Beyond the Tenure Track: A New Year for PhD Unlimited

The “alt-ac” hashtag on Twitter (#altac) tends to be a pretty accurate reflection of reality — bright points of hope, optimism, and ambition slowly gaining on a background of doom and gloom. Of course, for those of us currently in graduate school, this is probably not news, despite the fact that, every month, a new mainstream media outlet “discovers” the alternative-academia solution to the job market problem (last month, it was Slate).

Nor is it news to the Davis Humanities Institute. Last year saw the launch of PhD Unlimited, the DHI’s own response to the need for graduate career training and counseling at an interdisciplinary and more flexible level. Programs such as PhD Unlimited are essential for moving beyond, “yes, alt-ac!” to “what now?” After all, even for those graduate students who have gotten over the idea of a stigma attached to seeking alternative means of employment, the question remains – what does that look like?

The interesting and problematic answer is that it looks like so many things, from academic administrator positions, to writing and researching for non-profits and NGOs. Exploring these options and what it takes to land these kinds of jobs are the goals of PhD Unlimited’s programming. A workshop and forum last April marked the first event for the initiative, which continues with a variety of events this year (watch the video of last year’s panel, here).

The DHI is hosting a PhD Unlimited meet and greet on Wednesday, October 22 from 4-6:00 pm in Voorhies 228. There, new and returning students from any department can meet the DHI’s staff, learn about the Institute’s resources for current and future alt-ac job-seekers, as well as give feedback on the kinds of programming and information they would like to see offered by the DHI.

Later this fall, Eric Jarosinski, the writer behind the Twitter persona @NeinQuarterly, will give a talk on Thursday, November 6, at 4 pm in Voorhies 126. Until this year, he was an Assistant Professor of German, but now he tweets and writes as a self-styled #FailedIntellectual.  Before the talk, Jarosinski will be in the DHI conference room, Voorhies 228, from 12-1 pm for an informal brown bag discussion with graduate students about life after academia.

In the winter quarter, PhD Unlimited will invite several graduates of the PhD here at UC Davis to serve on a panel to talk about their own paths to alternative academia, answer questions, and give advice.

— Katja Jylkka, DHI Graduate Student Researcher and doctoral student in English