PhD Unlimited Provides Much-Needed Career Training for Humanities and Social Science Grads

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It is no secret that increasing numbers of humanities PhDs are seeking and finding employment beyond the tenure track. A 2015 MLA study found that half of modern language PhDs do not hold tenured or tenure-track positions: many work in “alt-ac” jobs in higher ed, while over a fifth have found employment outside of postsecondary education. Academic institutions are catching on to this trend, and in recent years the MLA’s Connected Academics project and the UC Humanities Research Institute’s Humanists@Work Initiative both worked to support graduate students preparing for a variety of careers. Still, many PhD students wonder how to find professional development resources if they are not planning on following in their adviser’s footsteps.

PhD Unlimited, a signature program of the DHI that has been running continuously since 2014, is intended to fill the gap that grads experience in professional training. Many departments offer guidance on the academic job market, but students have expressed a desire for resources that address the broader range of possible careers available to them after graduation. “We designed PhD Unlimited to offer resources for graduate students in the arts, humanities, and humanistic social sciences as they prepare for careers within and beyond the university,” said Stephanie Maroney, current Mellon Public Scholars Program Manager and former Interim Associate Director at the DHI.

Grantwriting 101, the first PhD Unlimited event of 2020, will build skills broadly relevant to Ph.D.s in the humanities and social sciences. On January 28, guest speaker Sarah Messbauer, who works as Coordinator of Grantsmanship Programs at the UC Davis Office of Research and holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology from UC Davis, will help attendees understand how to identify the right funders, make a powerful argument for a project, and tune applications to the selection process. 

On February 25, Kem Saichie, PhD, Associate Director for Learning and Teaching Support at the Center for Educational Effectiveness, will lead Writing a Teaching Statement. That event will provide an overview of writing strategies and key elements to include in statements of teaching philosophy. Saichaie’s workshop seeks to demystify the writing process for this key component of the academic job application and help participants succeed in writing impactful statements that grab and sustain the attention of hiring committees.

Spring quarter’s programming will kick off on April 28 with Ted-Worthy Presentations, led by Adam Napolitan, Director of Web Communications at the UC Davis Office of Strategic Communications. Napolitan will discuss how to create presentations that engage audiences, whether they be a classroom of students or a hiring committee. Then, on May 26, Sarah McCullough, Associate Director at the Feminist Research Institute, will lead Curating Your Digital Identity. Along with McCullough, attendees will ask big picture questions about digital engagement for PhDs and discuss how to create an online presence that fits one’s goals, community, and inclinations.

All PhD Unlimited events are held from 12-1 and include free lunch. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP through the DHI website. Two successful PhD Unlimited events were held in Fall Quarter: Exploring Careers with Versatile PhD, and Publicly Engaged Research and Mellon Public Scholars.

For more career exploration tools for grad students, see: