In 2013, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded the AHA a second grant to examine how the insights of the exploratory phase could be integrated into the culture and practice of doctoral education. Four graduate programs received pilot funding from the AHA to create spaces for conversations about careers beyond the professoriate and identify structural opportunities to broaden career preparation. Over a three-year period, the Career Diversity pilot sites worked with the AHA to experiment with doctoral internship programs, revise professionalization seminars, create new models for courses and coursework, open new community spaces, sponsor regional conferences, create connections with other units on campus, and offer innovative grant funding to graduate students. Smaller grants awarded by the AHA to 10 additional history departments brought an even greater number of programming activities and a wider range of institutions into the mix.

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

  • Preparation for careers outside the academy fundamentally overlaps with preparation for 21st-century careers inside the academy.
  • Learning to be a professional historian cannot be separated from learning to teach history, including engaging with scholarly literature on history education.
  • The first step toward reconsidering a PhD program should be articulating its purpose. A department might choose to align purpose with actual outcomes, aspirations, both, or neither. But the choice should be intentional and publicly articulated.
  • The experiences and learning opportunities that best prepare students for careers in and outside the academy should be integrated into the curriculum rather than be defined as external or supplemental.
  • Faculty leadership is essential. Faculty create the curriculum and set the tone for department culture. As such, they are uniquely positioned to create long-term change.
  • Student participation is crucial. Unless students exercise agency over their career preparation, Career Diversity will have little sustained effect.

The Career Diversity pilot programs made it clear that while conversations about career outcomes for humanities PhDs were national and transdisciplinary in scope, solutions needed to be departmental and disciplinary. Discipline matters because history PhDs identify intensely as historians: many of the most vexing cultural problems associated with Career Diversity revolved around questions of identity. What does it mean to be a historian? Departments matter because PhDs are earned within specific institutional circumstances. Varying resources, cultures, and requirements on individual campuses create unique challenges and opportunities for rethinking doctoral programs.

The pilot sites also affirmed a growing sense that Career Diversity needed to focus as much on what happens during graduate school as it does on what happens after.

Career Diversity, we increasingly understood, was not just an initiative for helping students find jobs. It was also a framework for thinking about the purpose and value of advanced study in the discipline in the rapidly changing landscape of higher education in the 21st century.