About Career Diversity

The Pilot Phase

In 2014, the Mellon Foundation awarded the AHA a grant to launch Career Diversity for Historians, which supports an exploration of the culture and practice of doctoral education in history. The initiative included substantial programming at the AHA annual meeting and the creation of several key resources for students and faculty. Pilot programs at Columbia University; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of Chicago; and the University of New Mexico devised new courses and programming, including doctoral internships, revised professionalization seminars, new community spaces, and innovative grants for graduate students. In addition, ten departmental grant recipients worked to implement programming and activities aimed at career preparation for graduate students.

The most important lessons to emerge from the pilot phase were that:

  1. Preparation for careers outside the academy fundamentally overlaps with preparation for 21st century careers inside the academy, both professorial and otherwise.
  2. Learning to be a professional historian cannot be separated from learning to teach history, including engaging with scholarly literature on history education.
  3. Only 1 in 6 history PhDs pursue careers as faculty at R1 institutions, despite the fact that most graduate programs are designed with this career outcome in mind.
  4. The experiences and learning opportunities that best prepare students for careers inside and outside the academy should be integrated into the curriculum rather than be defined as external or supplemental.
  5. The first step towards reconsidering a PhD program should be articulating its purpose. A department can choose to align purpose with actual outcomes, aspirations, both, or neither. But the choice should be intentional.

Pilot Programs

Departmental Grant Recipients

The Next Phase

In December 2016, the Mellon Foundation awarded the AHA a $1.5 million grant to continue and expand its work on Career Diversity for Historians. The expansion of the initiative will help history departments better articulate the purpose and value of the history PhD, as well as continue the AHA’s path-breaking work in creating new resources for graduate students and early career historians. At the center of this next phase is a two-fold realization: that the skills and attributes required for a broader range of career paths also make for better professorial work, and that history PhDs are unevenly prepared for the teaching and administrative aspects of faculty positions in the 21st-century world of higher education. The goal of this work is to empower doctoral students to explore a variety of careers, and to help departments become more deliberate about how their graduate curricula and programming align with their students’ career aspirations and actual outcomes.

Over the next three years, the new grant will enable the AHA to expand the impact of its Career Diversity initiative by addressing central questions about structural and cultural issues in graduate education. At the center of the Next Phase will be a cohort of Career Diversity Fellows, essentially two-year assistantships in higher education administration working with faculty teams in up to 20 history departments. In order to be eligible to host a Career Diversity Fellow, departments will first participate in a set of yearlong faculty institutes. These institutes will bring the insights gleaned from Career Diversity’s four pilot sites to up to 40 doctoral programs and will emphasize the convergence between maintaining rigorous research standards and preparing PhD students for work both beyond the professoriate and as teachers in higher education. Participants will be selected from an open call for applications. 

Faculty Institutes

    • Three fully funded, in-person meetings of faculty from up to 40 institutions
    • Online support as well as collaborative “assignments” between the institutes, e.g.: holding meetings with administrators to map plans for campus-based internships, or with the career center or with center for teaching and learning staff to outline resources available to graduate students
    • The institutes will prepare faculty to work with department alumni, as well as the university career center and center for teaching and learning, to develop coherent programming for doctoral students exploring the diversity of careers outside the academy and within the tenure track
    • At the end of the institute, faculty will have begun to develop a process to articulate the purpose of the PhD in history from their department, and gained an understanding of the evaluation of the graduate curriculum by the graduate faculty as an iterative process.
    • Participating in the faculty institutes will make departments eligible to host a Career Diversity Fellow.

Career Diversity Fellows

    • Assistantships in higher education administration located within up to 20 history departments for two years.
      • Departments will receive a $7,500 per year to subsidize the Fellows' stipends, as well as an $8,000 operating fund to be spent over two years.
      • Collaboration across departments will be encouraged and additional funds to facilitate collaboration will be disbursed by the AHA.
    • Strong applications will demonstrate a deep understanding of how the applicant’s doctoral program currently serves (and perhaps fails) its students; extensive planning and outreach across its campus; and significant buy-in from faculty members and university administration, including demonstrated support from the department chair, director
    • The Fellow will work closely with a faculty team to coordinate programming and events with the department and to assist the faculty in the following activities:
      • Create links to career and alumni offices, centers for teaching and learning, and other appropriate units such as humanities centers
      • Create on-campus internships, following an assistantship model
      • Develop programming to expose students to different teaching environments
      • Assist faculty in organizing/redesigning a departmental pedagogy course.
      • Assist faculty in organizing/redesigning a departmental professionalization course that shifts from the current emphasis on the transition from graduate student to “academic professional” (in the mode of research scholar) to the kinds of values and skills outlined in this proposal
      • Administer AHA survey on graduate career aspirations, in collaboration with AHA staff

Important Dates (Tentative)

February 27, 2017 - CFPs for Faculty Institutes announced
April 17, 2017 - Applications due for Faculty Institutes
June 8-9, 2017 - First Faculty Institute, Washington, DC 
October 19-20, 2017 - Second Faculty Institute, Chicago, IL
Jan 2018 - Final workshop, Washington, DC (AHA annual meeting)
Jan 2018 - Applications to host Career Diversity Fellow due
March 2018 - Selections for Career Diversity Fellows announced
June 2018 - Orientation for Fellows, with faculty teams, Washington, DC, Date TBD
Jan 2019 - Workshop for Fellows at AHA annual meetings in Chicago
Jan 2020 - Workshop for Fellows at AHA annual meeting in New York