Category Archives: Alumni

Mentor the Whole Person Blog Post: Every Ph.D. Needs an Exit Strategy

A soon-to-be English Ph.D. comes across a recent graduate studying in the library stacks. One is finishing her dissertation and excited to be nearing the end of the process. The other? Well, the euphoria from the defense is dissipating. When you’re adjuncting at the same university for less money than you made as a graduate student and you’re diligently trying for job after job (in academia, in publishing, in writing…) with little to show for it, you can start to wonder: what can I do with a Ph.D.?

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This little graduate school morality play may seem a little bleak, but the thing is, you can actually do a lot with a Ph.D. In “Humanities Unbound,” a survey of humanities Ph.D. graduates working in “alternative academic” positions, Katina Rogers found that respondents had gone on to find careers in the fields of academic administration, government, and journalism, or worked at institutions like cultural heritage organizations, libraries, or non-profits. And while we’ve all heard horror stories about needing to take the Ph.D. off a resume to be more hirable, in fact many employers value a Ph.D. in a job candidate. Several employers interviewed as part of the Pathways Through Graduate School study by the Educational Testing Service and the Council of Graduate Schools saw candidates with graduate degrees as having not only advanced knowledge, but also the ability to lead, design projects, and problem-solve in innovative ways.

So why do so many Ph.D.s struggle to find stable work upon graduation? Some certainly take positions as adjuncts to persevere with the dream of a tenure-track academic job (a separate issue, recently devastatingly summed up by Kevin Birmingham), but many others simply don’t know what else to do. It’s possible to leave a Ph.D. with a polished dissertation, a teaching portfolio, and selection of well-crafted cover letters for academic jobs, but with no resume, no contacts outside academia, and no idea of what jobs you’re qualified for. It’s also difficult for many Ph.D.s to articulate their many skills for employers beyond the content of their dissertation and teaching. For example, few non-academic employers will value my deep knowledge of fifteenth-century religious education and how to revise comma splices, but they could certainly appreciate my grant-writing techniques, my proficiency as a researcher, and my ability to set goals and work independently to reach them.

What every Ph.D. student needs to create, preferably before the frantic last lap of the dissertation process, is an exit strategy. This plan goes beyond writing a strong resume (though that’s a great start). Students should be able to name a couple of career paths they’d like to pursue, and should have conducted research into the vocabulary and required skills for these fields. They should talk to Ph.D. alumni, explore internships, sit down with employees in these potential careers, write for audiences outside academia…the list goes on. Basically, every student should start thinking about what he or she wants do after graduation long before finishing the Ph.D., even if the main goal is an elusive tenure-track job.

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At the recent meeting of the “Living Humanities” Ph.D. project on “Mentor the Whole Person: Career-Wise Counsel, Promising Partnerships,” faculty members and administrators from different departments across the humanities shared their initiatives to help students prepare for careers after graduation. These insights highlighted several avenues for improving graduates’ confidence on entering a non-academic job market. One suggestion involved expanding the role of the placement officer to include non-academic careers. In the Philosophy department, a member of faculty now works on enhancing non-academic placement, while the placement officer focuses on academic appointments. In the English department, the placement officer is now assisted by a Job Placement Committee, who can draw on a wider range of teaching (and life) experience to assist students on the job market.

Several departments are focusing on expanding their students’ teaching skills. In Philosophy, there are plans to hold a summer camp for high schoolers, so Ph.D. students will have the opportunity to work in K-12 teaching. In English, the placement officer is working to prepare students for careers at community colleges, independent high schools and beyond. Discussions with English Ph.D. alumni in the Peace Corps and the Park Service have highlighted how their employers valued their teaching experience, so focusing on this aspect of the Ph.D. could also help students answer questions about the value of their Ph.D. on the non-academic market.

Another key factor is not only normalizing non-academic jobs, but also raising their prestige among faculty members. Of course departments should still promote their graduates’ achievements on the academic job market, but they should also highlight that a tenure-track academic job is not the norm; more students will find careers outside this category than within it. One goal in the Theology department is to teach faculty to see non-academic jobs as equally attractive, so that this perception could also trickle down to students and pervade departmental culture. Departments can easily contribute to the valuing of non-academic careers by promoting students’ achievements from outside the academy as well as within it. Why not send out a congratulatory email with the list of students who received competitive internships or post links to articles students have written for non-academic publications?
Another way to demonstrate a commitment to non-academic positions as well as academic ones is to Invite alumni in exciting careers back to the department to speak to current students about their jobs and how they got them. Students can then get ideas for what to look for, and will feel encouraged to take the initiative and search for opportunities on their own.

Alumni in particular are an excellent resource, offering tangible proof of the many careers a Ph.D. can lead to. As well as showing how to market a Ph.D. for a variety of careers, alumni can also provide that oh-so-elusive quantity for many Ph.D. students – professional contacts outside academia. Many departments currently don’t track their alumni working in careers outside academia, even as they meticulously list which graduates hold postdoctoral fellowships or academic positions. But Jason Pedicone, President of the Paideia Institute and a guest speaker at the last “Living Humanities” Ph.D. meeting, emphasizes the value of talking to alumni and showcasing their career paths. The Legion Project, a Paideia initiative that tracks students who pursued advanced degrees in Classics and publicizes their current careers, not only shows what can be done with an advanced education in Classics, but also helps create a community that Ph.D. students and graduates can tap into. Such projects can also be aspirational for students. For instance, the series of Compatible Careers seminars held by Fordham’s Medieval Studies program, at which former Medieval Studies MAs discuss their current careers, not only provides insight into the range of jobs available to graduates but also shows students that getting such jobs is possible, and that their skills from graduate school have value outside the academy.

So if you’re a graduate student, whether a starry-eyed first year or a world-weary dissertator, take some time to brainstorm what you’d like to do after graduation. Research how you could prepare yourself for this coveted career, be it with an internship, an informational interview, or a plan to publish in an online magazine. If you’re a faculty member, think about reaching out to former dissertation mentees – are they all in academia, or have some found fulfilling careers elsewhere? As the soon-to-be Ph.D. at the start of this piece, I’m trying to follow my own advice – as I prepare myself for my defense, I’m also thinking about what I’ll do next.

  • Samantha Sabalis, Graduate Assistant, NEH/GSAS Grant, The “Living Humanities” Ph.D. for the 21st Century 

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For more about the “Mentor the Whole Person” planning theme and suggestions for further reading, see its description on the website for “The ‘Living Humanities’ Ph.D. for the 21st Century.”

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Filed under Alumni, Community, Eva Badowska, Faculty, Graduate Students, Higher Ed, NEH

Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows Opportunity

Humanities Ph.D.s about to graduate look at this great opportunity! Recent alums take notice too!

Deadline: March 22, 2017

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ACLS is pleased to announce the seventh annual Mellon/ACLS Public Fellows competition. In 2017, the program will place up to 22 recent humanities PhDs in two-year positions at top nonprofit and government agencies. Public Fellows will participate in the core work of these partner organizations while benefiting from professional mentoring and other career building opportunities. Each fellowship carries a stipend of $67,500 per year, as well as individual health insurance and $3,000 toward professional development activities. Applicants must possess US citizenship or permanent resident status and have a PhD in the humanities or humanistic social sciences conferred between September 1, 2013, and June 18, 2017, and will have defended and deposited their dissertations no later than April 6, 2017.

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Further information about the application process, eligibility criteria, and this year’s fellowship positions is available here. All applications must be submitted through ACLS’s online application system by 8 pm EDT on March 22, 2017. Questions about the program may be addressed to publicfellows@acls.org.

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Filed under Alumni, Fellowships and Grants, Graduate Students, Post-Docs, Professional Development

SciencesPro- Teaching Fellow Positions Open!

Post-doctoral and doctoral students close to dissertating look at these teaching fellow positions!

Deadline: February 15, 2017

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Sciences Po welcomes applications from post-doctoral and doctoral students close to their thesis submission for teaching positions on one of its three Anglophone undergraduate campuses in France: Reims, Menton or Le Havre. Each campus focuses on a world region and offers a 3-year Bachelor of Arts degree in History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology Law and Humanities. Courses are taught in English. The successful applicant’s area of expertise will be relevant to the disciplines taught at Sciences Po and to the campus’ world regional focus. Reims hosts two different programs, one focusing on North America and Europe, the other on Africa and Europe. Menton’s program concentrates on the Middle-East and Europe, and Le Havre is dedicated to Asia and Europe.

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1. Responsibilities. In addition to pursuing your research you will be asked to teach 3 courses per semester. Course content will be agreed upon with the program director and will fall into two categories: “Tutorial seminars”: 2 hours/week, groups of 20-25 students, these methodology seminars are provided in addition to a lecture given by a senior professor. “Electives”: 2 hours/week, up to 20-25 students, the topic can be defined according to your field of expertise. You will also be required to hold regular office hours.

2. Length of stay. Preferred start date: August 22nd, 2017. Priority is given to applicants able to commit to one full academic year, but applications for one semester will be considered. Each semester term runs for 12 weeks: the fall term begins in September and ends in December, the spring term begins in late January and ends in early May. See academic calendar for more details.

3. Compensation and benefits. Salary of € 1600 /month (net, approximately $1749) from
August 22nd 2017 to May 22nd 2018. Full health benefits through the French national
system. Access to resources and facilities on all Sciences Po campuses. The contract may be eligible for extension, subject to a performance review and depending on institutional need.

4. Requirements. Successful applicants will have completed their PhD – or will submit their doctoral thesis imminently – in one of Sciences Po’s core fields (History, Political Science, Economics, Sociology or Law). Their research and teaching interests should be relevant to the regional focus of the chosen campus. Previous teaching experience is strongly preferred, and English proficiency is mandatory. The ability to speak French or other non-English languages for purposes of student advising, research, and teaching will be considered a plus.

5. Application Process. Please send the following application documents by February 15th, 2017 to: teaching.fellow@sciencespo.fr:

  • Cover letter/ statement of interest. In addition to research interests, please include a brief statement of teaching experience and philosophy.
  • Curriculum Vitae (including a list of publications)
  • Course proposal(s). Brief summary of at least one elective course (or up to 3) with
    sample of major readings/resources you could incorporate into this class.
  • References. One letter of reference and contact information for two additional
    referees, ideally professors who know your research and teaching.

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Key Sciences Po contacts for questions and expressions of intent:

Caroline Gueny-Mentre
Center for the Americas, International Division
caroline.guenymentre@sciencespo.fr
Tel: + 33 1 45 49 83 14

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Amy Greene
Assistant Dean for International Affairs, Undergraduate College
amy.greene@sciencespo.fr
Tel: + 33 1 45 49 50 23

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Nathalie Jacquet, Director
Reims Europe-North America &
Europe-Africa Campus
nathalie.jacquet@sciencespo.fr
Tel: + 33 3 26 05 94 61

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Florent Bonaventure, Director
Le Havre Euro-Asian Campus
florent.bonaventure@sciencespo.fr
Tel: + 33 2 32 92 10 04

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Bernard El Ghoul, Director
Menton Middle Eastern and Mediterranean Campus
bernard.elghoul@sciencespo.fr
Tel: + 33 4 97 14 83 50

 

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Filed under Alumni, Fellowships and Grants, Graduate Students, Post-Docs, Professional Development, Student Funding

Inaugural Alumni Panel and Networking Event – April 30, 2015

GSAS Futures is hosting the first-ever Alumni Panel and Networking event for current graduate students and recent alumni to facilitate networking and the expansion professional relationships. Alumni panelists will speak about their experiences transitioning from graduate school to professional careers, tips on how to find the right job outside of academia, and about their personal career choices and paths.  The panel discussion will be followed by a cocktail reception to allow students and alumni to mingle. Alumni from across disciplines and industries will be coming to the networking reception from the greater New York Metro Area to meet and speak with you!
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Date: Thursday, April 30
Time: 6 – 8 p.m.
Location: W-62 Bateman, Fordham Law School

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Filed under Alumni, Graduate Students, GSAS Futures, Upcoming Event