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The Review of higheR educaTion

SprinG 2009

Indeed, the characteristics these faculty members defined as the keys to success for their doctoral students included ranking and reputation. They conceptualized success as their students’ ability to secure employment, a goal reached through presenting and publishing. One faculty member commented, “A successful doctoral student is one who, from the very first seminar paper, is attempting not to write seminar papers but publishable articles. They also do other kinds of professional things. They’re on panels and give papers.” In fact, the majority of the faculty members mentioned publishing in one form or another in their definitions of successful English students. The highest mark of success, in one faculty member’s view, was that the student “not only makes it through the program but gets placed— you know, gets the job, a good job.” In other words, these faculty members viewed success as something external to the program, much like other high- completing departments. One individual made this view explicit: “The real test of success is on the outside—employment or publication.”

A major part of finding“a good job”is learning how to balance the many duties of a faculty member including, in particular, teaching. One individual observed that successful students “have a handle on their teaching. They’ve developed strategies to manage the demands of undergraduate courses and learned how to deal with grading and so forth so that they’ll have time for their own work.” Taken together, these faculty members are highlighting the many aspects of professional socialization, certainly a necessary part of finding and securing academic positions (Austin, 2002; Clark & Corcoran, 1986). Illustrating this idea, one faculty member asserted, “A successful graduate student is one who functions as and sees herself or himself as not simply a student but a candidate member, an apprentice member of this profession.”

Low-Completion Departments

In contrast, are the three lowest completing departments in this study: mathematics, engineering, and computer science. Significantly, these disci- plines in other national studies are generally among those with the highest completion rates. This institution’s Mathematics Department had a 37.6% completion rate, computer science had 38.4%, and engineering had 17.6%. In contrast, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) departments’ completion rates in national studies range from 50% to 82% (Bowen & Rudenstine, 1992; Nerad & Cerny, 1993; Zwick, 1991). Biglan’s (1973) model of academic disciplines classifies all three disciplines as hard nonlife disciplines, with computer science and engineering as applied fields and mathematics as a pure field.

Computer science and engineering. Computer science and engineering at this institution share many traits. A high percentage of its students and faculty are from Asia and India; thus, doctoral students in these depart-

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