The Alt Ac Speaker Series
I consider myself very fortunate to have ended up at Stanford for my PhD for any number of reasons. First and foremost on my list these days, however, is how open many people are here to talking about alternative careers for PhD students. As someone who intends to pursue a career in academic affairs and administration when I finish, rather than the tenure track, I am grateful that I do not have to hide my plans from my advisors and committee members (and can, in fact, state them openly on the internet as I've done here).
In the 2012-2013 academic year, I took on a leadership role in the "alt ac" movement here at Stanford when I was given the opportunity to work with Associate Vice Provost Chris Golde at the Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education. With the sponsorship of the VPGE, I created, coordinated, and managed the "Alt Ac Speaker Series," wherein administrators with PhDs from across Stanford came to speak about what they do and how they got there. We had speakers from all parts of the university: research centers, undergraduate education, development, libraries, learning centers of all kinds, and more.
The sessions were extremely well attended and, from my point of view, very successful. The series helped students (including myself) understand more about what it means to leverage our academic training to make a positive contribution within a university, as well as how we might go about designing such a career path. I had many people tell me that the sessions made them "feel better" and gave them a much better idea of what kind of career path they might want. Many students followed up later with specific speakers.
As for myself, over the course of the year I went from "exploring my options" outside the tenure track to realizing that this is the sort of thing I really want to do. Running "Alt Ac" was one of my most satisfying endeavors so far here at Stanford.