The Graduate School Alumni Association (GSAA), in partnership with Graduate Career Services (GCS), will host the 2012 iteration of “Where Do I Go from Yale?” – a program designed to open students’ minds to a wide range of non-academic careers, on Tuesday, May 15. Alumni will speak about their work in cultural organizations, the private sector, and government, 1:00-4:15 pm at the Whitney Humanities Center, 100 Wall St., followed by networking opportunities at a reception, 4:30-6:00 pm, at the Graduate Club, 155 Elm Street.
“The most critical life-long career management strategy is the building and maintaining of personal and professional networks,” advises Victoria Blodgett, director of GCS. “Attending this event, including spending time speaking with alumni, is a perfect way for graduate students to build their networks. This event is a real gift from the alumni to our students.”
“You can do anything with a Yale PhD!” says one invited speaker, and another advises, “Keep an open mind and be alert for non-traditional paths!"
“We’ve found that students are eager to learn more about the variety of career paths taken by PhDs, and that Graduate School alumni who want to give back have a wealth of wisdom and insight in this area,” says event organizer Rebecca Peabody (PhD 2006, History of Art, African American Studies). Peabody heads the Research Projects & Programs division of the Getty Research Institute in California, where she oversees the institutional research agenda and conducts her own research in 20th century American art. “‘Where Do I Go From Yale?’ allows us to bring these two groups together: alumni share first-hand knowledge of career fields and strategic advice about different job markets; students come for the talks and stay on to network and seek out mentors.”
When organizing the event, she and her committee looked for presenters “who are leaders and innovators in their fields, and who are open to keeping in touch with interested students. Some presenters come directly from GSAA’s membership, others from our members’ rich networks of professional contacts, and all help demonstrate the range of rewarding careers available to PhDs.”
“Where Do I Go from Yale?” turns out to be question that has almost infinite answers.
Anecdotally, alumni of the Graduate School can be found governing countries, writing Pulitzer Prize-winning books, establishing high-tech companies, running huge commercial franchises, directing museums and libraries, editing major publications, conducting research for government labs and private industry, heading colleges and universities, and much more. They can be found at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Verizon, IBM, and Hewlitt Packard, as well as at small companies they’ve launched or been recruited to join. And even in today’s tight academic job market, most Yale PhD-holders find teaching and research positions at universities across the country and around the world.
Considering the question statistically, five years after graduation, 55% of all Yale PhDs hold academic positions, 10% are postdoctoral fellows, and 31% work outside academia, according to data collected on PhDs who graduated between 1996-97 and 2006-07. Incidentally, these data vary dramatically by academic area: in the humanities, fully 77% hold faculty positions and 17% work outside academia; in the social sciences, 68% have academic jobs and 27% work outside the academy; in the natural sciences, 32% hold academic positions, 21% are postdoctoral fellows, and 44% work in non-academic positions, five years after graduation.
“You can do anything with a Yale PhD!” says Valerie Hotchkiss (PhD 1990, Medieval Studies), who will moderate the first panel of the day. She found that assertion to be true after looking into where alumni of the Graduate School now work. She used her own scholarship and skills to become head of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Illinois and director of that university’s Midwest Book & Manuscript Studies Program, which trains special collections librarians. She is vice chair of the GSAA.
Rahul Prasad (PhD 1987, Engineering & Applied Science), chair of the GSAA, will introduce the day's program. He says, “A PhD teaches you to be the person who can answer questions no one has answered before: it puts you at the cutting edge and prepares you to tackle any problem that any career throws at you.” His own career has involved solving cutting-edge scientific problems: at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, he heads a group that designs x-ray diagnostics. He has also worked as a research scientist in the private sector, for both a large company (Physics International) and a small one (Science Research Lab), and co-founded Alameda Applied Sciences Corporation, in 1994.
Panelist Tom Curtis (PhD 1968, Physics) urges students to stay open-minded: “Don’t get locked into thinking that your PhD locks you into a strictly academic career. The depth and breadth of your training prepares for you for a wide variety of interesting and challenging positions in industrial labs, consulting firms and government work. Keep an open mind and be alert for non-traditional paths!"
At the GSAA/GCS event, alumni presentations will be organized into three panels: “Expanded Academia: Places for PhDs in the Broader Academic and Cultural World,” “Research and Industry: A Wide Spectrum of Opportunities,” and “Government and Policy: Careers in and around Governments.”
Hotchkiss says that the panel she chairs, “Expanded Academia,” will focus on “careers in academic and cultural institutions. I am reluctant to label them ‘alternative,’ however, because advanced graduate work is vital to, and even a prerequisite for, these careers. It is hardly a new phenomenon, either. For centuries, learned scholars have pursued academic endeavors without taking the ‘tenure without parole’ option, as a friend of mine describes the professoriate these days. If we look only at the careers represented by our panel — librarianship, museum administration, digital humanities, electronic publishing, and university administration, we find good evidence that advanced graduate study often leads to success.”
Speaking directly to students, Hotchkiss says, “We’re here to entice you to consider an academic life that does not necessarily adhere to a semester-by-semester schedule, but demands a graduate degree, involves research and responsibilities comparable to those of a traditional professor, tends to be geographically more flexible, and offers similar (and often even better) career satisfaction.” One participant on the first panel will be Dina Dommett (PhD 1993, Italian), associate dean for Programmes in the Department of Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science, whose career has evolved in unexpected and gratifying directions.
“When I was a graduate student, I remember feeling anxious about the future,” she admits. “I never imagined I would become something of an expert about ‘executive education’ and ‘action learning’ – buzz words I hadn’t even heard of when I studied at Yale.
“My PhD has proved incredibly useful, because I was able to apply my research, teaching, curriculum design, and teamwork skills (yes, teamwork!) to the various jobs I have had since leaving Yale. Most importantly, Yale gave me the confidence to try completely new things. As a result, I have led study trips to Eastern Europe and China, set up a program in Dubai and worked with two technology companies. I would like to reassure graduate students that they have many options as they contemplate life after Yale, and give them a few tips on how to create an ‘elevator pitch’ about how Yale and their graduate studies make them attractive to employers.”
Other speakers on the “Expanded Academia” panel are John Unsworth (PhD 1988, English – University of Virginia), vice provost for Library and Technology Services and chief information officer at Brandeis; Margaret Ketchum Powell (PhD 1980, English – University of North Carolina), the W. S. Lewis Librarian and executive director of Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library; and Stephen Wolfram (PhD 1979, Physics– California Institute of Technology), founder and CEO of Wolfram Research and creator of Mathematica, the definitive software environment for science and technology.
The second panel, which will look at careers in the private sector, is chaired by Andrew S. Richter (PhD 1979, Sociology). Richter is a nationally known expert in compensation and benefits who was a partner at the management consulting firm Towers Perrin and a human resources executive at IBM and NBC Universal. He now heads his own consulting firm, Richter Associates, and serves as treasurer and Foundation Chair of Hudson River HealthCare, which delivers primary care to over 80,000 patients in New York.
He enthusiastically promotes non-traditional lines of work for PhDs, and warns, “If top graduate schools like Yale don’t conclude fairly soon that careers outside of academia are appropriate for their students to pursue, then programs in many areas are going to have to shrink, because the academic market for professorial talent isn’t going to grow for the foreseeable future. The good news is, there are many uses for a graduate education outside of academia. Students should see that these are not compromises or second choices: many careers outside academia are exciting and worthy of interest.
When he was first on the job market in 1979, there were no teaching positions that “remotely resembled what I thought I’d be doing when I entered Yale. I made up my mind quickly that if the academic career that I had in mind wasn’t there, I was going to look elsewhere, and so I went directly to Wall Street,” where he took a position in banking, which led to opportunities in management consulting, and further opportunities at IBM and NBC Universal.
One member of his panel is Molly A. Mérez (PhD 2008, Sociology), executive director of Ticket Summit® Inc. — the leading conference and trade show for live-entertainment executives.
She says, “PhD holders bring a lot of skills to any hiring corporation; the issue is how to ‘sell’ those skills and demonstrate how they are applicable to the day-to-day workings of the corporation. Part of what I plan to address is how these skills are relatable to corporate jobs, areas in which PhD candidates from any field would be a good fit, and how to sell those skills for the job in question.” Other panel members bring a wide range of corporate experience to the table. Curtis, quoted above, recently retired from directing the New Jersey branch of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab. He spent 28 years in research, development, and management at Bell Labs before co-founding a start-up company for fast all-optical switching. Anthony Sabatelli (PhD 1984, Chemistry) is vice president and in-house counsel for Rib-X Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a Yale-spinoff company focused on developing novel antibiotics. After completing his PhD, he earned a law degree and initially worked in intellectual property law as patent counsel at both Procter & Gamble and Merck. Arthur Estey (PhD 1978, Administrative Science) is a founding partner and portfolio manager at Realm Partners LLC, an investment management firm specializing in "event-driven" investing. Prior to that, he spent almost 30 years on Wall Street, working at Lehman Brothers.
The third panel explores careers in government. To thrive in that sector, “You need to be able to think clearly, analyze a problem, and write well – skills anyone coming out of a graduate program at Yale commands,” says Tom Gustafson (PhD 1982, Economics), chair of the panel. For the past five years, he has been senior policy adviser for the law firm of Arnold & Porter LLP. Prior to that, he worked in government for over 30 years, ultimately as deputy director (the top civil servant) of the Center for Medicare Management, the office that runs the fee-for-service program.
“My panel aims to give a picture of the possibilities open to Yale PhDs in federal, state, and local government,” he says. “Faculty members are ill-equipped to give advice on this, so it’s up to those of us who have been out and around in the world to say to students, ‘I did it, and it’s an interesting course to take.’ Government is an arena in which there are many ways to contribute, use your training, and have a fulfilling and productive career,” he says.
Looking back on his graduate school days, he recalls, “When I headed down to Washington, a faculty member warned me that it’s a four-lane highway going to DC, and a one-lane road back to academia. I went as an ABD, expecting to spend two years, finish my dissertation, and take a tenure track position. After I’d worked there for eight years, I realized I never wanted to be an assistant professor. I had interesting problems to solve, well-motivated, smart colleagues, and I was able to contribute. Ultimately, I spent 32 years working for the Federal Government, and I was able to improve the lot of mankind every day. My career was devoted to helping people by improving the American social welfare system, and that’s something I feel very good about.”
Other members of his panel are Lawrence Atkins (PhD 1983, Social Policy – Brandeis), executive director for public policy at Merck & Company and president-elect of the National Academy of Social Insurance; and Joe Annunziata (Comparative Literature, 1965), former staff member with the US Air Force, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Congress, and the White House.
Annunziata says, “I believe I may be a not-uncommon graduate student at Yale who interrupted completion of a PhD degree to accept an interesting position somewhat outside of his then Graduate School concentration ¬– in this case, literature. My abilities in several languages and cultures were considered important for the US war effort in Southeast Asia in 1965, and I accepted an offer to teach at the Air Force War College in Montgomery, Alabama.
“The capabilities I had acquired at Yale in researching, writing, and speaking were critical to the increasing responsibilities I assumed over the next sixteen years as I moved from the War College to the Pentagon, the Congress, and the White House. Although my formal education had begun in literature, I was able to broaden my government service to include the areas of history, political science, foreign policy, military strategy and tactics, and organization and management. My contributions included reminding US policymakers of French experiences in Indochina, advising on the changeover from the military draft to an all-volunteer military, admitting women to the military academies, negotiating terms of foreign military bases, and making recommendations for reorganizing the US national security policy structure.
“I found that analyzing military-foreign policy issues can be like parsing poetry. You need to master the language, perceive relationships, and communicate those perceptions succinctly.”