About our group

Join us at the 2018 National Humanities Conference in New Orleans Saturday, November 10 from 11:00-12:30 

We are an informal group of faculty members, cultural leaders, and funders seeking to create new opportunities for our students. If you’re interested in graduate education in the humanities, please join us in Boston or share links to your experiments for our Resources page. All are welcome.

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OUR MISSION  Across the country, universities and foundations are experimenting with forms of humanities graduate education and postdoctoral fellowships rooted in imaginative collaborations among universities; state humanities councils; cultural institutions such as museums, libraries, and theaters; civic organizations; and the nonprofit, business, and technology sectors. These programs include institutes and certificates focused on publicly engaged teaching, learning, and careers; digital humanities projects that connect graduate students with community organizations; graduate internships and externships; postdoctoral fellowships in which recent PHDs translate their skills and knowledge as researchers into cultural sectors beyond the classroom; and more.

The initial roundtable gathered representatives of projects that envision graduate education and postdoctoral training as preparation for diverse careers. Our varied experiences and those of the students and recent graduates we work with are laying the ground for more reciprocal partnerships, varied sites for learning, and deeper mutual support and enrichment among councils, cultural organizations, foundations, community partners, and colleges and universities. 

About our 2018 session, Saturday, November 10 from 11:00-12:30 

Our third gathering is designed to include as many voices as possible. If you’ll be at the conference and you’re interested, please join us! 

2018 SESSION FORMAT  This year, to build on our two earlier conversations and welcome new participants, we are structuring our Working Group as a mini design-thinking charette. Once again, we’ll collect concrete ways to prepare students for engaged practice and, we hope, more diverse careers. We’ll start by posing small groups with specific problems, asking them to design solutions based on their current projects. Then we’ll harvest the ideas groups find the most promising with the larger group–collecting our bounty on this website. 

PART 1  Our 2018 overarching question will be–how can we reverse-engineer a humanities graduate program for the 21st century? Small groups will start with a scenario: “You have carte-blanche from your administration to start a new graduate program from the ground up. You are not beholden to current practices at your university (or, indeed, in your field). Your administrators want a genuinely innovative flagship program that will serve as a model for a new type of graduate education and raise the university’s profile as a risk-taking national leader. What would your program include?” Groups will have a stack of Post-Its and 30 minutes to identity the parts needed to build the whole program.

PART 2   In the second 30 minutes, representatives will report back to the full group and then we’ll produce our collective reverse-engineered program and share it out on this website.

LINKED PRECEDING SESSION   We also want to thank Stacy Hartman, Project Manager for the Connected Academics Program for the MLA and part of our working group, for co-ordinating with us. Stacy is planning a session titled The Humanities Ecosystem and Graduate Education that will precede our session, meeting Saturday morning from 9:30-10:30. At this earlier session, we’ll get an inside view from graduate students and recent PHDs who have participated in Connected Academics programs across the country. With their instructive insights as our starting point, we’ll look forward to valuable proposals from the small group discussions at our own Working Group session.

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Our Meetings at Previous Conferences

About the 2017 National Humanities Conference
(Boston)

The speakers at the 2017 National Humanities Conference in Boston participated in a roundtable. We heard from partners–humanities center staff members and community leaders–who have created collaborations involving graduate students. Together, they explained how their programs work and what lessons they had learned. In the discussion that followed we discussed ways to adapt speakers’ strategies to local practices and considered how to strengthen future collaborations and careers rooted in academic and public humanities.

About the 2016 National Humanities Conference
(Salt Lake City)

The 2016 National Humanities Conference was the first in a series of three joint national meetings that will bring the humanities community together as a whole to consider how, by leveraging our strengths, we can achieve broader public impact and showcase the fundamental role the humanities play in addressing both local and global challenges. We look forward to partnering with the National Humanities Alliance over the next few years to increase awareness and collaboration between public humanities programming and academia.

The speakers at the 2016 meeting shared attempts, failures, successes, and lessons learned here on this site under “case studies.” At the conference, we were joined by another 30 conference attendees. We broke into groups with representation from each sector to address three questions, using the case studies to ground the discussion. The questions were–

What?

Why?

What next?

After a lively discussion with the audience about the varied career paths and preparation we can offer to PHD students in the humanities, we then invited groups to share highlights of their conversations with the entire group. We closed the session by asking one final question–

What if?  

We’ve gathered the group members’ written responses to this final question here on the website.