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Help for Humanities PhDs in Managing Their Careers

by Cathy Cockrell, Public Affairs
posted October 14, 1998

A career management skills workshop for doctoral students, held Sept. 26-27 at the Townsend Center, ended with a standing ovation from 40 participating English department PhD candidates.

The two-day pilot grew out of the findings of "PhDs: 10 Years Later," a national study of the career paths of 6,000 PhDs from 61 U.S. universities, said Maresi Nerad, director of graduate research in the Graduate Division and codirector of the study with Vice Chancellor for Research Joseph Cerny.

Because of the tight academic job market, "the late stage of graduate school is often demoralizing for students in the humanities," noted Elizabeth Armstrong, a research associate for the Graduate Division.

The workshop was funded by the Graduate Division and based on an earlier, successful program that the Center for Particle Astrophysics created for science PhDs.

As a supplement to academic placement services, the workshop sought to help English PhD candidates assess potential career paths -- in academia, business, the non-profit sector or government. Through participatory exercises, group discussions and panel presentations, they built skills essential to making informed career choices and moving concretely toward career goals.

"Part of the goal seemed to be affirmation: we graduate students do have talents, do have skills we can apply to the world beyond our classrooms," said fifth-year graduate student Ramu Nagappan. "But we also spent a lot of time thinking specifically about how we could market our skills where we could use those skills most productively.

"After those two long days," he said,"I've never seen a bunch of students in our department seem so enthusiastic and optimistic."

According to Nerad, the workshop may serve as a model for similar career workshops in other humanities disciplines.

For information call 643-2792.


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