On Tuesday, David Pratt, American Studies PhD Candidate and Cohen Career Center Graduate Assistant, coordinated an event that caught my eye–Teaching Outside Higher Ed with an Arts & Sciences Graduate Degree. Three panelists discussed their roles and career trajectory in K-12 & museum education. To my knowledge, this is the first event with such a purpose in my 4 years at William and Mary. While advice offered overlapped at times, I wanted to offer some quick insights from each panelist that I found useful.
Kelly Herbst, Physics PhD and Astronomy Curator at the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, discussed the benefit of dissertation research as well as issues she faced in receiving advice for a non-university career. She enthusiastically remarked that such issues seem to have faded, perhaps in part because institutions have realized the need for further public outreach. She urged attendees to network, including with informal educators, and volunteer—as she proved, with hard work, volunteer positions can turn into full-time administrative ones such as hers!
David Kidd, American Studies PhD, English Department Chair of the Upper School at Norfolk Academy, described a career at a private school as one of wearing different hats. His face lit up when describing creating a senior topics course; the passion in his voice alone demonstrated teaching such a class is more rewarding and less frustrating than adjuncting. He enjoys the excitement of reviewing new or unfamiliar academic material before teaching, and advised us to bring up hobbies, as schools often have an eye out for coaches or club advisors in addition to teachers. Being able to offer “English and field hockey” might be the perfect combination!
Renee Kingan, American Studies PhD Candidate, middle & high school literary arts teacher at the York County School of the Arts in Williamsburg, passionately spoke about the joy of bringing “fresh” ideas from graduate school to her students. She spoke about overcoming her nervousness when moving to new schools as she began new graduate degrees and the pride she felt from principals whose faith in her paid dividends. She emphasized possibilities in quick licensing programs for teachers, the support systems in new schools for new teachers, as well as the need to make time for yourself while in graduate school and beyond.
I appreciate their time and advice! I’m grateful to see a graduate degree as more than just a rite of passage for a career in higher education and I’m excited to see W&M alumni and students demonstrate their ability to synthesize multiple skill sets while passionately working in different institutions.