With the narrowing job market in the humanities, many graduate students are beginning to prepare themselves both for academic careers and careers beyond the academy. This past March the Townsend Center for the Humanities, Graduate Division and Beyond Academia teamed up to support these students through a networking event that brought ten Berkeley humanities Ph.D. alumni back to campus to share their professional trajectories.

Inside Dope: Life as a Humanist, opened with a keynote presentation by Kelly Anne Brown, Assistant Director, UC Humanities Research Institute and Humanists@Work, who spoke with passion and conviction about the skills graduate students possess that are valued in a wide range of careers.

Following her opening remarks, thirty graduate student attendees, in groups of three, participated in round-robin informational interviews with ten Berkeley humanities Ph.D.s., who hold positions in a wide range of career sectors from non-profits, the arts, communication, and higher education to technology and finance. Berkeley students were eager to understand how their senior colleagues made the transition to their careers and how they employed the skills they had developed in graduate school in their current work. After the informational interviews, graduate students and our Ph.D. alumni had the opportunity to continue networking in a more informal manner over refreshments.

Feedback from graduate students was overwhelmingly positive, with a number of students describing the event as “inspiring.” One explained its impact in this way: “This event reminded me that if I want to shift my career path or consider alternatives to academia, it’s my job to formulate and ask the questions to which I need answers. Putting us in a room with people who had all kinds of different answers, and letting us ask the questions was empowering.”

Others pointed to the inspiring keynote given by Kelly Anne Brown: “Equally important was the message of the keynote speaker, reflecting on the unique qualities that those of us trained with Ph.D.s in the humanities offer — I appreciated that her take was critical, not merely encouraging Ph.D.s to capitulate to corporate logics.”

Another noted, “It made me think differently about how I plan to market myself, and led me to think about my time in the academy as potentially more useful.” Many appreciated the opportunity to network more informally over refreshments and strengthen their connection to the speakers. Berkeley graduate students left the event having made important contacts that they plan to reach out to in the future.

Next Steps

Career preparation programming will continue in the fall with workshops on applying for careers both within and beyond academia offered by Andrew Green and Debra Behrens, Ph.D. Counselors at the Career Center. Specific topics and dates for these and other professional and career development workshops will be posted on the Graduate Division’s Professional Development calendar and included in our bi-monthly Professional Development Digest.

Inside Dope: Life as a Humanist photo featured from left to right:

  1. Robert Train, Ph.D., Romance Philology, UC Berkeley; Professor of Spanish, Sonoma State University
  2. Gabe Milner, Ph.D., History, UC Berkeley; Project Manager, The Living New Deal; Lecturer, UC Berkeley, Stanford, and University of San Francisco
  3. Aaron Bady, Ph.D., English, UC Berkeley; Writer, Blogger, and Editor
  4. David Engel, Ph.D., Classics, UC Berkeley; Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo Bank
  5. Amyrose McCue Gill, Ph.D, Italian Studies, UC Berkeley; Director, TextFormations
  6. Jed Parsons, Ph.D., Classics, UC Berkeley; Senior Engineer, Square
  7. Sonia Wichmann, Ph.D., Scandinavian, UC Berkeley; President, Northern California Translators Association
  8. John Paulas, Director of Fellowships and Special Projects, Townsend Center
  9. Alix Schwartz, Ph.D., English, UC Berkeley; Director of Academic Planning, Letters & Science, UC Berkeley
  10. Eric Blind, Ph.D., Anthropology, UC Berkeley; Director, Heritage Programs and Sites, Presidio Trust
  11. Marina Romani, Ph.D., Italian Studies, UC Berkeley; Film and Music Professional, San Francisco Opera
  12. Kelly Anne Brown, Assistant Director, UC Humanities Research Institute and Humanists@Work