Every day, I see conversations happening about how a PhD in humanities or the social sciences is a dead end and a waste of time. Maybe you are having this reflection now. The truth is that I’ve had many conversations proving exacly the opposite. This week’s interview was one of them.
Katina Rogers is co-director of the Futures Initiative at the Graduate Center, CUNY, where she guides and mentors graduate fellows, develops programming, and exercises administrative oversight over all aspects of the program. She is also Director of Programs and Administration for HASTAC, the online scholarly network, and co-director of the CUNY Humanities Alliance, a partnership between the Graduate Center and four CUNY community colleges, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Katina researches and writes about higher education reform, including scholarly communication practices, professionalization and career development, public scholarship, and advocacy for fair labor policies. She is the author of “Putting the Humanities PhD to Work: Thriving in and beyond the Classroom” (Duke University Press, July 2020). Rogers holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
What you’ll learn about in this episode:
- Your PhD has value in the eyes of employers – you are not overqualified nor unemployable
- Current struggles with precarity in the student body, in particular for young parents in graduate school
- Employment uncertainty for young graduates in the COVID pandemic context and the importance of accountability and support structures involving your community or your family, at this time
- Why humanities PhDs are very important, today, with all the social and human struggles the world is dealing with
- Post-partum depression and the importance of mental health support for young parents
- Lockdown is a moment to regroup and learn new skills
This episode’s pearl of wisdom:
“What I found both in my personal experience and in working with other people is that I had this sense of simultaneously being overqualified or able to do anything and also raducally underqualified for anything. And I felt both like I would do a great job at this particular position, but also whay would anybody ever hire me and give me a salary. I think a lot of people sometimes feel this push and pull between what they feel they can do and what they feel might be legible and appealing in other contexts, but what I’ve settled into is this sense of a really translational approach to thinking about my work, and this is something I encourage othre grad students to think about, as well.”
“The burden of understanding how your PhD matters in a particular context, it’s not on the listener. It’s not on the person who’s hiring. It’s on you, as the individual, to say “Listen. This is why this is a really unique thing and this is why it’s going to make a difference in this particular context.” I’ve been amazed to see – I found this to be true in my research and it was a finding that I found very surprising, which was Many people who were working outside of faculty positions didn’t think of their research skills as something that particularly set them apart, but every single employer that I interviewed said that if they hired a PhD, it was largely because of those research skills. And so, I think for me this was a kind of a communication breakdown, where, because in graduate school, the baseline of research skill is so high, it’s easy to forget that that’s something that really sets you apart.”
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