UCI School of Humanities to expand graduate internship program with $50,000 Luce Foundation grant

UCI School of Humanities to expand graduate internship program with $50,000 Luce Foundation grant

 Office of the Dean May 31, 2016

As Humanities Out There Fellows, Ph.D. students in the humanities participate in paid internships at Orange-County-based cultural institutions

Graduate students in the humanities who decide to pursue careers outside of academia may find themselves unsure of how their scholarly research translates beyond the ivory towers.

In an effort to establish career pathways for Ph.D. students, the University of California, Irvine School of Humanities launched a pilot program that pairs Ph.D. students in the humanities with paid internships at nonprofit cultural organizations in Orange County, Calif. Called Humanities Out There Public Fellows, the program will expand in the coming year with a $50,000 grant from the Luce Foundation. This is the first grant to UCI from the Luce Foundation.

Launched in winter 2016 by Humanities Commons, the UCI School of Humanities’ research hub for faculty and graduate students, the Humanities Out There Public Fellows program currently facilitates paid external internships for six Ph.D. students. Funded by individual donations to the Humanities Out There program, the fellows recently completed 20-week internships, spending one afternoon a week at cultural institutions including the Laguna Art Museum, Orange County Parks, PBS SoCal, South Coast Repertory Theater, and the Vietnamese American Arts and Letters Association. The driving force for this program has been to provide Ph.D. students with the opportunity to apply the skills they have gained as graduate students in an organizational setting. The outcome has been generating meaningful impact—for both the intern and the organization.

With the Luce Foundation’s funding, the Humanities Out There Public Fellows program will provide two paid academic quarter internships in 2016-2017 and two paid ten-week internships in summer 2017. These intensive 20-hour-per-week internships will enable graduate students to work on larger projects and to engage more fully in the activities of the partner organizations. The program will continue to offer the one-afternoon-per-week internships in winter/spring 2017.

“Our primary goal for this program is to demonstrate the benefits of a humanities Ph.D. skillset to a broad range of careers,” said Georges Van Den Abbeele, dean of the UCI School of Humanities. “Pairing students with cultural institutions in Orange County is also an excellent way for us to create pathways of employment for our students in a mutually-beneficial arrangement.”

“Rather than just having students complete a project—which is purely transactional—we wanted students to experience working at a cultural institution and all that it entails,” said Julia Reinhard Lupton, director of Humanities Commons and professor of English at UCI. “We deliberately worked with the host organizations to develop positions and projects that would utilize skills – research, analysis, interpretation, synthesizing materials, writing and annotating – rather than subject knowledge.”

The PhD. students who recently participated as fellows came from four different departments within the School of Humanities. Each student reported that the experience helped him or her understand how his or her academic expertise could translate into applicable skillsets for alternative-academic careers.

Chris Dearner, Ph.D. student in English at UCI, interned at the South Coast Repertory where he worked with the public affairs director to create a public document detailing the history of the organization.

“My work at the South Coast Repertory has made me more aware of the sheer amount of work that goes into producing the plays that I am used to encountering only on the page, and has provided a physical and spatial context that enriches my more textually-oriented understanding of drama,” said Dearner. “But more than that, it has given me an opportunity to observe and participate in a nonprofit organization that is deeply tied to its community and forms a part of the artistic life of a county with over three million inhabitants. Now I have a much better understanding of how my particular humanistic skills translate into meaningful work outside of the academy.”

Stefanie Lira, Ph.D. student in the UCI Department of History, interned at PBS SoCal where she created a digital database of the organization’s archival materials dating from the 1970s to the present day.

“My time with the Humanities Out There Program has undoubtedly changed the ways in which I approach my future career possibilities. I am even more grateful that deeply-valued, local businesses are reaping the benefits of humanities students’ expertise,” said Lira.

To meet the all six 2016 Humanities Out There Public Fellows, please click their respective links below:

Interested School of Humanities graduate students can learn more about the program here.

Pictured L to R: Chris Dearner and Stefanie Lira