Graduate and Early Career Committee 2009

by Ryan Linkof, Co-Chair

I have had the pleasure and privilege to serve as co-chair of the AHA’s Graduate and Early Career Committee (GECC), alongside Elise Lipkowitz and under the advisorship of Noralee Frankel, for the past three years. 2009 proved to be a very fruitful year for GECC. Over the past year, GECC has taken seriously the mission to expand the mandate of the committee to early career professionals (ECPs). We have continued to advocate for graduate student issues, as well as speaking to the needs of, and attempting to provide helpful advice and counsel to, recently-minted PhDs.

Perhaps most notably, 2009 marked the release of GECC’s collaborative pamphlet From Concept to Completion: A Dissertation-Writing Guide for History Students. The pamphlet brought together 14 well-known historians, each producing essays discussing one aspect of the dissertation writing process. The work has been well received and has become the highest selling AHA pamphlet in history. The success of that pamphlet will hopefully carry over to GECC’s newest endeavor, a pamphlet authored by Dana Marie Polanichka entitled Getting an Academic Job in History. This pamphlet lays out, in clear and instructive language, the steps that graduate students can take to prepare themselves for the rigors of the academic job market. We have also started working on a much smaller document that will provide a helpful outline of the major issues that graduate students should be aware of before entering into the dissertation defense. This document will eventually appear on the GECC web page.

AHA production manager Chris Hale in consultation with the committee finished a video that documents the experiences of graduate students in the Job Center at the AHA. A link to the video can be found on the Annual Meeting page. Also with regard to the AHA annual meeting, we sent out an orientation e-mail to all graduate student members that highlighted all of the GECC-sponsored and graduate student and ECP-related events. The e-mail also provided information as to registration, hotels, and other incidental details.

Expanding access to early career professionals  was a major priority in 2009, as we attempted to make the transition from a strictly graduate student committee. We have managed to get a new ECP rate for AHA membership, which is an important step in maintaining membership for those who occupy the economic middle-ground between graduate student and tenure-track professor.  We also have attempted to generate new material for the GECC web page that is germane to the needs and interests of ECPs.

The incorporation of ECP issues into the GECC mandate is evidenced in our proposed panels for the 2011 annual meeting in Boston. We plan on co-sponsoring and helping organize a day’s worth of events discussing issues related to the task of teaching at the professorial level.  We also plan on composing a panel addressing the problem of balancing writing, teaching and service, as well as a panel on the job search (perennially popular), incorporating a discussion of jobs outside of academia, as well as the traditional academic career path.  Finally, we are putting together a panel on graduate student mentoring, to help students come to terms with the dynamics of the advisor/advisee relationship.  As part of our annual Open Forum session, we are asking participants to fill out a survey that asks questions about the effect of the recent economic recession on their professional lives. We will use this information not only to stimulate discussion in the session, but also to generate new material, and new sets of issues, for GECC to address. 

As I finish out my last year in rotation at GECC, I want to thank Noralee Frankel for her terrific stewardship, as well as the excellent work and commitment of my co-chair Elise Lipkowitz, without whom, I am certain, much of this work would never have been done.