Reimagining the PhD Symposium 2017

Date & Time

Friday, 29 September 2017
09:00 to 17:00


Jack Poole Hall, Robert E. Lee Alumni Centre

Offered by

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies

Registration Closed / Past Event


Join us for Reimagining the PhD 2017


The Symposium is now over. We are grateful for the strong interest shown to the symposium. 

The REPORT for the symposium is here

You can access the recordings for each session from here.  

Event Description

This one-day Symposium will be continuing the conversation we started on the future of doctoral education three years ago here at UBC. Join noted scholars, community partners, practitioners, and students to discuss how we can transform the doctorate in ways that facilitate community engagement, public contribution, and broader career readiness for students.

Among our confirmed guests are Suzanne Ortega from Council of Graduate Schools, Ursula Gobel from SSHRC, David Phipps from York University, Dean Oliver from Canadian Museum of History, Lauren Hunter from Natural Resources Canada, and Kathleen Woodward from the University of Washington. The opening remarks of the symposium will be provided by Santa J. Ono, UBC President & Vice-Chancellor.

The entire day (except the workshops) will be live-streamed. 

WATCH THE LIVE STREAM (Please note that the link will be active on the morning of 29th). 

If you're interested in joining the conversation, asking questions, or providing comments, you can do so at twitter using the #phdsymposium2017

Goals for the conference

The conference will engage a broad range of UBC leaders, faculty, graduate students, and distinguished guests, in a dialogue to reinvigorate and advance our collective thinking about:

  • The future of doctoral education and its relevance to the 21st century;
  • The current state of doctoral education at UBC, including work accomplished since the 2014 symposium – initiatives, results, analyses, and continuing gaps;
  • How UBC should continue to innovate in doctoral education.
Session 1: Why Reimagine the PhD? (9:00-10:15)

The academy has (arguably) been slow to adapt to the significant shifts in society and in our own institutions that have been occurring since the late 20th century. This introductory session will place the conversation on doctoral education in the broader contexts of social and technological innovation, the social contract between universities and publics, and the changing career paths of PhD holders.

  • Opening Remarks: Santa J. Ono, President & Vice-Chancellor, UBC
  • Welcome: Susan Porter, Dean & Vice-Provost, Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies, UBC
  • Keynote Address: Suzanne Ortega, President, Council of Graduate Schools, Washington, DC
    • Introduction by Andrew Szeri, Provost & VP Academic, UBC
  • Discussion: What stood out? What are the take away messages?
Break (10:15-10:30)
Session 2: Public Scholars Initiative (10:30-11:50)

As a follow up to the Reimagining the PhD 2014 symposium, the UBC Public Scholars Initiative (PSI) was launched in 2015 to support and encourage broadened dissertation scholarship engaging partners external to the academy or in alternative academic contexts (e.g., teaching). This session will provide an overview of the PSI and outline its goals, achievements, and shortfalls. We will also invite discussion about expanding its reach and benefits.

  • Efe Peker, former PSI Coordinator; Postdoctoral Fellow, McGill University / Jenny Phelps, G+PS Special Advisor
  • Sarah Munro, PhD graduate, former PSI scholar
  • Jeremy Stone, PSI scholar
  • Gloria Kendi Borona, PSI scholar
  • Serbulent Turan, PSI Coordinator / Susan Porter, Dean & Vice-Provost, Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies, UBC
  • Discussion – building on the momentum of the PSI
Lunch (12:00-1:00)
Lunch Address (12:15-12:45)

Kathleen Woodward, Director of the Simpson Center for the Humanities, University of Washington

Session 3: PhD Careers, PhD Capabilities, and the Public Good (1:00-2:30)

Individuals with doctoral-level education are needed more than ever to advance the public good. Today’s diverse career pathways and complex problems speak to the need for intellectual depth and rigour in graduates, but also the capacity for creative, collaborative, interdisciplinary, and effective thought and action. Flexibility and adaptability are key. The speakers in this session will explore and elaborate on the connection between PhD education, the value of the PhD inside and outside the academy, and the capabilities needed for the 21st century.

  • Dean Oliver, Director, Research, Canadian Museum of History
  • Lauren Hunter, Director, Talent Cloud, Government of Canada
  • Lorne Whitehead, UBC Special Advisor - Entrepreneurship, Innovation & Research, Professor, Physics and Astronomy, UBC
  • Ursula Gobel, Associate Vice-President, Future Challenges, SSHRC
  • Discussion: What stood out? What are the take away messages?
Break (2:30-2:45)
Session 4: Formation of Scholars - Scholarship, Dissertations, Capability Development (2:45-3:45)

Viewing PhD education as the ‘formation of scholars’, what aspects of doctoral education need reimagining given the changing nature of scholarship, scholarly outputs, scholarly actions, and modes of work? Foundational to all doctoral education is the experience of undertaking increasingly independent research that is mentored, communicated, and evaluated. The panelists will review these elements (mentorship, communication, evaluation, and the research itself) in the context of historical norms, current needs, and conversations about the future.

  • David Phipps, Executive Director, Research & Innovation Services, York University
  • Anthony Paré, Professor and Head, Language and Literacy Education, UBC
  • Susan Porter, Dean & Vice-Provost, Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies, UBC; Co-leader of the national CAGS task force on the dissertation
  • Discussion: What stood out? What are the take away messages?
Break (3:45-4:00)
Workshops (4:00-4:45)

Workshop A: Overcoming Obstacles and Challenges to Reimagining the PhD

This workshop will engage participants to design ways to move forward on four significant challenges.

  • Serbulent Turan, PSI Coordinator
  • Kaylee Byers, PSI scholar

Workshop B: Reimagining the PhD – What’s next?

Participants will be asked to imagine the PhD of 2030, and possible steps toward that goal.

  • Joseph Topornycky, Manager, Graduate Student Programs, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, UBC
  • Andrea Johnson, PSI scholar
Closing & Synthesis (4:50-5:00)

Susan Porter, Dean & Vice-Provost, Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies, UBC

For more information contact:

Sponsor Thank You

Thank you to alumni UBC for generously hosting us at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre.

alumni UBC logo





Registration Information

Registration for this event is now closed. Thank you all for registering.