The Chronicle of Higher Education

February, 2008

The Rise of the Citizen-Scholar: IE Pushes Students to the Next Level

Ana Lucia Hurtado's parents fled guerilla turmoil in Peru when she was four years old. They wanted their three daughters to succeed and prosper in this "land of opportunity." And they did. Hurtado's sisters chose medical school, but she was unsure of her "calling" until she transferred to The University of Texas at Austin.

"The Intellectual Entrepreneurship (IE) Pre-Graduate School Internship course was unlike other classes I had encountered," says Hurtado. "Students were encouraged to explore graduate studies and career possibilities, and it proved to be the most valuable experience of my college tenure."
Thinking like an entrepreneur, she learned more about herself in this self-directed, student-centered program and when she graduated in 2006, was offered several scholarships to law school, a career direction she never before thought would suit her. This fall Hurtado began law school at Harvard. Her success story is one of many.

Taking Ownership of Your Own Education

As part of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, the IE Pre-Graduate School Internship offers students an opportunity to discover their passions and professional aspirations, to have greater ownership of their education.

The Pre-Graduate School Internship program is one of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium initiatives that began from a philosophy geared toward increasing students' awareness of the value of academic work done in and across disciplines and enabling them a greater voice in and accountability for their education.

Founder and Director Dr. Richard Cherwitz discovered that, because of its ability to demystify graduate education and help students see how advanced study enables them to contribute to their communities, IE had unintended yet very significant consequences for two important populations: underrepresented students of color and first-generation college students.

"IE moves the mission of institutions of higher learning from 'advancing the frontiers of knowledge' and 'preparing tomorrow's leaders' to also 'serving as engines of economic, social, political and cultural development,'" Dr. Cherwitz says. "IE is a philosophy and vision of education viewing academics as innovators and agents of change; it shifts the model and metaphor of higher education from one of 'apprenticeship-certification-entitlement' to one of 'discovery-ownership-accountability'."

An Entrepreneurship Incubator

The internship, best thought of as an "entrepreneurial incubator," brings students into the graduate school pipeline and helps them select an appropriate field of study. Collaborating with graduate student mentors and faculty supervisors, students tailor education to fit their personal, academic and professional interests--a truly transformative approach to education.

Cristina Limas, a Communication Studies intern, says, "The IE Pre-Grad School Internship was more than a learning experience--it was a life experience. The IE program broadened my career choices."
Veronica Luna, an intern in Education and Anthropology, notes, "The IE Pre-Grad Internship Program has been the most rewarding and beneficial experience during the last four years. My mentor has served as a role model and exposed me to academic life as a Latina, something the typical Latina student at the university might never experience."

Echoing this theme, Theater & Dance IE Pre-Grad intern Alejandro Rodriguez observes, "My parents are Mexican immigrants and so I didn't have much experience getting into college in the first place and much less graduate school. The IE Pre-Grad School Internship allowed me the opportunity to really discover what I was going to be and what to look for in a grad school. I don't think there is another experience that could have taught me more about graduate school than this program."

Since the program was piloted in 2003-2004 over 200 students have participated in the Pre-Graduate School Internship. Almost half of them are first-generation or underrepresented students of color. In spring 2007, 70 interns were enrolled--and this fall nearly 90 interns will participate. All receive academic credit. Assisting them in 2006-2007 were more than 60 faculty members and 80-plus graduate students. Involvement in the program represents all colleges and schools and more than 40 academic departments.

The Program in Action

Faculty "supervisors" and graduate student "mentors" work closely with participants to explore a student's field of study in depth. Interns learn about unique aspects of graduate study such as conducting research, writing for scholarly audiences, participating in seminars, serving as teaching and research assistants, publishing articles in professional journals, becoming members of scholarly organizations, and thinking about how to put academic knowledge to work.

Activities may include attending graduate school classes, shadowing graduate student teaching and research assistants, attending seminars and departmental colloquia, and interviewing faculty and members of the community with an advanced degree in the student's discipline. All IE students keep a personal journal and attend sessions where they reflect on experiences and exchange insights, a wonderfully rich interdisciplinary discussion.

Another activity may be travel to meetings of professional organizations and learned societies. One mentor in Social Work relates that, although she knew it would be an educational opportunity for her mentee, she didn't realize how life-changing the event would be. The mentee had never been on a plane, seen or ridden a subway or stayed in a hotel. But the biggest impression was to meet people from diverse places, interact socially with academics in her field and to hear many new ideas.

One Student's Success

English major Christine Ho, an IE Pre-Grad intern from last year who is a senior this fall, is another success story. Dr. Cherwitz shared a recent communication from a faculty member at Princeton working this summer with Ho: "Christine's capacity to raise important questions is unusual for an undergraduate student. Working with her has forced me to rethink a whole set of questions... this is what makes this program thrilling for both mentors and mentees." As a result of her experience, she's featured on Princeton's Web site.

Finding a Different Path

An equally compelling fact is that about 5 to 10% of interns decide graduate school is not for them, should be postponed or should be pursued in a an academic field other than their first choice.
Dr. Cherwitz points out that this also reflects the success of the program because "there may be too many students attending graduate school for the wrong reasons or enrolled in an inappropriate academic discipline."

Based on self-report, Dr. Cherwitz says more than 50% of Pre-Grad interns who received a baccalaureate degree have entered graduate school. Many report they had not seriously contemplated graduate education prior to enrolling in the IE Internship. In 2006 and 2007, interns went on to such prestigious institutions as California-Berkeley, Columbia, MIT, Northwestern, USC, London School of Economics, Cal Tech, Michigan, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Duke and Texas, among others.

In the words of Natural Sciences IE Pre-Grad intern Ariel Hardy: "'All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education' (Sir Walter Scott). By participating in the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program, I have taken a hand in my own education. My mentor, a doctoral student in Human Development and Family Sciences, was a great match for me as she is an African-American female, like myself, and has numerous interests similar to mine. I am proud to say that next year, I will be moving to New York to attend Columbia University. It is amazing to me that I applied to six graduate schools and I have been accepted into every one. I attribute much of this success to the help of my mentor and the Intellectual Entrepreneurship program"

Over and above "educating citizen-scholars," long-term goals of the cross-disciplinary consortium include increasing faculty diversity by expanding the number of underrepresented groups who attend and complete graduate school, instigating learning across disciplinary boundaries, generating collaborations between the academy and community to help solve some of society's most challenging problems, and reducing attrition and time to degree through more authentic student decision-making.

Much to Do, Many Ways to Help

In addition to the Pre-Graduate School Internship, other IE Consortium initiatives include: the Oral History and Diversity Project, the Project in Interpreting the Texas Past (ITP), the IE/NSF IGERT Partnership, the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan (TIP)/Pre-Grad Internship, the UT-Texas State Pre-Doctoral Mentorship Program, the Bryce Jordan Arts Entrepreneurship Incubator, the IE/St. Edwards University McNair Scholars Program, Academic Engagement, the Dissertation List-Serve/Resources and Job/Career Resources for graduate students, and a soon-to-be launched IE Undergraduate Mentorship Course. These initiatives focus on the undergraduate experience, graduate study, faculty research and the connections between the university and community; in each, the goal is to empower individuals to creatively utilize their intellectual capital as a lever for social good.

The IE Consortium has been spotlighted in U.S. News and World Report, The Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, College & University Journal, University Business, Black Issues in Higher Education, Texas Innovator and Change Magazine, as well as in numerous national newspapers. IE's success and potential is the subject of a "Diversity Innovation" feature by the Association of American Colleges and Universities.

Donald Kennedy, former president of Stanford University and editor of Science, says of the program, "IE is an innovative program, thoughtfully pursued by someone who has thought hard about how to make change in a system that all too often resists it. Dean Cherwitz's initiative deserves the sincerest form of academic flattery: imitation."

For more information, please visit the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Program Web site.