Historians urge departments to back grad students who choose alternative careersHistorians in the News
tags: education, alternative academic
“Alt-ac” is so 2017. That was a recurring theme at last week’s annual meeting of the American Historical Association, where numerous sessions sought correct the field’s historical tendency to prepare graduate students for tenure-track jobs alone.
“The most important message that I’ve found I can give my students is to just be fearless -- that when you leave this program you will have a more powerful, more well-trained, more flexible mind than 99 percent of the labor force, literally,” said Edward R. Dickinson, chair of history at the University of California, Davis, during a discussion following a panel called “Collaboration for Career Diversity: Locating Expertise at the Institutional and National Levels.”
Dickinson stressed the importance of career diversity as well as diverse individual careers, due in part to his own experiences working inside and outside academe. He said he tells students, “You have an incredible engine. You can hook it up to lots of jobs.”
Alt-ac, shorthand for alternative-academic careers and now derided by many as suggesting that nonfaculty jobs are somehow inferior, might even be so 2011. That’s when the American Historical Association’s executive director, James Grossman, and its then president, Anthony T. Grafton of Princeton University, co-authored “No More Plan B: A Very Modest Proposal for Graduate Programs in History.” Citing the diminishing number of tenure-track history positions, the essay urged departments to remind graduate students early, often and enthusiastically of the many career paths open to them. Beyond that, Grossman and Grafton asked departments to make good on those assurances by rethinking aspects of graduate training. ...
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