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‘4 Years Is Enough’ and Other Reforms

The Modern Language Association and the American Historical Association have venerable and distinctly separate histories, but their graduate-student members face a lot of similar problems. Those problems, like elongated times to degree and a withered academic job market, aren’t news anymore. But the efforts of the MLA and the AHA to deal with them are becoming more varied, visible, and creative.

For a long time the AHA and the MLA conventions were like parallel universes that coalesced annually in different cities at the same time. They both stage high-profile conventions during winter break that combine a myriad of scholarly panels with a high-volume, high-tension job fair filled with nervous, well-dressed candidates who generate
heavy traffic to interviews in job centers and hotel suites. But new scheduling policies separated them on the calendar this year, so I pinballed between Washington and Chicago during the first part of January, attending both shows with a few days respite in between....

It’s hard to generalize when faced with two monster conferences that offered more than 1,000 panels altogether, but I will anyway: The AHA is doing the most creative work in the humanities on alternative-academic careers right now, while the MLA is reflecting more deeply and practically on the problem of time-to-degree.

The AHA’s most noteworthy alternative-career project is called the Malleable Ph.D. Rolled out last year, it showcases careers for historians outside the professoriate. The Malleable Ph.D. threaded together a number of panels at this year’s conference, and placed a range of different kinds of historians on the profession’s biggest stage....

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education