West Virginia University is one of 20 institutions in the U.S. to receive a 2018 Career Diversity Implementation Grant from the American Historical Association (AHA) to support a career diversity initiative for graduate students in the Department of History.
Funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the AHA, the two-year grant will allow the Department of History to add broad-based professional development into its doctoral curriculum to help prepare students for a variety of career options after graduation.
“To be competitive, we’ve always been moving toward training our students broadly. When this grant came about, it wasn’t a new idea for us. It was exactly what we were thinking already. We are proposing something that is organic and a natural reflection of what we do,” said Joseph Hodge, chair of the Department of History. “We’re trying to be creative to find ways to give our graduate students opportunities to teach but also to do something other than teaching to diversify their experiences and opportunities.”
A faculty team led by Hodge, Public History Director Melissa Bingmann, Graduate Studies Director Brian Luskey and Associate Department Chair Kate Staples will implement the professional development curriculum and other activities.
The programming will engage students in a range of scholarly activities that will support their career goals in teaching and research as well as public-facing professional historian positions.
“This isn’t taking away from the teaching and academic mission. It’s helping students to be more competitive for different kinds of opportunities and careers. This preparation will also make them better teachers and researchers,” Hodge said. “If you are applying for a tenure-track job and have some of these administrative skills, that could help you get that job because you have teaching experience and other types of experience. You know how to work administratively. You know how to organize things. You’ve had different kinds of experiences and developed different kinds of skills that other people in the pool may not have, making you more competitive.”
The Department of History will also receive funding to support a Career Diversity Fellow. The Fellow will be a WVU history PhD candidate who will collaborate with a faculty team from WVU to better prepare history PhD students for careers inside and beyond higher education.
“It’s not a zero-sum game. Even if students want an alternative career and they are learning to teach, that’s public speaking. If they want to teach but they are learning administrative skills, that’s needed, too,” Bingmann said. “By broadly training students, we are preparing them for all aspects of being professional historians.”
The faculty team and the Fellow will work together to establish a new graduate professional assistantship program intended to provide doctoral students with opportunities to gain professional experiences and develop administrative and service skills beyond the classroom. The team and the Fellow will also help plan and organize professional development workshops, lectures and networking events, create an advisory council and "alumni-in-residence" program, and institute curricular changes designed to prepare students to teach in diverse environments, produce important historical research and succeed in multiple career paths.
“With this grant, the idea is that we give students other opportunities so that when they are emerging as candidates on the job market as they graduate with a PhD that they won’t think of these non-academic lines of work as being a step-down or ‘plan B,’” Luskey said. “Instead, there are multiple ‘plan As’ that they can pursue and do the kind of research and writing that they’ve done as doctoral students. They can continue to be historians.”
The Fellow will be announced later this spring and will attend, along with a WVU history faculty member, an orientation in June 2018 in Washington, D.C. The professional development workshops and other events will be announced in the 2018-2019 academic year.
Other recipients of the AHA’s Career Diversity Implementation Grants include Brown University; Georgetown University; Georgia State University; Iowa State University; Loyola University, Chicago; Michigan State University; Texas A&M University; University of Buffalo; University of California, Berkeley; University of California, Davis;
University of California, Irvine; University of Illinois, Chicago; University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; University of Michigan; University of Missouri, Kansas City; University of Texas, Austin; University of Texas, El Paso; University of Utah; and Wayne State University.