Monthly Archives: March 2017

Bio Opportunity (FREE)- Attend The Whole Scientist Course!

Biology/Science students! Attend The Whole Scientist course to build skills for your career

Events: April 20, 2017 (NYC) and May 15-19, 2017 (Maine)

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Am I prepared for the next step in my scientific career? What skills do I need to work in academia? Industry? Other careers? What if I don’t want to do research? How can I find a job?

The Jackson Laboratory and partners are pleased to host The Whole Scientist workshop in New York on April 20, and in Bar Harbor, Maine, on May 15-19, 2017.

The Whole Scientist will assist you in answering the questions above and helps scientists like you prepare for the next step. With advice from leading experts, The Whole Scientist will instill skills and confidence in:

  • People and project management
  • Individual Develop Plan preparation and execution
  • Mentorship and team-building
  • Networking and negotiating
  • Effective communication to a variety of audiences
  • Career exploration and the job market

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Get ready for your future at one of our two upcoming events!

– Join us at Hunter College in New York City for our one-day workshop on April 20, 2017. Find out more and register. Registration is FREE and includes breakfast and lunch!

AND/OR

– Join us at The Jackson Laboratory in beautiful Bar Harbor, Maine, for our week-long course May 15-19, 2017. Find out more and register. Comprehensive scholarship packages are available to attend. Register today!

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Channeling Our Creative Powers

Malkah Bressler is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Fordham University and a participant in the “Living Humanities” PhD in the 21st Century” Project. She participated in the MLA’s 2015-2016 inaugural Connected Academics Proseminar. The following post is a reflection on the planning theme of the fifth meeting of the project, “Mentor the Whole Person: Career-Wise Counsel, Promising Partnerships. For a fuller overview of the meeting, see the companion post by Samantha Sabalis.

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When I was writing my BA thesis, I told my advisor that I was considering a PhD in English Literature. Without missing a beat, Lisa said “well, you certainly have the creativity.” It struck me as odd that my advisor valued creativity first before intellectual engagement and writing acumen. Creativity appeared to belong to the realm of creative writing and poetry and not to the analysis of books and poems. As I pursued my graduate education, however, both my MA and doctoral studies have revealed that Lisa is right; it is our uniqueness of thought and our ability to connect disparate texts and theories that attracts us to the academic life. As I write my dissertation, it is those moments when I “realize” something, when I make a connection, that fill me with a rush of joyful exuberance.

That “spark” of realization is, I think, the major impetus that propels us to dedicated six to ten years of our lives to the study of the humanities. The creativity we enjoy even extends to our teaching practice, crafting an argument, and creating elegant prose. Creativity is at the heart of everything we do except for one, very important factor of the graduate education: the inescapable job search. Why does our profession, at the moment when a student is deemed ready for the degree, contract and direct that student to the most expected and uncreative outcome?

Although it has never been the case that all people with PhDs assume a professorship, the narrative that doctoral candidates apply for and enter in to tenure track jobs has been ingrained into the collective psyche of the academy as well as that of non-academics. Anne Krook rightly observes that the more time a student has spent in graduate school, the more fixed this outcome appears. Isn’t it strange? The more a student hones her ability to think creatively, the more she cleaves to a specific and expected path.

These days, we have realized that not every graduate student will or wants to become a professor, and we are developing methods to help graduate students find meaningful professions. Krook and many others have offered useful tasks that students, faculties, departments, and graduate schools can do to refocus their vision of post-graduate life. Suggestions include inviting those who have left academia to talk about their jobs, educating graduate students on the current state of the academic job market, offering graduate students the opportunity to conduct projects and internships that will build new skills, and of course, changing the mindset of students and faculty who are not wholly in favor of these new measures. As my colleague Samantha Sabalis mentions in her companion blog piece, several graduate departments at Fordham have already implemented programs and have created resources to help graduate students. At both the micro and the macro levels, there is a collective effort.

But I think we are missing the linchpin to this entire issue: although all of these fixes help, the only way to ensure lasting success is for us to constantly apply our creativity. As Katina Rogers argues “I think that the discipline of the humanities should be disentangled—or, unbound—from the rigid academic pathway leading to the single goal of the tenure track job.” The “unboundedness” that Rogers identifies is an invitation for us to take our creative powers and use them to help graduate students discover various professions and the manifold ways in which a student can find meaningful employment.

Allow me to offer an example.

Not all graduate students want to teach; many value the doctoral education for the training in writing and researching. Obviously, these students need something different than exposure to non-academic teaching opportunities, but students are easily discouraged by not knowing how to begin. I think that this moment is an invitation to think creatively. A student might start by side-stepping the issue. For example, the student might ask herself “what topics do I enjoy researching?” When I asked myself this question, I realized that I enjoy writing about the connections between the environment and culture, and then I conducted a Google search for like-minded publications and organizations.

As I push further with this notion of creativity, I am reminded that Krook suggests that students write companion pieces to their dissertation chapters that are tailored for a non-academic audience. The goal is for students to demonstrate their ability to write in both academic and non-academic prose. But how do graduate students ensure that potential employers become aware of their abilities? Most graduate students know of the utility in maintaining a professional website that features teaching practices and dissertation updates. Why not add a section on non-academic writing?

Finding the advertisements for non-academic jobs seems painfully difficult, but the angst can be ameliorated when the student becomes imaginative. Of course networking with alumni promises the most success in terms of gaining a job, but before that, a student needs to know what to look for in a potential alumni interviewee. Recently, a friend mentioned interest in becoming an editor but was wary of publishing houses. As we considered what other organizations require editors, we both recalled a recent article in The Atlantic that was written by an employee of the Brookings Institution. It suddenly dawned upon us that organizations like the Brookings Institution, the World Bank, and the IMF employ in-house editors to review manuscripts that are later published in a variety of print and on-line publications.

Taking this creative thinking one step further, it dawned upon us how similar finding non-academic employment is to our research methodology. We begin our research by identifying a seminal scholarly text, and then we build our bibliographical arsenal by finding and reading texts that cite the initial work. We must approach the non-academic job search in a similar fashion. For example, once a student identifies a prospective employer, the student should review the biographies of employees, paying close attention to their past employment. From one website, the student will glean perhaps three or four others institutions to consider as well as an idea of whom to contact for an informational interview. We academics excel at these sorts of sleuthing exercises. It is how we find forgotten texts, it is how we find that one last article we need to read before we can finish writing, and it is how we find a dissertation or article topic that has yet to be explored.

We must unbind our creativity and let it thrive as we help students find their next career path. In doing so, we will ensure that the job search remains fluid and open, and we will avoid calcification. Embarking upon the search for non-academic professions is very much like that moment when we ask ourselves “what shall I research and write about next?” and feel a rush of excitement as we anticipate learning something new and writing something not yet said. If we keep our creativity close to mind, we will find the freedom to discover so many more opportunities and even, create new ones for our peers and students.

  • Malkah Bressler, Ph.D. Candidate in English, Fordham University

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

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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