Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Blog CLVI (156): The Johns Hopkins Proposal

Johns Hopkins University has recently announced a program designed to reduce its graduate student enrollment by a fourth. The university plans to use the money that is saved from providing teaching assistant stipends to these students to increase the amount they pay to the other three-fourths. William Egginton, vice dean for graduate education at Johns Hopkins, explained the proposal would help make the university’s programs "financially competitive with peers so that we are assured that graduate students choosing between Johns Hopkins and peer institutions can make those decisions based solely on the appropriate academic fit, without the complicating factor of lower stipends."

Rebecca Schuman, the education columnist for Slate.com, has endorsed this move: "I’m all for it, and I’d be delighted, not dismayed, if other universities emulated this strategy." She explains why: "A major research university has finally recognized, openly and publicly, that there are very few good jobs available for recent Ph.D.s in today’s barren and pitiful market. Rather than continue to populate senior professors’ seminars with a phalanx of minions who will then graduate into a jobless hellscape, Hopkins has elected to thin the herds in its own programs."

Tenure track faculty will be required to teach more undergraduate courses. This proposal has not gone over well with grad students at Johns Hopkins who are concerned that the university will increase its use of adjuncts rather using graduate teaching assistants, diluting the quality of a JHU degree. "Bless your hearts—you know what will worsen that problem?" Schuman asked. "When you and all your friends become adjuncts in five years."

I have to admit I am more with Schuman on this one than the grad students. It seems like the university has found a good way to address a serious problem. It reduces the supply, increases the viability of the grad students that are admitted to the school, and requires that faculty--the ones with the most experience and expertise, the ones that undergraduates and their parents (who are writing the checks to pay for that private school tuition) expect their children to be interacting with, actually deliver on their reputations. The faculty expecting light teaching loads might be disappointed, but they still get to work at a great school with a lot of perks. This solution seems quite reasonable and equitable. Like Schuman, I hope other institutions follow Johns Hopkins.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Blog CLV (155): Success Stories (2)

Today's posting is the second in the "Success Stories" series.  "Success Stories" is an attempt to share what some new scholars have done to beat the odds and find steady employment in the hopes that others my profit from the experiences of others.

This posting comes from Hillary R. Gleason, an assistant professor in the Social and Behavioral Sciences Department at Laredo Community College.  She recieved her BA from Our Lady of the Lake University, a MA degree from Texas A&M UniversityCommerce, and the Ph.D. from the State University of New York Binghamton.  Her dissertation is on the tenure of Lieutenant General Walter Beddell Smith as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  She has published book reviews in Presidential Studies Quarterly, History: Reviews of New Books, H-War, Kansas History, Intelligence and National Security, and the North Carolina Historical Review.  Prior to arriving at Laredo, she taught courses for SUNYBinghamton, SUNYOneonta, the University of Phoenix, and Texas A&M UniversityCommerce.  Here is her essay:

I began looking for a job while I was still technically ABD, about a semester before I graduated. At the time, I was not sure what I wanted to do with my Ph.D. Did I want to teach? Research? Go into administration? Go into the private sector? The good news was that I had options. The bad news was that I lacked direction. To compound my problem, I began looking for a job at the height of the Great Recession. Even today, the job market has improved but the overall picture remains bleak—making finding a job harder than ever before. 
In the end, I was lucky. I managed to get a job while most of my friends were still out of work and looking. I accepted a job teaching at a community college and, because I love teaching, it turned out to be a great fit. Yet the road to employment was rocky. I made some good decisions and plenty of mistakes along the way. 
My biggest mistake in the job hunt was that I tried to limit my geographical area. I really wanted to be near my family after being away so long. As a result, I limited my search to the Dallas area. This made finding a job impossible. Jobs for Ph.D.s (academic jobs, think tank jobs, etc.) are scarce anyway and the Recession did not improve matters. My limiting myself to a particular place I was effectively sabotaging myself. After months of frustration, I realized that the only way I was going to find anything was if I was willing to go where the job was (regardless of where that might be). Once I stopped limiting myself I had far more success. 
Another reason for my success was (oddly) my lack of direction. I was not emotionally tied to anything I had to be doing. This flexibility helped me get a job. For example, a lot of my friends felt like they had to be at a research institution. They would not even bother applying to smaller schools or community colleges. The hard fact is that there are only so many top-tier jobs available—most new graduates are going to have to aim a little lower. Pride goeth before the fall—or the employment line. 
I did not have any hang ups about where I was supposed to be. As a result, I applied anywhere and everywhere. I applied at community colleges, at smaller schools, at think tanks, and (yes) even at research institutions. I applied even when I was only marginally qualified. I was told “no” more than I was told “yes.” But my philosophy was that it never hurt to try. 
I applied to Laredo Community College (LCC) in one of my fits of “why not?” Every time I applied for a job, I would add it to a list I kept. This list enumerated what jobs I applied for, when, and listed a date (usually in about a week or two) when I needed to follow up. I added LCC to the list and forgot about it. About two weeks later I had not heard back from them, so I called the history department. My goal was to ask the secretary if my application had been received, what the time table was, etc. When I called and stated my purpose the secretary (to my shock and horror) quickly transferred me to the department head. 
The department head listened as I apologized for bothering him and then I repeated my questions about the application. He asked me a few questions and had me follow up with HR. It turned out that HR did not open the email that contained my letters of recommendation—hence my file was not complete and I was therefore not even being considered for the position. This is why following up is essential! Had I not checked on this, I would never have gotten the job. 
As it turns out, that conversation with the department head swung the door open for me. He was looking for someone with exactly my qualifications and a few days later I was invited for a campus interview. A few weeks after the campus interview, I was offered the job. What then followed was a mad scramble to contact all my pending application-holders and respectfully withdraw my name (better not to burn bridges, after all), move, and write lectures like a fiend (but that’s another story…). 
My job hunt was, admittedly, unorthodox. But the economic climate was so bad (and continues to be awful) that I was going to do what it took to get a job. I was not sure I would like teaching at a community college, but I knew that this did not have to be where I was forever. Why not give it a shot? As it turns out, I love my job. While I may not be here for the rest of my career, I am planning on sticking around for the foreseeable future. So, my advice is that you be flexible, humble, and persistent—you might find employment (and happiness) in an unexpected place!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Administrative Post 29

Someone asked why there were so few post in the Summer and early Fall.  A lot of things happened that got in the way.  Furloughs and a government shutdown prevented me from going into the office, using my work computer, or even checking e-mail.  (I am an employee of the Federal government).  Those two things slowed down productivity.  Despite all this work stoppage, duties piled up and the days back were even busier than normal.  While we were gone, work changed some of the access rules and now I cannot work on the blog from my office computer at all.  I also spent part of my summer working on my next two books.  It took some time to figure out ways to work around these issues.  I think and/or hope I have figured them all out and hope we can get to blogging.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

CLIV (154): Get Out of the Archives

In the film Saving Private Ryan, there is a scene earlier in the film when the door of a landing craft opens and U.S. soldiers charge on to OMAHA Beach.  They are mowed down by German machine gunfire almost instantly.  It is a power, jarring bit of filmmaking, and it gives the viewer a quick realization that the allied landings on D-Day were no simple thing.  The problem--it is not accurate.  Theatrical films getting the facts wrong is no big surprise. 

What is disturbing is the situation on the beachhead was actually a lot worse.  The Germans were no idiots.  They knew what was coming and had designed their defenses to thwart the American, British, and Canadian armies that they knew were going to invade France.  In 1999 I was part of a study abroad program that took a group of undergraduates taking a course on World War II to France.  We stood on the DOG GREEN section of OMAHA where that scene in Saving Private Ryan was supposed to have taken place.  We were in front of a German pillbox and I must say, director Steven Spielberg, his set design people and location scouts did a good job in giving their viewers a fairly accurate representation of the real thing.  The only difference was the pillbox was designed to fire not straight off the beach into the water and approaching land crafts, but was in an angled position to the waterline so it was in a position to fire down the length of the beach.  After our class discussed some the landing, we wondered off to explore the French coast.  I walked about a quarter mile up the sand and then turned around.  The pillbox looked like it was ten yards away.  I could see the gun slots clearly and someone there could easily have cut me down quickly with any type of firearm as the Germans did to so many U.S. soldiers.  I had no where to run, no where to hide.  The true danger of this killing zone hit me right then and there and it was a lot more powerful than a few seconds in a film.

Fast forward to November, 2013.  It is the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  Filmmaker Ken Burns has made a documentary on the speech and has started a project to get people to record videos of themselves reciting the Lincoln's remarks.  They are located on the website: http://www.learntheaddress.org/.  The idea is that these videos will help convey the inspiring power of history.  They do.  A number of famous people have already recorded their versions, including a number of members of Congress, President Barack Obama, every living former President and a number of actors.  The videos are short--between a minute and a half to a little more than two--and are inspiring and--in a few cases--emotional.  It is one thing to read the speech, it is another thing to see it delivered in person.  You quickly realize that Lincoln wrote something that was an exceptional piece of oratory.   

Last month I found myself through pure accident in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on a cold, Saturday afternoon.  The place was littered with historical reenactors in Union blue and Confederate grey.  It turned out it was the annual Remembrance Day parade in honor of the speech.  I spent several hours watching what must have been between 3,000 and 5,000 people march through he town accompanied by bands playing the songs of the 1860s.  The parade gave me a better appreciation of what the Army of Northern Virginia or the Army of the Potomac probably looked like when it was on the move; what individual soldiers looked like. 

Why are these three examples important?  Writing history well is extremely difficult for any number of reasons.  These range from you know how the story ends, to it is difficult to set up quotes well, to the fact that communicating idea and thesis with clarity and precision is such a  priority that other considerations fall by the wayside.  There are many others.  One of them is that when you are sitting down to write you are simply interacting with documents and other pieces of paper.  It is easy to forget that you are dealing with the lives of other people, even if they have been dead for a long time.  Teaching about the past is also difficult.  Consulting with other representations of the past can help the historian as an author and instructor present some of the power of the past.  There are any number of ways that this might be done.  Historical newsreels, sound recordings, still photos, and visiting actual sights are all ways of appreciating the past.  That understanding will come through in your text in ways large and small.  

So, get out of the archives!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Blog CLIII (153): Alternative Careers and the AHA

There are growing signs that the American Historical Association is taking some real steps to address the biggest issue facing the profession--the job crisis.  Starting in September, Perspectives on History, the AHA newsletter, has been running columns from history Ph.D.s who have found employment outside of a history department.  The first article, "A Historian on the Hill" came from John A. Lawrence, who served for 38 years as a staff member in the U.S. House of Representatives after attending the Berkley campus of the University of California.  In the October issue, Camille Henderson, a University of Chicago Ph.D., wrote about her work as the head of the Agios Pharmaceuticals, a firm located in Cambridge, Massachusetts in "Study Change to Affect Chang: A History Ph.D. in Human Resources."  The November issue presented a discussion between four historians who are academic administrators.  They are Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, an institutional research analyst for the University of Texas; Pam Lach, a Digital Innovation Lab manager at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Jason Myers, a faculty and staff support specialist and operations coordinator for the University of Denver; and Anne Mitchell Whisnant, a deputy secretary of the faculty and also adjunct associate professor of history and American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

This feature in Perspectives is a good step.  The AHA newsletter has a bigger audience than this blog and these articles basically perform the same function as the "History Ph.D. as..." series that appeared in this blog.  It is my sincere hope that more initiatives from the AHA will follow.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Blog CLII (152): Looking for a Home

My article in the AHA newsletter has gotten some interesting reactions. At a conference, one person came up to me and said I was brave for writing it. Not sure why. But I think it had something to do with my suggestion that a number of Ph.D. programs shut down. I think that we need on average only one history Ph.D. program per state. Even then, fifty would be more than enough to service our social needs for history.

Until that happens--and it probably won't--students looking for a Ph.D. program need to be very careful and selective in where they apply. Below is a list of the 61 of the 62 American and Canadian universities that are members of the Association of American Universities. (Cal Tech does not have a history department).  If you are looking for a Ph.D. program, I would limit it to these schools (for those of you who want to work and live in North America). If they do not have people doing the topics you want to explore or you are unable to get in, I think you should reconsider your plans to be a historian. (Ignore this advice if you are already in a program).  Here they are:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Administrative Post 28

It is end of the semester time at the Naval War College and the end of the school year here is like the end of the school year, elsewhere: finals, graduation, what-are-you-doing-next questions, and so on.  Given the craziness of this time of the year, the blog will take a short vacation for the rest of the month.  See you in July.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Blog CLI (151): A New Blog

I am proud to announce that I have started a new blog.  It is called "The World War II History Guy" and you can find it at: http://sarantakeswwii.blogspot.com/

The blog is a running diary of sorts about my next two book projects.  Both are on World War II.  The first is about the battle of Manila and the second is about the U.S. home front, specifically the activities and contributions of the Boy Scouts of America. 

The blog is about the writing of these two books rather than on Manila or the BSA.  As a result, my expectation is that it should be of interest to other historians, even those that do not share my same research interests.  I plan to discuss issues selecting a research topic, audiences, finding images, and so forth.

I hope you will visit it often. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Blog CL (150): Option One: Texas Style

The cover story of the October 2012 issues of Texas Monthly focused over the battles being fought by the Board of Regents of both the University of Texas and to a lessor extent Texas A&M University against the administrations of those two schools. (Texas Monthly is a 40 year old publication that is something akin to The New Yorker for the state of Texas.)  The author of the story is Paul Burka, one of the best political reporters in the state.  If that sounds like a fairly minor distinction, keep in mind that during Burka's 30 year career, two Texans have ended up in the White House (George Bush and George W. Bush), three have made serious runs for their party's presidential nomination (John Connally, Phil Gramm, and Rick Perry), another made two serious independent runs for president (H. Ross Perot), another was the vice presidential nominee of his party (Lloyd Benson), and a dozen or so have served in the cabinet. 

The article "Storming the Ivory Tower" concentrates on the efforts of Governor Rick Perry and his appointed regents to change how big universities operate.  A series of conservative reformers want to stem the cost of tuition, and develop degree programs that depend less on research driven faculty and more on marketplace forces, using part-time instructors.  The need to stem skyrocketing tuition is legitimate, but in the case of Texas, Perry is one of the people most responsible for this huge growth when he pushed the state legislature to allow each school to set its own rates.  That move backfired.  The major schools in the state increased their tuition rates as fast as they could and the minor ones kept them as low as possible.  Since then Perry has been pushing for a degree that will only cost $10,000.  This goal is reasonable, but one that ignores the very real issue of inflation.  One of the very few schools that has managed to put together that type of cost structure is Texas A&M University--Commerce (where I once taught).   

Other parts of the reform project are more problematic.  The use of on-line instruction, part-time instructors and market driven needs sounds nice if you are trying to develop responsive vocational schools, not leading universities on a national scale.  It also seems more relevant for law and business schools rather than liberal arts programs.    In theory, these new communication technologies could be cost saving devices, but there are a lot real world problems with that theory.  Many of these issues have been discussed on previous postings on this blog.  I also feel that the reformers are focusing are missing some really important issues, since they are coming at this from outside the profession.

Normally, I like to reprint articles from media outlets that scholars do not regularly consult.  Not this time.  While Texas Monthly is not a magazine that regularly addresses issues of higher education, this article is a long, long read and it is probably best if interested readers go to the Texas Monthly website.  It is also balanced, giving both sides their due.  In addition, it is a good and entertaining read, which is not surprising given Burka's long career. 

In a little postscript, in the blog that Burka runs he notes that the "Battle for UT" is hardly over as the Board is trying to get the president of the university removed.

One final word, whatever happens in Texas, more of these type of confrontations are coming unless academics do a better job of confronting their own professional shortcomings.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Blog CXLIX (149): "Reform Time" Part III

A new hard copy issue of Perspectives on History is out and I now feel like I can reproduce in full my article that appeared in the April issue.  If you want the traditiona citation it is: Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, "Reform Time: Some Proposals to Help Solve the Job Crisis" Perspectives on History, vol. 54, no. 4 (April 2013), 38-39.  Here is the article:

The biggest problem now facing the history discipline is the job crisis. In 2011, Anthony T. Grafton, then president of the AHA, and James Grossman, executive director, published "No More Plan B: A Very Modest Proposal for Graduate Programs in History" in Perspectives on History, generating much discussion. "We're trying to say, 'Wake up. Times have changed. There are more opportunities and that's a good thing,'" Grossman said in a subsequent interview.

Grafton and Grossman realize the history business has serious problems and made an effort to be constructive: offering more sessions at the AHA annual meeting on career issues and using the AHA website to make the profession "less hierarchal." Still, they argue that solutions to the job crisis must come from history departments that produce the PhDs.

I understand their view, and it is legitimate—the AHA is an umbrella organization and can hardly order a history department to do something—but they are arguing for their limitations. I found much of the essay vague, but I was also disturbed by an important implication of their approach. The authors have written off scholars who have finished their PhDs and are now in the unemployment lines. They discussed making changes to shape the future, but said little about helping some of the most vulnerable members of the AHA in the present.

There is still a lot that the Association can do even within the existing structure. The purpose of this article is to offer some realistic ideas in that regard:
1) Sponsor a conference on what the AHA can do: Make this a weekend, nonacademic conference. Invite 30 to 40 historians (much more and it becomes counterproductive) who have taken the lead on job issues. Make the mission of this conference one of brainstorming on concrete initiatives for the AHA to undertake. Maybe there's little the Association can do, but outside perspectives might generate new ideas that the AHA had not considered.
2) Sponsor a conference on what departments can do: This will prevent departments from having to reinvent the wheel. Make this a weekend, nonacademic conference, like the one above. Invite 20 to 30 department chairs and directors of graduate education, who can speak for their institutions and are deeply involved with graduate student education, to brainstorm and generate ideas. Possible discussions might include creating departmental alumni networks, reducing the course load, time given to write the dissertation, and so on.
The two ideas above are different from the AHA's Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded initiative to explore nontraditional careers. While this project will be extremely helpful in garnering data, my proposed conferences are about tapping into the significant creative energies of the profession, being "less hierarchal," leveraging the authority of the AHA, and pointing a diffuse discipline in certain general directions.
3) Create a new AHA division for K–12 teachers. This division can offer important advice to interested AHA members on the requirements for teaching jobs, which can vary significantly from state to state. The AHA has secondary school representatives on the Teaching Division and the Council, but these individuals cannot offer systematic programs to help AHA members find employment.
4) Discount advertising: The AHA should offer steep discounts to organizations other than history departments—archaeology departments, public history firms, state agencies that do historic preservation, etc.—for job announcements in Perspectives. By steep discount, I mean one dollar per ad, two dollars for longer ads.
Apparently this idea has been discussed and rejected. Some members of the AHA Council believe that budget-constrained departments should not pay more than a corporation. The problem with this argument is that it puts the interests of departments ahead of the larger needs of the discipline, newly minted PhDs, and the AHA itself. This suggestion would make the AHA an asset for organizations other than history departments, in order to be inclusive to all those who study the past; increase employment opportunities for AHA members; and increase the membership of the organization.
5) Add other disciplines to the AHA presidency rotation: In the past the AHA had presidents in closely related disciplines like political science, library science, and archaeology. Since the end of World War II, the AHA has been dominated by academic historians. It is time for the AHA to make efforts to bring others into the organization. Broadening the leadership of the AHA is the first step in expanding the organization's knowledge of other careers where the history PhD can find employment and contribute to our understanding of the past.
6) Develop an AHA alternative career speaker series: Most AHA members have gone from grad school to employment as professors, and often do not have ideas about or contacts in other fields. Many historians in alternate careers have done significant trailblazing that the rest of the discipline does not appreciate. An AHA-sponsored speaker series can make these experiences better known while enhancing the reputations of archaeologists, political scientists, librarians, archivists, journalists, documentary filmmakers, historical preservationists, professional writers, museum curators, and editors who explore the past. This series will start the conversations that Grafton and Grossman want to have take place. Academic historians are not talking to these professional communities regularly and the AHA should take the lead in initiating these conversations.
7) Develop conversion programs: The AHA should invite a number of these other professions to a series of small weekend workshops on the skills needed to work in other fields. While a PhD in history is a great credential, the training does not always translate easily to other professional career paths. The AHA needs to help its members find ways to leverage the assets of the degree.

So, how does a history PhD trained to become a professor convert to another field? To provide an answer, a conversion program needs to address certain questions: Will new PhDs need another degree? Are internships important? Where do you go to find these jobs? In which organizations and conferences should one participate?
The products of these small workshops can include: a series of AHA pamphlets, such as The History PhD as Documentary Filmmaker, etc.; a series of sessions at the AHA annual meeting; templates or syllabi for similar efforts by history departments; or an AHA speaker series on alternative careers. At the last annual meeting, the AHA took a good, first step in this direction with "The Malleable PhD" mini-conference—eight sessions exploring employment opportunities in business and government. More such efforts are needed on a systematic basis.
8) Develop an incentive program for closing down PhD programs: Many of these proposals are designed to alleviate symptoms. The root of the problem is the overproduction of history PhDs. None of the symptoms will go away until that problem is resolved. Reducing the number of individuals holding the history PhD is a good thing for those who already have it; when supply goes down, demand—the form of job opportunities and salaries—goes up.

As a result, the AHA should encourage departments to shut down their PhD programs. Market forces will necessitate this type of action anyway. The number of history departments with PhD programs is not sustainable because faculty in these programs often carry light teaching loads, and PhD programs do not generate as much revenue for departments as undergraduate courses. The problem is faculty will resist because professional reputations are bolstered by advising PhD candidates. Another consideration is that the AHA has no authority over departments.  
The AHA can, however, offer incentives to encourage departments and individuals to do voluntarily what administrators will force on them eventually. The AHA can offer free job ads and lower rates on departmental directory listings to departments that drop their PhD programs.

This is unlikely to be enough; departments are made up of scholars who place their careers above the interests of their institutions. The AHA, however, can appeal to their concerns. Members of departments that voluntarily shut down their PhD programs can be rewarded with guaranteed inclusions in AHA publications: five book reviews in the American Historical Review; a promise by the AHR to review their next two books; an article in the journal within five years, or a promise that their submission will only be sent to three reviewers and that only two positive reviews will be required for acceptance; or a guaranteed article in Perspectives for each member of the department. These historians can also be promised sessions at the annual meeting. The AHA can hedge its bets by limiting this program to, say, the first five or ten departments that downsize.
Okay, these are my ideas. I am offering them in an honest effort to follow up in a tangible way on the "Plan B" article. If readers of this publication have better suggestions I would love to hear them, and I suspect so would the AHA.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Blog CLXVIII (148): Option 1 Revisited

It has been a while since this blog reproduced a report from another media.  This article in the Times Higher Education offers a good reason to return to this practice. It is a good, even handed reporting and analysis on trends taking place here in the United States in the history business.   It combines issues recently discussed in this blog, including: 1) the ramifications of rising tuition and 2) the real possibility that outsiders will intervene in higher education to fix the huge surplus of people holding the Ph.D. degree.  This article was written by John Marcus and was published as: "U.S. Historians Defend their Discipline."  Here is that article:

Some history professors in Florida are paying more attention these days to the future than to the past.

The historians have organised themselves to promote the value of their discipline against a growing sentiment that history is “non-strategic” in an economy that needs more engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs and workers in the health professions.

This is no longer just an academic issue. Like several other US politicians, Florida’s governor, Republican Rick Scott, has questioned whether taxpayers should continue fully subsidising public universities to teach subjects he says are in low demand. Academics in the humanities and some social sciences fear this threatens the survival of their departments. 
“If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education, then I’m going to take that money to create jobs,” Scott told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.”
The Republican governors of North Carolina and Wisconsin have made similar pronouncements. “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school and take it,” said North Carolina’s governor, Patrick McCrory.
“But I don’t want to subsidise that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, has said that public technical colleges in his state should be judged on whether “young people [are] getting degrees in jobs that are open and needed today, not just the jobs that the universities want to give us.” 
This debate about the relative worth of the sciences versus the humanities is not new. But it has been propelled by the escalating cost of higher education. 
As students fall deeper into debt to pay for their tuition, more than two- thirds now believe the goal of going to a university is to increase their earning power, according to research by Arthur Levine, president emeritus of Teachers College, Columbia University. 
About 88 per cent of this year’s first-year undergraduates in the US say that “getting a better job” is the top reason they enrolled, according to a survey by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Higher Education Research Institute (The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2012). In 2006, 71 per cent gave that reason.

Internal Division
The debate has even driven a wedge between conventional four-year universities and some two-year community colleges, which enrol about half of the nation’s post-secondary students and typically focus on vocational education.

“It is time we all accept the fact that a traditional four-year liberal arts education is a poor investment for America’s middle class,” Tom Snyder, president of Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, has written. “Today’s economy cannot support more art history or philosophy majors.”

In response, several associations of universities with four-year courses are fighting back. The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) is aggressively advocating the importance of imparting “broad knowledge and transferable skills.”  And the Council of Independent Colleges has established a Campaign for the Liberal Arts that will provide research and data to dispel stereotypes about the discipline.

“There is a new and heightened perception driving this trend that associations and organisations need to help the public better understand the value of the liberal arts,” said Laura Wilcox, the council’s spokeswoman.

The organisations contend that what employers really want from universities is not job training but graduates who can think critically, write and speak well, and solve problems.

“[Employers] say, ‘I want an engineer who can talk to people. I want an engineer who can write a memo. I want an engineer who doesn’t act like a goof.’ Everybody rolls their eyes when [employers] do that, but the data says they’re right,” said Anthony Carnevale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

An AAC&U survey of corporate executives found that nearly 90 per cent want workers with verbal and written communication skills, 75 per cent are looking for graduates who understand ethical decision-making, and 70 per cent say they need innovative and creative employees.

“None of this is to [criticise] the disciplines of science and engineering and technology, but we also need to train people in the art of understanding the world around them, where they fit into society and all of those sorts of things,” said Norman Goda, a history professor at the University of Florida who has helped to organise a petition against the governor’s proposal to charge lower fees for “strategic” majors in high workplace demand and more for “non-strategic” - largely humanities - majors, such as history.

“I can’t predict the downfall of man if there are fewer history majors but the cumulative effect over decades would surely not be a good one,” he added. 

Class Divisions
Others say the trend could deepen class divisions as some students will continue to be able to afford a humanities education while others will have no choice but to seek specific job skills.

“The rich get education and the poor get training,” Carnevale said. “It’s a way of reproducing class. The higher education system is now in cahoots with the economy to reproduce class.” Already, he added, “there are a lot of kids who are not getting a real education any more. They’re getting training.”

Reversing that shift will not be easy. The proportion of students majoring in the humanities has already fallen to just 8 per cent, according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, down from a peak of more than 17 per cent in 1967.

“The issue of questioning the value of the liberal arts has been going on for more than just the past few years. It’s been going on for decades,” Goda said.

“Part of the problem that the liberal arts has always had is that you really cannot quantify what we do.

“The possibility of someone with a nursing degree going into nursing is very, very high. Someone with an English degree or a history degree could go into any one of a number of fields. They train you for a number of careers - not necessarily one,” he added.

More Likely to Get a Job
Yet no matter what the university associations say, students with degrees in the sciences are incontrovertibly more likely to get a job and make more money than graduates in the humanities. The unemployment rate in 2012 for recent history majors was 10.2 per cent, compared with 7.5 per cent for students who majored in engineering, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reports.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers reports that humanities and social science graduates earn $36,988 (£24,437) a year compared with $61,913 for engineering graduates.

“There’s more and more tension about this, especially as prices go up,” Carnevale said.
That tension is clearly being felt in history departments and by faculty in other humanities disciplines.

“When tenured faculty retire, they’re not going to be replaced,” Goda said. “What you may have, and what you have had, is the detritus of history, English and political science departments being combined into a department of humanities.

“And once you tear down departments like those, it’s tough, if it’s possible at all, to restore them.”

Here is my take.  First, as I said before, a very good article that gives a lot of good information.

Second--and people might not like this one--but Governor Scott has a point.  If the market is saturated with history Ph.D.s, then is there really a social need for the State of Florida need to produce more? Scott was talking about the humanities in general and not focusing on the Ph.D. but rather undergraduates, but his question gets to the heart of the issue: supply and demand.  When supply exceeds demand, one of the responses is to reduce the supply. 

Third, while Scott has a good point, Governors McCrory and Walker have taken it too far.  Colleges and universities are not vocational/technical schools.  They simply are not.

Fourth, while they are wrong and right, the governors are certainly within their rights to impose change on colleges and universities.  If the academic community in general, and history in particular, refuses to police itself and respond to broad social and economic factors, then others will do it for them.  Scholars will resent that action, because it will probably do a lot more damage than if they had responded and developed a program or policies of their own.  One easy way to do that is to reduce the costs of tuition, which is a major factor (but not the only one) for this outside intervention.  (There are several reasons why tuition has increased; some of it is beyond the control of colleges and universities; some of it is within their control). 

Fifth, Professor Goda is correct.  Once a department and program gets terminated it will probably stay terminated.  On the other hand, Carnevale is wrong.  There is hardly going to be a new form of class warfare between the rich liberal arts majors and the poor accounting and marketing students. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Blog CLXVII (147): "Reform Time" Part II

Perspectives on History (February 2013)
My article "Reform Time: Some Proposals to Help Solve the Job Crisis" is now fully available on-line.  The AHA staff opened the article to the general public (members and non-members alike), so readers will not hit a paywall if they try to access the article. Rather than reproduce it here, I am linking to the AHA's website.  If you want citation information, it is: Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, "Reform Time: Some Proposals to Help Solve the Job Crisis" Perspectives on History, vol. 54, no. 4 (April 2013), 38-39.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Blog CXLVI (146): History vs. Applied History vs. Public History

I wrote an article for the AHA newsletter Perspectives on History that is out in the current issue.  I basically use it to push some reform recommendations on the AHA that will help the organization improve job opportunities for those who are looking for work.  A good deal of editing was involved to get the article down to the required word limit.  I dropped a couple of my recommendations and also eliminated a discussion of history vs. public history vs. applied history.  The purpose of this posting is to expand on that last point since very little of it got into the final version. 

The term “applied history” is not common.  I see “applied history” as disciplines that use existing historical knowledge to address practical problems in other fields and professions.  I wish I could claim it as my own, but the first time I heard it was in 2001 at a teaching workshop when Andrew J. Bacevich, a historian teaching in an international relations department, used it to describe the courses he taught.  It is a pretty good description of the courses that I teach at the Naval War College.  These classes are about two-thirds history (military and diplomatic) and about one-third political science (international relations and political theory).  We are using the history to develop analytical skills among our students so they can become strategists for the armed services (our students are military officers or civil servants working for various agencies of the U.S. government—State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigations, etc.).  Some of the questions we explore are historical in nature, while others are designed to test theories or answer ahistorical issues.

Applied history is also a good term for a number of other professions that study the past on a regular basis.  These career paths include historians teaching in other disciplines, archaeologists, social scientists, librarians, archivists, and editors.

History—and by that I mean the type of study that one regularly encounters in a department of history at a college or university—develops information to explain and understand phenomena, events, and trends of the past.  We can call this “history,” or  “academic history,” or “basic history” or “pure history.”

The real question then is how is “applied history” different from "public history”?  In some very real ways it is the same thing.  As I understand it, the term “public history” replaced “applied history” as a basic descriptor.  Needless to say, this term is a bit confusing.  Consider this comment from James McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize winning historian who served as president of the American Historical Association in 2003: “I cannot remember exactly when I first encountered the term 'public history.' It does not seem all that many years ago. And I am embarrassed to confess that I initially thought public history was the story of public events—the kind of history that most of us taught and wrote before the private lives of ordinary people in home and family became an important field of historical inquiry.”

While the term “public history” is one that many historians might recognized instead of “applied history,” it is incredibly vague.  It is often used to describe some very different activities that have little to do with the public sphere. The job duties of "applied historians" like myself and Bacevich are not that much different than what an academic historian at some place like...oh, say...the University of Kansas or Kansas State University might be doing.  In fact, Bacevich is an academic; he is a tenured faculty member at Boston University.  My job is also pretty much the same as some one at Kansas or Kansas State, I grade papers, run seminars, read books, and do service work for the college and my department.  There are many other people that use history to explore the issues relevant to their academic fields and they are often housed in different departments at a college or university.  They include people studying: economics, music, math, art, kinesiology, and business.  Most archaeologists, social scientists, librarians, editors of historical paper collections, and archivists are also academics.

Public historians, I would argue, are primarily those that are interfacing with a large audience comprised of the general, non-academic public. This description is not to say that doing intellectually irrelevant work or having little interchange with academics.  The big difference for them is that history is very often a consumable product for their audiences that might exist for educational purposes, but could also exist for entertainment or for issues specific to certain professional disciplines.  Teaching is usually not in their mission set.  People in these fields include historical preservationists, journalists, documentary filmmakers, professional writers, national historical park staffs, museum curators, staff historians of government agencies, and individuals working for research firms.  Public historians might have a Ph.D. in history, but many times it is something they earn along the way to bolster their other professional experiences and credentials. (In this sense, the Ph.D. is not a two way street; while it helps someone in these fields, the degree does not in and of itself make one qualified to do this type of work).

Much of this discussion got cut from the Perspectives article, which was appropriate.   It took the article off target.  I also wrote at great length about public history in Blog XLVI (46): The History Ph.D. as Public Historian.  It is a good essay and has been one of the more popular postings on this blog.  This discussion, though, explains a major thrust of that previous article.  There is a big, huge divide between historians working in academic history departments and those scholars working in applied or public history.  In Blog XLVI, I quoted Alexandra Lord, a historian for the U.S. Public Health Service, on this matter: “While researching about different careers and the many ways in which one can practice history, I was struck by the academic community’s failure to regard those outside academia as historians engaged in scholarly and valuable work.  Having embraced these foolish prejudices as a graduate student and then a professor, I have come now, as a nonacademic historian, to wonder why these prejudices are so pervasive. What does it say about our profession when we believe that historians who work with senators, reporters, policy analysts, and the general public should not be the among the best of our profession? What does it say when we dismiss the historian who uses his or her degree in a unique and innovative fashion that promotes the study of history?”

So, why is this relevant to an article about reforming the AHA in the hopes of improving the job market?

Glad you asked.  A basic problem the AHA faces—even if it don't know it—is it isolated.  Most AHA leaders have gone from undergrad status to graduate school to faculty positions, and have very little knowledge of other professional opportunities for historians.  The AHA needs to make efforts to reach out to other fields.  One way as I discuss in the article is to open up the AHA presidency to people in these other fields.  That recommendation is in the article. Another way—which got cut—is to create an "applied history" division within the AHA to reach out to scholars working in other disciplines and/or public history.  My hope is that the organization can sponsor conferences and sessions at the annual meeting, arrange for the publication of articles in Perspectives, and provide services like including "applied/public historians" in the annual directory of history departments in a noticeable way (maybe make it a directory of institutions rather than departments) or make advertising jobs in perspective cheap and affordable for other organizations.  The ultimate goal of all this broadening activity is to alert AHA members—be they mentors to young scholars or the job seekers themeselves—to the employment opportunities that exist beyond the history department. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Blog CXLV (145): Success Stories

Today's posting represents the start of a new series for the In the Service of Clio blog.  This series "Success Stories" is an attempt to share what some new scholars have done to beat the odds and find steady employment.  This series will not dominate for a year, the way the "Eight Questions" series did and a number of other pieces will appear in between postings that are part of this undertaking.

The first contribution in this series comes from Heather Dichter.  She is an assistant professor in the Department of Sport Management and Media at Ithaca College.  She has previously taught at Franklin College Switzerland, York College of Pennsylvania, and the University of Toronto.  She received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto with a dissertation entitled "Sporting Democracy: The Western Allies’ Reconstruction of Germany Through Sport, 1944-1952," for which she received several research grants by organizations such as the Society for Historians for American Foreign Relations, the George Marshall Foundation, the International Society for Olympic Historians, and the Norway-America Association.  She has a forthcoming article in History of Education, has had her work appear in Stadion, and co-edited a special issue of Sport in Society on the Olympic Reform process in the aftermath of the Salt Lake City bidding scandal.  She is currently co-editing with Andrew Johns an anthology on sport and foreign relations after 1945, as well as working on a monograph on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the bidding process for the 1968 Olympic Games. Here is her essay:
The process by which I came to work in a pre-professional program at a comprehensive college with a history Ph.D. seems, at first glance, an strange fit – yet, the nature of my historical research and my extracurricular experiences outside of graduate school provided me with the qualities which my current department desired in its faculty. 
My interest in sport history began as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, almost always selecting a sport topic when I had a free choice for the research papers in my history classes.  I continued to pursue this aspect within my graduate studies, writing on sport in Germany during the occupation and Cold War.  While I was in graduate school, in addition to any teaching assistant or research assistant positions I held, I also continued to work in athletic media relations.  I had first worked in this field while a senior at the University of Michigan, volunteering in the Athletic Media Relations department.  When I moved to Chapel Hill to attend the University of North Carolina, I worked in their Athletic Communications office.  I took a year off between my M.A. and Ph.D., returning to Ann Arbor to work full-time as an intern in the Athletic Media Relations office – and also presenting two conference papers so as not to be completely away from academia.  It didn’t hurt being in a town with such great libraries, either.  With USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program also located in Ann Arbor, I was able to gain some experience working at an international sporting event.  During the course of my doctoral studies at the University of Toronto, I also spent two and a half seasons working with the American Hockey League teams in Toronto (first the Road Runners, then the Marlies). 
The project I chose for my dissertation not only used traditional archival materials, but I wanted to use sport organization records.  Unlike other scholars who have not been successful in gaining access to these types of files, my experiences working in sport enabled me to conduct research in the records of several national and international sport federations in Europe.  I also volunteered with the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Cologne, working in the evenings and weekends when the archives were closed. 
The University of Toronto had provided me with the opportunity to develop a course on Sport and Globalization, which I taught twice there and, later, at Franklin College in Lugano, Switzerland.  However, I completed my Ph.D. in 2008, right as the prospects for academic history jobs became grim.  I realized, with my experience working in sport and my contacts across the U.S. as well as the globe, I could apply for jobs in both history departments as well as sport management departments. 
Sport management is a growing field which many universities and colleges are adding to their curriculum because they recognize the interest in sport among students as well as the size of the industry.  Because it is such a young field, there are few people who have received a Ph.D. in sport management.  Thus, these departments are largely staffed by people who have industry experience alongside advanced education: MBA, J.D., Ed.D., or Ph.D. in another area but with a focus on sport.  This aspect worked in my favor. 
The Department of Sport Management and Media at Ithaca College hired me in 2012 to teach courses in two of their three majors: sport media and sport studies.  This interdisciplinary department offers three majors: B.S. in sport management, B.S. in sport media, and B.A. in sport studies (a liberal arts combination of history, sociology, and philosophy).  During this first year I am teaching courses in the history of sport, the evolution of sport media (an historical examination of the intersection of sport and media), and an introductory course on sport media.  Whereas in a history department I might only have an opportunity to teach a course on sport once every few years, or include the occasional sport example in a course, teaching in a sport management department allows all of the courses I teach to be about the topic which I find most interesting: sport. 
Introductory courses in a pre-professional program provide an overview of the industry, introducing the various aspects of the industry and types of positions available within the field to the students.  Unlike teaching an introductory course such as western civilization, which many students often take only because it fulfills a general education requirement and do not have much interest in the course, my Introduction to Sport Media course has been an exciting adventure in terms of creating the course and opening students’ eyes to the many possibilities of working in sport – and that being a journalist or broadcaster are not the only opportunities in sport and media.  The course includes media theory, historical content, practical experiences, and writing assignments that provide opportunities to practice writing industry-specific pieces as well as critical thinking papers more in line with a liberal arts discipline. 
My contacts from having worked in sport, as well as the contacts I made throughout the course of my doctoral research, have provided excellent resources for my role as a faculty member in the Department of Sport Management and Media.  My students greatly enjoy the guest talks (often via skype) that these industry professionals have done with the class.  My industry contacts are also useful as I advise students and help them locate opportunities for the two internships required for the sport media major.  Advising is an important part of my position, and one reason why many students choose to enroll in the program at Ithaca College is because of the strong alumni network and the loyalty which the Department of Sport Management and Media alumni have for the program.  My contacts in Europe at the national and international sport federations have also been useful as I plan a short-term study abroad course for students to experience sport cultures that are different than the professional and college sports which dominate the American sport landscape.  My students will not only experience several other sport cultures, but also have an opportunity to work an international sport event. 
I spent four years on the job market, and while I am not in a history department, I am not far from my history roots.  Teaching in an interdisciplinary pre-professional program enables me to focus on the academic area that interests me the most – sport – as well work closely with students throughout their four years as they develop in both their intellectual and professional capacities.  When I first started graduate school I thought of my work in sport and my academic work as two separate parts of my life; as a faculty member in the Department of Sport Management and Media at Ithaca College, I am able to bring all of these experiences together. 
When others bemoaned the lack of job openings in their field of history, I did not share their sentiments because I was busy applying to history jobs as well as openings in other fields.  Many graduate students develop their research interests as an outgrowth of personal experiences and interests, and I encourage those students to think about ways in which these areas can work together in an academic capacity.  Look for other programs and departments which, on the surface might not appear to be a natural fit for someone with a Ph.D. in history but which coincide with aspects of one’s research and extracurricular activities. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Blog CLXIV (144): "Reform Time"

The April issue of Perspectives on History, the newsletter of the American Historical Association, is out and it includes an article I wrote "Reform Time: Some Proposals to Help Solve the Job Crisis."  My arguments will not be new to the readers of this blog, but I wanted to alert readers to be on the lookout for this piece.  I will have several references to it in the next couple of weeks.

First, I want to note that Allen Mikaelian did an impressive job of editing the essay.  I am not sure if he bought my arguments or not, but in a good give and take, we cut the article down to 1,500 words without doing much damage.  I did remove a couple of items, but why I did that I will explain later. 

Second, the AHA staff reads this blog regularly.  This fact, I think, made them receptive to publishing my article, since they have known for a while that I have been trying to offer alternatives and ideas to solve professional issues, but they are looking for other voices.  Here is Mikaelian's assessment:
We who work on Perspectives on History and AHA social media find it all but impossible either to regard the public as a straw man or to please only ourselves, because our reading public—AHA members, nonmembers in the discipline, interested parties in other disciplines, reporters looking for a story—are always present. As creative, thoughtful people in the habit of writing and discussing, who are also plugged into social media, they let us know quickly and in many formats exactly what they think of the ideas presented in the latest issue or blog post... 
The articles in this issue by Johann Neem and Nicholas Sarantakes are exactly what we want to see. Neem responds to the Tuning project with a cautionary tale from the history of higher education, and Sarantakes reacts to the "Plan B" and "Plan C" articles offered in these pages by Anthony Grafton and James Grossman. When we receive more articles like these—thoughtfully critical of AHA projects, publications, or positions; well written; offered in the spirit of advancing the conversation—we will publish them. As editor, I'll even work to make their arguments sharper.
Much the same goes for comments and blog posts on other sites that concern things we've published. We want to link to them and promote them. They should be part of the conversation, but that can't happen if we don't know they exist.
The Tuning Project is an AHA exercise in studying and then defining what a student should be able to understand and do when they graduate with a history degree.

In the closing of the article, I said that my ideas were a constructive effort to help solve professional problems that historians are facing.  You might not like the ideas—and that is okay—but if you like my ideas or have better ones to solve employment issues—and that is the real issue, not praising or criticizing my article—I hope you will offer up your voice and let the AHA know in some form or fashion.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Blog CLXIII (143): Tuition and the Future of History

One of the impressions I have picked up over three years of writing this blog, is that most historians do not like economics.  Problem is it is a legitimate academic discipline and current economic issues suggest that earning a Ph.D. in history is going to become a lot more difficult.  

Over the last few weeks there has been some modest interest in policy circles about tuition increases at public colleges.  Last year average costs went up 8.3 percent, which according to The Wall Street Journal, is the highest single year on record.  Why?  The answer is fairly simple: state governments have been cutting appropriates to higher education, and the schools responded with tuition increases to make good the loses. 

These cuts have been so severe that supply and demand dynamics have not compensated.  Consider the case of Florida.  Funding for the State University System of Florida went down  more than $1 billion over the last six years, even as enrollment went up by more than 35,000 students.

Other schools have simply stopped or reduced certain functions. The worst example comes from the Golden State.  The California State University System declined to take most transfer students this past year.  Over the past three years the system has rejected about 20,000 students who otherwise qualified for admission.

Sandy Baum of the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, told The Wall Street Journal that tuition was a major problem facing higher education: "Unless we make public funding a higher priority, the funds are going to have to come from parents and students."

In a moment of bipartisan unity, both Republican and Democratic leaders have called for tuition reform.  "We can’t just keep subsidizing skyrocketing tuition; we’ll run out of money," President Barack Obama said in his 2012 State of the Union address.  "So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down.  Higher education can’t be a luxury--it is an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford."  Later in the year, Governor Rick Perry of Texas said, he wanted to impose a four year tax freeze on state funded colleges and universities.  "If you get out of the University of Texas with a $50,000 debt, I don't know if we've served you well," he explained. "We'll tell an incoming freshman, this is what the university will charge you for four years."

Easy words.  Cheap words. 

Don't get me wrong, there is no doubt that tuition has gone up over the past ten years.  After controlling for inflation, tuition and fees are now 26 percent higher at private four-year colleges, 47 percent at public two-year colleges, and 66 percent at public four-year colleges. Why?  Because they can. This is what the market will bear.  As this chart shows, student loans are the second-largest form of private debt in the United States:

The acronym HELOC stands for home equity line of credit.

Something worth pointing out--student debt has grown rapidly in comparison to other kinds of debt.  Some of this staying power is because consumers have lowered other forms of debt during the recession. Student debt, however, is different, because it represents an investment in a future career and earning power rather than consumption.  Another reason, many people see additional education as an alternative to trying to find a job in a down market. A college degree is an obvious necessity for increased earning power.  People who know and understand that fact and will pay nearly anything for a degree, and colleges know that they know, which is why they get away with fee and tuition increases that are well over the rate of inflation.

I would love it if the President's plan actually happened.  It would lead to a larger pool of students, which would lead to more faculty positions and more salary.  Sad to say, though, it ain't going to happen.  The reasons why are explained in a good article by Timothy Noah in the New Republic.

Still, that is a lot of debt.  What options does a student have?  Several, actually.  Undergraduates can enroll in cheap schools.  Americans at Canadian schools is a growing phenomenon.  Students can also graduate fast, taking heavy loads, doing summer school, graduating a semester or two early.  Another is to major in a field that promises a good rate of return on the investment, which is a fancy way of saying students are gravitating to the fields of study that have the potential for well-paying jobs following graduation.  There might be other options, but the real issue I want to raise is this: how does growing student debt affect the field of history? 

Will students majoring in history decline or increase?  Most of the attention on tuition costs has focused on undergraduates, but it will have an impact on graduate students.  What happens to a history department when funding goes down despite an increase in student numbers?  What will happen to teaching assistant positions as history enrollments decline?  How likely are students with $50,000 in debt to go to graduate school in history?  How likely is it that there will be new positions for these Ph.D.s when they finish their dissertation? 

I don't have the answer to all of those questions, but the general direction of the likely answers do not bode well for those wanting to earn a Ph.D.  In short, these issues suggest that it is going to be harder and more unwise to go to graduate school in history in the near future.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Blog CXLII (142): Eight Questions: Many Thank Yous

I want to take a moment and thank everyone that contributed to the “Eight Questions” series.  It was an eye opening experience for me.  I learned a lot about the diverse fields that make up history.  We can get a little balkanized in our areas of expertise and can be woefully ignorant of the issues facing others in the profession, even when they are down the hallway from us.  Case in point, a senior historian at a conference came up to me and said he was learning new things about different fields. 

This project, though, was far more difficult than it looks to the outside world and I need to thank a lot of people.  First, let me thank those that wrote some early essays in this series: Isaac Land of Indiana State University, Peter Messer of Mississippi State University, Angela Lahr at Finger Lakes Community College, Jonathan Winkler of Wright State University, Maureen Smith of Cal State Sacramento, Douglas Ford, then of the University of Salford now at the University of Birmingham, and Greg Smits of Pennsylvania State University for their essays.  I know all of them, some better than others.  Land and Messer taught with me at Texas A&M University—Commerce and Lahr replaced me when I went off on a series of fellowships that became a new job.  Smits was finishing his Ph.D. at USC when I was just starting.  Ford, Smith, and Winkler I know from the conference and summer workshop circuits.

The basic point is that I had some type of contact with those six and since they knew me, they did a favor for me in making their contribution.  That makes those that I want to thank next even more special.  Most of the people that wrote in this series do not know me and committed to this project believing in either its intellectual merit or out of a sense of service to the rest of the profession, or maybe both.  These type of thanks are pro forma in a lot of books, but two points are worth making: first, this series would not have existed without them; and two, a lot of people turned me down—some were rather rude about it, and others (including several people I know personally) never bothered to respond.   Either way that makes me extremely grateful for the contributions from John D. Hosler of Morgan State University and Chad Williams, then of Hamilton College and now the chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University, wrote his essay at a difficult time in my personal life and I am grateful I had something to keep me preoccupied. I also am deeply grateful for the contributions from Denise Ho of the University of Kentucky and Nic Clarke of the Royal Military College of Canada and the University of Ottawa who also has the distinction of being the first foreign contributor to the series.  Jason Philips of Mississippi State, Timothy Stanley of the Rothermere American Institute at the University of Oxford, Susan Rensing of the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and Lauren Kientz Anderson then of the University of Kentucky now of Luther College wrote thoughtful essays.  Anderson was at the time a regular contributor to the U.S. Intellectual History Blog run by the Society for U.S. Intellectual History.  She posted on that blog about the “Eight Question” series, which led to a lot of new visitors to In the Service of Clio.

Nine minutes after I sent Jim Giesen of Mississippi State an e-mail requesting that he contribute, he wrote back: "I've read your blog on a few occasions so I'm delighted by the invitation to participate."  The speed and positive nature of that response was stunning.

Tiffany Trimmer, then of Bowling Green State and now a faculty member at University of Wisconsin, La Crosse  wrote her essay as she was in the early stages of packing and preparing her move.  That might have been above and beyond the call of duty. Siobhan Talbott of the University of Manchester and Daniel Amsterdam of The Ohio State University contributed meaningful and useful essays.  Amerstadam also gave me some useful guidance on his field that I will end up using in my next book project.   
Eileen V. Wallis of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; Daniel L. Schwartz of Texas A&M University, and Edward Frantz of the University of Indianapolis wrote the next set of essays.  Frantz and I first made contact with one another through the book review process, when I was both trying find a reviewer for his book and asking him to review another title.  (If you have a new book hit the bookshelves, do not be surprised if you start getting requests to review books; a lot of book review editors do this.)  Frantz also went out and promoted his essay on Twitter, which once again led to a lot of new visitors to In the Service of Clio.
Margaret Peacock of the University of Alabama, Neilesh Bose of the University of North Texas, Robert Bender of Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and Felice Batlan of the Chicago-Kent College of Law, Illinois Institute of Technology were next.  Batlan then got me to write a book review for the History and Law Review. Steven Bunker of the University of Alabama, Will Hanley of Florida State University, Owen Stanwood of Boston College, Marla Miller of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Joy Rohde of Trinity University, Ruramisai Charumbira of the University of Texas, and Charlotte Brooks of Baruch College, City University of New York wrote the reviews that rounded out the series.

The voices of this series represent a wide, diverse range of experiences in addition to fields of expertise.  These 33 people attended 27 different schools for the Ph.D.  I think these experiences give the series some real authority.  Consider the wide rang of institutions:
  • Harvard University
  • London School of Economics
  • Michigan State University
  • New York University
  • Northeastern University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Northwestern University
  • The Ohio State University
  • Princeton University
  • Rice University
  • Rutgers University
  • Texas Christian University
  • Tufts University
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of Cambridge, Trinity College
  • University of Delaware
  • University of Georgia
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Minnesota
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • University of Ottawa
  • University of Pennsylvania
  • University of St. Andrews
  • University of Southern California 
  • University of Texas
  • University of Utah
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Yale University
Several people helped me from behind the scenes. Knowing people in 33 different fields is a bit difficult.  I leaned on a number of people for introductions and recommendations.  They included Peter Messer, John Beeler of the University of Alabama, Galen Peras of the University of Ottawa. Michael Creswell of Florida State University, Mitch Lerner of The Ohio State University, and my departmental colleague George Satterfield of the U.S. Naval War College. Anne Marshall of Mississippi State University, Sana Aiyar of the University of Wisconsin, and John Dichtl, the executive director of the National Council on Public History, all turned me down when I asked them to write essays for the blog, but they went out of their way to recommend other possible contributors.  In each and every case, those individuals said yes.

While there is some good diversity in these scholarly experiences, the schools where they were educated, and where these scholars found employment, there are some shortcomings with the series and I am well aware of them. There were a couple of fields I wanted to include, and never did. There are two reasons. First, at the begining, I established the fields I would approach. I went for several overarching topics. Some of that follows a Americentric definition of history and might reflect the breakdown of teaching responsibilities in a big, research university like the one in which I earned my BA. Guilty as charged...sort of.  Yes, there were several subfields in U.S. history, but other national narratives were covered, and at some point I could not pursue a contribution from every small group. The American Historical Association requires that at least five people indentify themselves in a certain subfield for it to be included in its listings of specializations. I simply could not pursue someone to write a post on New Zealand enviromental history and Utah religious history. Second, I pursued entries representing some fairly big fields and faced constant rejection from specialists in these topics.  Such is life.  No one was under any obligation to contribute, but it really did make me feel particularly grateful towards those that contributed. 

This blog has a lot of readers outside the United States and that is particularly gratifying.  I tried to get foreign scholars to contribute to talk about what is happening in the history profession in other places.  I succeded in several instances.  While this list might still seem a little heavy on the American side, I would point out that several of the scholars that earned degrees from U.S. schools and work in the United States are citizens of other nations.  Long story made short, the list is a little more diverse than it looks at first glance.

To bring this essay to a conclusion, I am quite proud of the work that was done in creating this series.  It could have done more, but what it did was really quite good.  Most of that was not due to me, but others and I am extremely grateful to them.