LCHC Bio: Elaine Parent









Elaine Parent

Elaine R. Parent's current interest and work in the area of doctoral student development represent (to her) a synergistic merger of her training in counseling psychology (Ph.D. University of Minnesota) and her tenure, before retirement, as a student affairs officer in the Graduate Division at UCSD. Often the latter included what she termed 'rescue and recovery' efforts to support discouraged and alienated doctoral students. One result was a developing sensitivity to the barriers (both institutional and psychological) which lead to the 40-60% attrition rate in doctoral programs in major research universities.

Her work with James Grier Miller Living Systems, 1978) and with the International Systems Science Society in the late 1990's helped 'put the meat on the bones' of a growing fascination with a human systems perspective as a framework for conceptualizing the complex interaction between each individual and his/her experiential (or subjective) world. Two papers presented and published in 1998 resulted: A Living Systems Perspective as a Metaframework for Viewing the Dynamics of Human Experience and Application of a Living Systems Perspective on Human Experience: An Educational Model for Life Planning and Change.

Many of these same ideas are now incorporated in a systems model of doctoral student development. The latter is viewed as a process (often over a period of 6-8 years) of acquiring the intellectual, social and personal/psychological competencies important in moving from the status of a novice to an emerging expert in a discipline. The route for that developmental journey is conceptualized as involving a gradual understanding of how things 'work' (a) in the students' chosen discipline, (b) in their respective academic department and institution and (c) in each individual student, as a complex system of systems - intellectual, emotional and physical.

The conceptual framework for acquiring these kinds of understandings is termed the '3 R's' - and involves discovering the Rules, the Roles and Relationships which determine how things work in any human system. Field -testing of a Jump-Start Program for beginning or early-stage doctoral students at UCSD is planned for the fall, 2000. Rationale for the early intervention and acculturation process is data which indicates that approximately 50% of departing doctoral students leave their institution before the end of their second academic year.

Strategies for proactively addressing two of the psychosocial factors identified as important in successful doctoral student progression will be addressed in the Jump-Start effort. One is beginning an early and successful acculturation into the academic department. Another is sustaining students' motivational energy by assisting them in establishing and continually updating on-line information systems to reflect their developing competencies in the three relevant areas ( intellectual, social and psychological). These are outlined and continually recorded in a personal academic and career plan. The goal is to provide students with the kinds of self-monitored information feedback that can support their Personal Agency Beliefs (Ford, Motivational Systems Theory, 1992) and sustain their motivational energy for completing the doctorate.

The papers referred to above are available on the following website:

LCHC WebMaster