Expand Professionalization Opportunities

Departments should provide students with opportunities to acquire the broad sets of skills, increasingly necessary to their scholarship, that involve experience in collaboration, project management, and grant writing. While the opportunities for expanding the repertoire of skills will no doubt become part of currently established courses, departments should also build partnerships with other units on campus—a humanities center or institute, a digital lab in the library, or the graduate school. On-campus opportunities could take the shape of single events, a series of short credit-bearing courses, or certificate programs. Modules and certificate programs can involve clusters of courses and ad hoc events, and the time devoted to them should count as part of the required course work for the degree. Departments should also support student participation in opportunities outside the university, such as summer institutes that build professional skills. Similarly, professional breadth can be garnered in internships, both in the university and in appropriate external institutions, and through membership and leadership positions in professional associations, such as the MLA. In general, these steps involve moving doctoral programs out of their traditional siloes as a way to strengthen preparation for scholarship and teaching and to provide access to a wider range of career paths.

Departments must make it clear that the number of tenure-track positions is limited: there are not enough positions for all new PhD recipients. Graduate students should therefore consider a wide range of career prospects. Graduate programs should evolve to equip students with the ability to thrive in this changing job market—to do so is in the interest not only of the students but also of the faculty members who are committed to the success of their students.

[Next recommendation: Use the Whole University Community]