By Matthew Reeves
When I arrived at the headquarters of the Kansas City Chiefs Football Club it was like landing on another planet. Gone were the cinderblock walls, linoleum flooring, and flickering fluorescents of campus; in their place was a plush, tastefully designed working space shared by coaches, executives, and current players. It was nearly impossible not to be star struck by celebrity athletes, especially in a city that adores its local team. It was immediately clear to me, however, that I, like everyone else in the building, was there to work.
By Kaete O’Connell
I arrived at my first AHA annual meeting layered in clothing and emotions. The expected trepidation (is there anything more overwhelming than stepping into a hotel literally buzzing with historians?), was coupled with curiosity and a smidge of excitement. I was attending as an observer, getting my feet wet for next year when I will be on the job market. To get the most out of a busy three days, I attended a variety of panels discussing everything from teaching methods to writing historical fiction.
The American Historical Association is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2018–20 Career Diversity Implementation Grants, part of the Career Diversity for Historians initiative. The recipients, selected from the 36 departments that participated in the 2017–18 Career Diversity Faculty Institutes, represent a broad range of institutions of varying size, location, and institutional cultures. Each has articulated a strong vision of how to integrate broad-based professional development into their department’s culture and doctoral curriculum.
By Ashton Merck
Think tanks, also known as research institutes, advocacy organizations, and policy centers, are often described as “universities without students.” These organizations run the gamut of political orientations, thematic focus, size, and scope, but most share a common emphasis on research and writing—two core features of doctoral programs in history. Thus, working at a think tank seems like a perfect example of the kind of career outside academia that forward-thinking institutions and professional associations, including the AHA, are increasingly encouraging history PhDs to pursue.
Through its work, the AHA has learned that popular wisdom severely underestimates the value and versatility of a history degree. As the seat of the federal government, home to a battery of museums and archives, nonprofits, colleges and universities, and K–12 schools, the District of Columbia showcases many of the career paths open to historians. At the 2018 AHA annual meeting, we are taking full advantage of the diverse local community of historians to offer a slate of professional development activities that is bigger and more varied than ever.
For the past 18 months, I have been supporting the ground-level research for Where Historians Work, AHA’s interactive database of cross-institutional data on history PhD job outcomes. After many long hours of finding, categorizing, and updating current employment information for thousands of historians, I can say with confidence that I am no longer surprised by any of their career choices. I’ve found sports coaches, movie producers, farmworkers, mechanical engineers, software developers, and many others working in fields where a history PhD is definitely not the prerequisite.
By Emily Swafford and Dylan Ruediger
A few weeks ago, two leading higher education publications ran pieces reflecting on important trends in PhD education. Inside Higher Ed published a report highlighting new data released by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators project. The article drew renewed attention to the now familiar discrepancy between the number of PhDs earned in history each year and the number of new faculty positions in the discipline. The conclusion: “the job shortage won’t go away any time soon.” Meanwhile, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, AHA executive director Jim Grossman contemplated what new student orientation for PhDs could look like in five years if departments deepened their commitments to diversifying the career aspirations and options of their students.
Working at the American Historical Association for the past two years has made it impossible to shield myself from the uglier truths about pursuing a graduate degree in history—from the imbalance between the number of graduate degrees conferred and jobs available in the professoriate to the increasingly precarious nature of employment in higher education. Taken alone, these challenges might have convinced me (or any rational person) to run in the other direction. Instead, two years after getting my bachelor’s degree, I’m starting a history PhD program in the fall.