The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is one of 28 schools across the country that has received a grant to explore ways to help humanities students seeking doctoral degrees find careers outside of academia.
The university announced last week it received a $25,000 planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to develop new curriculum, boost faculty mentorship and advising programs and begin building an alumni network to support students in doctoral programs.
Next year, members of a planning committee set up by UWM to oversee the project plan to apply for a second grant, which could be worth more than $2 million, to implement curriculum changes and networking programs developed with the planning grant.
Jason Puskar, associate professor of English and director of Graduate Studies at UWM, said most students seeking PhDs in subjects such as English or History, enter into their degree programs with the intention of becoming professors and starting careers in academia, but many end up landing jobs in a variety of different fields.
“Only about 50 percent of all people who complete their PhDs get tenure track jobs,” Puskar said. “That’s been the case for decades, and since the financial crisis, it’s been even leaner than that. We feel we have a responsibility to our students to think a little bit more broadly.”
Puskar said little data has been kept on where doctoral students find jobs after graduation, and part of the purpose of the grants is to begin paying closer attention to how the skills learned in doctoral programs for the humanities can be applied more broadly to careers in different fields, while at the same time introducing students to career paths they may not have considered before.
“Humanities PhDs are highly trained specialists whose expertise translates well into many kinds of roles that require critical analysis and creative thinking,” said David Clark, the associate dean of the humanities in UWM’s College of Letters & Science. “As a result, for many years they have found employment outside of academia, often in really interesting roles we hadn’t even imagined. This grant will work with faculty, past and current students, and partners in the local business and non-profit communities to make training for non-academic roles a more central and deliberate part of what we do.”
The university said in a statement it will begin evaluating whether to add certain courses in scientific and technical communication to its doctoral programs.