Grant creates new career possibilities for ASU doctoral students

A teleconference for the first Connected Academics event

Arizona State University will reshape the future of doctoral students in humanities by opening doors to a wider range of careers, professional opportunities and earning potential, says George Justice, dean of Humanities in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The university was one of only three in the nation to receive support for this effort in a grant from the Modern Language Association and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers is funded through August 2019.

“ASU has expressed an unprecedented commitment to change in the structures and outcomes of graduate degrees in the humanities,” said Rosemary Feal, executive director of the Modern Language Association. Feal believes that ASU's efforts will serve as a model for other institutions.

“What we are doing is creating students who are going to take a very creative rather than traditional approach to their lives,” Justice said. “This training will transform the kinds of work in the world, in cultural institutions, in government and non-government organizations that PhDs in humanities can do.”

Innovations for doctoral training in languages and literature provided by the grant will include:

• entrepreneurial mentoring through a variety of resources at ASU

• the establishment of a “Humanities Project Fund” for applied research projects that involve cross-training in new skills or cross-disciplinary collaboration

• an interdisciplinary digital humanities seminar series in cooperation with ASU’s IHR Nexus Lab for Digital Humanities and Transdisciplinary Informatics, as well as a new Graduate Certificate in Digital Humanities

• assistance in finding internships for doctoral students

• a graduate certificate in social-sciences methodologies to help doctorates in the humanities improve their research with techniques traditionally used in psychology and sociology

“We need to change our training of PhDs,” said Eric Wertheimer, a professor of English and associate vice provost in Graduate Education. “PhDs in English and languages have traditionally been trained to replicate their adviser’s careers at a research university. The truth is – and it’s one we need to respond to urgently and wisely – many of even our best students will not end up at a research university or even in academia.”

Justice believes that doctorates in the future may move back and forth between industry, non-government organizations and academia. This grant will help them prepare for all career options.

“More creative choices in their career can expand to higher earning potential,” he said. “Also, the grand challenges that confront us, whether in science, technology, sustainability or other areas, need the deep understanding of human culture and experience that we can provide.”

A brilliant technological solution to a problem is doomed to fail, Justice said, if it doesn’t function in the ways human beings can accept it and see its relevance to their lives.

Digital humanities and an understanding of methodologies can transform the way students do research and the way they present it, he added.

“If you have a humanities PhD, and you understand statistics, there are many leadership opportunities available both inside and outside the academy. We’re adding project management for the same reason. We want our humanists to be able to have the same kinds of interpersonal skills and management experience that students coming out of the lab in the sciences may have.”

The Modern Language Association/ Mellon Foundation grant will strengthen career preparation for doctorates in languages and literatures. The grant was authored at ASU by co-principal investigators Eric Wertheimer, associate vice provost of Graduate Education; George Justice, professor and dean of Humanities; and Pamela Garrett, senior manager of Graduate Programs. Other co-PIs are Mark Lussier, professor and chair of the Department of English, and Joe Cutter, professor and founding director of the School of International Letters and Cultures.