Grant affords opportunity to reshape humanities graduate education

August 11, 2016

The Penn State College of the Liberal Arts has received a planning grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) that has the potential to reshape graduate education in the humanities.

Penn State is one of only 28 colleges and universities nationwide to receive funding through NEH’s Next Generation PhD initiative. The program is the first time that NEH, a longtime public funder of the humanities, is tackling the issue of how doctoral students who immerse themselves deeply in graduate humanities research and writing can apply their skills and experience beyond careers in academia.

“The academic-focused future we’re accustomed to training graduate students for is disappearing,” NEH Chairman William D. Adams noted when announcing the awards. “If graduate programs wish to make a case for the continuation of graduate education in the humanities, they’re going to have to think about the professional futures of their students in entirely different ways.”

Penn State received a $25,000 planning grant for its proposal titled "Holistic Rethinking of the Humanities PhD: Seminars, Dissertation, Internationalization, and Fellowships." According to Eric Hayot, Penn State Distinguished Professor of comparative literature and Asian studies and co-director of the project, the grant is the first step in reimagining humanities doctoral programs at Penn State “from the ground up.”

“We hope this proposal is the first step in developing specific institutional structures and pathways that would make training for employment outside academia available to every doctoral student in the humanities,” he said.

“The college is thrilled to receive this support from the NEH,” said Susan Welch, dean of the Penn State College of the Liberal Arts.  “My hope is that the grant will not only help us transform the training of humanities Ph.D.'s at Penn State, but will also serve as a model for reimagining doctoral education on a national scale.”

Hayot and Eric Silver, associate dean of research and graduate studies in the College of the Liberal Arts and project co-director, will head a Core Committee that oversees work done by four thematic working groups. The groups include academic administrators such as Welch and Provost and Executive Vice President Nicholas Jones; Penn State Trustee William Oldsley; former presidents of the Modern Language Association; and current and former Penn State faculty, staff and graduate students.

The project would bring together activities already taking place at Penn State and propose one new initiative: The New Directions Fellowship program, which seeks to provide humanities Ph.D. students significant preparation for the non-academic job market, while retaining the traditional value and intellectual significance of the humanities doctoral degree.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated August 15, 2016