Doctoral students urged to find non-academic employment

Juan Alanis Jr.
Daily Texan Staff

Doctoral students meeting with Robert Weisbuch, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Doctoral students should start looking beyond academia for opportunities to maximize their knowledge and expertise, Robert Weisbuch, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, said at a speech Wednesday. The Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in New Jersey, seeks to give doctoral candidates experience outside of the academic world by offering them grants, fellowships and internships.

"As people head toward the job market, they look defeated," Weisburg said, adding that only one out of 20 humanities doctoral graduates will obtain a tenured job at a research university or a highly-selective small college. Weisburg said the other doctoral graduates, who end up teaching nontenured positions or not at all, are usually seen as failures by peers and institutions.

Weisbuch said this mentality needs to be changed.

"It's a mistake for professors to create professors out of graduate students," Weisbuch said, adding that professors should teach students how to sell their knowledge and expertise to institutions outside of academia.

Richard Cherwitz, an associate dean and professor of communication studies, agreed with Weisbuch and said advisers have a tendency to tell students, "if you don't get a job in academia, you'll need to find an alternate career."

Weisbuch said it is a tremendous loss that many graduate students don't explore or know about nonacademic job opportunities.

"A bright graduate student should have four offers on the table from different venues," he said, adding that doctoral candidates should have a choice between an academic or nonacademic venues.

To assist students who seek work beyond academia, the foundation has formed agreements with companies such as Microsoft to reserve well-paying, leadership-oriented jobs for doctoral candidates.

Plans are in the works at the University to prepare doctoral graduates for nonacademic jobs.

Cherwitz said the Office of Graduate Studies developed the Professional Development Program, comprised of 13 classes designed to prepare graduate and doctoral students for academic and non-academic jobs. Beginning this summer, a professional internship will be added to the program.

He said the program also features a consulting class that helps students to network by allowing them to present their ideas and expertise to companies within the community, which teaches graduate students how to sell their knowledge and expertise to bigger audiences outside of academia.

Michael Erard, a doctoral candidate in English, said the increased focus on non-academic opportunities for doctoral graduates will help ensure those who don't get jobs in academia aren't deemed failures.

"I want more choices because I don't want to be one of those 19 people, " he said. "These people's egos get destroyed."