Parting Thoughts: Being Interdisciplinary at the Administrative Level
On March 6, 2015, I spoke to the Graduate School Board of Visitors about my experience as a Graduate School Administrative Intern. Here's some of what I had to say.
From the moment you step onto Duke’s campus as a first-year graduate student, there is one word that you hear everywhere: interdisciplinarity. Especially for a humanities Ph.D. like myself, the word permeates every level of student life, from classroom interactions to visiting lecture series to department websites. While it’s true that such work is much easier to claim than to actually do, Duke rightfully prides itself on its commitment to such an ethos of interdisciplinary.
Throughout my time at Duke, I’ve benefitted greatly from Duke’s many opportunities to work across disciplines, be it in my own dissertation, in my collaborative work funded through the Franklin Humanities Institute, or my involvement in the African and African American Studies certificate program. However, it was not until starting my internship at the Graduate School—with Graduate Student Affairs (GSA) in particular—that I realized that this idea of interdisciplinarity also exists at the administrative level.
Think for a moment about the diverse body of students The Graduate School must shepherd through their programs. Student from the humanities, biological sciences, physical sciences and engineering, and social sciences have different professional, intellectual, and personal needs. From incoming students to outgoing graduates, The Graduate School must work across disciplines to give each student the tools to succeed. This is a tall task.
In my role as an administrative intern this year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with students from all corners of the university, fostering conversations, planning events, and making connections. Let me quickly list a few of my activities:
- I co-edit the Graduate Professional Development blog, helping students from biology, literature, mechanical engineering, physics, neuroscience, and political science (among others) develop content across a variety of topics.
- I’ve been working with Senior Associate Dean Jacqueline Looney to develop an online resource about mentoring for students and faculty. When it launched in March, it was the culmination of a two-year project from GSA.
- I’ve sat on several committees that have awarded professional development grants and the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring.
- I’ve helped plan, organize, and moderate professional development events for current students.
- I built a professional development resources webpage for students working away from Duke’s campus.
While working with people in the Dean’s Office, the Office of Postdoctoral Services, the Career Center, Academic Affairs, and Graduate Student Affairs, I realized that interdisciplinary is not only what The Graduate School does, but what it is.
I became interested in this internship because I wanted to gain leadership skills and explore future paths in academic administration. As I look ahead to what I hope is a long career in higher ed, I do not know for certain all that this internship gave me, but I do know that it will have been essential to my success.
Darren Mueller, Ph.D.
Darren received his PhD in musicology from Duke University in 2015. He is currently visiting faculty at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where he teaches music history.