From July 26-30, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill welcomed doctoral students from King’s College London at the inaugural event of a new initiative of the Royster Society of Fellows, Royster Global.
In 1996, the Graduate School created the Royster Society of Fellows through the generosity and vision of Dr. and Mrs. Thomas S. Royster with the goal of attracting the best and brightest to Chapel Hill. Since then, the Royster Society has welcomed more than 700 doctoral students in diverse fields. Royster fellows receive financial and community support, so students can achieve at their highest levels in preparation for a variety of career paths. The community of Royster Society members includes five-year doctoral fellows and one-year dissertation fellows.
With the launch of Royster Global, that community is expanding even further. The initiative aims to increase understanding of graduate education across international borders and prepare doctoral students for unprecedented global opportunities for research, networking and employment.
To kick off Royster Global, the program partnered with one of UNC’s strategic partners, King’s College London, to organize the conference “Graduate Education in a Global Context: Barriers and Possibilities.” Hosted at the FedEx Global Education Center, topics included preparing for the U.S. and global job markets, design thinking, creative visualizations, lightning talks on participants’ research and more.
Better understanding how graduate experiences vary across the Atlantic was a focus of the conference. On July 27, UNC doctoral students and Royster fellows Carlee Forbes and Colin Post led a discussion on graduate and professional experiences in the United States and United Kingdom. Participants discussed a range of topics, including applying to graduate school, coursework, funding and determining research questions.
“The goal for this session was to…serve as a base point for discussions that we’ll have later in the conference about getting jobs and understanding job markets,” said Forbes. “First, you have to understand what the education system is like and what we’re all going through in order to get our degrees before you even start thinking about applying into that system.”
On July 29, Marsha Collins, Royster Distinguished Professor for Graduate Education, led a discussion in which participants had a chance to reflect on the discussions and ideas presented throughout the conference and to visualize next steps for the Royster Global initiative.
Collins noted that many of the conversations at the conference mirrored ongoing discussions within the Royster Society about the future of graduate education, such as the purpose of the doctoral dissertation, issues of interdisciplinarity, globalizing the design of doctoral degrees, as well as internal and external pressures, such as politics and policy, on academics.
“If we are talking about barriers, we also need to talk about bridges,” Collins noted. “Good bridges have to have a certain degree of flexibility. They have to be able to move and adapt to shifting circumstances. So how do we build that into the graduate education process?”
As the Royster Society of Fellows expands with Royster Global, students continue to recognize the value of the Royster community.
“One takeaway…from this conference is that I recognize the tremendous opportunity that the Royster Society is giving me in terms of financial support as well as structural support,” said Cory Keeler, UNC geography doctoral student and Royster fellow. “There is so much logistical and structural support, but this conference has really helped me realize that it’s the social and intellectual community that has really helped transform my experience at UNC.”
King’s will continue to be an integral part of the community. Building on the success of the 2017 conference, King’s will host Royster fellows in London in summer of 2018.
King’s is a research-led public university in the heart of London founded in 1828. The conference exemplifies UNC and King’s shared commitment to building robust and multi-level global partnerships. In 2006, UNC and King’s established the UNC-King’s Strategic Alliance, initiated between UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences and King’s School of Arts and Humanities and School of Social Science and Public Policy. The alliance has expanded to become one of the most ambitious partnerships between U.S. and U.K. universities, including longstanding and emerging joint activity in teaching, research and other initiatives in diverse fields across both universities.