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USM Joins CGS Coalition to Support Diverse Career Pathways for Humanities PhDs

Wed, 08/18/2021 - 16:54pm

Dr. Karen CoatsThe University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has received funding from the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) to catalyze innovation in the preparation of humanities PhDs for diverse careers. Through a competitive sub-award process, a committee selected USM to join The Humanities Coalition, which will develop and assess initiatives for better supporting humanities PhD students transitioning from graduate programs into the workforce.

Universities will be working in one of two areas: grant-writing and resource development and building professional networks. USM will focus on grant-writing and resource development and will offer workshops and bootcamps on grant writing that can lead to a digital badge; engage internal and external partners (such as alumni) to share experiences illustrating the value of grantsmanship as key attributes of their professional portfolio; provide a monetary incentive for participation resulting in grant submission; and develop a plan to sustain these activities into the future.

Dr. Matthew Casey, Dr. Rich Mohn, Dr. Monika GehlawatDr. Matthew Casey, Dr. Rich Mohn, and Dr. Monika Gehlawat

Dr. Karen Coats, USM Associate Provost and Dean of the Graduate School and principal investigator of the project, stated “Dr. Rich Mohn, associate dean of the Graduate School and Drs. Matthew Casey and Monika Gehlawat, director and associate director of the USM School of Humanities, respectively, and I are all very happy to partner with CGS and other institutions across the country as a part of The Humanities Coalition.

“Our School of Humanities attracts top graduate students from Mississippi and across the globe who are interested in working with our renowned humanities faculty, and the faculty take the responsibility of graduate student mentorship very seriously,” Dr. Coats continued. “They are particularly cognizant of their responsibility to cultivate students’ scholarly and professional development. 

“Successful grant writing is a professional skill humanities PhDs need to be competitive in today’s workforce, and this project will support initiatives aimed at developing those skills. In addition to the impact this project will have on our humanities graduate students, the data we collect will contribute to the goals of the larger project, benefiting humanities majors broadly. It is exciting for USM to be a part of such an aspirational project.”

The Humanities Coalition project is an expansion of prior work that included developing and supporting a network of 75 U.S. doctoral institutions as they collect data from STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and Humanities PhD students and alumni about their professional aspirations, career pathways, and career preparation. In general, data from the project yield a positive picture of humanities doctoral education.

Most alumni reported that they are engaged in meaningful work and believe their doctoral work prepared them for their current job responsibilities. However, data also indicate that humanities PhDs who were employed in business, non-profit, or government, particularly those in the early stages of their careers, feel less prepared than their peers working at universities.

“Building on the extraordinary work of the PhD Career Pathways project, The Humanities Coalition will develop, expand, and scale up a suite of programs and practices in key areas of need,” said Suzanne Ortega, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. “We’ve been conducting research in career diversity for nearly a decade, and this work will take the next logical step from better understanding aspirations to preparing for successful careers.

“We know that humanities PhDs have many possible career paths in front of them. We need to make sure they know their options, how to access them, and that they’ve developed the skillsets necessary for success.”

USM will join a network of other grantees as well as universities that submitted competitive proposals to participate, including: Arizona State University; CUNY Graduate Center; Howard University; Indiana University Bloomington; Loyola University, Chicago; Michigan State University; Purdue University; Texas A&M University; The University of Texas at El Paso; University of Arizona; University of Arkansas; University of California, Irvine; University of Missouri; University of Rochester; University of Wisconsin-Madison; and Wayne State University.

About CGS

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) is an organization of approximately 500 institutions of higher education in the United States and Canada engaged in graduate education, research, and the preparation of candidates for advanced degrees. The organization’s mission is to improve and advance graduate education, which it accomplishes through advocacy in the federal policy arena, research, and the development and dissemination of best practices.

For more information about the USM Graduate School, visit Graduate School | The University of Southern Mississippi (