We learned a lot from a panel at the Imagining America conference held in Milwaukee last weekend. UWM Professor of English Gregory Jay attended the conference, and reported back to the committee from a fascinating panel titled “Re-envisioning Graduate Education for Public Work Inside and Outside the University.” The panel draws on the work of Imagining America’s Publicly Active Graduate Education Fellows (PAGE), which several UWM graduate students have received in recent years. It featured John Saltmarsh from the New England Resource Center for Higher Education, Kush Patel from the University of Michigan’s Institute for the Humanities, and Malcolm Tariq, a Mellon Fellow at the University of Michigan.

Tariq and Kush spoke about their experiences at Michigan, where impressive efforts to support public scholarship and diversify doctoral career outcomes are well underway, especially through their Humanities PhD Project. Both spoke thoughtfully about the personal and practical challenges of doing work that might be poorly supported, little appreciated, and very different from that of one’s advisor.

Saltmarsh summarized a new book he co-edited, Publicly Engaged Scholars: Next-Generation Engagement and the Future of Higher Education, ed. Margaret Post, John Saltmarsh, et al (Stylus, 2016). His comments revealed a striking divide between doctoral education as it is most often practiced and the values of Next Generation public scholars. He made the interesting point that because some faculty seem resistant to talking about pedagogy, it might be useful to reframe discussions so that they’re about epistemology: ways of knowing rather than ways of teaching. Saltmarsh also resisted the “alt-ac” designation, given that Next Generation scholars don’t see themselves as “alternative.” Doesn’t alt-ac preserve a hierarchy of career outcomes? It does seem better to refer to diverse career outcomes instead.

With this rich conversation in mind, we wonder what it would it take to help UWM’s humanities doctoral programs be more outward-facing and publicly engaged? We have great resources on campus already, including Cultures and Communities and the Electa Quinney Institute, to name just two. But how might doctoral programs have to change: different dissertations, additional certificates, modified coursework requirements?