I recently had the privilege of giving a joint keynote address at the Big XII Teaching and Learning Conference at the University of Texas, Austin, together with Adashima Oyo, doctoral student in social welfare, a graduate fellow in the Futures Initiative, and the director of HASTAC Scholars. Our goal in giving the talk was to situate the push for career preparation for doctoral students in a broader context of graduate education reform, including issues such as equity, inclusion, labor practices, and more.
Here’s the description we provided for the program:
Doctoral education opens doors to engaging and often unexpected pathways, with opportunities for significant public impact—an essential element of reinvesting in higher education as a public good. And yet, in many cases, faculty careers remain the default expectation. A number of programs are working to broaden students’ professional horizons, but it is not enough to talk about professional development in isolation.
The effort to prepare graduate students for careers beyond the classroom is most effective when it is embedded in a comprehensive discussion of the academic prestige economy, equity and inclusion, labor practices, and definition of scholarship. By providing thoughtful mentorship, material and intellectual resources, and flexible curricular and project design that considers the full landscape of graduate education today, faculty and administrators enable doctoral students to translate their skills and knowledge for different audiences and to conduct scholarly research that matters to their communities.
I’m sharing my part of the talk here. It contains some ideas that I’m still working through and hope to explore in more depth in future talks and writing. (Our complete slides are also available at bit.ly/big12tlc-phdtowork.)
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.
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:
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).
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.
At a moment when the most discussed disruption in higher education is the anonymous, asynchronous learning of massive open online courses, a separate disruption — one that brings small-scale seminars out of the university and into the public sphere — is thriving in Brooklyn. For the next six weeks, I’ll be spending my evenings discussing feminist theory in a sci-fi bookshop tucked away in an eerily deserted corner of DUMBO. Sharing in the discussion are women from a range of backgrounds — some are artists and writers, some have PhDs or other grad school experience, some are lawyers, some are in publishing. We’ve had just one session so far, and I can tell that the class will be an interesting twist on a grad seminar — the dense, complex readings will be there (in manageable doses — after all, we’ve all got day jobs), as will the conversation and debate of a successful seminar, but without the pressure (or posturing) that often accompanies the grad school experience.
The class is part of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, a collaborative of grad students and recent PhDs who are working to make the walls of the university a bit more permeable. The model is interesting to me for a few reasons.
Humanities scholars come from a wide array of backgrounds and embark on a variety of careers in areas like libraries, museums, archives, higher education and humanities administration, publishing, research and technology, and more. SCI anticipates that data collected during the study will contribute to a deeper understanding of the diversity of career paths we pursue after our graduate studies, while also highlighting opportunities to better prepare students for a range of careers beyond the tenure track.
The surveys complement thepublic database that we recently created as a way to clarify the breadth of the field, and to foster community among a diverse group. If your work represents the diversity of the broad #alt-ac community, it’s not too late to tell us about yourself!
The surveys and directory are being administered as part of the Scholarly Communication Institute’s current phase of work — which includes a close concentration on graduate education reform (largely in the North American context) and the preparation of future knowledge workers, educators, and cultural heritage and scholarly communications professionals.
The survey results will help us to make curriculum recommendations so that graduate programs may better serve future students, and anonymized or summarized data will be made available at #alt-academy at a later date. Please contact me if you’d like to know more.