Humanities PhDs and the Academic Job Market: A New Podcast Series

Erica Bennett and Jacob Barrett, podcast series hosts

Over the summer Erica Bennett, now in her final year of our M.A., worked with a recent M.A. alum, Jacob Barrett (now in the first year of his Ph.D. at UNC Chapel Hill), on a four part podcast series, devoted to the academic job market and the variety of careers for which Humanities Ph.D.s are suited — if, that is, Ph.D. students and the faculty who train them see careers outside academia as relevant sites where their research skills can be applied. With his own doctoral degree now starting, and the challenges of the Humanities job market in academia all too obvious to him, these conversations on just what a Ph.D. prepares students for, the applicability of the degree in a variety of settings, as well as faculty’s and Departments’ need to see their work as preparing students for more than just possible employment as a professor, are pretty relevant for Jacob, as they are for anyone in his position.

So, based on the reception to a tweet this past summer by Bradley Sommer (about being newly on the job market), himself a recent History Ph.D. graduate, this new podcast series involved Erica speaking first with Bradley about his ongoing job search and then checking in with Pamela Gilbert (an English Professor at the University of Florida), in the second episode, on some of the wider factors that impact a faculty member’s ability to assist students to think about (and find) careers outside of academia. In episode three we meet Jared Powell, an REL alum who double majored in English, then earned an MA in English at the University of Alabama, and who recently left his Ph.D. in English at UNC — a decision involving concerns about the current academic labor market. The series then wraps up with Erica and Jacob hearing from Shannon Trosper Schorey, a recent doctoral graduate in Religious Studies, also from UNC, who has established a career for herself in the tech sector at Red Hat — Shannon is a strong advocate for Humanities graduate programs rethinking how they train their students and the future work they’ll be doing.

We hope the series is helpful to students and faculty alike —
all four parts are now posted on SoundCloud and
on the REL website.

Things You Didn’t Think You’d Learn in Grad School: Coding

Students working in REL 503

Erica Bennett, now in her second and final year of the REL MA, is from Louisiana and earned her undergraduate degree from Millsaps College. Working with Prof. Touna as her supervisor, she is also a T.A. this semester for Prof. Simmons’s REL 100 and Prof. Altman’s research assistant on the American Examples grant. She is interested in studying new religious movements.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that our society revolves around, and cannot function without, technology. From Netflix party hangouts and social media to collaborative online work spaces and daily Zoom meetings, technology seems to have become even more integrated into our daily lives. While people use the internet, websites, apps, and other technologies every day, most do not know how the internet works, that it is physical resource, or that anyone can learn to code or program. One reason I decided to enroll in the Religion in Culture MA program at the University of Alabama was the emphasis on helping students grow their digital humanities skills. Before my first class at UA, I expected to learn skills that would be helpful for digital projects like making podcasts, videos, and websites to distribute my research to a wider public. I did learn those skills (thank you REL 502!) and I get to practice them on a regular basis. What I did not expect to learn, and surprisingly really enjoy, was how to code and program to assist in my research efforts and better understand the digital world we live in. Continue reading

The REL Cohort Book Club

Flyer for October's book club reading: The Handmaid's Tale

Erica Bennett, in her first year of REL’s MA, completed an Honors degree in Religious Studies/Sociology Anthropology at Millsaps College in Jackson Mississippi, where she spent much of her time either playing volleyball for the college‚Äôs team, participating in several different clubs and organizations, or coaching a local youth volleyball club. Once at UA, she wanted to create something that might help to bring her cohort together, in a year as divided and isolated as 2020 had been. REL shows great interest in expanding students’ writing and reading skills so she thought that there was no better way to do this than to start a book club and blog about the books — with this being her first, with more to come.

This was the baptismal month for the newly formed Cohort Book Club. This group was formed with the goal of reading a new dystopian themed novel each month. Partly to help our minds escape form the terrifying and almost dystopian America/world we seem to now inhabit, but to also give the members a way to be introspective into our ever-changing society. This is a place for insight, discussion, and criticism of our world while also a place to analyze what could be worse. For the first month, a month before the national presidential election, I decided that reading The Handmaid’s Tale would be most appropriate for this occasion. Continue reading