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My personal life journey has resulted in a rewarding convergence of intellectual interests and activity. I welcome the opportunity to tell you about them!
Elaine R. Parent, Ph. D.

First came my study over the past 40-some years of psychology, and the gradual change in emphasis from a behavioral to a cognitive perspective. A direction-finder for this intellectual journey was confirmed in 1969, when I heard George A Miller, the outgoing president of the American Psychological Association, urge members to find ways to "give psychology away." He argued for the need to translate what we had learned in the psychological laboratories into information that people could use to improve their everyday lives.

A conceptual path for doing that finally became clear when I discovered the systems science literature, and the work of James Grier Miller in his seminal book, Living Systems (McGraw-Hill, 1978). The human dimension became more explicit in the work of the Fords: Donald, in Humans as Self-Constructing Living Systems (1987) and son Martin's, Motivational Systems Theory (1992). A systems perspective is also implicit in the earlier contributors to what has become known as the psychology of person-environment interaction.

Another path followed was a professional career in higher education and a search for systematic ways to understand (and constructively intervene in) the process of both the undergraduate and graduate student experience. Gradually, the potential usefulness of a human systems metaframework for conceptualizing the often 6-8 year doctoral experience (intellectual, social and psychological) became clear. The result is the systems model of doctoral student development described in Part II below.

My interest and commitment intensified during my tenure in the Office of Graduate Studies and Research at the University of California, San Diego. I was concerned about the current attrition rates of 40-50% in doctoral programs (over all disciplines) at UCSD as well as in major research universities in this country.

This personal narrative is the context for the work and work-in-progress presented on this site. Here is what you will find:


  • Part I includes the following papers:
    1. a systems metaframework for viewing the dynamics of human experience,
    2. a model of doctoral student development and
    3. a proposed Jump-Start intervention for early-stage doctoral students.
  • Part II Jump-start Intervention as a Slide Show.
  • Part III is a database of summary reports on the 400+ dissertation studies on the doctoral student experience published in the 1980-2008 period
    A standard format has been used for each study: listed is the name of the researcher, the institution, the date of publication and a brief summary of the results reported. For search purposes, the database has been indexed as follows:
    1. the academic department in which the research was conducted. These include Education, Psychology, Sciences and General (or non-specific academic area).
    2. the focus of the research - or the categories of doctoral students studied. Among the 13 categories reported were studies that compared the experience of students who successfully completed the degree versus those who departed as either an ABD, or before advancing to candidacy. Others focused on the experiences of women or minority students, studied the differences in experiences between male and female students, etc.
    3. The kinds of factors reported as important in the results of each of the 400+ studies. The nine factors coded included faculty-student relationships, departmental factors, student characteristics, financial issues, etc.
    4. It is also possible to view the studies according to the date of publication. This provides an opportunity to view trends in the focus on the doctoral student experience, the kinds of student experiences studied, the factors identified as important, etc.
  • Part IV is a flyer for a book I published in late 2005, called The Academic Game: Psychological Strategies for Successfully Completing the Doctorate.
    The book is written for early stage doctoral students specifically, but useful for advanced students and graduate faculty as well. Based on the premise that "knowledge is power", the purpose is to empower students with strategies for learning more about how their department and discipline "work". Equally important are strategies for learning more about how they "work" as thinking, feeling human beings. In the process of developing a personal Game Plan, they are better able to identify and further develop the intellectual, social and psychological skills and abilities important in successfully completing a graduate program and in the career opportunities that follow.
    The Academic Game was published at Infinity Publishing and is available from, or your university bookstore (ISBN: 0-7414-2713-3).
  • Part V is a downloadable file, designed for early-stage doctoral students. It states the author's informed ideas about the psychological strategies - things students can know and do - that will lead to a timely and successful progress toward the doctorate. The mantra is knowledge is Power and the reader is encouraged to develop a holistic view on the process as well as their own development as they progress toward the doctorate and a professional life beyond.


I welcome your interest and will appreciate your feedback.
Please contact me at


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