We had a very productive organizational meeting on Sept. 23, where we assigned subcommittees and planned our work for fall.

And we had a few lively debates already. We’ve organized our work in three subcommittees, Curriculum Development, Faculty Education, and Alumni Initiatives, but our community members pointed out that all three categories are focused on the university. How do we expect to build meaningful relationships beyond the academy if our own organization is so academic? We agreed, and immediately reconstituted Alumni Initiatives as Community Initiatives. We’re pleased that the many of our community members have volunteered to serve on this new committee. We’re already benefitting from their involvement.  

We also had a lively debate about how to serve doctoral students who might decide not to complete their degrees. One of our alumni members did just that, and now has a career as a journalist, public historian, and the founder and guide of the Mondo Milwaukee boat tour of “Milwaukee’s strange, illicit, and notorious hidden history.” The planning committee was broadly in agreement that we might have to develop different strategies to support those who receive a doctorate and those who seek another career before finishing.

Finally, we debated how many students enter humanities PhD programs with the goal of finding academic work, and how open they are to other possibilities from the beginning. Opinions differed, and of course no single answer will describe every department or every university. Our doctoral student members offered to include a question about this on a survey they’re preparing for graduate students.

Some other things we’re looking into that we didn’t mention in the application: career options with internal universities at large corporations; summer internships at area companies for graduate students; partnerships with businesses with expertise in career development and training.