Today, Patrick Jung (PhD, 1997), offers some insights into a non-traditional route into academia and advice about being flexible while moving into the profession.
I received my Ph.D. in United States history in 1997, but I did not move into the professoriate immediately. For the first five years, I worked full time in the non-profit sector and as an adjunct professor at UW-Milwaukee, Lakeland College, Mount Senario College, and Marquette University’s College of Professional Studies. In every case, I taught evening and weekend courses in various adult degree programs. I found this to be particularly rewarding because I maintained my connection to academe, and I was able to supplement the income of my full-time job with income earned from part-time teaching. I also taught a wide variety of courses: United States history, history of Western civilization, global history, history of the Middle East, women’s history, Wisconsin history, American Indian history, and American government. Thus, when I applied for my current position in 2003, I was a good fit because MSOE requires that I teach a variety of history courses (in fact, I am the only history professor at MSOE).
My position at MSOE also requires that I teach more than one discipline. While in graduate school, one of my minor fields was cultural anthropology, and I teach all the cultural anthropology courses at MSOE. In fact, one of the anthropology courses I teach is Latin American culture, a course that requires a one-week trip to Central America during spring break. I have made five trips to Central America and have visited Honduras, Guatemala, and Panama. One of the best things about teaching at an engineering school (and being the only professor with backgrounds in history and anthropology) is that I teach a broad number of courses in both disciplines. I was also tapped to teach art history, and this afforded me an opportunity to write a book on the German artist Erich Mercker, whose paintings grace our art museum on campus (the Grohmann Museum). I have made nine trips Europe in the past five years, most of which have been to Munich, Germany. I have also visited Berlin, Bremen, Bremerhaven, Nuremberg, Göttingen, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Dublin. In fact, I was even tasked to teach a political science course on European government and the European Union for this reason.
Here are few lessons I want to pass on to current graduate students. First, be flexible. A doctoral degree in history prepares you for more than working in academe. I found the non-profit sector to be rewarding, challenging, and satisfying. Second, working as an adjunct gave me a significant amount of classroom experience that made me a more attractive candidate when I did decide to move into the academy. Third, working at a smaller institution that does not have a history department has provided me with life-changing experiences that I never would have had if I would have gone to a larger institution and worked in a traditional history department (and where I probably would have taught only United States history). I have seen much of the world, and other opportunities are now on the horizon.
Pat Jung received his PhD from MU in 1997. He is the author of The Black Hawk War of 1832 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2007) and co-author of The Nicolet Corrigenda: New France Revisited (Arlington Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 2009). He won the Oscar Werwath Distinguished Teacher Award from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 2010.