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Amanda Seligman: Growing Into Teaching Career Diversity for Historians

In January 2019, I sat in session after session at the AHA annual meeting growing increasingly confident about my teaching plans for the upcoming semester. A colleague had launched Professional and Pedagogical Issues in History as a graduate-level methods class at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (UWM) a decade earlier. As I reconceptualized the course after her retirement, I decided to build it around the AHA’s Career Diversity initiative.

Incorporating Career Diversity into our history curriculum seemed the right thing to do—it would equip both master’s and doctoral students with the substantive, ethical, methodological, and personal frameworks they need to build their niches as historians. As a lifelong inhabitant of the academy, I was no expert on professional development. But I was determined to figure out what my students needed in order to launch successful careers as historians.

I revisited Susan Basalla and Maggie DeBelius’s classic So What Are You Going to Do with That? And Joseph Fruscione and Kelly J. Baker’s Succeeding Outside the Academy fell into my hands at a critical moment in planning. I stepped up my Twitter reading to allow serendipity to enhance my knowledge. And, crucially, at recent AHA annual meetings, I attended sessions about careers for historians outside the academy. Conversations in and around those presentations shaped the class. As I informally workshopped my plans at the 2019 annual meeting, I felt like I had synthesized the fundamental insights my students would need to prepare for an array of career options.

Instructors at the AHA Career Diversity pilot sites around the United States were structuring syllabi for their professionalization courses similarly. Almost everyone used the AHA Career Diversity Five Skills—communication, collaboration, quantitative literacy, intellectual self-confidence, and digital literacy—as a scaffold for organizing guest speakers and readings. They all investigated a broad range of career paths for historians and validated the attractiveness of nonacademic careers. After a Five Skills introductory unit, I scheduled modules on teaching, publication, grants, CVs and résumés, and ethics. Students read memoirs and career-pathway essays by historians working in a variety of professions. As I finalized my syllabus, I built the following major assumptions into my pedagogy.

Read entire article at Perspectives on History