Letter to the Editor

Career Diversity for Historians

Henry D. Fetter, September 2015

To the Editor:

After reading about the AHA’s career diversity initiatives in the first pages of the April issue ofPerspectives on History, it was revealing, to say the least, to turn to the list of nominations for AHA offices later in that issue. Among the 19 nominees listed, exactly one is not in a traditional career path, holding a teaching position. No fewer than 14, by my count, of the nominees are teaching in one of the 108 “most intensive research institutions” (referenced in Vicki L. Ruiz’s “From the President” introductory column), positions that, according to Ruiz, only one-sixth of recent PhDs are securing. None of the nominees is pursuing the alternative “satisfying careers in documentary films, libraries, higher education administration, student affairs, and public policy” touted by Ruiz. It appears that it is easier to talk up the virtues of “career diversity” than to build an organization that honors it. And that is surely a message that shapes the aspirations of graduate students contemplating their own professional futures.

Henry D. Fetter, Los Angeles, CA

Editor’s Note: Career Diversity for Historians aims to highlight the many career trajectories historians already enjoy and to decrease the barriers to pursuing career paths beyond the professoriate. As the AHA enters the second year of this initiative, we thank Henry D. Fetter for reminding us of the importance of this cultural shift. The governance process of the AHA is designed to represent varying aspects of the community of historians. We are pleased that, beginning in January 2016, one-third of the AHA Council will represent institutions beyond “the most research intensive,” including the world of museums, community colleges, high schools, liberal arts colleges, and higher education administration.


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