Education & Mentoring
Kathrin Boerner, PhD
DIRECTOR, GRADUATE PROGRAMS
I love interacting with our students. In my role as Graduate Programs Director, I have a lot of that. I like the daily problem-solving part of the job, dealing with emerging challenges of all kinds. It’s a never-ending source of new experiences. I also very much enjoy being a part of the different stages of the PhD journey, talking to prospective students interested in our program, then helping them come on board, orienting them into our program, and giving guidance from that point on throughout their time in our program. It’s so great to see the different pathways of development from what students bring with them when they join us and then how their lives evolve, personally and academically.
I think the way we work with students is fairly unique. In many PhD programs, students must choose an advisor early on, and then they stay in this faculty member’s lab or group for most or their entire time in the program. Our approach is intentionally different. Students are initially assigned one faculty member as an academic advisor and one as a graduate assistantship supervisor. But that’s just to get them started. Over time, they develop a sense of who they’d like to work with and what topic to focus on, and we encourage them to develop their own path in this regard. They may also work with several faculty members at the same time, depending on interest. This could mean that a student initially works with me, but then moves on to working with one or several of my colleagues.
In the same way, I have collaborated on publications with students who never worked for me as research assistant or had a different dissertation chair. They approached me because we had shared interests. We allow such relationships to develop organically, always with the goal of maximally promoting students’ development.
We are very interdisciplinary; both faculty and students have a variety of backgrounds in terms of academic disciplines and professional experiences. We also have a very collaborative approach, both faculty among each other and with students. Together this creates a climate and culture of fruitful exchange, enriching for all sides."