NEH awards Princeton University Next Generation Ph.D. Planning Grant to re-envision the humanities Ph.D.

By Casey Hedstrom, Ph.D. candidate in History

The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded Princeton University a major grant to reimagine the role, training, and outcomes of a doctoral-level education in the humanities. Princeton is one of twenty-eight institutions to receive the Next Generation Ph.D. Grant, a nationwide initiative of the NEH to transform the culture of graduate education and better prepare humanities graduate students for today’s changing academy. The Office of the Dean of the Graduate School, Center for Digital Humanities and Council of Humanities at Princeton are co-sponsors of the matching grant.

Anthony Grafton, the Henry Putnam Professor of History and project director of the grant that Princeton received, has long advocated publicly for such changes in graduate education both at Princeton and nationally. He states, “The NEH Next Generation planning grant has made it possible to bring together a group of concerned and engaged graduate alumni, faculty members, graduate students, and administrators. They will work together to find ways by which Princeton can support its students practically and creatively as their career possibilities and their career interests change. The committee will be looking at everything from developing new forms of graduate course and dissertation to creating new networks to help with placement.”

According to Deputy Dean of the Graduate School Cole Crittenden, “Princeton has historically had and continues to have very high placement of its humanities Ph.D. students in academic jobs.  In the most recent alumni survey, administered in 2015, approximately half of our humanities Ph.D. alumni three- to fifteen- years out who responded to the survey were currently in tenured or tenure-track positions in the academy.  Half is a very good number, especially given the recent academic job market.  But we need to think more about the other half, who by choice or by necessity enter other fields and do very interesting and very successful things in those fields, thanks in part to the academic training they receive here.”

Grafton notes, “For many years, Princeton Ph.D.s in the humanities have found success in a wide range of professions, in the nonprofit world and in business, as well as in teaching and research on the college and university level. Many graduate students now at Princeton are examining a range of options. Meanwhile, the academic landscape is shifting. Fewer teaching positions are becoming available in higher education, and many of those that do appear are not tenure-track.” The Planning Grant will allow the group to examine wide-ranging topics such as transforming the doctoral curriculum, new models of humanities scholarship, innovations in teaching and pedagogy, and tracking career outcomes for humanities graduate alumni.  Throughout the year the group will meet monthly on campus and will also make research visits to other institutions and programs that are examining and working on the issue of career outcomes for graduate students in the humanities. 

The Core Committee welcomes feedback from the Princeton community through a website for the planning grant.