This Chronicle article 7/15/13 prompts some questions:

What should the MLA’s role be in helping or encouraging graduate departments to offer nonacademic career services for their PhD candidates? Should the English or foreign language PhD curriculum include such advice? Should we offer different tracks through the PhD for those aiming at research, at teaching, at not-for-profit work?

5 thoughts on “

  1. Great questions, Paula. What do others think? I myself am leery of too much “tracking.” But at the same time I think exposure to different kinds of career opportunities EARLY in a doctoral program can help students clarify their primary interests and acceptable opportunities. The MLA might be a trustworthy organization OUTSIDE OF a student’s doctoral program (which of course has reputational aims that might run counter to a student’s individual career goals) to provide neutral, comprehensive, and objective information on everything from “Alt-Ac” to community college teaching to faculty positions at research universities.

  2. Ditto re tracking. But/and lots of graduate students have told me and other colleagues about being strongly discouraged from engaging in any kind of professional development activities (“focus on your research”) — such as service on committees, offering one-time only workshops, writing op-ed pieces, etc. This is extremely short-sighted. These are exactly the kinds of opportunities that help students become marketable in a broader range of arenas.

  3. As DGS, I’ve not had much success coming up with ways to prepare students for alternate career possibilities. I think it’s possible to expose them to their existence (and show them the job market numbers) early in their career, as George suggests, but I (and most of my colleagues) are ill-prepared ourselves, trained as academics, to prepare others for these possibilities. We’ve talked about this issue at the Association of Departments of English Summer Seminar a few years running, but I would love to see MLA help departments out in this area, both in terms of information and events at the annual convention.

  4. Thanks for raising the question, Paula. I remember sponsoring a panel years ago about working at non-Research I schools (as they were then called) at which you spoke. Students still confide community-college-teaching goals in hushed tones more suited to confession to being a serial killer, but life has gotten much more complicated as look at the 5-year, 50% TT stats. I’m DGS, and next year I requesting funding for another kind of panel, which will be non-academic employment, with a second panel by Career Planning. MLA is crucial to the first, but I’m less sure about its role in the second.

    I share Samuel Cohen’s reservations about how we–or the collective “we” that is MLA–can advise about what we don’t know. And, like George, I’m sceptical about tracking. I very much liked Wood and Gurwitz’s 7/15 CHE essay, “Who Prepares Humanities Ph.D.’s for a Nonacademic Search?” which had some useful commentary. I hand out essays such as this, reports like AHA’s “No More Plan B,” along with information about sites such as Versatile Ph.D., but most of my work knowledge/experience is in academia.

    I have a very particular focus as well in this response, as I prepare for new student orientation in August. What are the most effective ways you know to inform students from the beginning of their graduate work about the current state of employment and preparation for non-academic plans?

  5. Michelle–pulling up the JIL as it comes online is a good way to expose new students tothe academic market; accompanying it with the reports from David Laurence’s office (in the ADE Bulletin: http://www.mla.org/adefl_bulletin_ade_main) about trends in the job market is helpful too. I’ve got nothing for non-academic plans though, so I’d love to hear of anything people might suggest.

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