New PhD Network and what it means for faculty, students

Doctoral students work in a lab in the Egan Research Center. Northeastern’s newly launched PhD Network will focus on building a sense of community among doctoral students and providing opportunities that will enhance their educational experiences. Photo by Matthew Modoono/Northeastern University

Northeastern has launched the PhD Network, an organization designed to serve a key link for doctoral students to access a range of university-wide resources, while also complementing programming already in place within colleges and departments. The goal of the network is two-fold: to build a sense of community among doctoral students, and to offer opportunities that will enhance their educational experiences.

Earlier this month, Northeastern announced the appointments of Sara Wadia-Fascetti as vice provost for the PhD Network and Phil He as vice provost for graduate education, effective July 1. They served on the PhD Joint Task Force, which, in conjunction with the university’s academic planning process and Northeastern 2025, was critical in realizing the new PhD Network.

We asked Wadia-Fascetti and He to explain the benefits of the PhD Network for doctoral students, what it means for faculty, and how it fits more broadly into the university’s investments in advancing doctoral education.

How the PhD Network will benefit doctoral students

The network, which is operated by a small team of staff, recently launched its website and will have a physical space on campus in the future.

“The PhD Network,” Wadia-Fascetti says, “is a hub for our doctoral students to access a range of information and resources.” These range from travel funding and professional development, to networking events and other community building programming, to assistance navigating support services in areas such as career preparation, diversity, housing, and child care.

She adds: “It’s also a place through which they can interact with faculty and students across our PhD programs.” Northeastern offers more than 30 doctoral programs, including interdisciplinary programs in cutting-edge fields such as network science, information assurance, personal health informatics, and bioengineering.

The PhD Network is a hub for our doctoral students to access a range of information and resources.

Sara Wadia-Fascetti
Newly appointed vice provost for the PhD Network

Northeastern’s use-inspired and interdisciplinary research strengths, along with talented faculty, have created an intellectually ambitious and entrepreneurial environment for doctoral education—one that is strengthened by investments in critical research facilities such as the new Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex as well as by the hiring of nearly 600 new tenure and tenure track faculty since 2006. What’s more, external research funding has risen by 168 percent since 2006, reaching $130 million in 2016.

“Our incredible hires and expertise in areas such as cybersecurity, materials, health, and robotics have brought in faculty who are working in innovative and interdisciplinary spaces,” Wadia-Fascetti said. “They’re doing exciting, hands-on work that is attracting incredibly talented PhD students.”

Wadia-Fascetti and He also point to Northeastern 2025’s emphasis on integrating more experiential education—particularly at the global level—into the university’s doctoral programs. “Experiential PhD education means engaging students in experiences that go beyond the university in a way that gives their dissertation research a lens that can help them understand how their work will impact society,” Wadia-Fascetti said.

What the PhD Network means for faculty

“Doctoral education,” He says, “is all about student-faculty collaboration. We need that dynamic to be successful.”

Wadia-Fascetti and He underscore that the PhD Joint Task Force engaged faculty throughout the process that led to the PhD Network’s creation, and that faculty will play a key role in the network going forward. They say that they will continue to engage faculty this summer to share more details about the network and to engage them with PhD students across the university. They will also hold networking events to bring together faculty and doctoral students, as well as events for faculty enabling faculty colleagues to share best practices on academic training and other activities related to preparing their students for future careers in cutting-edge fields.

Given the close interaction between faculty and their doctoral students, Wadia-Fascetti and He say they look forward to engaging faculty in PhD Network activities so that all of our colleagues understand how the network can benefit their students and that there’s a centralized resource for PhD education.