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AHA’s Jim Grossman says history PhDs have a bright future if they pick up these 5 missing skills

Historians in the News
tags: education, history crisis



No humanities discipline has embraced the idea of career diversity more than history, and that’s in part because the American Historical Association and its executive director, James Grossman, have backed the effort.

The association received a $1.6-million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in 2014 to broaden the career paths of history doctoral students. The grant was distributed to four institutions: Columbia University and the Universities of Chicago, New Mexico, and California at Los Angeles.

The chief insight gleaned so far, Mr. Grossman says, is that the skills that enable success beyond the professoriate are also crucial to the work of 21st-century professors. That caused a shift in how he and others are thinking about the careers effort. What began with a focus on jobs has broadened into an examination of how graduate students are trained.

Mr. Grossman spoke to The Chronicle about what they’ve learned so far, whether history doctorates are being overproduced, and why programs need to pay attention to their doctoral students’ career prospects. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you prepare a student for nonacademic careers without diminishing the rigors of their academic training?

History Ph.D. recipients are qualified for a lot more things than people think. They learn to understand how change happens. Combining that with teaching experience is fabulous leadership training. We do that well. What we’re missing are five basic skills that can be integrated into existing programs: communication, collaboration, quantitative literacy, intellectual self-confidence, and digital literacy. Just looking at the first one, when I received my Ph.D. in 1982, learning how to teach meant learning how to conduct a seminar and lecture. That’s not going to cut it anymore. You need to have much more sophisticated presentation skills and be versed in digital skills. You can’t just stand up there and talk for 50 minutes. ...

Read entire article at The Chronicle of Higher Education


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