By Margaret Nettesheim Hoffmann, Director of the Career Diversity Initiative, Marquette University
In August 2020, Marquette University received an award of just over $1 million from the Humanities Without Walls Consortium (HWW). Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and headquartered at the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Consortium supports collaborative humanities-based research examining grand societal challenges. It also focuses on career diversity initiatives for doctoral students in the humanities.
Marquette is the 16th member of this Midwestern-based partnership and the only Jesuit university in the Consortium. It joins partner universities in the Big Ten Academic Alliance, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Notre Dame.
Working in collaboration with HWW to model the ethos of “without walls,” the Consortium supports the design, construction, and implementation of HWW’s annual Predoctoral Career Diversity Summer Fellowship Workshop. Each summer, the workshop funds 20 fellowships for Ph.D. students in the humanities across the United States to discern personal career values, think through future professional pathways, and build community with one another as cohort members plan for their lives beyond graduate school.
A doctoral candidate in history, Margaret Nettesheim Hoffmann is one of the co-principal investigators on the grant and has played an essential role in Marquette becoming the newest Consortium member. “Our project and the mission of this grant prioritizes graduate student agency in the construction of their careers, while providing students with the tools necessary to develop meaningful professional lives after graduate school,” said Nettesheim Hoffmann. “Marquette’s inclusion within the Consortium highlights the importance of the Jesuit value of discernment in doctoral training, especially as we guide graduate students to understand the ways that meaning, reflection and purpose can influence the work they contribute to the world.”
Dr. Theresa Tobin, Associate Professor of Philosophy, and Dr. Timothy McMahon, Associate Professor of History, join Nettesheim Hoffmann as co-principal investigators of the HWW sub-award.
According to McMahon, HWW and the Consortium are at the forefront of reforming humanities graduate programming. He said, “We’re especially excited to be connected with a consortium of schools that is working so diligently on facing the challenges graduate students see today. Recognizing that the academic job market is a perpetual challenge, HWW has embraced the reality that humanists have valuable skills to offer to careers beyond the academy.”
Tobin also noted that HWW’s methods emphasizing reciprocal and redistributive models align with Marquette’s “Jesuit mission to reach beyond traditional academic boundaries and embrace new and collaborative methods of knowledge production for a more just world.”
McMahon emphasized, “The grant allows us to enhance the work we had already started. Most exciting to me is that both HWW and Marquette have benefited from the leadership of graduate students in this process. Their insights, their energy, and their creativity have been and will continue to be essential as we move ahead.”
Dr. Douglas Woods, Vice Provost for Graduate and Professional Education and Dean of the Graduate School, believes that Marquette’s involvement with HWW strengthens the University’s commitment to the humanities and prepares graduate students to heed St. Ignatius’ call to “go forth and set the world on fire,” with “one foot raised,” ready to greet the world’s challenges. Woods added, “Graduate work in the humanities, particularly from the Catholic, Jesuit tradition, has never been more important as society wrestles with understanding and thriving in today’s evolving landscapes.”
In addition to guiding the work of the annual HWW career diversity workshop, Marquette’s humanities faculty are invited to propose projects for HWW’s Grand Research Challenge grants. These $150,000 grants support interdisciplinary, community-based humanities research projects that address society’s most pressing issues through solutions rooted in humanities methodologies. Dr. Heidi Bostic, Dean of the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, said that the HWW grant opens a world of opportunity for Marquette’s humanities programs, encouraging graduate students to think creatively about the future and welcoming dynamic projects to help solve problems.
“Sometimes there is an assumption that various serious challenges we face in the world — the coronavirus pandemic, new technologies, racial disparities, or disruptions in the nitrogen or phosphorous cycle of the Earth — are simply technical or scientific issues,” said Bostic. “Yet, we know that at the heart of all of these challenges lie the basic questions of who we are and how we should live. For that reason, the humanities and broad liberal arts are crucial to addressing grand challenges.”
Dr. Antoinette Burton, Principal Investigator of the HWW grant, noted, “Over the last two years, Marquette has emerged as a regional and national leader in reimagining the purpose of humanities Ph.D. outcomes and in designing innovative career diversity programming. We look forward to working together as we continue to reimagine what the humanities should look like in the Midwest, the nation and the world in the 21st century.”