As we near the end of our NEH Next Generation PhD Planning Grant, the core committee has identified a number of initiatives on which we have made progress during the grant term, and on which we will continue to focus in the coming academic year.
Humanities MA programs and the NEH Next Generation Planning Process
Throughout this Next Generation Planning year, our focus has been on the English and History PhD programs, but we have many other humanities programs that offer MA degrees. Through direct participation from faculty from other departments at our NEH Next Generation PhD and AHA Career Diversity meetings and events, as well as informal conversations among faculty, we have realized how much we can learn from these other programs, and how they could benefit from the work we are doing.
Consequently, to us the focus of both grants on the PhD seems an unnecessary distinction, and that a more general focus on humanities graduate programs could be beneficial. For example, Philosophy maintains a reading list about what to do with the MA degree and tracks their MA student placement in PhD programs, faculty positions, and non-academic careers. Religious Studies has an MA with a
concentration in nonprofit management in collaboration with the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. World Languages and Cultures, Anthropology, Archaeology, and Communication all have clear professional possibilities for their grad students outside of academia. English and History would benefit from involvement from these other humanities disciplines.
Integrating the Student Innovation Fellowship and Graduate Study in the Humanities
PhD students on full funding in English are typically paid for about 100 hours of professionalization work each academic year, in addition to teaching. Beginning Fall 2017, the Department of English will allow PhD students to use their professionalization hours to work on Student Innovation Fellowship (SIF) projects. Instead of more traditional roles like departmental administrative positions, research assistants, or journal staff, interested students will choose a SIF project that provides them with an opportunity to acquire or hone skills and subject matter knowledge relevant to their career goals. By working on a SIF project, these students will also gain experience collaborating on large-scale, public facing, digital scholarship, and build a portfolio of their contributions. For instance, a student might create a map layer or conduct usability research on ATLmaps. They might create an oral history project or learn 3d modeling software to recreate historic objects in a digital environment for Unpacking Manuel’s.
These are projects that have received grants and awards, as well as local, national, and international attention. This agreement with the Department of English is the first version of figuring out how to connect more graduate students to the public digital scholarship supported by the SIF program. We hope to start using this as a model for other departments and for the practicum hours connected to the Digital Humanities certificate currently under development.
Digital Humanities Certificate
The College of Arts and Sciences is making progress toward creating a graduate certificate in Digital Humanities (DH). After researching other programs, our working committee came to the conclusion that we could not justify creating a master’s degree program in DH because of the small sizes of existing degree programs. However we feel confident we can build a convincing case for both the student demand and the market need for the skills and experience that a DH certificate would provide for Masters and PhD students across the university. We plan to require five classes for the certificate. Most would be housed in English and History, with other departments contributing as well, including Communication, Computer Science, Geosciences, and Anthropology. Only two courses would need to be created specifically for the certificate program: an Intro to DH course and a capstone course.
A committee comprised of four faculty members and one staff person has drafted a proposal for the certificate program. We anticipate submitting it and then having it make its way through the various steps toward approval during the upcoming academic year.
Humanities Center Update
For the past few months, the College of Arts and Sciences has been working on a new strategic plan. The process included the creation of five ten-person working groups to focus on specific areas and draft our goals and action items. The working group focused on research made the creation of a Humanities Center one of our top action items as a way to encourage more interdisciplinary awareness both within and outside the college of what faculty members are doing in their research.
The strategic plan will be finalized during the summer of 2017 and then put forward for approval in fall 2017. If all goes as planned, a College-sponsored Humanities Center will emerge from this process.
Connecting Humanities PhDs to GSU Career Services
Until this year, the Career Services Office at GSU has been focused almost solely on undergraduate students. A new director, Catherine Neiner, took over about a year ago, and she has experience working with graduate students. When we contacted her about our career diversity efforts, she responded enthusiastically.
She met with Denise Davidson to learn about our efforts and at that point committed to using some of her resources to supporting graduate students, and especially to helping us build connections to local business with the goal of creating internship opportunities for our students.
Catherine also attended the SIF Showcase and our last public session where she gave a presentation about career building strategies, and she invited our students to meet with her personally for help with their resumés and job searches. It is clear that we now have an enthusiastic partner at the Career Services Office.
Upcoming Changes to Director of Graduate Studies Role
Beginning in Fall 2017, the role of the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) in both English and History will evolve in keeping with our ongoing commitment to the initiatives launched during the Next Generation Planning year. We intend to make the Alumni Connections Workshop which we hosted in August 2016 an annual event jointly funded by the Departments of History and English. The Graduate Directors will work together to co-organize and promote this event every fall semester, drawing on our pool of local alumni to provide insight for our graduate students into non-academic employment opportunities in the Atlanta area and beyond. As part of this commitment, the DGS role will also incorporate systematic tracking of alumni through LinkedIn and other online social and professional networks supported by Graduate Research Assistants with dedicated professionalization assignments in this area. Additionally, the DGS will organize workshops—like those presented during the Planning Year—for students interested in honing their CVs and application materials for employment outside the academy. In the English department, the newly created administrative position of Academic Job Market Coordinator will handle professionalization of graduate students on the academic career path, while the DGS, supported by other interested faculty, will focus attention on non-academic career preparation for graduate students.
Developing Internships For Humanities Graduate Students
As seen throughout the surveys conducted during the Next Generation Planning year, internships are the most frequently identified means of improving non-academic professionalization for humanities graduate students at GSU. The Department of History has a longstanding internship program through their Master of Heritage Preservation curriculum. This year the Department of English approved a Graduate Internship course that can be substituted for required credits in any M.A. or Ph.D. program beginning in Fall 2017. The aim of this course is to provide a structure through which students can apply concepts learned in the classroom to real-world situations in the workplace. As a result, we hope that this course—and the internships that develop out of it—will further our goal of promoting career diversity and providing means of graduate student support beyond traditional teaching and research assistantships.