One of the predominant questions that I have taken away from this course is that regarding the role of faculty in career development for students of the humanities. Articles that people have brought up in this class, such as Alexandra Lorde’s “Whose Job Is It Anyway?” (which Whitney posted) and Patricia Okker’s “It’s the Faculty’s Job, Too” emphasize the dearth of faculty and university involvement in students’ career development. Both articles also emphasize concrete strategies for augmenting the role of faculty in the perilous quest that is often the job search for liberal arts students.
Of course, it is the assertion of both authors that there should be greater faculty involvement, and I agree with them… for the most part. But, as is often the case with the English major, that ambiguity comes into play as well. No matter what our own personal viewpoint, it is easy to objectively note that the humanities does not have the same focus on career as, say, business school. Whitney did a great job of illustrating this discrepancy in her blog post about Lorde’s article. To downplay the importance of career, as has been done for too long in the humanities, only serves to perpetuate the assumption that a humanities education holds no value in the current economy.
That is why classes such as this one, and Okker’s, are such breaths of fresh air. While I love the humanities, I feel like everyone would benefit from a bit of an image makeover. Just as Dr. Szwydky said, the career landscape is changing. English departments can’t remain locked away in ivory towers; they must engage with changing landscape of technology, and of the job world as a whole. Classes such as this one help students to identify their transferable skills in real-world terms. They also help to bridge the link between the ivory tower and the vast landscape of humanity. Perpetuating the idea that professors spend their days locked away writing and have no time to engage with the common people only serves to make the study of the humanities that much less relevant.
Of course, I also realize that it is not feasible for these classes to pop up overnight, nor do I think that they would be failproof keys to job placement. Students, for one, have to be willing to put in just as much (more, really) effort than the faculty when it comes to ensuring their own success. This is not to say that I subscribe the Horatio Alger mythos of success, but students do need to be engaged in their own career development for such workshops to be most useful. The first commenter on Lorde’s article writes that “I do wish, though, that this article mentioned the responsibility of the student, not just the career center and professors. Education is not something that happens to them. They need to be active participants.” Especially since it is usually the job of junior faculty (who already have almost innumerable responsibilities) to create these kinds of workshops, it is vitally important that students are willing to think hard and critically (something that should come relatively easily to English majors) about their own careers. I believe that this kind of engagement would be vital to ensure that great ideas like this can thrive in a humanities environment.