study, work or service experiences, incorporating both academic preparation and post-experience reflection, will double.”  It is worth noting that in both of our humanities doctoral programs, many of our doctoral students are interested in “public humanities,” that term used within History and American Studies to describe the public policy sector and engagement with museums and historical societies both in terms of research and employment opportunities (with over 12,000 museums in North America, it makes sense of MSU to position our top graduate students for employment in this sector). It is in this context as well that we emphasize that our doctoral programs have been authorized to advance joint/dual graduate degree options with the Utrecht University, thus providing MSU with an opportunity to advance its international prestige for advanced academic study.

Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

The broader impact of funding for the American Studies and History doctoral programs can be summed up as follows:

1.  The doctoral degrees in History and American Studies position the next generation of academics and public-policy makers for assuming authoritative positions integral to the stewardship of our natural environment and to the advancement of human culture (this is a large part of what we take the phrase “human prospect” to encompass in the MSU Vision Statement);

2. The doctoral degrees in History and American Studies enhance the academic reputation of MSU. Doctoral education is vital to retain our top-tier Carnegie status, and enhancing doctoral education in the humanities and social sciences is exactly what we afford with this proposal.

3.  Our doctoral programs in History and American Studies, because of their emphasis on public humanities (education, history, public policy, and the arts) underscores the value of the university for advancing Culture; and because of their focus on research and teaching at the intersection of society, science, and the environment, heightens the university’s ability to engage the most important questions relating to the human impact on the environment in the Intermountain West.

4.  Enhancing our two established PHD programs in the humanities at MSU will help enact many of the recommendations of the SBE Advisory Board: to engage more faculty in the social sciences and humanities in the mentoring and training of graduate students, thus integrating a larger number of scholars in these fields into collaborative teaching and research at MSU.

5.  The doctoral degrees in History and American Studies are uniquely positioned to globalize education of MSU doctoral students.  What makes American Studies distinctive in this region is the partnership we have established with Utrecht University.  Enhancing this relationship and the prospect for dual/joint degrees will add value to the degrees earned at both universities and cement MSU’s reputation for excellence in both doctoral programs that come under the purview of this proposal.

Implementation Plan

2013-14: Fund 4 PHD candidates in History and American Studies

2014-15: Fund 4 PHD candidates in History and American Studies

2015-16: Fund 4 PHD candidates in History and American Studies

2016-17: Fund 4 PHD candidates in History and American Studies

2017-18: Fund 4 PHD candidates in History and American Studies

2018-19: Fund 4 PHD candidates in History and American Studies

2019:  External Evaluation Completed

According to a recent American Historical Association study, it takes about eight years, on average, to receive a PHD in History.  More than fifty percent of PHD students, moreover, do not finish within ten years. ( See Robert B. Townsend, “How Long to the PHD?” American Historical Association Perspectives, February, 2006.)  The report concludes by noting that to increase efficiency in granting PHD degrees, among other factors, departments are encouraged to offer research/writing fellowships during the final year of the student’s program.  This same point is corroborated by the findings of the Council of Graduate Schools PHD Completion Project and the American Historical Association Graduate Council.  Both conclude that support for graduate students in their final years who are making timely progress toward their degree is essential for increasing graduate degree conferral.

Assessment Plan

The objectives we have set forth with this proposal are easily tracked:

Primary Assessed Objective L.2/Metric L.2.2:  Between 2013-14 and 2018-19, we will graduate 22 PHD students in History and American Studies, 3 students/year in 2013-14 and 2014-15, 4 students/year starting in 2015-16.

Secondary Assessed Objective D:3. Beginning in 2014, we will increase the number of faculty from non-PHD programs supervising doctoral degrees in American Studies and serving on doctoral committees in History. We will also increase the number of PHD students as noted above and work with students to develop high-quality presentations and publications that will help them gain employment in prestigious academic and public policy-related sectors of the economy.

Additional Assessed Objective E.1:  Beginning in 2014, we will increase the number of doctoral students with cross-cultural experiences by advancing our partnership with the Utrecht University and by increasing the number of students working in the museum and public-policy sectors of the economy.

Additional Objectives:

Tracking the numbers of students who receive funding and complete their degrees is not exactly rocket science.  Neither is monitoring the reputation of conferences at which they present their findings or the reputation of journals in which they publish their results.  But our assessment plan is more ambitious.  Since our primary interest is in assuring “excellence” as per the MSU Vision Statement, we will in 2013-2014 implement a “formative” evaluation with faculty and graduate students already enrolled in our doctoral programs to develop a transparent process for awarding research/writing funds to outstanding doctoral candidates. We will augment this evaluation process through 2019 with careful annual tracking of student numbers and the quality of student work.  In 2019, we will engage in a “summative” evaluation drawing on the expertise of a team of external reviewers who will adhere to the guidelines of the American Studies Association and American Historical Association and provide MSU with a detailed evaluation of the excellence of both doctoral programs in terms of MSU’s Strategic Plan and in terms of the standards set by both disciplines.

If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

If the Department’s objectives articulated above are not met by 2019, we understand that we will “sunset” the recurring funding requested in this proposal. We prefer, however, not to end on this somber note.  Rather, we prefer to think in terms of high noon and the success we anticipate in meeting our objectives and MSU’s objectives as detailed in the Strategic Plan.

This proposal is submitted by Dr. Michael Reidy and Dr. Robert Rydell.

Department Head: David Cherry (
Dean/Director: Paula Lutz (
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (