2019 Working Group Report in Honolulu

As our wonderful group wraps up a series of energetic, insightful conversations, we have pulled together recommendations from participants into this final report. We hope you’ll join us–Mona Frederick and Teresa Mangum–at our session on Saturday from 2:15-3:10 in the Iolani 6 Room–to discuss our collective findings. For those who are unable to attend, we welcome you to read, share, and use our final report.



2018 Working Group in New Orleans

Action shot from our small group discussions.


Post Its from our groups




Working Group 2018 New Orleans

(same information posted on the Key Questions Page for 2018)

Graduate student training

Admissions—Need to understand and promote the idea that public engagement jobs are a viable option for humanities PHDs

Elastic curricula

Teach students the connection between scholarship and applied work

First year large collaborative project that connects many students with many organizations

3-4 core courses

20% of credits devoted to publicly engaged work

Require all graduate students take public methods seminar

Training/coursework re public engagement should begin in the first year

Early archival research training

Courses on how to engage various publics

Certificate programs


Proposal writing skills

Grant writing assignments built into courses

Public facing element to dissertation required

Internship model baked in

People from outside academy on dissertation committee

Make coursework more nimble—not just writing papers

Training in Digital Humanities

Engagement between humanities and technology, stem, business, and other departments

Training in how to use career planning resources like Imagine Ph.D.

Project-based modes

Humanities Ph.D.s at career center

Public talk or Op-Ed required

Reflection at end of projects:  mode of evaluation

Teach students to write for multiple audiences

Internships on and off campus—yearlong and summer—rather than solely RA or TA funding

Build in international components

Admissions open to non-academic experiences:  recruit students with broader interests

Ongoing opportunities for and connections with public humanities

Alternatives to convention “course block” model

Transition from lots of “stand alone” courses to some shared courses attached to all humanities programs

Opportunities to develop publications that link community partners to academic work

Critical reasoning with content

Identification of social problems as a first step in designing courses and assignments

Alternatives to traditional proto-monograph dissertation

Hiring models introduced early that include strong voices of people outside the academy

Co-teaching with community stakeholders

Strong coordination with libraries and buy-in by libraries—for resources

Spaces for collaboration and collaborative work


Note: Timing—need to introduce student to career options and new skills by midway point of graduate studies

Project management

Program development


Translation of specialized knowledge and skills into terms larger public can recognize


Multi-media “writing” skills

Grant writing

Creation and management of research data and data basis

Relationship building

Digital humanities training

Data visualization

Exhibit design and curation

Digital platforms

Range of skills needed in community settings—incentivize community partners to teach students and/or to mentor or coach them and take part in programs co-designed with campus

Training in funding models, budget construction, and financial constraints

Variety of program formats—workshops, maker events, design thinking, etc.

Pedagogy—for settings in and beyond typical classrooms

Social media training

Cultural competency for diverse communities—whether the diversity is based on language, ethnicity, economic status, urban/rural differences, religion, etc.

“Collaboration first” theory and practices of collaborative scholarship

Introduction to NGOs and other organizations


Much clearer values and statements about what qualities and abilities we seek in new faculty

Promotion and tenure requirements must take into account publicly-engaged work and clarify the differences among public scholarship, community engagement, and service (repeated across groups)

Service needs to be interrogated and nuanced


Advisor training is needed

Department involved in guidelines

Diverse mentors: co-mentors, alumni, etc., off-campus mentors

Aggressive efforts to recruit publically-engaged faculty members

Reviewer training—how to evaluate public projects and new formats

Idenfication of PHDs and MAs in the local community beyond the university who are working in key cultural organizations and ask for their advice and input


Ample funding explicitly for this type of training

The institution as a whole needs to be engaged

12 month funding (repeated refrain)

Graduate students as university employees

Funding for professional development (for faculty and students)


Establish a community Advisory Board

Develop relationships with state humanities councils

Ask community leaders to give talks in the department

Grow and protect community partnerships

Embed connections with state councils

Create partnerships

Host informal collegial gatherings involving off campus and on campus reps

Create links with rural as well as urban partners

Not related to any of these categories, but there was a recommendation that the Scholarly Societies integrate their efforts related to public humanities.


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–     




     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.


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?


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?”)


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


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


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?


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


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


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)?


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?


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


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


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


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.


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.


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?


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


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?


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.?


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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?


 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.Screen Shot 2019-10-31 at 11.55.55 AM

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