Graduate Roundtable: Exploring Alternative Academic Careers: How Your History Ph.D. Can Serve You in Diverse Careers beyond Teaching in the Discipline

AHA Session 243
Coordinating Council for Women in History 6
Monday, January 5, 2015: 8:30 AM-10:30 AM
Sutton North (New York Hilton, Second Floor)
Nancy Dallett, Arizona State University
The Skills of a Historian Applied to a Career in Archives
Melanie Sturgeon, Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records
The Skills of a Historian Applied to a Career in Museum Exhibition
Marci Reaven, New-York Historical Society
The Skills of a Historian Applied to a Career in Publishing
Alisa Plant, Louisiana State University Press

Session Abstract

Inspired by the report of L. Maren Wood and Robert B. Townsend “The Many Careers of History PhDs: A Study of Job Outcomes, Spring 2013,” that they presented to the American Historical Association, and by the crisis in the current job market for History PhDs, this round table explores a variety of careers outside of the professorate that are open to History PhDs.  Only half the History PhDs from the period 1998 – 2009 received tenure-track positions at four-year colleges and universities; the data from the period since 2009 may be even worse since we read about the tendency of colleges and universities to employ an increasing number of adjunct or contingency faculty.  Many History PhDs are languishing in unfulfilling positions or are under- or unemployed.  On the contrary, however, many History PhDs have found intellectually challenging and fulfilling positions outside academia and have achieved positions of power in their particular aspect of the History profession and in other disciplines. This panel will therefore be of interest, and will also be encouraging and helpful, to a vast number of History PhDs. 

The panelists, all historians in leadership professions, aim to inform and inspire historians to explore a wide range of career options outside the professorate.  They have much to share and model about the diverse turns and directions intellectually fulfilling careers can take beyond the academy while using the skills and knowledge they acquired as historians. The panelists in this round table represent scholars in diverse and powerful positions from across the United States and will discuss various aspects of their jobs and the variety strategies they learned to succeed. 

The panel includes a senior museum curator, a senior acquisitions editor of a major university press, a director of state archives, a director of cultural resources for the National Park Service, and a director of a state historical society.  All will speak about their professions and career trajectories. Each panelist has developed strategies to grapple with competing narratives, diverse academic disciplines, cross-disciplinary collaboration, the power and purpose of boards and sponsors/funders, and the competition for public attention and audiences. These historians forged individual pathways, remained open to diverse challenges and opportunities, gained expertise in different disciplines, and found routes to productive and rewarding careers.  The round table presentation will lead to questions and discussion from the audience.

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