AltAc and the Engaged PhD

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Without diminishing the centrality of the PhD research endeavor, how can we cultivate more engaged graduate students?

This presentation situates the graduate research endeavor in its wider institutional and public context and suggests two concrete ways to give PhDs enhanced skills that will enable them to enrich their institutions and the wider world they inhabit.

For the full text of the presentation, see The Engaged PhD.

Cultivating an Online Scholarly Presence

By | Presentation: Interactive, Presentation: Other, Presentations, The Graduate Experience, Vita | 5 Comments

Graduate students are often confronted with conflicting advice about how much of their academic work they should share publicly online.

Although there are good reasons to consider carefully what one shares and how, graduate students who do not intentionally cultivate an online scholarly presence will increasingly be at a disadvantage both professionally and academically.

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Expanding the Humanities PhD Market

By | The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | One Comment

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently published an article Susan Welch and I wrote about the data the College has collected since 1996 on the placement of our graduate students in the social sciences and the humanities. In it we focus on how the 2008 recession affected placements for our humanities PhDs.

The short story, as mentioned in the article, is that “the impact of the 2008 recession was far more severe on our humanities PhDs than it was on their counterparts in the social sciences.”

We said that the trend away from tenure-line positions toward more non-tenure line positions is “worrisome,” but it is of course not surprising. Major colleges and universities, including ours, increasingly rely on fixed-term lecturers to provide high quality and dedicated teaching for our undergraduates. In the College of the Liberal Arts at Penn State, we have sought to ensure that our lecturers receive good benefits, are integrated into the academic life of the College, and have fair, renewable contracts.

Still, the deeper question in relation to the placement of Humanities PhDs is how to respond to a situation in which the market of tenure-line positions for which we train students continues to be anemic. We didn’t have space to address this in the article, nor would it have been appropriate in that context.

However, there are a number of strategies we have adopted in the College to give our Humanities PhDs experiences that can help expand the markets in which they might more effectively compete.

First, we have developed the Humanities in a Digital Age initiative in collaboration with the University Libraries. Here is how we articulate its purpose and value:

The HDA initiative was created to enhance the research and public profiles of humanities faculty in the College and the University Libraries, open new opportunities for high caliber graduate placements in the humanities, and enrich the undergraduate experience by providing undergraduate students access to and support for cutting-edge humanities research.

By combining digital literacies with advanced humanities degrees, we hope to open new markets for our Humanities PhDs. These students bring advanced communication, analytic and critical capacities to their digital work and learn how to effectively use technology to build community, work collaboratively and engage a wider public beyond the academy.

Second, we have created a Graduate Internship Program for our social science and humanities PhD students. The program is designed to provide PhD students with an opportunity to learn more about the work of the wider university and to develop a wider range of marketable skills. This is how we put it on the website:

Recognizing that graduate students in the humanities and social sciences have highly sought-after writing, communication, and quantitative skills that can enrich the operations of units across the university, the Liberal Arts Graduate Internship Program (GRIP) is designed to connect graduate students in the liberal arts with those university units that can most benefit from their expertise.

We are working with units across the university to create a variety of these internship experiences. The hope is that such experiences will enable Humanities PhDs who obtain a tenure-line appointment to become more effective young faculty because they will have a better sense of how a university operates. But we also want to open new opportunities to those students who, by choice or necessary, pursue a career off the tenure-track.

Third, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities at Penn State has recently become a member of the Humanities Without Walls consortium. One of the main initiatives of the consortium is to help pre-doctoral students in the humanities pursue meaningful careers outside the academy.

Finally, speaking of alternative academic careers in the humanities, the Center for American Literary Studies (CALS) is hosting a symposium this spring on #Alt-Ac careers on March 3rd, 2014. I am looking forward to presenting on a panel about #Alt-Ac careers in the Liberal Arts.

All of these initiatives, however, are designed to augment and support our ongoing attempt to educate creative, incisive, and visionary scholars in the humanities.

A Domain of Your Own

By | The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 5 Comments

As a graduate student in the digital age, you need a domain of your own.

First of all, you will be Googled, and when you are, your domain should appear early in the results as the fulcrum of a carefully cultivated online identity.

Second, in order to leverage the power of the social web to cultivate a community of scholars interested in your work, you need a domain to which to point your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter, and those who have circled you on Google+.

In thinking about your online presence as a graduate student or academic, it is helpful to conceive of it as a kind of ecosystem in which various elements work together to offer the public a picture of who you are and the work you are doing.

A canonical website – a domain of your own – should provide the essential nutrients of your online ecosystem. To create one, register your name or, if you have a relatively common name, register a unique name that identifies you across a wide spectrum of websites. It is not too expensive to register a domain name with a service like Blue Host, for example. Even if you decide to host your site somewhere else, it is important to register your domain so you have some control over your online identity.

Once you have a website setup under your domain, consider it the place in which you document your research, write reflectively on your scholarship, and invite others to discover your work. You might also use the site to curate content about a hobby of interest so as to give people a more well rounded sense of who you are. At minimum, anything you would put on your CV should be added your website and amplifed through various social media channels.

Depending on your area of research, one social media channel might be more important than another. There is a robust and influential community of Digital Humanists on Twitter, for example; while Academic.edu seems to be emerging as a kind of Linkedin for academics.

In this regard, Google Plus has a special role to play. Even if you are not very active on Google Plus, it is worth creating a profile and posting your work there because Google is beginning to integrate G+ into its core business operations, and specifically search. Once you create a G+ profile, you should link it to your domain. This allows Google to associate your G+ profile with the content you author on your site so they are able to serve information about you up with links they present in search results. When it’s set up, this is what is looks like in Google Search:

Chris Long Author G+

Here you can see the way information about you as author is connected with content you wrote to authenticate both the value of the link and your status as author. Once this connection is established, you will be better able to control the content associated with your name when a potential employer or an interested student or colleague Googles you to find out more about your work.

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The Googled Graduate Student

By | The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 4 Comments

It is going to happen. Maybe not today or this week, but eventually, you will be Googled.

I am not talking about being Googled by an old friend interested in what you might be up to these days, but about the kind of Googling academics do when we are interested in learning more about the work of a young scholar.

Often, of course, this happens during a job search, but it can also happen in the course of your graduate education as you cultivate new professional relationships through disciplinary organizations and public appearances at conferences.

When it happens, you will want content you created to appear early and often in the search results.

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Digital Dialogue 21: Rhetoric and Philosophy

By | Digital Dialogue Podcast | No Comments

Axelle Karera, graduate student in Philosophy at Penn State, and Nicolas Parra, who is a visiting student at Penn State as he completes his M.A. degree from Universidad de los Andes in Bogata, Columbia, join me for episode 21 of the Digital Dialogue.

The impetus for this episode was a brief exchange between Axelle and Nicolas on the blog entitled: Gorgias and Socrates: The Feast of Friendship.  I thought it would be excellent to invite them to the Digital Dialogue to discuss the issues they raised there about the possibility of a noble kind of rhetoric, one that would not necessitate a polemical relationship between rhetoric and philosophy.

There were a number of passages to which Nicolas and Axelle appealed in the course of the discussion.  Nicolas referred to these:

  1. (455d7-456c5) where Gorgias uncovers to Socrates the power of rhetoric and tells his story with the sick person and his brother, the physician.
  2. (497b5-11) Gorgias’ first intervention in the conversation of Socrates with Callicles.
  3. (506a10-506b3) Gorgias’ second intervention in the conversation of Socrates with Callicles.
  4. (521d7-522a8) Socrates’ statement that he is the one who practices the true political art and where he compares himself with a doctor.
  5. (503b1-2) Socrates’ allusion to a rhetoric aiming towards the just that has not yet been seen. (504d6-504e2) Socrates ilustrates what would it mean to be a good rhetor.

Axelle reports the following:

I referred specifically to the analogies in the Protogoras. The relevant passages are: 329c-333c.

The crucial debate between Protagoras and Socrates about the unity of virtue (argued by using the analogies) is found from 349b-360d.

Finally, Socrates recognizes that he seems to have finished the conversation by endorsing Protagoras’ position (which was contrary to his at the beginning), and vice versa for Protagoras, is found on 361a-362a.

In the spirit of the last Digital Dialogue, I have tried to add a picture to give a sense of interlocutors and of the context of the discussion.

Time Management for Graduate Students

By | Presentation: Other, Presentations, The Graduate Experience, The Long Road | 10 Comments

One of the most difficult things for new Graduate Students to manage effectively is their time. This is in large part because graduate study has built into it large segments of unstructured time that can easily be wasted. One of the most important skills graduate students can learn early in their career is how to structure their time effectively.
I have gathered here some suggestions that might help students take control of their time so that it can be used most productively.

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