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Symposium to Explore Career Diversity for Doctoral Students

October 19, 2015 – Georgetown will serve as the venue for a national discussion Oct. 23-24 on how to foster career diversity for language and literature doctoral students and graduates.

The event, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Modern Language Association (MLA) as part of a national project, will address the future of the Ph.D. in the humanities and develop alternatives to traditional programs through a design lab process.

The university is working with Arizona State University and the University of California Humanities Research Institute to help implement the project, which carries out recommendations of the MLA Task Force on Doctoral Study.

Pressing Issues

Kathryn Temple“This is a great opportunity to bring faculty and students together with humanities scholars who work outside the academy to discuss some of the most pressing issues in graduate education today,” said Kathryn Temple, principle investigator of the five-year grant. “We'll be considering the proper role of doctoral education in the humanities given the weak academic job market and how we can better articulate the value our Ph.D. students offer both in and outside academia.” 

The Mellon/MLA grant is also funding efforts to explore an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in public humanities that would be offered through the Georgetown’s graduate school.

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. 

Student Capacity

“We’re facing a moment in the world of humanities research and teaching where the future isn’t clear,” English department associate professor Ricardo Ortiz said last year when the grant was announced. “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.

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.

The project also 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.