I’ve had the privilege of talking about graduate education reform and career preparation for humanities scholars at several universities this spring, including Stanford, NYU, and the University of Delaware. I’ve adapted the following from those presentations. The full dataset from the study that I discuss will be available later this summer, along with a more formal report. A PDF of this post is available here.
Already familiar with the background of this project? Jump straight to the survey results.
Graduate students in the humanities thinking about their future careers face a fundamental incongruity: though humanities scholars thrive in a wide range of positions, many graduate programs operate as though every PhD student will become a tenured professor. While the disconnect between the number of tenure-track jobs available and the single-minded focus with which graduate programs prepare students for that specific career is not at all new, the problem is becoming ever more urgent due to the increasing casualization of academic labor, as well as the high levels of debt that many students bear once they complete their degrees.
I am thrilled to announce the launch of the Praxis Network, a new partnership of graduate and undergraduate programs that emphasize innovative models of methodological training and collaborative research. I see the Praxis Network as a counterpart to the survey work that I’ve been doing—an illustration of a few of the kinds of programs that are making effective interventions in the traditional models of humanities pedagogy and research and preparing their students for a wider range of careers. The goals of each unique program are student-focused, digitally-inflected, interdisciplinary, and frequently oriented around collaborative projects.
I’ve just returned from two thought-provoking days of conversations about assessment and authority in new modes of scholarly production, the second in a series of three SCI meetings on the topic. We’ll synthesize the key outcomes and insights into a report very soon. For the moment, though, I want to think a little more about a question that occurred to me after the meeting: What is the place of beauty in academic writing? While this wasn’t something the group discussed directly, it did seem to be an undertone of certain threads of conversation.
I got home from CHNM on Friday evening feeling pretty brain-dead from the hybrid (and quintessentially #altac) work of wrangling meeting logistics and absorbing stimulating and thoughtful discussion. Ready to relax, I sat down to watch Pina and was entranced within minutes; the film is stunning. The clips of Pina Bausch’s dance company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, are mesmerizing; they are made even more compelling by Wim Wenders’ directorial work. Something about the visual beauty of the film and the dance it portrayed helped me to think about the preceding conversations about scholarly work in a new light. Continue reading →
This spring marks a new phase for my work with SCI. Data collection for the survey on career paths is complete, and analysis is underway, meaning that the next step will be much more focused on sharing outcomes. In some ways, this is a less comfortable step in the process for me (nerves! public speaking!), but also an exciting and satisfying one.
I’m honored to be giving several invited talks over the next few months:
The new role begins in September, which seems far away, but the months will undoubtedly fly by. I’m in the enviable position of wanting to linger in my current position while also looking forward to the next. As many of you know, my position with SCI came with an expiration date; like many grant-funded jobs, this one runs out when the grant concludes. Were that not the case, I would have loved to keep working with Bethany Nowviskie and the team at the Scholars’ Lab; it is a wonderful place, with brilliant colleagues, smart, creative graduate students, and a constant stream of new ideas. It has been a privilege to work with them; I’ve learned an incredible amount in the past year, and the people at the Scholars’ Lab are a big reason why.
But if I do have to move along, I cannot think of a better place to land than working with Kathleen Fitzpatrick at the MLA. (I know, I’m incredibly lucky to have such phenomenal bosses and mentors.) I’ll be responsible for much of the editorial work and community building related to the brand-new MLA Commons. So please, start using it now if you haven’t already, so that I have a wealth of material to work with when I come on board! As you might imagine, I’ll be thinking a lot about how the Commons might best serve not only its existing active members, but also people in alternative academic careers. I’ll also be thinking about the potential for cross-disciplinary collaboration as the Commons matures.
Between now and September, I have a lot of work to do: I am continuing to work on the analysis and reporting of SCI’s recent survey on career preparation for humanities scholars; SCI is convening one more meeting on each of our two main topics (new models of scholarly production and reforming humanities graduate education); and we’re starting to think about future directions for the newly-launched Praxis Network. Watch for more on all of those things in the months ahead. In addition, I’ll have a couple of fun “firsts”: I’ll be attending DHSI (for a course on visual design! I’m terribly excited) and giving a long paper at my first Digital Humanities conference (here’s the program, hot off the presses). It’s an exciting time for me; I never could have predicted any of this a couple of years ago, and I’m looking forward to seeing what unfolds down the road.
I gave the following talk at the 2013 MLA Convention in Boston as part of an excellent roundtable organized by Paul Fyfe, who has also collected a number of resources in a Zotero library. The wide-ranging presentations sparked many thoughtful questions that I hope will lead to continued discussion about the ways that graduate training could be modified for the good of students, the discipline, and the public. Some of the slides are taken from my earlier presentation on SCI’s survey on career paths for humanities PhDs (a full report of which will be available later this year).
When I look back on 2012, I have no doubt that it will stick in my memory as a year of renewal. It has been an incredible and enriching year in so many ways, from a new home to a new job to what feels like a thousand and one new skills (many of them half-baked, but good starts nonetheless). I know that the tech skills below are no big deal for most everyone in the DH community, but I came to them all from total unfamiliarity.
Here are some of the things I’ve learned in the past year:
I learned how (and why) to use the command line.
I learned how to use Github, both for my own projects and to collaborate with others.
I learned how to use vim, and that using vim makes me feel pretty badass… or else it makes me feel like a hopeless case. The line between the two feelings is pretty thin.
I learned that everybody has to look stuff up in the documentation, and that half the battle is knowing where to look.
I’ve gotten pretty decent with HTML markup.
I can figure stuff out in CSS. Sometimes.
Along the same lines, I finally figured out how to get a domain name and host, get a proper WordPress install, set up a child theme, and start making my website look the way I want it to look.
I learned how to use an FTP client, and eventually I got brave enough to move remote files around from the command line.
I learned a tiny little bit of Ruby.
I learned how to type curly quotes, and why it matters (thanks, @clioweb!).
And finally, it might rank low on the list of essential life skills, but I have learned to do a headstand without a wall to catch me, and that feels amazing.
The last couple of weeks have seen a great deal of news and conversation about graduate education reform. I have a lot to say about it (unsurprisingly!); you can find my take on it over at ProfHacker. The piece includes some discussion of SCI’s latest work, the Praxis Program, and the budding Praxis Network, so I hope you’ll take a look!
I’m also happy to note that I’ll be talking more about all of this at the upcoming MLA Convention in Boston—if you’re interested the topic, consider attending this roundtable on Rebooting Graduate Training. There will be ample time for discussion at the session, so come ready with questions and ideas.
This year’s MLA Convention program is up, and I’m already excited about connecting with people and hearing about their latest work. I’m also feeling a little uneasy about my own presentation, though. Or rather, I wish I could belatedly add a second presentation that is rooted in my current work at SCI.
Proposals for MLA presentations are due early in the year; I submitted mine mid-March, and I think most deadlines fell around the same time. It’s an entirely reasonable time frame given the size and complexity of the convention, but it also means there’s a significant lag between submission and presentation. At that time, I was still at Sloan, though I knew (unofficially) that I’d be starting at SCI soon after. I knew that my work this year would have me digging deeply into the landscape of alternative academic careers, but I didn’t know enough of the specifics it would entail to write a proposal on it, and the study that has been my primary focus didn’t exist yet. So, because I knew I wanted to go to the MLA (and because I wanted to give myself some research and writing homework), I proposed a paper that was grounded in my academic background — one I had been wanting to write, and that I’ll be happy to present and get some feedback on.