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KU receives NEH grant for alternative academic doctoral training

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

LAWRENCE— A National Endowment for the Humanities grant awarded to the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Hall Center for the Humanities will allow the University of Kansas to develop transformations in doctoral education that will redefine the humanities Ph.D. for the 21st century.

The Next Generation Humanities Ph.D. Planning Grant is a new funding opportunity offered by the NEH. It is “tackling the issue of how Ph.D. students who immerse themselves deeply in graduate humanities research and writing can look to apply their skills and experience beyond teaching and professor positions to a broader range of careers,” according to the NEH. A total of $25,000 was awarded to co-principal investigators and steering committee members Paul Kelton, associate dean for the humanities in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and professor of history; Kristine Latta, director of the College Office of Graduate Affairs; and Sally Utech, associate director of the Hall Center for the Humanities.

The need for doctoral education reform is a common refrain in pages of the higher education press and in recent book-length treatments on the topic. While KU humanities doctoral recipients enjoy overall higher rates of job market success than the national average — 77 percent of those who reported indicated that they have positions in the higher education sector — recent national research raises serious doubts about the future prospects of faculty employment.

Yet students are primarily trained to seek and taught to value increasingly scarce faculty positions. Studies have demonstrated that humanities faculty are trying to provide guidance and training for nonacademic jobs, but the doctoral education that students receive does not address all of their needs. And faculty stress that any proposed changes should not compromise high academic standards in their programs.

A humanities planning group, comprised of faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, graduate students, and community and industry partners, will make recommendations to transform doctoral education at KU in two ways. First, the group will strive to create departmental cultures in the humanities that recognize and value the range of careers open to humanities doctoral recipients, particularly those outside of the university. Second, the group will make recommendations to allow humanities departments to offer training that more closely aligns with the range of jobs available to Ph.D. graduates.

To make specific recommendations, the planning group has created working groups, which will conduct research, make assessments and provide recommendations that can be implemented for five targeted areas in humanities doctoral education. The working groups and their chairs are:

  • Doctoral Curriculum, chaired by Bruce Hayes, associate professor of and chair of French & Italian
  • Engaged Scholarship, chaired by Catherine Batza, assistant professor in Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies
  • Graduate Alumni Engagement, chaired by Jonathan Perkins, director of the Ermal Garinger Academic Resource Center and alumnus of KU’s Department of Slavic Languages & Literatures
  • Employer Connections, chaired by Kim Schotte, KU history doctoral alumna
  • Recruitment and Admissions, chaired by Stuart Day, professor in Spanish & Portuguese and interim senior vice provost for academic affairs

To provide the greatest breadth of perspective possible, the working groups will be comprised of graduate alumni, current graduate students, humanities faculty members, administrators, key professional staff and library faculty, career development professionals and stakeholders beyond the university.

For more information, contact Paul Kelton, Kristine Latta, or Sally Utech.