Stacey Patton has written a thought-provoking piece for the Chronicle that touches upon a few conversations currently going on regarding the job market and alternative career training. In the article, “The Dissertation Can No Longer Be Defended,” Patton argues that many scholars in academia (most notably History and English faculty) consider the dissertation broken, a “stubborn relic that has limited value to many scholars’ careers and, ultimately, might just be a waste of time.” Former AHA President Anthony Grafton disagrees, arguing “For me, the dissertation makes intellectual sense only as a historian’s quest to work out the problem that matters most to him or her.”
As some 2013 PhD graduates continue the hunt for jobs, administrators are looking at ways in which to reform graduate training in response to the competitive job market. Alexandra Lord recently published a call to action in the Chronicle about alternative career education in history PhD programs. In her piece, Lord argues “It’s time for professional organizations and faculty members who are genuinely interested in graduate-education reform to create a true and continuing dialogue with those of us who have left the academy.” This dialogue, Lord argues, should not be proscribed to short, one-hour conversations in department meetings about graduate-education reform, but should be considered a long-term discussion.
In December, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the American Historical Association and the Modern Language Association grants for broadening the career horizons of humanities PhDs. At its 2013 annual meeting in New Orleans, the AHA hosted the project’s initial conversations. Dozens of directors of graduate studies, university administrators, and contingent faculty members met with AHA past president Anthony Grafton, senior project advisor Robert Weisbuch, and project director Julia Brookins. They discussed the implications of what we already know—and do not know—about the careers of history doctorates who are not postsecondary teachers.