A Next-Generation Ph.D. Program
Ph.D. This abbreviation is attached to the names of around 55,000 people every year in the United States, 75 percent of them graduating in science-related fields.
But those three letters carry more than a degree designation. The Ph.D. and those who hold it often are caricatured in negative terms. One writer on Quora, for instance, claims that “The general attitude and stereotypes about Ph.D. holders are that they're uber academics/nerds who can't really function in the real world…” Doubtless there are doctoral degree holders who make this claim true. In fact, I’ve met a few. They play the “Scholar” like an actor playing a part, lecturing from behind a wooden lectern, wearing a tweed sports coat with elbow patches, filling the air with arcane facts and theories. Even worse is the Scholar’s penchant for shaping graduate students into academic clones who perpetuate the same self-important irrelevance while hiding in the ivory tower from a world they have nothing to offer.
But is that true? Stereotypes obscure the fact that the Ph.D. process is one of the most practical forms of training in the world. In fact, the unemployment rate among doctoral degree holders in the U.S. has varied between about 1.5 and 2.5 percent since 2016, often half the national average. The degree is highly valued in the corporate and non-profit worlds as an indicator of high-order analytical skills, capacity for in-depth research, and excellence in communication. In short, no one ever said, “Imagine what I could have been if I hadn’t gotten that Ph.D.!”
But what about Ph.D. graduates being divorced from the real world while married to the sound of their own voice? If these traits define holders of this degree, why would Northwest create one?
NU has been in the doctoral business for more than 10 years since the creation of our very successful Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) in Counseling Psychology. With the opening of the Center for Leadership Studies in 2017, the University launched its Ph.D. and Ed.D. degrees in Organizational Leadership. Members of Cohort 1 began their studies together in January of 2018.
Northwest is on the leading edge of the “Next-Generation Ph.D.” movement. Breadth distinguishes this approach. In the traditional model, “the default, the hope, the gold ring, is the tenure-track position,” according to Anthony T. Grafton and James Grossman, president and executive director of the American Historical Association. But in the last few years, doctoral educators have been re-thinking the degree. One list of examples in the field of history comes from Grafton and Grossman:
Holders of doctorates in history occupy, or have recently occupied, a dizzying array of positions outside the academy: historical adviser to the Chief of Staff of the Army, Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief of Staff to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, museum curators, archivists, historians in national parks, investment bankers, international business consultants, high school teachers, community college teachers, foundation officers, editors, journalists, policy analysts at think tanks (yes, an entry-level position).
It turns out, then, that doctoral education is not only practical, but quite versatile, preparing students for multiple careers in multiple disciplines. The NextGen model opens up the doctoral experience, not by lowering standards, but by diversifying students and outcomes. The Center for Leadership Studies welcomes many kinds of qualified students who will ultimately pursue many kinds of careers and callings.
Northwest’s Cohort 1 is a classic example of this innovation. Our students include a professor from a local college, an international student specialist, two pastors, and a manager from a large corporation. The many fields represented by these students make our courses truly interdisciplinary, rather than an extension of the same discipline to the next level. In this atmosphere, class discussions are lively and learning is profound. Our students want to increase their influence in the world, and the NextGen Ph.D. platform is robust enough to serve all of them in their fields of choice or calling.
Our graduates will be scholar-practitioners able to lead the leaders in their field. Northwest Ph.D. and Ed.D. graduates will be writing the books others are reading and leading the organizations others are imitating. We will certainly produce our share of tenure-track faculty and administrators for universities and colleges. However, our degree programs recognize that the world and its needs are much bigger than staffing colleges. That’s why we offer concentrations in business leadership and consulting, higher education, and ministry leadership. Wherever there is a need for Christ-centered leadership, the doctors of Northwest will be serving. No elbow patches required.
 “How true is the stereotype that PhD graduates are over-qualified.” 2016 June 29. https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/45979/how-true-is-the-stereotype-that-phd-graduates-are-overqualified Retrieved 2018 April 2.
 “Unemployment Rate – College Graduates – Doctoral Degree, 25 Years and Older.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. February 2018. https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CGDD25O Retrieved 2018 April 2.
 Anthony T. Grafton and James Grossman, “No More Plan B: A Very Modest Proposal for Graduate Programs in History.” October 2011. https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/october-2011/no-more-plan-b Retrieved 2018 April 2.