Archive for the 'Big Picture Thoughts' Category

Future Higher Education – Why not NOW?

Big Picture Thoughts, Controversy, The Economy No Comments »

Here’s a really interesting look at the potential for individually-tailored freedom to learn within higher education in the future.

Stanford 2025

At first, it looks like a self-serving description of how good Stanford thinks it is now, but then it switches gears and describes an experimental look at what higher education COULD be, after an imaginary “major paradigm shift that ‘happened’ around 2025.” And, it invites us to look at the imaginary future of higher education in the year 2100.

At the bottom of the page, you can choose “a future to explore,” beginning with any of the following segments, Open Loop University, Paced Education, Axis Flip, Purpose Learning, or Design A Future.

Each of the first four describes a utopian segment of an entire system that rights so many of the parts of the system that are wrong for our current socio-economic system, with its embedded system of education, in lock step with the past.  Read it and ask, along with me, “Why not do this NOW?”

The last-mentioned segment, Design a Future, gives you the chance to do just that. You have three sections to begin forming your own ideas: first, for reflection; second, for imagining; and third, for trying out activities and suggestions to get started.

Try it – it’s a wonderful opportunity to loosen our unthinking adherence to the cultural patterns that tend to trap us with in-the-box thinking – by simply asking “Why?” and “Why NOT?”

Best Careers for Historians – Resources

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More important than the title on your degree…

Ask yourself  “What skills have I gained?” and then focus on the skills you most want to use.

Historians have a wide range of transferable skills, 99% of which are marketable. The skills gained in the study of history are almost always more useful to non-academic employers than the disciplinary knowledge gained within the discipline.

If you can articulate the skills that most motivate you (often called your Strengths), you’ll be able to demonstrate your value to many employers (including those beyond traditional academe). Here are some examples, and following that list are some other resources that may open new avenues of career potential.

  • Capacity for solving problems and thinking objectively, yet creatively
  • Ability to grasp and explain various factors that may be affecting the actions of groups and/or individuals in complex social organizations
  • Research skills of many kinds, at multiple levels of detail, including the ability to find, investigate and asses the value of the material found, and also including the generation of ideas and formal argument, based on the evidence found and conclusions drawn
  • Organizational skills, supported by logic and internal coherence
  • Intellectual rigor in research, critical reasoning and analysis, extending into the ability to understand and analyze issues and events, and to explain how succeeding events have been affected
  • Communication, particularly the ability to explain complex ideas clearly, in both verbal and written format, also including the ability to communicate research findings clearly and persuasively
  • Ability to approach problems and issues with an open mind
  • Ability to work independently, to manage one’s time and projects, based on frequently changing priorities
  • Ability to work in groups, to engage in discussion of ideas, to negotiate, question and summarize the elements of emerging issues

Other resources and ideas

The Many Careers of History PhDs: A Study of Job Outcomes, Spring 2013 – A report to the American Historical Association (by Maren Wood and Robert B. Townsend)  Careers in and beyond the Professoriate   Evidence of Change in the Job Market   Field Specializations Mark Significant Differences   Key Differences between Programs   Patterns by Gender and by Mobility   Conclusion

Susan Basalla May interviews Abby Markoe, who left grad school to pursue a  career that began as a hobby/sport. (Note that Susan Basalla May is the author, with Maggie Debelius, of “‘So What Are You Going to Do With That?’: Finding Careers Outside Academia,” now in a revised and updated edition, University of Chicago Press.)

Fascinating article describes how a doctoral candidate’s research edges into the “digital humanities,” and how it can open up the traditional avenues of historical research. Kristina Neumann, a doctoral candidate in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Classics, says, “I’m trying to help historians think outside the box.” (She had created her own database from published excavation reports and lists of coin hoards, and imported it to Google Earth. The visual results are intellectually stunning.)

Dr. Robert F Pace, Prof of History, McMurry Univerisity, answers the ultimate question of “what can I do with a degree in history?” with the answer,” Anything you want.” He describes a sampling of possible opportunities and mentions some of the traits those employers want in their employees. Dr. Pace’s homepage

Extensive list of organizations that have indicated a general interest in recruiting students majoring in history. Also offers a list of job titles held by history grads, useful for generating ideas, and offers various other websites and lists of career-related information.

Includes some useful description of ways to relate history to other occupations and find combinations that might be of interest to individuals.

While aimed at undergrads, article has a listing of basic skills gained by studying history, and lists common career paths, as well as offering a list of famous Americans who have history degrees.

Here’s a series of articles, based on John Holland’s well-known Theory of Career Choice, which links Personality and Workplace Environment. Be sure to continue your reading on this site, which helps you to identify your career skills and better articulate them.


Grim Job News for Academics

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It was so easy to find grim news on tenure-track jobs for academics in general (not just historians and anthropologists), that I’m going to include links to a few of the best and yet the most depressing articles, just for your night-time reading enjoyment.  (Note that not all are from the immediately recent past; the problems have been building for more than a few days.)

Academics Receiving Government Aid, (2012)
Four Academics on Food Stamps, (2012)
The PhD Now Comes With Food Stamps, (2012)  These three articles in the Chronicle of Higher Ed in May, 2012, spawned a series of articles in other publications, including the Huffington Post, Number of PhD Recipients Using Food Stamps Surged During Recession: Report, (2012) and Adjunct Nation,  When Faculty Can No Longer Teach: PhDs on Foodstamps Center Stage in Academe, (2012)

State Budgeters’ View of Higher Education, (2013) A report from the National Association of State Budget Officers, described in Inside Higher Ed, unsurprisingly finds that many states have cut funding for higher education – more than for prisons and Medicaid, and warns that tuition raises will not be enough to save the institutions.

Is Your College Going Out of Business? (2013)  Mark Cuban’s startling article generated a storm of comment (760 within just a few months), most of whom agreed with him, and while the article spotlights undergrad education, if public research institutions should “go out of business,” grad schools will go with…

A Grim Year on the Academic Job Market for Historians, (2012) from AHA, Perspectives on History (The title of this article, and the sad facts, could be repeated with any number of academic disciplines, mostly humanities and social sciences, but the “harder” sciences are not immune to the threat.)

Here are two more, earlier articles full of devastating statistics, which generated a storm of comments. But not much changed.
The Disappearing Tenure Track Job, (2009), Inside Higher Ed
The Disposable Academic, (2010)  from The Economist

The Chronicle Launches the Adjunct Project, (2013)   The Chronicle of Higher Education recently launched an interesting “Project,” which it terms a “tool.” They began collecting salary data from individuals teaching as adjuncts, and the site now allows a search of adjunct salary data from individual institutions. It also offers advice on working as an adjunct (and teaching).  It may be a little too scary for good bedtime reading.

Actually, most of these articles are a bit too scary for good bedtime reading…


for UW PCP

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PostDoc Stories  (background, situation, emotions, solution, lesson)  and resources  (followed by a series of links to articles of interest to postdocs)   2012 webinar on leaving the bench (also see a list of other articles here on career path changes)  a blog on science bench problems   links to thoughtful articles on a variety of relevant topics (grad school, post docs, non-academic careers, professional issues, big picture and career management)

Some Useful Online Websites for Career and Job Search (free)

Job Hunter’s Bible  – for basic career-design information (classic Richard Bolles, who wrote the equally classic What Color Is Your Parachute?)

The Riley Guide  – for basic skill building in job hunt

Job-Hunt  – for articles and literally thousands of links to information on the job search, anywhere in the U.S.
Job-Hunt for Washington State Only
Dr. Kate Duttro’s articles on Careers for Academics on Job-Hunt

The Versatile Ph.D.  – for multiple forums on the topic of careers after (and before) the Ph.D., written and read by current students, post-docs and alumni of varing degree

UW Career Center Articles on Academic Careers   -for articles, relevant UW events and other resources relating to academic careers

UW Career Center Articles on Careers Beyond Academia    -for articles, relevant UW events and other resources relating to careers beyond academia

Jibber Jobber and Fresh Transition  – for two sites  that help you plan, organize and track your job search (and contacts)

Wordle   – for a new way (using Word Clouds) to check the match between your resume and job descriptions

Preptel   – for articles on Applicant Tracking Systems  (click Resources for articles)

 Visual CV  – for a career portfolio website that you can use to store and display your choice of your career materials

Tools for Self-Assessment

All of these tools are available to anyone. Cost ranges from free to low-cost, but it’s important to have have help to make sense of it, to see how insights can be applied to your own situation and what they mean to you as an individual.

UW Career Guide DS Exercise pages     The basic exercises on these pages can be used to draw out your Dependable Strengths, which in turn, give clues to one’s preferred ways of working.

VIA Survey    The (free) VIA Survey includes a listing of your Character Strengths. (The full 18-page report can be purchased for $20.)

Strengths Finder  Assessments    The code is accessed through several books by  Marcus Buckingham, Douglas Clifton and/or Tom Rath (Gallup organization)  Three of these books are:  Now, Discover your Strengths (Buckingham and Clifton), Go Put Your Strengths to Work (Buckingham) and Strengthsfinder 2.0 (Rath)

Reach Personal Branding Assessment    Another tool that may bring out important clues, in a very different way.  (Basic tool is free, but needs interpretation.)




Basics of Job Search, Resumes&CVs, Interviewing&Negotiating

Big Picture Thoughts, Interviews, Job Search, Networking, Resumes 1 Comment »

Outline of talk to the grad students of the UW School of Pharmacy PORPP, May 6, 2011.  (Note: two additional pages of good information sources have been added, and if you were there and have further questions, please do feel free to call.)

Basics of Job Search, Resumes&CVs, Interviewing&Negotiating

Saving the “Academic Core”

Big Picture Thoughts, The Economy 1 Comment »

Last month, I wrote “Why Academics Need a Career Plan B (And Maybe Plan C)” for Job-Hunt, and unfortunately, it’s already time to update it. The University of California-Berkeley emailed everyone on campus this week that 280 more jobs have been eliminated, beyond the 500 already cut from the system. (It should be noted that nearly half are retirements and “voluntary” separations, but the salient point is that those jobs no longer exist.)

Apparently these cuts had been planned even before Governor Jerry Brown proposed another $500 million in cuts to the UC system. (Newspaper articles have stated that no jobs being cut came from faculty or campus police positions, nor were undergrad student jobs eliminated.)

But these cuts are merely part of a longer series – with more to come. Late in September last year, five sports programs were also cut at UCBerkeley: baseball, men’s rugby, men’s and women’s gymnastics and women’s lacrosse – with an expectation of saving $4 million a year. In November, tuition was raised to $50,649 (including fees and room/board) for out-of-state students – and this is after Berkeley had raised tuition 30% for 2009.

So far, most of the cuts have affected staff positions, rather than faculty, police and mental health counselors, and I assume that most colleges and universities are trying to “save the academic core” of the institution (a phrase I first heard in a university email from the then-President of the University of Washington, yet another institution affected by cuts by the local state legislature – and anticipating more.)

But at some point, in some states, at some institutions, the cuts will go into the bone and faculty will find themselves on the block, too. Best to start checking out the alternatives….

(If you’re looking for more depressing news on this dismal topic, search the Internet for UC Berkeley job cuts 2011, or university layoffs 2011, or …you get the picture, right?)

Help Get Resumes Through The Filters

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NCEEA-Trends in Resumes & Cov lts

This was actually a presentation for the NCEEA Conference in Seattle, WA, in April of 2010.

Lower Expectations of Higher Education?

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In a blog post*  titled, “Some Higher Education Facts, Good and Bad,” Mike Mandel looks at the share of U.S. college grads with advanced degrees (rising to 35% by 2008), but he found that the percentage of doctoral degrees had decreased somewhat.  Looking a little farther, he found that the change in “real pay” to holders of doctorates had decreased (by 10%!!!!!) between 1999 and 2008.

Check out this graphic!

Furthermore, in the same time period, the real pay to those with professional degrees had decreased by approximately 3%.

The real pay of those with master’s degrees had increased by a mere not-quite 1% and those with bachelor’s degree had increased maybe a tad-bit more than 1%. (Despite what we’re told is a low current rate of inflation – that’s not much of an increase.)

And that’s not even counting what has happened to the economy since 2008.

In noting the decrease in percentage of PhDs being granted, he mentioned the “relative undesirability of the PhD.”  Uhhhmmm – it’s really hard to hear that phrase.  But, I guess I have to agree that advanced degrees seem not to be paying off in salary expectations – or, these days, in occupational stability either!

If these figures are accurate, here’s more reason to avoid incurring debt while you’re in grad school, even if you love being there. If you don’t love being there, but you’re accumulating debt because you expect to make big bucks in a stable job – is it maybe time to reconsider??

* Mike Mandel’s blog is at