The job market for Ph.D.’s in the humanities is notoriously unforgiving, but students finishing their doctoral studies in English at Fordham University may find their employment search a bit easier thanks to a new funding package.
The English department at the Bronx institution announced last week that its graduates will receive an extra $4,500 job search fund in addition to their guaranteed six years of funding to offset the cost of seeking placement in a highly competitive field.
“It probably goes without saying that most folks are aware of the declining number of tenure-track positions in the humanities, and this is certainly an important national discussion,” said Dr. John Bugg, director of graduate studies of the English department, “but at times it has tended to eclipse attention to another challenge our students face: the expenses of the job search process.”
Starting this year, this new funding will allow those completing their Ph.D.’s to “cast a broad net” in their job hunts, allowing them to explore opportunities at the high school, community college and four year colleges, as well as those outside academia altogether. “It’s important that students have the necessary support for this broader job search process,” Bugg said.
The funds come with no requirements or exclusions, but they will most likely be used for travel to conferences by organizations such as the Modern Language Association, which provide important networking opportunities for early-career academics. The job search fund will perhaps most importantly provide a financial cushion allowing graduates to dedicate several months to writing job applications full-time.
The fund will be appended to a holistic support system provided by the department, which includes a rigorous two-year teacher-training program that focuses on both theories of pedagogy and hands-on training in developing curriculum and in providing their own students with effective feedback.
The idea for the fund came about last year at Fordham during a seminar funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities titled “Ph.D. for the 21st Century.” The participants discussed a variety of topics, but professional support for Fordham’s graduates emerged as one of the most important. That said, Bugg believes the university has supported this proactive initiative.
“There is a real commitment at Fordham to helping our students succeed,” he said. “I think that there’s a sense across the campus that even though we can’t change the employment climate out there, rather than simply wringing our hands about it we need to take practical steps to help our students find fulfilling careers.”
Joseph Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org