The Modern Language Association has received generous support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to undertake a major project, Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers. The project will run through August 2019 and will support initiatives aimed at demonstrating how doctoral education can develop students’ capacities to bring the expertise they acquire in advanced humanistic study to a wide range of fulfilling, secure, and well-compensated professional situations. Connected Academics will help prepare doctoral students—already well trained for postsecondary faculty positions—to use their humanistic training in a broader range of occupations than doctoral programs have, up to now, characteristically acknowledged and honored.
Key components of the Connected Academics project include the following:
- Supporting pilot programs at three partner institutions (Arizona State University, Georgetown University, and the University of California Humanities Research Institute) that will implement recommendations of the MLA Task Force on Doctoral Study to support career diversity for language and literature doctoral students and graduates. The MLA will host annual institutes with these project partners, bringing participants together to meet with outside experts, assess needs, test models, and develop concrete plans that will effect tangible, systemic change in doctoral education.
- Organizing annual, yearlong proseminars in New York City for doctoral students, recent graduates, and PhD-holding adjuncts from universities in the area. The proseminars will focus on such issues as career horizons for PhDs in modern languages and literatures, in and outside the academy; long- and short-term prospects for adjunct positions; and the versatility and reach of humanities research. Participants, who will receive stipends to support their involvement, will also conduct site visits to units in local academic institutions and in not-for-profit organizations, foundations, and other organizations related to the skills acquired in PhD programs.
- Compiling data and reports on the career paths of graduates with doctorates in language and literature, including individual narratives of those who have found employment in diverse settings.
- Expanding mentoring and networking activities at the MLA Annual Convention and at regional MLA meetings, where job seekers can meet with mentors in a variety of occupations.
- Working with partner organizations to create a resource kit for doctoral students, directors of graduate studies, placement officers, and curricular reform committees.
- Offering workshops for directors of graduate studies and placement officers at meetings of the Association of Departments of English, the Association of Departments of Foreign Languages, and regional MLAs, as well as at the MLA Annual Convention, on supporting their doctoral students who pursue a variety of career opportunities. Two such workshops will also be offered each year at the MLA office for directors of graduate studies and chairs at universities in New York City.
- Doctoral students in language and literature programs develop talents and complete training that qualify them for a wide range of career paths and professional opportunities. Graduates of doctoral programs that work to expand their students’ awareness of the spectrum of available careers will be better prepared to succeed in a rapidly changing higher education employment landscape. By supporting such programs and fostering collaboration and community involvement, Connected Academics hopes to serve the needs of those who pursue advanced degrees in the humanities and offer new possibilities for integrating the values of humanistic study into society.