From the AHA Online column in the January 2013 issue of Perspectives on History

Trending on AHA Social Media

Vanessa Varin, January 2013

The AHA's social media spaces (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) feature the latest news in the history profession. Conversation and debate related to the history PhD and the general health of the history major attracted a considerable amount of feedback and comment across our social media platforms last month. The AHA continues to welcome discussion on these important topics. Below is a roundup of reactions relating to some trending issues in history profession; we hope the conversations will continue to grow.

Versatile PhD

Spurred by the AHA's announcement of a new member benefit, Versatile PhD, we watched a rich conversation among our Twitter followers centered not only Versatile PhD, but around significant issues historians face when choosing a non-academic career. With regards to our blog post,
@jucomte tweeted, "This is neat, but emphasizing confidentiality perpetuates the stigma surrounding leaving academia." @galarzaalex seconded this observation, writing "VersatilePhD member benefit is awesome! BUT, confidentiality as a feature of using it reveals a BIG problem in grad training."

In addition to confidentiality, our followers also discussed the trouble in labeling an alternative career historian. @tjowens tweeted, "academic means lots of things. We should take care classifying a class of work as not academic." To read more of this conversation, visit the AHA Storify space.

Humanities Indicators: How Do History Major Compare to Other Fields?

The Humanities Indicator, an invaluable resource hosted by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, offers statistics on the health of the humanities, including specific data on job prospects and salary trends. In regards to the stark contrast between men's and women's salaries, Facebook follower Courtney asked, "Has a study ever been done to address why there is such a gap with gender earnings, so much so that the statistics for women historians in US history is negligible?" AHA Deputy Director Robert Townsend responded, "The lack of data for women with degrees in U.S. history reflects the small proportion of females earning degrees in the subject—not a gap in earnings. For more on the wider demographic differences see the article from the October Perspectives(also read Townsend's blog post on the Humanities Indicators).

Historians React to Proposal from Florida Task Force on State Higher Education Reform

While the Humanities Indicator piece generated specific inquiries about salary discrepancies, the University of Florida petition against differential tuitions generated a much broader discussion over the value of a humanities major in higher education. Christopher, commenting on AHA Today, wrote, "More seriously, this could profoundly damage student success. Many students begin in pre-professional or science programs, only to discover they don't have the requisite desire or aptitude for said field. Will they be trapped in a failing major because they fear the financial consequences of switching to a more appropriate major? ... In short, this is a poorly thought out idea." Also commenting on AHA Today, Richard wrote, "As someone who has spent 30 years in both history and economics, I'm trying to understand the logic behind the proposal. If a field is in high demand, and if the market is working, then the returns to study in that field should reflect the premium that a graduate earns. Why would you need a 'pick-winners' policy that was engineered by the State Legislature? STEM fields are 'mission-critical' to a market economy? Why should it be necessary to further subsidize study in them unless there is market failure? And if there is a market failure, wouldn't it be more reasonable (or efficient) to address its source rather than blindly levy a tax on humanities education that can do nothing to address the underlying problem?" As the differential tuition model continues to be debated in Florida, we look forward to hearing our readers' responses (read the complete list).

Name that Cocktail!

In advance of our annual meeting in New Orleans, we asked our social media followers for history-themed cocktail names to be featured at the New Orleans hotel bars throughout the meeting. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • The Adjunct—1/4 of a shot, same price as regular shot 
  • The Jacobite Rebellion—scotch with just a soupçon of haggis floating in it 
  • Revise and Resubmit 
  • The Defense—just a rattlesnake that your committee watches you drink. And it's timed 
  • The Future—consists only of bitters Custer's Last Stand Tweed & Tonic

Vanessa Varin is the AHA's assistant editor, web and social media.