Summary

  1. As Ashley Lin discusses in her post  We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships, there are pros & cons to University Intro EA Fellowship programs and we need alternatives.
  2. In the meantime, many University Intro EA Fellowship curricula lack clear & direct next steps for fellowship graduates. The default CEA University EA Intro Fellowship discussion guide template would benefit from having its final lesson updated (as would groups using templates based on this often-linked-to Harvard Arete Syllabus)[1]. This change would impact hundreds of students.
  3. The main issue with many of the guides is that their final chapter gestures at 'next steps' for students to pursue EA jobs/get involved in the EA community, but it does not directly and clearly guide students to these outcomes.
  4. There are larger and smaller updates that could be made, ranging from swapping templates from CEA's "alternative" guides to doing a more thorough curricula revamp.
  5. Also, post-fellowship, we should measure longterm EA engagement outcomes.

 

Intro

I was a member of a University EA Fellowship[2]. After our final session, my facilitator thanked us and then I never saw him again. The EA club at my school that semester was inactive, so there was no easy link to further mentoring or guidance. 

The final chapter of the the default [3]CEA discussion guide (p. 32) does not give streamlined[4], direct steps towards (1) an EA-aligned job or (2) continuing on in the EA community. There is content in the  facilitator instruction guide that begins in this direction (e.g., instructions to: "Ask people to share their plans for exploring their uncertainties and testing their aptitudes for different kinds of work" ). However, if you have a facilitator (like mine) who didn’t use the guide consistently (or at all), even these discussions don’t happen. 

My best guess is that experiences like mine are fairly common at schools without a strong history of EA programming. 

Easy Swaps

Some of the discussion guides marked "alternative" in CEA's drive do a more direct job of telling a motivated Intro EA Fellow what they can do next. See "Alternative curriculum #1 forecasting week)" in their drive for an example of this (namely, it's very direct about recommended steps fellows should take with 80000K).  Or, Alternative curriculum #2 (abridged 1 hour/week curriculum). One update to the default guide could just be to swap in one of these final chapters. 

Bolder Revisions

A larger update to the guide could be to add in two "next steps chapters" (as per EA University of the Philippines in the context of career planning), or to model it off of Standford's, which is more directly about career choice throughout the whole fellowship. That is, their discussion guides give more time to discussing pragmatic career decisions  (vs. core EA ideas). Based off of the assumption that the content of a discussion guide is relevant to someone's future actions (we should test this more!), this guide would lead to more people doing EA-aligned work. 

Measure Longterm Engagement in EA

Speaking of, all of this is theoretical. I've seen posts by Yale (Yale EA’s Fellowship Application Scores were not Predictive of Eventual Engagement) and LSE (LSE EA’s Fellowship Application Scores Moderately Predicted Engagement and Discussion Quality) measuring aspects of their fellowships. This is great and is getting the data out there. I've also seen plenty of survey links at the end of curricula for immediate post-fellowship data & feedback. What I haven't seen (note: sorry in advance if my search terms failed me) are follow-up measures of longterm engagement in EA causes from fellowship graduates. Given how much time students give to these programs, how much time people spend designing them, and how impactful their outcomes could be in terms of any EA pipeline, it seems worthwhile to see what their effect is. 

Create Alternatives 

For the strongest version of an update though? For that, based on my own experience doing an Intro EA Fellowship and the variations on the curricula I just spent several hours skimming[5], I agree with everything in Ashely' post on the need to create alternatives to the current model.  In the meantime however, there are hudreds of students going through the current  model. If no updates are made, I think it's likely many EA-motivated students will disengage not because they want to, but because in the current structure it takes some combination of mentorship, time-consuming research, and/or social confidence not to. University time is a busy time, it takes a lot of wherewithal to discover what EA resources are best to determine your own best match job, and it can be intimidating to navigate oneself to non-student EA groups after or doing school. 

 

  1. ^

    Clarification: I'm not saying Harvard EA should make this change, especially since this is a syllabus rather than a guide. However, as I'll get into somewhat below, it seems like sometimes a syllabus/discussion guide is the only resource an EA Fellowship facilitator uses. Since I keep seeing Harvard's Arete Google as containing "all necessary materials to run an Arete Fellowship" (this quote via EA Groups Resource Centre), context dependent, there might be benefit to certain groups adding more explicit details on what it means to (as per this syllabus) to keep "acting on the ideas we've talked about."  

    Sidenote: The Harvard "Discussion Guide Packet" is what other groups more frequently refer to as a facilitator packet; their packet addresses the gaps I talk about below, but it relies on a strong knowledge of EA in the facilitator (e.g., it's aimed at a facilitator who can act on a non-detailed instruction like:  " Provide fellows with the necessary reflection and discussion to be equipped with the tools to make the biggest impact possible (now, in their careers, and within EA).")

  2. ^

    If you're not familiar with Intro EA Fellowships, Ashley Lin describes them in her post  We need alternatives to Intro EA Fellowships:

    • Fellowships are usually structured in cohorts of 2-5 fellows and a facilitator who meets weekly for 6-10 weeks.
    • Each week, fellows do some amount of readings and participate in a discussion with their cohort.
    • There are often also social activities that allow fellows to get to know each other better and cultivate friendships.
    • Uni group organizers often use Intro EA Fellowships as an early/mid part of the funnel for highly-engaged EA students.
  3. ^

    By "default" I mean the one that I see most frequently linked to and that is not marked "alternative" in CEA's Intro Fellowship google drive. 

  4. ^

    Note: The final chapter in this guide does provide a list of approximately 20 links that, combined, could give a motivated student a direct path to EA Community/an EA-aligned job. However, these are marked as "optional" and come in an overwhelming number. It feels unrealistic to expect even motivated students to follow each of these links.   

  5. ^

    Mistakes were made. (By me). 

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2 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 7:21 PM

Thanks for the post!  I think that you might be reacting to  an old version of our curriculum. The new version is here. I'm curious if the new version resolves these issues? Any other feedback also welcome.

Thanks for reading! No, just double-checked: the version I linked to in the post above is at least the most current version in the google drive -- it's labeled as being from August 2022. (I  went with the so it would involve less clicking for a reader). 

I  checked out the link you included. Content-wise, based on a quick look, it looks nearly identical to the August 2022 doc I linked to,  just with different formatting. 

I didn't want to copy-paste the whole session into the forum post, but if you look at, say, the required content at the link you gave me (the exercise, the intro "putting it into practice"), it only guides someone to the next few weeks, not straightforward advice for what to do beyond that. There is that linked 80,000K content, but it's shorter 80,000K content than in the other templates I linked to in the post. Like, hopefully, a students realizes 80,000 could take them through next steps based on that relatively short post, but it's coming in the midst of a lot of other content, and so it doesn't feel like as much of a guarantee as the other templates (that give them a much longer 80000K assignment + advice to contact them).