University of California, Davis, Humanities Institute

John Marx

At the University of California, Davis, the campus Humanities Institute ( is partnering with departmental directors of graduate studies to develop professionalization programs geared for a widely various job market. In so doing, we mean to avoid the overly neat opposition between academic and alt-ac. Situating the programs at the Humanities Institute instead of any particular department or the campus career center allows us to address the particular challenges facing doctoral candidates in the humanities. It also allows us to address a psychic barrier that often prevents students from imagining themselves as part of a humanities workforce and from participating in nonacademic professional workshops. Students in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are much more likely to avail themselves of the services and programs offered by the campus career center, according to its directors. Bringing these programs in-house at the Humanities Institute lends them a critical imprimatur and reduces the stigma students may feel about seeking advice on nonacademic career paths. Before they can pitch themselves to an employer or transform their CV into a résumé, before they can begin to think of their education in terms of skills learned or expertise acquired, graduate students need to be able to recognize that they are doing more than training to enter a discipline-specific job market.

To this end, we are planning programming for humanities PhDs at several phases of their education. Through panels and breakout sessions, we will introduce students still taking course work to experts and others who can help them deliberately approach their work with an eye on many possible career paths. We will provide career fairs, speed-dating-style informational interviews with possible employers, and workshops for more advanced students and hope eventually to collaborate directly with placement officers in humanities departments preparing students for the tenure-track job market. Ours is very much a pilot program. We rolled out our first programming efforts in spring 2014. Simultaneously, we are compiling a database of UC Davis PhDs in the humanities from the last twenty years, which will provide students with a network of contacts working in a range of positions and institutions. Lastly, we are liaising with offices across our campus—in the graduate studies dean’s office, in the career center, and in the development and alumni relations office—to make existing resources more accessible for humanities students and to make our PhD students and their careers more visible to professionals in those offices.

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