IDP Design

From challenge to opportunity

Individual Development Plan picture

TRaCE Transborder seeks to transform the challenges that humanities PhDs face into global opportunities. Despite the valuable skills students gain while completing their degree, they experience difficulties that include:

  • Long completion times
  • Poor employment prospects
  • Low social impact
  • Protracted transition to career paths

Solving these challenges requires a creative re-thinking of the PhD process and the ways in which students interact with the world outside of the university.

IDP Design (a component project of TRaCE Transborder) transforms the PhD experience by utilizing narratives about career pathways and building community within and beyond academia. The program leverages two resources: TRaCE’s database of interviews with PhD graduates, and collaborative project-definition techniques.

The tools of design

Through TRaCE’s interview database, IDP Design provides students with a wealth of PhD graduates’ knowledge about navigating the PhD and forging career pathways after graduation. In the interview that most speaks to their academic and career interests, the student finds their PhD graduate mentor and the first member of their collaborative design team.

Building bridges between academia and other sectors, IDP Design connects the student with a lived experience representative (a member of the community with stakes in the student’s research question) and a professional practice representative (a person in the public, non-profit, or corporate sector whose work relates to the student’s research).

The assembled team uses collaborative problem-framing and solution-ideation techniques, drawn from the world of design thinking, to test the student’s research ideas and create a roadmap for the student’s PhD program. The team’s combined knowledge, skills, and experience enrich the student’s research, social impact, and career prospects.

Deployments in the field

IDP Design was deployed as a pilot project at McGill University from January to July 2023; the report including beta version of the program materials are published here under a creative commons license. You may use these materials to run your own program, without any licensing fees, but all developments built on top of these materials must be re-shared back into the commons (under the same license) for all to use.

IDP Design will be deployed more widely in the 2023–24 academic year, at McGill, the University of Guelph, and the Durham University. We are currently in discussions with other universities around the world as well as major national research funders about continuing to refine the model and integrate it into the research support ecosystem.

IDP report

Please click on the link below to read the IDP report.

Download IDP Report [4.91 MB PDF]

You can contact us [external link] if you would like to:

  • Learn more about how to deploy IDP Design on your campus
  • Learn more about how to participate in an IDP Design cohort
  • Get insights into how IDP Design is transforming doctoral training
  • Help us spread the word about IDP Design and publicly engaged humanities


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