Launching a Career in the Humanities: A Cutting Edge Guide for Grad Students

Jeff Rogers
August 19, 2010
Photo of ancient books on a desk next to a new laptop.

On the ProfHacker page of The Chronicle of Higher Education today, Brian Croxall (a postdoctoral fellow and Emerging Technologies Librarian at Emory) offers up an excellent "open letter" to incoming graduate students in the humanities--although the relevance of the proffered advice surely extends to students who are neither new to higher ed nor based solely in the humanities.  Kudos, first, to Croxall and the veritable army of digital humanist tweeters that he taps to flesh out his guide to navigating the often bewildering terrain of the academic world:  They've provided a roadmap that should be required reading for the new PhD class.

The most striking (and commendable) thing about the collected wisdom of Croxall, et al., however, is not that it's timeless.  In fact, ProfHacker's advice for new graduate students is a thing very much of its time--i.e., today.  Croxall and his colleagues do well to go beyond the old chestnuts of "don't worry if you feel lost at first" and "maintain a life outside of grad school" with some uniquely 21st-century updates that implicitly recognize the humanities and the work of the humanist student and scholar as mutable and evolving things.  The field is not what it was twenty years ago and neither, fortunately, are the tools.

ProfHacker enthusiastically endorses Zotero and Dropbox, and Croxall's colleagues note the salutary and professionally advantageous benefits of blogging and networking (and collaborating) beyond one's own department and institution through social media on the web.  At the Townsend Humanities Lab, we would second these recommendations and remind all incoming graduate students and long-standing affiliates of UC Berkeley that we at the Lab are dedicated to making these and other new tools of the web available (and comprehensible) to the UC community.

If the world of the new humanities scholar is a challenging one, it's also one that is full of new and emerging possibilities.  And no shortage of good advice.