A few prominent themes stood out at the conference—most prominently, that there’s a lot you can do (and enjoy doing) with a humanities Ph.D. We heard from humanities Ph.D.s who started businesses, administered multimillion dollar projects, produced amazing scholarly work, and taught brilliant classes in high schools and community colleges.
A large key to unlocking the Ph.D.’s potential is, in the words of speaker Jacqueline M. Olich, distinguishing the Ph.D. skillset and the Ph.D. mindset. As I interpreted Dr. Olich, our skillset positions us for all sorts of occupations—we are quick learners, close readers, and dogged researchers. But the Ph.D. mindset blinds us to the opportunities to apply those skills in other fields. Of the hundreds of Ph.D.s working at RTI International in Research Triangle Park, where Dr. Olich serves as director of university collaborations, she is the only history Ph.D. It’s that difficult to realize that we have more to offer than the substance of our dissertations—which, almost every speaker emphasized, is not something that will come up with employers and colleagues outside the tenure track.