UNC-Chapel Hill History Department
Lunchtime Colloquium
March 30, 2012



Dear Colleagues,

Building on a long tradition of public engagement fostered by our Southern Oral History Program and Project for Historical Education, the department has recently been more and more engaged in activities highlighting the varied roles of history in the public realm. Since the fall of 2008, we have regularly offered a course in public history (taught by Anne Whisnant), and last year, we welcomed to UNC (and hosted as our departmental Commencement speaker) former National Park Service Chief Historian Dwight Pitcaithley, who was recognized by the university with an honorary degree. Earlier this spring, we held a faculty lunch colloquium in which new adjunct faculty member Rachel Seidman led a discussion about the potential role of civic engagement in a history department and how internships in organizations outside academia might contribute to the graduate curriculum. At that event, Lloyd Kramer announced that he has procured an IAH small grant to help the department host a speaker series next year around the topic of “Historians and the Public Sphere.”

To help further our reflection on these issues and inform our planning for those events, we invite you to another lunch colloquium at noon on Friday, March 30, in Hamilton Hall 569 Lounge. We have attached two brief articles [Bender & Coclanis] from the Chronicle of Higher Education to begin the conversation, and hope that you will come with suggestions on three issues:

1. What has it meant for our department to engage with this tradition in our own past?

2. What would it mean to fully embrace it now?

3. What steps would it take to integrate public history into the department?

We look forward to seeing you on March 30. RSVPs and lunch requests will be sent in a separate email.

Sarah Shields, Anne Whisnant, and Rachel Seidman


Balleisen, Edward J. “The Career Question in History.” Perspectives on History, December 2011.

Bender, Thomas. “What’s Been Lost in History.The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 12, 2012, sec. The Chronicle Review. [campus login required]

Cassuto, Leonard. “Making a Public Ph.D.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 12, 2012, sec. Do Your Job Better.

Coclanis, Peter A. “Wanted: Dedicated Deep Thinkers.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 18, 2012, sec. The Chronicle Review. [campus login required]

Grafton, Anthony T., and Jim Grossman. “No More Plan B:A Very Modest Proposal for Graduate Programs in History.Perspectives on History, October 2011.

Grafton, Anthony T., and Jim Grossman. “Plan C.Perspectives on History, November 2011.

Lord, Alexandra M. “Our Secret Nonacademic Histories.The Chronicle of Higher Education, March 26, 2012, sec. Manage Your Career.

Other Resources

The “Alternative Careers” / Public History Conversation: An Evolving Timeline
(developed March 2012 by Anne Whisnant)

Chart on History PhDs from January 2005 AHA Perspectives

UNC History PhDs working in “alternative” careers
(a slightly unscientific list developed March 2012 by Anne Whisnant, with thanks to Violet Anderson)

    • 1990-2011:  approx 296 PhDs granted.
    • I’ve tracked down about 188 of them.  Out of those, 42 are in NF/PH (22%).

Beyond Academe (resource for historians leaving academia)

Versatile PhD (resource for all humanities/social sciences PhDs leaving academia)

Imperiled Promise: The State of History in the National Park Service

History 671:  Introduction to Public History