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Editors’ Choice: Alt-Ac Roundup

A Move to Bring Staff Scholars Out of the Shadows by Donna M. Bickford and Anne Mitchell Whisnant

We continue to believe that, with a few policy changes, some cultural shift, and relatively modest amounts of money, our university could develop an innovative, flexible alt-ac support program. In doing so, Chapel Hill could join efforts under way at other institutions to reform doctoral education and confront the Ph.D. employment crisis.

What Alt-Ac Can Do, and What It Can’t by Miriam Posner

Alt-ac’s need not be digital humanists, but digital humanists have found the term to be particularly congenial, since many of us happen to hold these hybrid jobs, and since a founding principle of digital humanities work — that one can think through and articulate humanistic principles in unconventional ways — complements the nontraditional, praxis-based scholarship that many alt-ac’s perform. Alt-ac’s need not be Ph.D.s, but given the current status of the academic job market, many Ph.D.s have seized on the alt-ac movement as a beacon of hope in an otherwise fairly depressing situation.

Four History PhDs Discuss their Alt-­Ac Careers by Lauren Apter Bairnsfather, Pam Lach, Jason Myers, and Anne Mitchell Whisnant

In January 2013, at the AHA annual meeting in New Orleans, we four history PhDs working in non-­faculty roles in academic administration-­or “alt-­acs,” as recent lingo would have it-­formed a panel as part of a mini-­conference on the Malleable PhD. Like similar panelists at the concurrent MLA convention, we sought to demystify the alt-­ac career track.

We represent a range of ages and career stages; three of us are employed at the institutions where we completed our PhDs, and one of us earned a master’s degree after completing her PhD. We enjoy our work, yet continue to grapple with the uncharted terrain of alternative career paths within the academy. What follows is an abbreviated recap of some insights from our discussion.

This content was selected for Digital Humanities Now by Editor-in-Chief Amanda Morton based on nominations by Editors-at-Large: Amy Wickner, Anne McGrail, Brooke Ellsworth, Cedrick May, Guinevere Barlow, James Smithies, Paige Morgan, and Sarah Canfield Fuller