Diversity and Professionalization: Interview with Fatimah Williams

by Gabriela Cázares

The Council of Graduate Schools’ Doctoral Initiative on Minority and Attrition Completion measured the ten-year completion rates for PhDs and found that all students currently stand at 57%, while Latinos complete their degrees at a rate of 51%, and African Americans at 47%. These numbers are limited to STEM fields and do not reflect, for example, notably higher attrition rates in the humanities with a 42% completion rate overall.

High attrition rates can be causally linked to problems of graduate student professionalization. The university model equates conference attendance and teaching with professionalization, but this is not enough to efficiently and effectively prepare PhD students for job acquisition and work mobility. What can universities and colleges do to address the challenges of professionalization? And, moreover, how can academic institutions build the infrastructure necessary for addressing the distinct professional needs of diverse groups?

This interview with Fatimah Williams, founder of Beyond the Tenure Track, explores how robust professionalization programming can strengthen career pathways and career decision making for diverse students, and looks at some of the best 21st-century models for tackling diversity and professionalization.