A PhD is more than a dissertation

It is true that the world is getting smaller and flatter. Yet, equally important is the fact that the challenges and expectations we face are changing and growing larger. In today’s world, successful leadership is tightly related to innovation, creativity, ability to communicate, networking, recognition of the varying environment, and keeping up with technological advances. Our relevancy may not be defined anymore by one great achievement. Rather, it is set by our ability to renew every few years. Many PhD students will write excellent dissertations and many journal articles with new discovery but fade away after graduation because of their inability or lack of recognition of the need to renew. The same goes for faculty members. Today’s challenging problems are more complex than ever. A new knowledge, discovery, solution, or product will not be relevant unless its interrelated social, financial, health, political, global and environmental impacts and benefits are assessed. Our world and communities have become smaller and more diverse. Respect and appreciation of our differences have become vital elements of positive and supportive work environments. Not only that, these differences are now essential contributors to success.
Our success as universities could be defined by the success of our graduates. Although many PhDs, through their experience as graduate students and by interacting with their peers, rise to challenges as they face them, it is imperative for universities to prepare their students for success after graduation and provide them with the opportunity to learn of what to expect after graduation. For that, academic progress, which covers coursework, exams, publications and dissertation defense, should be closely tied and complemented with professional development. PhD students should be encouraged to explore future careers. Their research and teaching experiences should go beyond writing a dissertation to cover skills that would be beneficial in their future careers.  We will cover more on that in future blogs.