Grad Student How-to


Being a grad student is not always easy. There is a whole new world of systems to navigate, obstacles to overcome, people to please, and goals to acheive. Unlike many undergraduate programs, there is also often very little guidance or support for grad students, aside from an advisor who has classes to prepare, research to conduct, and their own papers to write (not to mention, you know, a life).

is a community of support for, by, and among grad students that is designed to help them get the most out of (or “hack“) graduate school.

Featuring articles by and for students about subjects as varied as remembering to have funtips for teaching, and even how to survive as a parent/academic.

Versatile PhD

In 1999, Ohio State grad student Paula Chambers started a listserv called “WRK4US” for PhDs and grad students looking for alternatives to the tenure track. After more than 10 years of managing the group, Chambers decided to make the community her full-time job and transformed it into Versatile PhD.

The site has job and event listings, and a forum for the PhDs, MAs, ABDs, and grad students in the community to talk about work issues, get advice about becoming a freelancer, or ask for suggestions about tools they can use in their work. These features are free to individual (“basic“) members of the site. Institutional members of Versatile PhD get access to “premium” features such as career panels and biographies, and examples of successful resumes and cover letters.

For graduate students at DePaul, Versatile PhD might be a good forum for discussing how to get work with community organizations after graduation.


Like a cross between GradHacker and Versatile PhD, #alt-academy is an innovative new web publication that pulls together blog posts on the common theme of alternative academic careers ( “off the tenure-track, but within the academic orbit“), specifically for scholars in the humanities.

The publishing model is a mix of agregated blog site (think Huffington Post) and “networked scholarly communication“. Writers post their thoughts to their blogs on the MediaCommons site, tagged with #alt-ac, which automatically brings the posts into the #alt-academy main site. “Clusters” of posts on specific themes (for example, “Vocations, Identities” or “Making Room“), curated by editors, are collected and featured on the main home page.

Twitter users can also find the #alt-academy community (or add to the discussion) using the #alt-ac hashtag on their tweets.


Author: Jessica Speer

As the Research Specialist at SSRC, Jessica edits re/search, consults with faculty, and conducts SSRC research projects. She is interested in questions of information management, preservation, communication, and dissemination.

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