New Program To Expand Career Opportunities for Ph.D Students

Duke is giving humanities doctoral students new career paths

With the help of a $350,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), Duke University is creating a program that will enhance the curriculum and expand career opportunities for doctoral students in the humanities.

The three-year grant from the NEH will be matched with a similar amount of funding from the university.  Duke is one of three recipients of an implementation grant, along with the University of Chicago and the University of Delaware.

The program will support skills training relevant for both academic and non-academic career paths, a wide array of new internship opportunities, and curricular innovations that incorporate collaborative research, computational humanities/media, and engagement with policy analysis.

“Duke has made significant investments in interdisciplinary doctoral education for the humanities and interpretive social sciences, as well as resources for career development,” said Ed Balleisen, vice provost for interdisciplinary studies and one of the co-directors of the grant. “We intend to use the NEH grant to amplify the most effective innovations at Duke and to integrate each of these pieces into a more cohesive whole.”

Added Paula D. McClain, the dean of Duke’s Graduate School, “We want to prepare our doctoral students to make a difference, whether within academia, in NGOs, in government agencies or the private sector. From the moment our students arrive on campus, we are working to help them explore and prepare for a wide range of career possibilities.”

These efforts will involve a variety of resources and partners, including:

-- A competitive grants process to encourage Duke departments to develop and test new curricular ideas.

-- Competitive paid internships that offer students relevant perspectives on their dissertation research, as well as experience in project management. Duke will partner with such organizations as RTI International, the National Humanities Center, the American Historical Association and local museums, including the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the Durham History Hub.

-- Duke alumni, who will provide networking opportunities, advise students on career paths and explore internships outside of academia;

-- A full-time “navigator” position to support students as they consider co-curricular opportunities and weigh career options, and to help faculty, departmental leaders and alumni similarly support students.

The grant will facilitate partnerships across campus, linking departmental graduate programs to the Graduate School, the Franklin Humanities Institute, Duke Libraries, the Social Sciences Research Institute, the Career Center and to Bass Connections, a university-wide initiative that brings together faculty and students of all levels to engage in research to tackle societal challenges.

Since 2003, roughly half of Duke’s Ph.D. recipients in the humanities and interpretive social sciences have found tenure-track positions teaching at colleges and universities. A growing number of graduate students have expressed interest in expanding their training to incorporate such arenas as social entrepreneurship or policy analysis.

“In recent years, we have engaged in efforts to prepare students for non-academic careers, but we can do much more to expand intellectual horizons, extend analytical skills and foster a cultural transformation in how we envisage the societal impacts of humanistic expertise,” said Deborah Jenson, director of the Franklin Humanities Institute and the other co-director of the grant.

“This comprehensive program will establish intellectual versatility as a core goal of our doctoral training,” she added.