Tenure is Not the Only Playmate in the Neighborhood

There are different careers available and presently forming for the newly-minted PhD.  Many argue that higher education, as an institution, lacks a realistic understanding of diminishing tenure positions, a reduction that has been present for two generations (Anthony Grafton, “No More Plan B”).  Although a discussion about the future of tenure is important, as is a discussion about reducing the number of years it takes to earn a humanities PhD to “four or five years — roughly half the current time for many humanities students” (Basu, “The Radical New Humanities PhD”), I want to focus instead on how we best prepare graduate students in the humanities for a professional life after earning a PhD.


The PhD enables processional opportunities beyond tenure, but these opportunities are still dismissed and referred to as “alternative routes” by many graduate programs. Irrespective of the diminishing tenure opportunities for an increasing pool of applicants, programs should consider options other than tenure, including the design of recruitment materials, new-student orientations, curriculum, dissertations, and job searches.  Many faculty seem to be guiding graduate students toward one path—tenure—when there are many valuable paths, many of which are better suited to an advisee’s interests.


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