January 7, 2014 –The Modern Language Association (MLA), whose annual convention takes place this week, is supporting a pilot project at Georgetown and two other sites that will foster career diversity for language and literature doctoral students and graduates.
The MLA has received a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to undertake a major project called Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers.
Georgetown, Arizona State University and the University of California Humanities Research Institute will help implement the five-year project, which carries out recommendations of the MLA Task Force on Doctoral Study.
“This is such an amazing opportunity for Georgetown and for everyone in the humanities here,” says English department chair Kathryn Temple, the principal investigator for the project at Georgetown. “It’s exciting to be on the cutting edge of doctoral education in the humanities.”
The English department in Georgetown College is exploring the possibility of a doctoral program that would focus on preparing its Ph.D. candidates for a broader choice of professions and include an innovative curriculum.
Georgetown has responded to the questions of changing technology, cost and value facing American universities with its Designing the Future(s) of the University initiative, which treats the university’s future as a challenge of design, creativity and imagination.
“We’re facing a moment in the world of humanities research and teaching where the future isn’t clear,” says English department associate professor Ricardo Ortiz. “Many would characterize this moment in time as an institutional crisis. The MLA has meaningfully stepped up to offer leadership to the profession on this vital question.”
The project aims to demonstrate how doctoral education can develop students’ capacities to bring the expertise they acquire in advanced humanistic study to a wide range of fulfilling, secure, and well-compensated professional situations.
The MLA plans to host annual institutes with its project partners, bringing participants together to meet with outside experts, assess needs, test models and develop concrete plans designed to effect tangible, systemic change in doctoral education.
Challenge and Opportunity
“Doctoral students in language and literature programs develop talents and complete training that qualify them for a wide range of career paths and professional opportunities,” says Rosemary G. Feal, executive director of the MLA. “Graduates of doctoral programs that work to expand their students’ awareness of the spectrum of available careers will be better prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing higher education employment landscape.”
The project will compile data and reports on the career paths of graduates with doctorates in language and literature, including individual narratives of those who have found employment in diverse settings.
The MLA also will work with its partner institutions to create a resource kit for doctoral students, directors of graduate studies, placement officers and curricular reform committees.
“With the MLA and our partner schools, we’re responding to what’s often called ‘the crisis of the humanities,’ Temple says. “The ways forward might not look like the ways of the past, and that is the challenge and promise of opportunities.”