Outcomes

2018 Working Group in New Orleans

Action shot from our small group discussions.

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Post Its from our groups

 

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Working Group 2016 Salt Lake City

During our Working Group meeting at the November 2016 Utah conference, our initial group members were joined by about 30 additional participants. After welcoming everyone, we broke into three groups. Each included faculty members, leaders of state humanities councils, and administrators of foundations that support the humanities. Beginning with the  Case Studies we had posted on this site earlier, we asked the groups to address three questions. The questions were–     

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  What?

                    Why?

     What next?

Participants shared attempts, failures, successes, and lessons learned. After a lively discussion in small groups about the varied career paths and preparation we can offer to PHD students in the humanities, we invited representatives of each group to share highlights of their conversations.

When the full group reassembled, several themes emerged.

One consensus was that creating collaborations that connected graduate students (and humanities department) with the larger world of the humanities would benefit both academic and public humanities. How can academic humanities departments collaborate more actively with state humanities councils and other public humanities organizations? How can we initiate regular cross-sectoral conversations? How can we help graduate students feel that they are part of a larger community of scholars while at the same time increasing their opportunities for networking both within and outside the academy? The general consensus was that if departments incorporated training in collaborative work-including setting up and carrying out project-based collaborations and working across disciplines and sectors–learning those skills and practices would benefit graduates whether they end up in academic positions or other careers.

Another focus-of more questions than consensus-was the need to reimagine the curriculum of graduate humanities programs. What would change if the orientation session or course at the very beginning of graduate school emphasized pathways to diverse careers, which might include taking courses outside humanities departments?  What kinds of internal and external internships could be built into graduate programs? Rather than relying so heavily on teaching assistantships to fund graduate education, could we also offer administrative assistantships? For the most, graduate students have been left to their own devices to explore alternatives to academic careers, sometimes with the help of campus career centers. What will it take to engage faculty in these conversations? What forms might scholarship take other than traditional publications? Where would publicly engaged scholarship fit into graduate studies? What kinds of projects might teach extensive, creative research methods and the ability to develop a sustained argument as effectively as a conventional dissertation, and could we vary the format of the dissertation to capture such projects?

We closed the session by asking everyone to jot down their thoughts about one final question as a way to consider possible next steps apart and together-

What if?

We have lightly edited the responses to this final question and posted them here on the website. Our hope is to reconvene and welcome new working group members at the 2017 conference.

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What if  we encourage grad student development (and do so alongside faculty development)? What if we offer options beyond the scholarly monograph? Communications and grant training ? What if we have frank conversations like this more often?

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What if  all the humanities PhDs formed a network of friendships, partnerships, and donor relations that united scholars, administrators, and industry? (“Where are all the PhD’s?”)

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What if  university and non-university partners could design a highly specialized pilot PhD that would met the needs of both?

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What if  we could redefine the dissertation to facilitate and build public humanities skills for those NOT specifically seeking a tenure track job?

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What if  graduate educators were aligned deeply with the access, equity, and inclusion missions of most of our institutions, including the organizations with which they partner?

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What if  graduate programs found a way to balance content learning with openness to the multiplicity and ends for that knowledge?

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What if  graduate education provided opportunities for work outside the academy while a student is doing the degree and access to non-academic networks?

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What if  graduate education offered students multiple jobs as opportunities rather than alternatives when tenure track faculty positions don’t work out (from the beginning of their graduate study)?

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What if  we partnered our grad program with a variety of community organizations so students could learn by joining the work of the project as mutual learners and contributors?

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What if  graduate students were rewarded for making “esoteric” research seem relevant?

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What if  graduate education were more deeply embedded in the larger humanities ecosystem that is present at this conference?

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What if  more universities created formal PHD internships like the UGROW program at University of Miami?

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What if  we had far more conversations between agencies and academics. It is good for all of us to examine the potential of humanities discourse and action! Thanks for this session.

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What if  we created more connections? There is a broad network of participants visible, knowledge of powerful foundations, advocates, assets, recognition of possible limits of the “next gen PHD” framing. These ideas overlap with undergrad, grad teaching, faculty/grad and public collaborations.

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What if  the focus of the “next steps” and “next generation” throughout humanities education connected with that of other professions and disciplines with MA and PHD tracks?

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What if  employers were as much a part of the conversation about graduate training as academics?

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What if  all grad students had opportunities to be mentored through their programs by private, public, and NFP off-campus professionals, as well as by their academic advisors?

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What if  we had a network of graduate training programs, including sciences, working across disciplines concurrently and in communication with one another to address “grand challenges” like climate change, racism, economic inequality, the digital divide, etc.?

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What if  storytelling, project management, coding and research methods were taught across disciplines and institutions?

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What if  there were more credit-bearing internships, practice-based scholarships, and project-based learning opportunities in graduate programs?

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What if  dissertation research involved publishing data and collections as well as essays, articles, and books?

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What if  we could create a national network of PHDs who are already outside of academia to act as mentors alongside academic advisors?

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What if  all students were valued for whatever successful career they aspired to and were supported in that pursuit

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What if  a PHD program integrated career development preparation and mentioned academic and non-academic options at the beginning level. And what if it escaped the duality of the ac/non-ac.

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What if  we opened up public humanities opportunities to students with fewer obligations–especially for students of smaller colleges with fewer extra-curricular opportunities–and helped them work with and for humanities councils and organizations and familiarized them with public humanities work?

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 What if  we started plans for graduate programs with the premise that art, film, history, languages, literatures, philosophy, comparative religions, and other humanities disciplines were not only valuable repositories of culture but also essential to addressing the grand challenges we face–war, poverty, hunger, racism, social inequities, global warming, environmental degradation, mass extinctions, and an increasingly fractious, contentious civic culture.

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