Expanded Career Opportunities for PhDs in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Co‐sponsored by Career Services and the Vice Provost for Education
Maura McCarthy, PhD in Cultural Anthropology
Executive Director, Friends of the Wissahickon
Ann E. Tiao, PhD in Education
Associate Director, HHMI‐NIBIB Interfaces Program, Vagelos Research Laboratories, University of
Peter Stokes, PhD in English
Senior Associate Director, Career Services, University of Pennsylvania
Peter really wanted to study English literature. After earning PhD at University of Southern California he
had a one year teaching position. It was difficult to find a tenure‐track job. It occurred to him to that he
might be able to do something else such as advising and working with students. He read So What are
You Going to Do with That? by Basalla and Debelius.
He started to do informational interviews and found them to be fun. He got to speak with some very
interesting people including the director of Getty Museum. He made connections, learned he had
transferable skills and was advised to be an advisor specifically because he enjoyed working with
students, and that was a good role in which to do so. Among his skills were knowledge of universities,
presentation and writing skills, and working with students. He also had organizational skills in that he
had coordinated graduate student conferences. He was hired as a pre‐grad advisor at USC after
networking with academic advisors there.
Later Peter was interested in moving to the East Coast. He applied for a job at Penn advising students
on applying to law school and graduate school. Then his boss left and he got her job. Now he also gets
Maura earned her PhD at University of Oxford. Her dissertation had a fieldwork and a research
component as she studied Evangelical Christian internet outreach. She never wanted to be a professor
but she wanted to help change society and thought she would end up a think tank like the Brookings
She did one consulting interview. As an undergrad at NYU she had worked part‐time work doing
development work for non‐profits. Part of her skill set from her doctoral research included the ability
to listen to people.
Working at the Interfaith Corporation for Corporate Responsibility she got to see a liberal, socially
conscious progressive Christianity which was very different from the Christianity she encountered
through her dissertation work which was conservative.
Although she liked her work she didn’t want to live in NYC any longer. She learned of a development job
with Friends of the Wissahickon which is an ecology and land management organization. She applied for
the job stressing, among other things, that she knew how to interact with a community and how to
synopsize. The Executive Director left shortly after she started. She applied for the job and got it. She
displayed confidence that you can learn new skills and that a PhD has a shorter learning curve. She
defines networking as leveraging your ignorance against other people’s knowledge.
Ann always wanted to be a professor. She spent six years at Intel after earning her master’s in Statistics.
She went back for her PhD in her 30’s. She tutored and taught throughout her undergrad, master’s, and
while working at Intel. While she was getting her PhD in Higher Education at Penn she did a lot of
community work on campus. When she finished her degree she decided to apply only in Delaware
Valley since she was place bound. She applied for academic jobs and other kinds of jobs. At the same
time she started asking people about their work and daily lives. She talked with someone she knew in
the Provost’s Office who knew a new graduate program was being started and urged Ann to apply for it.
Ann interviewed and got the job as Associate Director of a Howard Hughes‐funded interdisciplinary
biomedical imaging program right after second child born. She still teaches at the Graduate School of
A PhD by your name makes a difference in higher education. It provides a language and a culture. You
must put yourself out there and talk to people. Do informational interviews, network. You must show
that you have the skills to read material critically.
Don’t feel you have to find one perfect job – you can cobble together a couple jobs.
Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2009 4‐5:30 pm, Ben Franklin Room, Houston Hall