Dr. Jenny Phelps has more than 20 years of experience as a senior academic administrator, at UBC and previously with the University of California, San Francisco. She is a co-founder of UBC’s Public Scholars Initiative and has been deeply involved in work related to reimagining the PhD, exploration of concurrent graduate-level microcredentials, and nearly all aspects of graduate education policy and strategy. Jenny most recently served as Director of Transformation and Change Management with the UBC Integrated Renewal Program.
WHY DID YOU JOIN G+PS AS A MEMBER OF THE LEADERSHIP TEAM?
Like many people, I both fret about the daunting challenges imperiling the welfare of the world, and marvel at the power of human ingenuity and the amazing discoveries that can happen when well-intentioned people come together to share knowledge and ideas. For me, graduate and postdoctoral education is among the most powerful levers we have as a society to equip us with innovative solutions and transformational leaders. I wanted to join the team that is elevating UBC as a premier environment for cultivating diverse, innovative, and impact-oriented graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM THE EXPERIENCE?
I worked for many years in graduate studies, then had a career chapter in a very different area of university administration. Now as I re-engage in this work, I’m learning how meaningful it is to have a passion and a strong sense of purpose for what one does in their work life. That is why it is so important that we help our emerging graduate and postdoctoral scholars to connect their scholarly work to a larger sense of what they care about in the world.
WHAT MAKES UBC AN EXCITING PLACE FOR GRADUATE STUDY AND FOR POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWS?
UBC is at the forefront of a larger trend of ‘thinking different’ about what graduate and postdoctoral education can include, how it can be structured, and what the outcomes can be – both in terms of diverse scholarly artifacts and a wide range of career paths. This will empower impact-oriented emerging scholars to take new and more purposeful routes to fulfil their potential. UBC’s investment in collaborative research clusters and other structures for transdisciplinary work means that graduate students and post-doctoral fellows will have more opportunities to learn from colleagues across many disciplines and together, tackle complex problems from the multiple perspectives they require.
WHAT SHOULD STUDENTS OR FACULTY KNOW ABOUT G+PS?
G+PS is a place full of dedicated staff and faculty whose work – all day and every day – is solely focused on how to make UBC a high-quality, fair, and supportive environment for graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and the hundreds of staff and faculty across the university who are involved in their education. If you reach out, a helping hand is here.
WHAT IS ONE CRUCIAL NEXT STEP IN ADVANCING GRADUATE EDUCATION AT UBC?
I’d like to see UBC establish more structures to build collaboration and transdisciplinary work as a normative dimension of graduate education. This is common in some disciplines, but many still largely work from either a ‘solo scholar’ or ‘sum of parts’ model, where students are encouraged to either work in relative isolation or just carve out a small piece of a larger project, without real engagement with broader questions and colleagues. Almost any research area worth exploring (and any student) can benefit from investigating their topic from the perspective of a related discipline, or collaborating with partners beyond the university to bring the work to life in new contexts.