Graduate School Receives Grant from NEH
“What are you going to do with that?” Talk to any humanities doctoral student and he or she will be able to rattle off multiple instances when they’ve been asked to justify the point of their degree. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) launched an initiative over the summer to help make answering that question a little easier in the future. The NEH “Next Generation Humanities PhD” project awarded 25 planning grants of $25,000 each and three implementation grants of $350,000 each to help institutions plan and implement changes to graduate education that will broaden the career preparation of a PhD student beyond a career in the academy. “The academic-focused future we’re accustomed to training graduate students for is disappearing,” said NEH Chairman William D. Adams. “If graduate programs wish to make a case for the continuation of graduate education in the humanities, they’re going to have to think about the professional futures of their students in entirely different ways.”
The Graduate School received a $25,000 planning grant from NEH for a series of efforts grouped under the title Charting Career Pathways: Enhancing and Sustaining Doctoral Education in the Humanities. These related projects will be directed by Dr. Patricia Mooney-Melvin, the Interim Dean of the Graduate School. Focusing on data gathered from current LUC graduate students in the humanities, Charting Career Pathways will create workshops, internship opportunities, and other forms of career assistance based on the needs of our graduate students.
Central to the project are workshops and in the field experiences. In partnership with the School of Communications, the Graduate School will be hosting a series of workshops designed to help humanities students take their critical thinking skills and develop ease in speaking about topics outside of the narrow focus of their dissertation research. The Graduate School will also be developing a series of workshops designed more broadly around the development of professional skills that will be applicable outside the academy as well as foster a better understand of the hiring process. The Graduate School also has partnered with the Illinois Humanities Council to pilot a program designed to place students with paying assistantships in non-academic settings.
Philosophy doctoral candidate Nicoletta Ruane, who is the first recipient of the assistantship in the field, is working for 10 months with Illinois Humanities. She is responsible for helping to develop a new community-based program called Illinois Speaks. The goal of Illinois Speaks is to provide “resources to support monthly small group discussions within communities throughout the state. These discussions will focus on current events and the impact of these events on our communities. They will be led by paid facilitators from the community who have been trained by Illinois Humanities and who will have access to materials focusing on media representations of current events provided by Illinois Humanities.”
Dr. Mooney-Melvin spoke with History doctoral student Ruby Oram about Charting Career Pathways:
What are the goals for the project “Charting Career Pathways”?
This project has 6 major goals. We want to create opportunities for our students to see themselves as possessing multiple career pathways. An important part of student success revolves around advising and mentoring and this project hopes to strengthen faculty ability to discuss multiple career pathways. We hope to work with the career planning and placement center to develop a robust career guidance program for graduate students. We want our students to be able to communicate with a wide range of audiences. Finally, we want to give students experience outside of the academy while in their graduate programs. Secondary goals include shaping student recruitment messaging to reflect multiple career pathways and to explore curricular opportunities.
Why is it important to provide doctoral students in the humanities with multiple career pathways?
Doctoral education offers students the opportunity to gain both breadth and depth in a discipline. They also acquire and hone a wide variety of skills and abilities that can serve them well wherever their interests take them. While many students may find academic positions, others will take a different path. It is our responsibility to offer all students the ability to appreciate the range of opportunities available to them.
Charting Career Pathways allows the Graduate School to be part of a larger national initiative to enhance doctoral education in the humanities as well as provide useful resources for our students and faculty. We look forward to a very productive year ahead!