Political science professor, CLA dean finalist talks future of liberal arts with students

Richard Deeg, who has worked with Temple for more than 20 years, wants to prepare students for non-academic settings post-graduation.

Richard Deeg, a political science professor and senior associate dean for faculty and research, is one of four finalists to become to the next dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

On Wednesday from 1-1:45 p.m., Deeg spoke to an audience of about 15 students in Anderson Hall Room 1221, and answered questions about the future of CLA. Deeg has been a Temple employee since 1991.

Deeg told students he wants to see changes within the culture of the graduate programs, concerning jobs after graduation.

“Changing culture is extremely difficult, but that is what has to happen,” he said. “We have to start a sustained conversation among faculty, and it has to take place within the departments.”

Temple advisors aim to help graduate students land tenure-track jobs within academia. Deeg, however, thinks the “tenure-track or bust” approach is not the best approach.  

Deeg wants to reduce the cycle of professors training graduate students to become professors. He added Temple trains more Ph.D students than universities are going to absorb.

Forty percent of CLA’s full-time faculty have non-tenure-track positions, and schools around the country are following that same trend.

Deeg said he would push for smaller programs that focus less on subject matter and more on developing skill sets to prepare students for non-academic settings.

“I think it wouldn’t be crazy to start thinking, ‘Maybe we should also have Ph.D students do internships,’” Deeg said. “Even if you’re a religion major, I’m not hiring you because of your knowledge of Buddhism. But I will hire you if you can write well, communicate well and you’ve had some professional experience.”

Another aspect Deeg wants to change about CLA graduate programs is the lack of interdisciplinary studies.

“Faculty are resistant to that,” he said. “We had a conversation last year about quantitative and qualitative methodologies … that at [the] root are common across a whole set of disciplines, but why does political science and economics and sociology have to teach their own Stats I and Stats II courses?”

Deeg thinks teaching a common core and ethnographic research class to students from all the departments would be beneficial. He thinks it makes sense, but said he’s not sure it’s worth the investment to overcome that resistance.

Before time ran out, Deeg told the students he aims to diversify students and faculty.

“You need a strategic plan,” he said. “It starts with diversifying your grad students, and then you diversify the pool of who you pick from to take jobs.”

He said there’s not much that can be done about underclassmen enrollment, but added each graduate student is selected and Temple decides who to hire.

“You see a lot more diversity at the entry level,” Deeg said. “In many places it’s when you get to the higher levels where it tends to become more homogenous.”

Deeg said Temple needs to give different types of hirees administrative experience to diversify candidate pools for higher positions.

Dominic Barone can be reached at dominic.barone@temple.edu or on Twitter @dvito_barone.

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