Thanks to Bethany Nowviskie (@nowviskie), I just read “No More Plan B – A Very Modest Proposal for Graduate Programs in History”, by Anthony Grafton, the president of the American Historical Association, and Jim Grossman, the AHA’s executive director. In a nutshell, Grafton and Grossman encourage us to get beyond the post-PhD binary of “tenure track job” or “Plan B”.

I left the university, ABD, to take a job at the National Film Board of Canada (the move, I was told by my academic friends and colleagues, spelled “the end of my academic career”). Most of the friends that I made in graduate school ended up outside the ivory tower, in areas including public history, polling, government relations, and fundraising. They have achieved considerable success (and impressive salaries).

This is the (often happy) reality, and Grafton and Grossman say our PhD programs should account for it. A chunk of my summer was dedicated to surveying digital humanities PhD courses, and then developing one for my university’s new Humanities PhD program. Along the way, I got to think long and hard about what a PhD should look like in 2011.

Here’s the paragraph from Grafton and Grosman that jumps out at me:
“…A second, and much bigger, step would be to examine the training we offer, and work out how to preserve its best traditional qualities while adding new options. If we tell new students that a history PhD opens many doors, we need to broaden the curriculum to ensure that we’re telling the truth. If the policy arena offers opportunities, and we think it does, then interested students need some space (and encouragement) to take courses in statistics, economics, or public policy. Accounting, acting, graphic design, advanced language training: students thinking at once creatively and pragmatically have all sorts of options at our research universities. And of course there’s the whole exploding realm of digital history and humanities, and the range of skills required to practice them.”