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Higher Ed Leaders Promote Alternative Careers for PhDs

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New efforts are underway to eradicate the stigma associated with nonacademic careers for PhD graduates, according to a recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Scholarly Groups Chip Away at Taboo of Nonacademic Careers” (Chronicle login required). Reporter Lindsay Ellis describes initiatives at the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Historical Association (AHA) to raise awareness among PhD students—especially in the humanities—of alternative careers outside the academy.

MLA and AHA were each awarded an $85,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in December 2012 to identify ways to help graduate departments prepare students for nonacademic careers. Both associations are focusing on alternative careers at their annual meetings in January 2014 and AHA is including nonacademic recruiters in its meeting for the first time; MLA will include nonacademic employers in its meeting as it has in the past.

To reach students on a more personal level, AHA is sharing short video interviews of historians who work outside the academy. Ellis reports that academic departments have started sharing these kinds of stories too, citing examples from University of Pennsylvania, University of Texas at Austin, University of Virginia, and University of California, Berkeley.

ARL exectuive director Elliott Shore, a leader in the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) Postdoctoral Fellowship in Academic Libraries program, is quoted in the article, noting that higher education leaders “speaking up are probably changing the debate” and encouraging cultural change.