Even Aristotle Left The Academy

The Case For Career Diversity (Once More)

Aristotle Contemplating Job Prospects in the Academy. (source)

In a recent letter to the SCS, written as a response to Joy Connolly’s blog post entitled “Working Towards a Just and Inclusive Future for Classics,” an anonymous group of graduate students have drawn attention to an important point among many. In their words,

while choosing to pursue a job outside of academia is nothing to be ashamed of, most PhD students in Classics are given no guidance about how to navigate the non-academic job market.

And that is right. As we work to make the our field more inclusive and expand the definition of what Classics is and to whom it belongs, one important concept to keep in mind is career diversity.

With less than one in ten applicants securing a tenure-track position on the 2018 academic job market, dissertation advisors can no longer afford to consider academic employment as the only viable outcome of graduate studies. Correspondingly, it is no longer an option for Classics Ph.D. programs not to prepare their graduate students for diverse job markets, and some new initiatives appear to be reasons to hope for a gradual culture change in the world of the academic humanities. Yet much work remains to be done.

This is why the Paideia Institute continues to promote a diverse and inclusive notion of Classics careers. To that end,

  1. we keep expanding the Legion Project, a network of classicists with advanced degrees who are working outside of the academic world. In addition to joining the Legion community, many members (or, as we call them, Legionnaires) make themselves available as a resource for current graduate students seeking career advice and expert guidance on non-academic jobs.
  2. For the past two years, we have co-sponsored a Career Networking Event with the SCS and PhD Matters at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Classical Studies, in order to facilitate productive conversations between graduate students interested in a career transition and Classics Ph.D. holders who have already transitioned out of academia.
  3. This year, we launched the Bridge Program, a career advising initiative designed to connect Classics graduate students with Classicists already working in their non-academic field(s) of interest. Through coaching, networking, and mentoring, we help these job-seekers gain a better understanding of their transferable skills and enter the non-academic job market as competitive players. (Fun fact: we owe the title of this piece to a Bridge Program participant!)
  4. The Bridge Program is also supported by the Nexus community, a social network composed of Classics B.A. holders working outside of academia. Classics undergraduates frequently find success in a number of career fields, including law, government, finance, and technology: through Nexus, we make a variety of professional connections available to current graduate students in Classics.
  5. Finally, last fall we announced the launch of the Quintilian Society, an outreach initiative aimed at encouraging newly minted Classics Ph.D.s to teach Latin in public schools. While employment prospects at the college level are shrinking, Latin programs in many public high schools are suffering from a documented shortage of qualified teachers. By supporting graduate students and recent Classics Ph.D.s while they obtain certification to teach Latin at the secondary education level, we hope to play our part in revitalizing the high school Latin programs that will be crucial to the long-term survival of Classics as a field of study.

Here is what Classics graduate students who currently participate in the Bridge Program say about it:

“The program was helpful, eye-opening, and inspiring.… I think the network that the Paideia Institute provides is incredibly useful.”
“I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with a variety of classicists who are now working in boutique consulting firms, running advertising and marketing agencies, designing online courses and teaching programs for private companies, or (even!) developing the languages of artificial intelligence in the Silicon Valley. These people helped me to rethink my previous experience as an academic in more business-oriented terms. With their help I managed to write a much more appealing resume than the one I initially wrote on my own. I was also able to perfect my cover letters and learn useful techniques to become a more competitive, more appealing candidate on the job-market scene.”
“Overall it’s been a very informative experience and I feel energized to continue my job search as I finish up my Ph.D. program.”

To conclude, we strongly encourage the authors of the response to Joy Connolly, and any graduate student who is uncertain about his or her professional future, to get involved in Paideia’s career placement initiatives. They will find a community of engaged, successful professionals redefining what it means to be a classicist.

This article was written jointly by Marco Romani, Paideia’s Outreach Manager, and Ariane Schwartz, a member of the Legion Project and Bridge Program mentor.