Guidelines for Assessing Graduate Programs

marx_englesIn 2018, the APA blog posted a set of Guidelines for Assessing Doctoral Programs, which was meant to provide a broader means of determining the quality of a program, beyond traditional rankings that only take into account faculty research productivity. The post suggested ten questions which should be asked in order to help determine "whether a graduate department effectively serves its students."

Although these questions were developed to assess doctoral programs, we've answered them below for Kent State University's MA program in philosophy. Read our responses and see why we believe that KSU is an excellent choice for students seeking a quality MA program that offers outstanding preparation for doctoral studies and careers in philosophy.

  1. Does the curriculum contain typical core courses?
  2. In which major subject areas does the department rarely, if ever, offer courses?
  3. Can students enroll in a teaching practicum?
  4. Does each student systematically receive personal mentoring?
  5. What percentage of entering students complete their degrees?
  6. How many years on average do students take to finish the program?
  7. Are students provided with strong support in their search for positions?
  8. Is information made available regarding the current employment status of all recent graduates?
  9. Are safeguards in place to ensure that no faculty member is engaging in sexual harassment or coercion?
  10. Do students have a means of seeking redress of perceived faculty malfeasance?
1. Does the curriculum contain not only specialized studies but also core courses, designed to survey the major issues in central fields of philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics?

Absolutely! Kent State University’s MA Program boasts “core” courses such as Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethical Theory, Logic, Social and Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Science, as well as several courses focusing on various figures and issues in the history of philosophy. We also have courses devoted to a wide variety of philosophical traditions and methodologies, including Continental Philosophy, Analytic Philosophy, Pragmatism, Asian Philosophy, and World Philosophy. In addition to these core courses, the department has regular offerings in a wide variety of specialized fields. All of our courses are offered on a two year rotation, meaning that all will be offered during a given student’s time in the program.

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2. In which major subject areas does the department rarely, if ever, offer courses, e.g. Asian philosophies, phenomenology, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, etc.?

Three of the examples offered by the APA – Asian Philosophy, phenomenology, and aesthetics – are areas in which KSU regularly offers courses. We have one Philosophy of Religion course which is offered less regularly, because we have a separate Religion Studies department at KSU. Please check out our course catalog to get an idea of the wide range of courses available, as well as the diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise of our faculty.

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3. Can students enroll in a practicum where they are guided in developing skills for instructing undergraduates?

Every student who is offered funding is automatically enrolled in our College Teaching course. This course gives graduate students credit for learning the art of teaching philosophy by working closely with our faculty.  Additionally, students develop syllabi for courses such as Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Ethics, and Critical Thinking. KSU takes the training of graduate students seriously, preparing them to teach their own courses either here at the Kent campus, at one of our regional campuses, at local colleges, or at their future doctoral institution.

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4. Does each student systematically receive personal, ongoing advice to promote advancement towards the degree?

Absolutely!  KSU knows that advising students is an integral part of student success. In their first year, students meet several times with an “Advisory Group” comprised of three faculty members, who help them choose courses and plan their two years in the MA program. In a student’s second year, the Advisory Group is replaced by a Thesis Advisory Group. This committee meets several times a semester to discuss thesis progress and give feedback, help choose courses for the upcoming term, and mentor students as they complete their MA. These meetings are above and beyond any meetings students have with their thesis advisors, and in addition to the professional mentoring that takes place in the Graduate Proseminar. 

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5. What percentage of entering students complete their degrees?

86% of students who entered the program between 2009 and 2016 successfully completed their degrees.

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6. How many years on average do students take to finish the program?

Of the students in the 2009-2016 entering classes who completed their degrees, 86% did so in two years, finishing in either the Spring or the Summer semester of their second year. KSU knows that students pursuing an MA are interested in graduating in two years, and our faculty work closely with students to help them fulfill this goal.

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7. Are students provided with strong support in their search for positions?

KSU knows that most of the students in our terminal MA program are planning to take the next step and pursue a doctoral degree. With this in mind, our Graduate Proseminar course has three main objectives. The first objective to help students organize a Philosophy Graduate Student Conference every year. The second objective is professional development – everything from learning how to craft a CV, personal statement, and writing sample; to choosing the best programs to apply to based on fit and interest; to honing papers to present at professional conferences and submit to journals. The third objective is to write and revise an original paper which is appropriate for submission to conferences or for use as a writing sample for PhD applications. Students in their first year have different needs from those in their second year, which is why students participate in the course during all four semesters that they are at KSU.

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8. Is information made available regarding the current employment status of all recent graduates?

We have a placement page that lists our recent graduates’ placements into PhD programs or in their chosen careers outside the academy.

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9. Are safeguards in place to ensure that no faculty member is engaging in sexual harassment or coercion?

The Department of Philosophy is strongly committed to providing a safe environment for all of its students, faculty, and staff, and our departmental culture reflects that commitment. KSU also recognizes the importance of upholding laws prohibiting all forms of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Our university policy contains explicit statements concerning unlawful discrimination and harassment, and we have developed effective procedures for handling complaints of misconduct. The Office of Compliance, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action is available to answer questions and to assist students seeking to file a complaint.

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10. Do students have a means of seeking redress of perceived faculty malfeasance?

The Student Ombuds Office provides assistance to all students who have a complaint or concern or would like to report perceived inappropriate conduct on the part of faculty. In addition, the Office of Compliance, Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action is available to assist students who have experienced harassment, discrimination, or equal opportunity or affirmative action violations. Complaints related to academic matters are adjudicated by a departmental Student Academic Complaint Committee.   

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