A "Gourmet Report" for grad school mentoring
Most (if not all) of the readers here are familiar with Brian Leiter's Philosophical Gourmet Report, which ranks graduate programs by the research quality of each department's members. The PGR's primary goal is to help clueless undergraduates (such as myself 6 years ago) figure out which programs are strongest -- both overall and in particular sub-fields of philosophy. Leiter has consistently pointed out that the quality of a faculty's published books and articles is only one determinant or indicator of what kind of graduate school experience to expect at a given program: quality of faculty mentoring of students, for example, makes a huge difference in one's graduate school career -- but that does not show up at all in the Gourmet Report.
Happily, Jonathan Feagle is now trying to fill that lacuna for prospective grad students in philosophy. He is in the planning stages of what he's calling The Athena Project. He is planning to send out surveys to graduate students in philosophy in March 2006. Right now, Jonathan is requesting feedback on his current slate of survey questions, as well as suggestions for other survey questions and/or for the mechanics of administering the survey when the time comes. Hopefully, enough people will be interested in this clearly worthwhile project to generate an excellent questionnaire and, subsequently, some statistically significant data. (Note: the survey is explicitly avoiding more 'personal' issues: there will be no place for anything in the neighborhood of "My dissertation advisor is an inconsiderate jerk.")
The Philosophical Gourmet Report is, as Leiter himself says, not a perfect instrument. But it is much better than the other limited resources available to undergraduates considering grad school. From what I've seen, the Athena Project has similar promise to be an imperfect but nonetheless very useful tool for people picking a program.