Brian Without Walls

For the next three weeks, I’m participating in the Humanities Without Walls Pre-Doctoral Workshop on alternative academic careers. We just completed day two and I wanted to blog a few of my initial thoughts:

I’ve noticed that the “without walls” metaphor is a great one for this workshop. Not only are we discussing doing the humanities in “the public” (outside the physical spaces of the academy), I find the workshop to be without the constraints (“walls”) of academia’s ideology. Most academic discussions of the job market focus on a duality. Are you in or out? Are you going to stay or leave? Will you choose a life of the mind or money? Will you prioritize your work or your life?

Thankfully, several of the speakers have explicitly rejected this duality. You do not need to be a professor to be a scholar. You do not need to be in academia to be an intellectual. You do not need to choose between a life of the mind and a life of basic material comfort. You can be a humanist while living any lifestyle. The concept of being “in” or “out” is completely artificial.

I think another important theme so far is value. The system of academia wants you to value being an academic above your financial stability and geographic location (among other things). I, and the many other graduate students seeking out alternative careers, choose looking for jobs that will satisfy our intellectual and material needs.

Speakers have encouraged us to think about the life we want, the activities we enjoy, and the skills we have in order to find careers outside of academia in which we would thrive.

One speaker made a point to emphasize valuing yourself as an expert. The hierarchy of academia says a graduate student is not yet a master, a “student.” In the public (the “real” world), we are already experts in many different areas. Valuing our knowledge and our skills opens the doors to a variety of fulfilling careers outside of traditional academia.

Academia puts walls up to make graduate students think they need to become professors. Breaking down these walls is vital to finding success in both life and work.

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