2021 Career Diversity for Historians Faculty Institute

Since 2012, the AHA's Career Diversity for Historians initiative has supported faculty from over 40 PhD-granting history departments as they strive to help graduate students prepare for a range of careers, both in and beyond the professoriate. Working with teams of faculty leaders and graduate students, the AHA has learned a lot about the challenges early career historians face and the ways departments can better support them. The 2021 AHA Career Diversity Faculty Institute brought together a working group of faculty leaders to consider the purpose and future of doctoral education, drawing on the insights of previous department-based work. Our common goal was to better align doctoral education in participating departments with a more expansive vision of the professional opportunities available to historians and more effectively articulate the value of history and historical thinking. The Faculty Institute met virtually in a series of four workshops.

Participants in the 2021 Faculty Institute include:

Auburn University
Arizona State University
Boston College
Brown University
Central Michigan University
Duke University
Florida International University
Georgetown University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Graduate Center, CUNY
Louisiana State University
Montana State University
Northwestern University
Pennsylvania State University
Purdue University
Rice University
Simon Fraser University
Texas A&M University
Texas Tech University
University of British Columbia
University of Buffalo, SUNY
University of California, Riverside
University of Colorado, Boulder
University of Delaware
University of Georgia
University of Hawai'i at Manoa
University of Kentucky
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
University of Minnesota
University of Mississippi
University of Missouri
University of Nevada, Reno
University of Nebraska, Lincoln
University of North Texas
University of South Carolina
University of Southern California
University of Tennessee, Knoxville
University of Toronto
University of Western Ontario
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Yale University

Session One: Defining Success & Articulating Purpose (January 29, 2021, 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM Eastern)

History PhD programs from across the country are collaborating with the AHA to better prepare students to succeed in a wide range of careers. These efforts have raised important questions about the purpose of the degree within the rapidly changing landscape of higher education in the 21st century. The success of historians in a wide range of professions speaks to the enduring value of the degree, but the difficult career transitions many of them face suggests the need to better align the core milestones of doctoral programs with the professional opportunities available to historians. As programs explore the contours of what are sometimes called “next-generation PhDs,” one question is at the crux of it all: What is the purpose of your PhD program now

In this workshop, participants:

  • Explored one of the core questions of career diversity and gain insights into how it can be a framework for change
  • Were introduced to a range of practical interventions that department have made to better support their graduate students

Rita Chin, University of Michigan
Alison Frazier, University of Texas, Austin
Kathy Hilliard, Iowa State University
Michael Stamm, Michigan State University
Jim Grossman, American Historical Association

Session Two: Existing Resources: Learning from Students & Alumni and Using the Whole University (February 26, 2021, 12:30 PM to 2:30 PM Eastern)

Successful professional development programs are purpose-centered and take advantage of resources from across the university. In the second Faculty Institute, we drew on focus groups and surveys conducted by participants to discuss how students and alumni can help shape departmental efforts to integrate Career Diversity and enrich conversations about purpose. What do your students and alumni have to say about their purposes for pursuing a PhD? How do they think the department defines it? And, how closely aligned do they feel that the curriculum and structure of the PhD program are with their career goals? We also worked together to assess existing institutional resources to meet the needs identified by faculty, students and alumni.

In this workshop, participant:

  • Discussed advance data drawn from a revised Where Historians Work, along with results of surveys or focus groups of their students and alumni
  • Identified existing institutional resources
  • Developed 1-3 ideas that can be implemented in the coming year

Jim Grossman 
Emily Swafford 
Hope Shannon 
Julia Brookins 
Laura Ansley 
Sarah Weicksel 
Reginald Ellis 
Alexandra Hui 

Session Three: Baking it in: Curricular Change in Support of Career Diversity (March 26, 2021, 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM Eastern)

The curriculum is the heart of doctoral education and a primary expression of departmental priorities and values.  Integrating professional development, including pedagogical training, into the curriculum, provides a vehicle for ensuring that all students explore career paths as part of their course of study and signals that a department considers a breadth of skills an essential part of what it means to be a historian. The third session of the Faculty Institute brought together faculty from a wide range of PhD-granting departments to discuss successful strategies for incorporating professional development into graduate courses.

In this workshop, participants:

  • Learned about a range of creative ideas for curricular change
  • Brainstormed ideas to bring back to faculty in home department

Purnima Dhavan, Univ. of Washington
Sarah Davis-Secord, Univ. of New Mexico
Jonathan Conant, Brown Univ.
Diane Mutti-Burke, Univ. of Missouri Kansas City
Adam Seipp, Texas A&M Univ.
Caitlin Rosenthal, Univ. of California Berkeley

Session Four: Working Group Sessions (April 30, 2021, 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM Eastern)

Our final session consisted of a series of small working groups meeting to discuss topics they have identified as of particular interest to their departmental goals. Participants help shaped session subjects.  

Topics included:

  • Organizing internships and other programs to develop professional experience
  • Creating new/modifying existing professional development seminars (e.g., pedagogy and professionalization seminars)
  • MA programs and Career Diversity
  • Building relationships with other departments and university units 
  • Modifying seminars (e.g., exploring new models for graduate seminars, modifying options in existing coursework, "Mellonizing")
  • Reimagining PhD program admissions processes
  • Involving alumni in Career Diversity efforts (e.g., advisory councils, alumni conferences)
  • Including international students in Career Diversity work
  • Modifying, adding, or eliminating existing program requirements (e.g., finding space for new program requirements, modifying exam and/or dissertation requirements).
  • Changing advising and mentoring norms in your department (e.g., individual development plans, mentoring programs, reimagining department orientations)
  • Students as allies: Involving graduate students (e.g., student advisory committees, HGSAs) in Career Diversity work
  • Building community within the department

Emily Swafford 
Hope Shannon 
Julia Brookins  
Sarah Weicksel