Editing Modernism in Canada


April 30, 2014

Looking for Signposts


One of Editing Modernism in Canada’s primary objectives is “to train students and new scholars using experiential-learning pedagogies.” In an academic job market where the digital humanities seem to be opening up a new field into which young scholars can move, but where there still aren’t enough jobs to go around, and in a world when many of us pursue graduate degrees knowing that the professoriate isn’t for us, to what end is EMiC training emergent scholars? Where are we ending up? And how does the training we’re receiving through EMiC help us get there?

No longer the new kid on the block, EMiC has been around long enough to have trained and graduated dozens of students, many of whom are out in the world doing fascinating things that aren’t professorial. There’s Meagan Timney, EMiC’s first postdoc and a senior product designer at the e-reading company Inkling. There’s Katherine Wooler, the Museum and Communications Coordinator for the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame. There’s Gene Kondusky, who is a high school teacher in Manhattan. There’s Reilly Yeo, who is the Managing Director of Open Media and a facilitator with Groundswell Grassroots Economic Alternatives. There’s me, Research Officer in the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University. And there are all sorts of others. We are current EMiC fellows and EMiC alumni, and we owe our success, in some part big or small, to the skills, training, and mentorship we received through EMiC.

In an ongoing series of posts on the EMiC blog, we’ll be talking about where we are now, how EMiC helped us get here, and how we view the relationship between digital humanities scholarship/training and the #alt-ac and #post-ac tracks. But to get us started, I’d like to feature an article by one of my #alt-ac icons, Katina Rogers, who started out as a PhD in Comparative Literature at the University of Boulder, and is now the Managing Editor of MLA Commons, the MLA’s alternative digital press and scholarly network. You might already know it, or its sister MediaCommons, started by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and the home of Bethany Nowviskie’s #Alt-Academy project. In her recent essay for #Alt-Academy, “Discerning Unexpected Paths,” Katina explores her own journey into the #alt-ac world, and her work with the Scholarly Communications Initiative in analyzing how others like me have ended up there with her. As Katina notes, “The problem with signposts on the alternative academic track is that they aren’t where you expect them to be,” which makes the journey both exciting and unpredictable. Instead of the straight line from PhD to t-t, moving onto the #alt-ac track looks rather more like the social network graph above. You can read the entirety of Katina’s essay here, and keep your eye on this space for discussions of the unexpected paths taken by EMiC fellows past and present.

2 Responses to “Looking for Signposts”

  1. Kailin Wright says:

    Thanks for the enlightening post, Melissa! Do you have any suggestions for how English Graduate programs can better prepare students for alt-ac positions. In my experience, there can be a real tunnel vision in PhD programs wherein a tenure-track job seems like the privileged goal and anything else is a lesser position to be discussed in hushed tones. I think that posts like yours are a good step in the direction of helping change these attitudes.

  2. Melissa Dalgleish says:

    I think doing away with the “hushed tones,” as you say, is perhaps the most important first step. Let’s talk about it! For people who base their life’s work on data and analysis, many academics don’t much like the real numbers when it comes to what PhDs do after academia. Roughly 50% of people never finish the degree, which many don’t know and which signals that the current system isn’t serving some people well. Depending on the field, about the same number who do finish end up in non-academic jobs. Working to create a culture in which professors openly acknowledge that their students will be following diverse career paths, and that the university has an ethical responsibility to provide graduate students with some of the skills they’ll need to pursue those paths, is imperative.

    Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I realize that a culture of openness can do as much, if not more, than creating new resources. We have a stunning array of professional and transferable skills programming available to graduate students on campus, as we do opportunities–like the Mitacs internship program, various faculty RA positions, and non-traditional TAships like working in the writing centre–that can help students develop valuable skills in communication, translating research into impact, writing pedagogy, and a whole host of other soft and technical skills. And they’re underutilized. I blame this on a culture that keeps professors from telling their students about these opportunities, because students headed for the tenure-track don’t need transferable skills, and that keeps students feeling like their commitment to the ideal of the tenure-track is constantly being policed, which makes it unsafe to do anything other than teach, write, publish, and conference.

    TL;DR, fostering this culture of openness and revealing some of the many fascinating and challenging non-professorial careers that graduate study can lead to, and that DH may facilitate the transition into a bit more easily than traditional humanities study, is the primary reason I’m curating this series of posts.

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