Published: Sept. 8, 2016

CU Boulder’s Center for the Humanities and the Arts, funded by NEH, to explore new ways of preparing PhD students for a broader job market



Helmut Muller-Sievers, CHA director and Eaton Professor of Humanities and the Arts.

The Center for Humanities and the Arts (CHA) at the University of Colorado Boulder has been awarded one of 28 National Endowment for the Humanities planning grants to explore “The Next Generation Humanities PhD.”

With this grant, a representative group of faculty, graduate students, administrators and alumni will make proposals that envision the future of PhD programs for the next 10 to 20 years.

CU Boulder’s grant proposal focuses on four broadly conceived areas: training PhD students in digital research and data management; reconceiving the PhD dissertation; offering non-academic internships to graduate students; and establishing a network of CU alumni interested in supporting and mentoring PhD students.“We are glad to have received this very competitive grant,” said Helmut Muller-Sievers, CHA director and Eaton Professor of Humanities and the Arts.

“It is a recognition of our efforts to improve graduate education at CU Boulder, and a chance to join a wonderful group of private and public universities in a proactive discussion about the future of the humanities PhD in the US,” Muller-Sievers said.


Ann Schmiesing, interim dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate affairs.

“For some time now, we have known that the old model of keeping students for up to eight years in PhD programs, training them exclusively for a shrinking academic job market, and confining them to write up their research in long monographs is untenable.”

To address that shortcoming, Helmut-Sievers said, “This grant allows us to think about changing this model while at the same time improving the intellectual and educational experience of our students. Best of all, it puts us into close communication with 28 universities that have similar projects underway.”

The NEH concurs: “The academic-focused future we’re accustomed to training graduate students for is disappearing,” NEH Chairman William D. Adams said in a statement.

“If graduate programs wish to make a case for the continuation of graduate education in the humanities, they’re going to have to think about the professional futures of their students in entirely different ways.”

Ann Schmiesing, interim dean of the Graduate School and vice provost for graduate affairs (and professor of German) congratulated the CHA on winning the grant:

“This exciting grant affirms the innovative and forward-looking approaches that CU Boulder humanities and arts disciplines are taking to graduate education.”  

The universities awarded this grant will form a consortium and meet in February 2017 in Washington, DC, to exchange ideas and experiences, and to discuss next steps.

Participants will then have the opportunity to apply for much-larger implementation grants.

The announcement of the awards and the list of participating institutions can be found here