Over a little more than a decade, the Brown doctoral program in History underwent many of the deep transformations shared across the profession. A shift to a “five-year-guarantee” model in the Brown Graduate School fostered a smaller program with greater economic stability and faster completion. At the same time, we now train in more fields than ever, albeit in a connected and collaborative way. The remaining challenge became obvious: how to revise our approach to the possible careers of a Brown History PhD, both as an intellectual and a practical enterprise?

In 2017 the Brown History Department began working with the American Historical Association’s Mellon-funded Career Diversity for Historians project. Now in the second phase of our funding, we work with peers, administrators, and public partners such as the National Parks Service and Rhode Island Historical Society to create opportunities where students can engage at different levels of commitment and prior preparation.                                                                                                                                                                              Talya Housman at the Roger Williams National Memorial.

Most important, Juan J. Betancourt-García, our Career Diversity Fellow and a third-year specialist in colonial Latin America, has been surveying students to discover where they want assistance, whether in developing the AHA’s identified Career Diversity Five Skills (collaboration, communication, digital literacy, quantitative literacy, and intellectual self-confidence) or in other subjects such as history pedagogy. Alongside our CDF, the Department has created a new faculty position, the Director of Graduate Advising, to concentrate solely on career development.

The inaugural DGA, Jonathan Conant, is leading a series of collaborative workshops and brownbags honing skills that have payoff potential for students working inside or outside of higher ed: grant writing; inclusive pedagogy; oral history and interviewing, and more. Many of these fall under the rubric of “What History Looks Like”, the main departmental grad student/faculty workshop series launched in fall 2016, a space for the community of Brown historians to share the diversity of practice in all the settings where historical work takes place. Data in the discipline and in our program shows that this is an intellectual as well as professional obligation. The AHA’s “Where Historians Work” database found 31% of Brown PhDs graduating between 2004 and 2014 working in government & non-profit (including public and private K-12 education), higher ed administration, and the private sector - look here for a list. Like their peers on every step of the tenure track, they are Brown historians, doing the work of history wherever it might be found. 

Rebecca Nedostup

Director of Graduate Studies