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Center for Humanities holds panel to discuss career opportunities for PhDs

Panelists discuss  research and postdoctoral fellowship opportunities within the libraries during the Expanding Career Opportunities for Ph.D.s in the Libraries workshop Friday. Sophie Barros // Contributing Photographer

Panelists discuss research and postdoctoral fellowship opportunities within the libraries during the Expanding Career Opportunities for Ph.D.s in the Libraries workshop Friday. Sophie Barros // Contributing Photographer

The graduate school and the Center for the Humanities in the College of Arts and Sciences presented a panel on the opportunities available to graduate students in libraries on Friday. It was the latest session in their series of informational sessions and workshops for graduate students, called Expanding Career Opportunities for PhDs in the Libraries.

The talk was led by a panel of experts in the field, including Dean of Libraries Charles Eckman, Associate Dean of Libraries Kelly Miller and UM Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) postdoctoral fellows Timothy Norris and Martin Tsang. The CLIR fellowship allows PhD students to contribute to library work and research while exploring a different career path in the libraries field.

“Here at UM, we’ve had post-grad students working in positions where they not only help us with framing what the library should be doing, but also direct support to our clients in the schools and colleges and help us talk about the future of libraries and leveraging their skills,” Eckman said.

Sarah Ritcheson is in the final stages of her dissertation on 17th century apocalyptic literature and like many other graduate students, she has entered the job market hoping to pursue a tenure track career. Tenure track means a full-time position in academia that allows for the employee to attain tenure in the future.

“When you’re going on the academic job market, everyone is aware that it’s getting very difficult to find full-time tenure track work in academy, so thinking about alternatives has become really important to us,” Ritcheson said. “It’s important to be educated about this.”

The sessions have attracted graduate students in all stages of their programs, as well as undergraduate students who want to learn more about what a PhD can offer them. Past sessions have included workshops on how to transform an academic CV into a resume and a lecture by Susan Basalla, the author of “So What Are You Going to Do With That?: A Guide for M.A.’s and Ph.D.’s Seeking Careers Outside the Academy.”

“One of the great things about sessions like these is that many PhD students have a sense of what to do as a faculty member, they have a sense of what to do in research and teaching, so what this does is offer tangible reflection on career aspirations,” Associate Dean of the Graduate School Koren Bedeau said. “That might either expand ideas of what they thought they could do with their PhD, or if they had some questions or doubts about changing whether they want a traditional path in academia or not, know that there are some options out there where they do not have to be so far removed from their skills and their training, as those can be transferable.”

The panelists also explored research opportunities in the libraries and the interdisciplinary experience that a postdoctoral fellowship within libraries can offer.

“It’s an exciting time in libraries and there are a lot of questions to be answered,” Miller said. “We want to give graduate students a sense of community. We hope the library can be a place where they can meet people of other disciplines, and that they can discover new possibilities for career paths that they hadn’t seen before that still allow them to pursue their passions.”

More information on future sessions of the series and recorded podcasts of the sessions are available at

September 27, 2015


Sophie Barros

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