Graduate Students at the Annual Meeting

Debbie Ann Doyle, March 2000

Although the annual meeting provides graduate students with an exciting opportunity to exchange ideas with colleagues, it can also be a stressful and overwhelming experience, particularly for those on the job market. At the annual meeting in Chicago this January, sessions offering valuable advice on employment opportunities, interviewing skills, and teaching strategies provided an incentive for graduate students to venture outside the Job Register.

Several sessions offered practical advice on surviving in a tight academic labor market. A panel on "Negotiating the ABD Gap" offered tips on employment and funding opportunities for PhD candidates trying to make ends meet while working on their dissertations. Several sessions, including a panel on careers beyond the academy and a session sponsored by the Association for the Bibliography of History on library careers for historians, suggested alternatives to traditional teaching jobs. For those seeking academic employment, the popular workshop on "Interviewing in the Job Market in the New Millennium" allowed job candidates to hone their interviewing skills and get practical advice on presenting themselves effectively to a hiring committee. Cosponsored by the AHA Professional Division, the AHA Task Force on Graduate Education, and the Coordinating Council for Women in History, the interviewing workshop has been a popular feature at the annual meeting for the past nine years.

Graduate students in the audience at a standing-room-only open forum sponsored by the AHA Task Force on Graduate Education voiced concerns about the place of graduate students within the profession, the unionization of teaching assistants, and the state of the academic job market. Established in 1995, the task force provides a forum for addressing graduate student concerns within the AHA. The ad hoc committee is composed of graduate student representatives from the AHA Council, the Committee on Minority Historians, and the Committee on Women Historians; a representative from the AHA's Professional Division; and two at-large graduate students.

In future issues of Perspectives, graduate student representatives Emily Hill and Jennifer Brier will publish articles outlining the history of AHA efforts to address graduate student needs and suggesting ways in which the task force can respond to the concerns raised at the open forum.

Graduate students at the annual meeting also had the chance to attend sessions on the future of the profession and strategies for teaching history. The Professional Division sponsored a session on the impact of the overuse of part-time and adjunct faculty on the profession. Sessions sponsored by the Teaching Division focused on teaching history with electronic media and teaching world history through a comparative history of consumerism.

—Debbie Ann Doyle is a project assistant at the AHA and a PhD candidate at American University.