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The Review of higheR educaTion

SprinG 2009

Becher & rowler (2001)

Biglan (1973)

Departments Studied

Pure sciences

Hard-pure

Mathematics

Oceanography

Humanities

Soft-pure

English

Technologies

Hard-applied

Engineering Computer science

Applied social sciences

Soft-applied

Psychology Communication

table 2

Departmental breakDown by becher anD trowler (2001) anD biglan (1973) claSSiFicationS

not be as high as the other three departments but represents high comple- tion in comparison to other humanities departments, which generally have the lowest completion rates nationally (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Council of Graduate Schools, 2004).

Communication. The discipline of communication is classified as soft pure nonlife in the Biglan (1973b) classification. This Communication Depart- ment’s doctoral student completion rate of 76.5% is high by any measure but certainly very high for a discipline in the social sciences (Council of Graduate Schools, 2005). The department has at any one time approximately 50 doctoral students enrolled in the program; its 24 faculty members serve both as graduate faculty and also teach in a large undergraduate program. The vast majority of doctoral students in the program are fully funded through teaching assistantships in the department.

Interviews with the faculty members largely responsible for doctoral education and doctoral advising quickly identified a culture of cohesion, mutual respect, and caring. Indeed, these very words were often uttered, both in the interviews with the faculty members and by the 10 doctoral students interviewed as part of the larger study. Thus, it is perhaps not surprising that, when asked about their doctoral students, one faculty member responded, “We’re lucky. They’re a very bright group,” adding, “You’re going to hear a lot of affection [from faculty] about the students.” These faculty members used two main themes to define success for their doctoral students: self- direction and research dissemination. Thus, the attributes of success were characteristics inherent in the student’s personality along with his or her accomplishments after entering the program.

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