Why am I here?

Blog Home    |     04.27.2017 by     |    


This week we were asked to write about why we are here–and for me, the answer is simple. I think that knowledge production–scholarship–does not (and should not be thought of) as happening within the confines of the academy. Limiting access to scholarship, and limiting what constitutes scholarship, is harmful, particularly in the United States today. While funding is cut for education, and a dislike for the so-called “educated elite” increases, I believe it is my job–our job–as scholars to make ourselves open and relevant to the public. I see scholars decrying the desire to cut departments in universities, and yet I also see elitism and condescension when faced with non-traditional forms of knowledge production.

Some of this, I believe, is stemmed from the outdated notion that having a PhD entitles the doctor to respect simply because of the work he or she put in to getting that title. Perhaps, one time, when the market was not flooded with recent PhD’s, and tenure-track jobs were more bountiful than they are now, a person with a PhD might have been impressive—it was a lot of work for a good and respectful career. Now, that is not the case. Having a PhD does not guarantee a good or stable career in the academy. Does that then mean that getting a PhD is futile, if one cannot work in the academy when finished?

No—or rather, I hope not. While obtaining a PhD the individual not only participates in the production of knowledge, but also acquires unique skills that can be translated to the public, for the good of the public. This is why I am here, in this seminar. I hope that I can tune into ways that my research, and the skills I’ve acquired while a PhD student, can translate into the world beyond the academy.