Blog Post Series: Medievalists Beyond the Tenure Track

The following post by Russell Stone, Assistant Vice Provost for Assessment and Accreditation at the University of Nevada, Reno, is the first of a series profiling a community of colleagues who are using their medievalist skills and training in a variety of compatible careers. Each contributor in the series will explain how his or her chosen career has accommodated life’s changing circumstances, and readers will discover how the tools gained in graduate training have helped each author with these challenges. Although they were not initially aware of it, all of the medievalists profiled in the series are united through their common advisor, Professor Christopher Baswell. In a response piece, Prof. Baswell will offer some reflections on how working with his former students with professional placements beyond the tenure track has had an impact on how he approaches his job as an advisor, a teacher, a scholar, and a colleague.

On the day that I filed my dissertation and submitted all of the paperwork necessary for officially completing my student career at my graduate institution, I stepped out of the admissions and records building with a desire to celebrate but an uncertainty of where to go and what to do. I thought, too, that I should call my mother, and when I took my phone from my pocket, I saw that I had a voicemail from a university number: a department for which I had served as a teaching assistant had lost funding for lecturers for the next academic year, and a position on which I had been counting for income had been retracted. A second anticipated lectureship in my home department failed to materialize, until, several months later, I was notified that there was no money for hiring lecturers for the foreseeable future there either. The assumption that we would all earn our doctoral degrees and go off to begin a tenure-track position at an R1 university was suddenly and without any warning proven to be a fallacy for many of us. So began a year of unemployment in 2009, an unhappy time to earn a doctoral degree in the humanities.

A year later, I was offered, and quickly accepted, a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at my current institution. At the end of this fellowship, I found myself unemployed for the second time, but by then I was hardly surprised, and I didn’t feel quite so unemployable as I had the first time around. In those days, the idea of “alternative to the academy” had gained attention (the MLA had even hosted topics on “alt-ac” at its annual convention during my last year as a postdoc). Some of the careers that were proposed as alternatives seemed equally elusive, extensions of the academy (e.g., those in museums and private organizations), but at least the issue of having produced too many PhDs for too few academic appointments had some light cast upon it. The best advice that I received then – and the advice that I offer graduate students today – is that spending several years of your life at a university or two gives you access to a network of people and ideas. Even if they don’t know you or have nothing to do with your discipline, they may feel a certain kinship to a fellow member of the campus community and a desire to point you in some direction. In my case, a Professor of Education at my doctoral institution encouraged me to explore that network, and a Professor of History at my postdoctoral institution recommended me to a Vice Provost, a Professor of Chemistry who needed an editor for the stream of reports that flowed from central administration.

In my current position as Assistant Vice Provost for Assessment and Accreditation, much of my work requires a scholarly approach particularly suited to the humanities. In overseeing my university’s accreditation, I compile various sources of information relevant to learning, research, and engagement to construct a narrative legible to various readerships, I translate quantitative data into a relatable story for these readerships, and I collaborate with campus and community stakeholders (individuals from diverse backgrounds with diverse perspectives) to determine whether or not the university is meeting its goals. In designing and revising curricula and conducting assessments of student learning, I rely on my experience in the classroom, an experience that is also vital for working with student leadership and student-facing offices on campus. When I taught general education courses during my graduate and postdoctoral careers, for example, I quickly learned to adjust my teaching style to the array of students who came to class and office hours: first-generation, underrepresented, single parents, veterans, athletes, and majors from all disciplines. In my position in the Office of the Provost, not a week goes by when I don’t discuss with administrators and faculty members how we can foster student learning and improve retention rates for our great diversity of students. I research these topics in a scholarly fashion, visit other institutions to learn from their successes and innovations, and I report our progress to external agencies who hold us accountable for the success of our students.

I also strive to maintain a scholarly agenda, if not career, that allows me to remain rooted, as it were, in my discipline. In publishing an occasional paper or monograph, I wonder whether I’m more contented in taking pride in a professional accomplishment or in reassuring myself that the time and expenses of my graduate training were not wasted. Perhaps I’m driven most by a need for validation, a desire to prove that scholarship can be produced by someone other than academic faculty. There are, of course, challenges and cause for frustration. Without an academic home department, I am utterly excluded from the research enterprise at my university. Faculty in our humanities departments see me only as an administrator and never as a medievalist, I haven’t had a scholarly conversation with any would-be colleagues on or off campus in years, and I have no support for academic conferences or subventions. The senior administrators with whom I work belong to a different generation, one that entered the academy long before the Great Recession, and the younger faculty on campus are forging their own tenure-track careers during a period of economic recovery, at least in our state. I have had to accept that my scholarly activity is a hobby, and occasionally an expensive one.

Still, my career trajectory provides a sense of belonging. When I took up administrative work, I remained consumed by depression and resentment at not having attained the career that I had sought for so long. By that time, I had friends and colleagues who had left higher education, and others who served as roaming adjuncts and lecturers with 4/4 teaching loads. I didn’t have the fortitude to pursue either path. I began to correspond with a still smaller group of colleagues who had found administrative positions, particularly in student affairs, and, in time, I realized that I could still make some contribution to higher education and to a university. I realized that my own alternative was within, not outside of, the academy.

When I speak these days with our graduate students who are intent on remaining in the academy, I even recite with conviction what seemed platitudes to me in 2009: communication and research skills are transferable well beyond a tenure-track career, and you need to seek out positions and work that will allow you to develop other skills necessary for collaboration and leadership. We speak to our undergraduates of these career-preparation skills and we often build them into our general education curricula, but they are valuable, too, for those of us who have spent long periods in scholarly solitude in the archives or hunched over a paper in need of yet another revision. A university is, after all, much more than the sum of the peer-reviewed papers authored by its faculty and the grants won by its researchers. It is a community built upon many agendas, possessing a unique cultural identity, and populated by many individuals serving many purposes. There is room, and even fulfillment to be found, for us beyond the tenure-track ranks.

Russell Stone, University of Nevada, Reno

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The Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (TLL) Fellowship

Supported by a Generous Grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities

The Society for Classical Studies invites applications for a one-year Fellowship, tenable from July 2020 through June 2021, will allow an American scholar to conduct lexicographical research at the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae (TLL) Institute in Munich. Fellows at the TLL develop a broadened perspective of the range and complexity of the Latin language and culture from the classical period through the early Middle Ages, contribute signed articles to the Thesaurus, have the opportunity to participate in a collaborative international research project in a collegial environment, and work with senior scholars in the field of Latin lexicography.  The Fellowship carries a stipend in the amount of $50,400, and is made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Before leaving for Munich, fellows receive up to $1,850 in additional funds to support training in Latin lexicography and (if necessary) German. Thanks to the Friends of George Goold Fund in the SCS’s Endowment for Classics Research and Teaching, Fellows may also request reimbursement of travel expenses for two return trips between North America and Munich, to enable the Fellow to take up the fellowship and to attend the annual SCS meeting.  In certain instances the TLL Fellowship Advisory Board may also authorize Goold Fund support for other research activities of a Fellow.  The incumbent Fellow may re-apply for a second year, but all applications will be judged on an equal footing.

Applicants must be US citizens or permanent residents.  In addition, all applicants must have completed all PhD requirements by the date on which they submit their application materials.  Applicants who have completed all PhD requirements but have not yet had the degree conferred should provide a letter from their Director of Graduate Studies that states: (a) that all PhD requirements are complete; and (b) the date on which the degree will be conferred.  The opportunity to conduct lexicographical research and contribute articles to be published in the lexicon may be of special interest to scholars who are already established in tenure-track positions, as well as those who are just entering the profession.  The Fellowship offers valuable experience for scholars in a variety of specialties (e.g., Latin language and literature, Roman law, Roman history, the literature of early Christianity); although it is not limited to individuals working in Latin philology, applicants should possess a thorough familiarity with and a special interest in the Latin language, as well as advanced competence in Greek.  It is anticipated that applicants will already have a reading knowledge of German and will be willing to work toward proficiency in spoken German. Women and members of minority groups underrepresented in Classics are particularly encouraged to apply.

Applications should include a curriculum vitae, a statement of what benefits the applicant expects to derive from the Fellowship for his/her research and teaching, and the names of three referees, whom the applicant should ask to send supporting letters to the Executive Director of the Society for Classical Studies without further notice.  The candidate’s statement should address the two basic eligibility requirements (status of the candidate’s citizenship/residency and doctoral degree).  It will be in the candidate’s interest if at least one letter of recommendation can specifically address the candidate’s suitability for the Fellowship. Candidates will be considered by a selection committee appointed by the SCS’s TLL Fellowship Advisory Board.  That selection committee will choose a short-list of candidates to be invited for interview at the Annual Meeting in January 2019 in San Diego, California, and the name of the successful candidate will be announced shortly thereafter.

Applications must be received by the deadline of Friday, November 8, 2019, at 5:00 p.m., Eastern Time. Applications should be submitted as e-mail attachments to Dr. Helen Cullyer, Executive Director, Society for Classical Studies,  A complete application will consist of five files sent as attachments.  The candidate is responsible for sending two of these documents: the statement and the curriculum vitae.  Each of the three referees should send his or her letter directly to the Executive Director.

If, for some reason, it is impossible to submit these materials electronically, please write to Dr. Cullyer at the e-mail address above or call her at 212-992-7840 for alternative instructions.  Visit the Publications and Research Division’s page on the TLL for more information, or contact the Chairperson of the TLL Fellowship Advisory Board of the SCS:

Professor Yelena Baraz

– See more at:

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2019 Lone Medievalist Prize for Teaching

John Giebfried and Kyle Lincoln, Reacting to the Past Pedagogical Games

We are proud to award the 2019 Lone Medievalist Prize for Teaching to John Giebfried and Kyle Lincoln for their design of Reacting to the Past pedagogical games. Reacting to the Past is a pedagogical tool first developed in the late 1990s. This pedagogy creates an understanding and empathy for the past, and for both sides of an argument. Moreover, it builds skills useful to students in all future forms of employment, namely critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration, public speaking and persuasive writing. Their first game, written together, 1204: The Fourth Crusade and the Remaking of the Medieval World, begins in March 1204, immediately after the young emperor Alexius IV, whom the fourth crusaders had put on the throne of Constantinople was murdered by a usurper. The students must first decide whether to attack the city, debating concepts like ‘just war’ and the nature of crusading, using the works of Gratian, St. Augustine and others to build their arguments. John Giebfried is currently finishing up a game on Mongol history, entitled Grandsons of Genghis, focusing on the Qurultai of 1246. Kyle Linoln is in the early stages of developing a game set in Spain in 1492, exploring the aftermath of the conquest of Grenada and the expulsion of the Jews. Their work will provide invaluable teaching resources for other Lone Medievalists and all instructors, especially those teaching survey courses.

Honorable Mention: Ashley Laverock, Design and Decorative Arts in Medieval Europe (Course)
Ashley Laverock seeks to make medieval art and history engaging for students majoring in disciplines ranging from fashion to interactive game design.The incorporation of experiential activities into Laverock’s course on medieval “decorative” arts allowed medieval objects to come to life for students and was particularly well-suited to a student population of artists and designers.

Honorable Mention: John T.R. Terry, “Gardening with the Dead: A Medieval Monastic Practicum” (Lesson)
John T.R. Terry’s lesson uses as its central text Walafrid Strabo’s ninth-century poem Liber de cultura hortorum––the “Book on the cultivation of gardens”––more commonly known to scholars as Hortulus, or “little garden.” In its current form, this lesson is designed for high school sophomores enrolled in the required semester-long course History of the Ancient World (HAW) at The Westminster Schools. This project in particular challenges students to read medieval sources on monastic gardening and to work in our school’s community gardens along similar lines in order to gain an appreciation for pre-modern monastic labor, foodways, and the ways in which a pre-modern text can be enacted as opposed to passively read for sense.

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MAA News – From the President

Executive Director Lisa Fagin Davis and MAA President Ruth Mazo Karras at the CARMEN meeting

The Medieval Academy is an active member of an international network called CARMEN (the name stands for “Co-operative for the Advancement of Research through a Medieval European Network”). This group includes individuals, centers, and associations like ours. Our Executive Director, Lisa Fagin Davis, serves on the CARMEN executive committee.

CARMEN is a bit different from some other organizations in that its goal is to connect people at an early stage of projects. People present on work that is ongoing, planned, or at a vague pre-planning stage, rather than on finished work as at most conferences. This helps scholars build networks of people interested in similar issues. At the CARMEN meeting in Prague which I attended in September, along with Lisa, Bob Bjork, Sarah McNamer, and Laura Morreale representing the MAA, there were several sessions in which people floated ideas about a collaborative project, received feedback, and planned next steps. There were also fascinating sessions by representatives of different centers for medieval studies in the Czech Republic.

The situation in Europe, as you all know, is somewhat different than in the US in that there tend to be more government research funds available (per capita) including funds from the EU. One session I attended was preliminary to applying for an EU grant that funds, not research, but networking: essentially, travel expenses for scholars to attend workshops on a theme. But the EU, and many national governments, also fund large projects that employ post-docs and PhD students. All is not necessarily well here: you will not be surprised to hear that funding is more difficult to get in the humanities than in STEM, and that the picture does not look like it is improving. One of CARMEN’s jobs is lobbying for increased support of the humanities.

There is a serious jobs crisis in the humanities in Europe as there is in North America. The existence of post-doctoral positions on big projects mitigates that a bit, but these positions are funding-dependent and often do not lead to permanent academic positions. I spoke to one researcher who holds five different post-doctoral research posts, adding up to 1.6 FTE, because it is very difficult to live on a full-time salary in their country. People at the meeting were very interested to hear Laura Morreale speak about the Medieval Academy’s efforts to come up with ways to help solve this problem. Watch this Newsletter in early 2020 for implementation of the first of her committee’s recommendations.

CARMEN will meet in 2020 in Dublin (a choice which I applaud but had nothing to do with) and in 2021 at Harvard. Those of you involved with centers who don’t already belong may want to check it out. The Medieval Academy’s membership in the group includes registration for ten MAA delegates to attend the conference; the MAA can’t cover expenses beyond registration, but if you have other reasons to be in Dublin or Cambridge in September, or if you have travel funding, watch for Lisa’s call for volunteers sometime next year.

Ruth Mazo Karras, MAA President
Trinity College Dublin

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MAA News – New Dues Structure

It is nearly time to renew your membership in the Medieval Academy of America. Our renewal season begins on October 1, so you will be hearing from us soon. At its meeting in Philadelphia last March, the Council of the Medieval Academy approved several important changes to our dues structure for Active members (the dues for student, independent, retired, and other members will be unchanged). The following changes will be in force as of October 1:

1) <$60,000 annual income: dues reduced from $100 to $80; 2) $60,001-$90,000 annual income: dues unchanged at $120; 3) $90,001-$130,000 category: dues increased from $145 to $175; 4) The >$130,000 category will be changed to a range of $130,001-$170,000 and the dues for that category will be set at $230;
5) The highest income category will be set at >$170,000, with a dues rate of $275;
6) The designation “Friend” will be added to the “Independent, Contingent, Part-Time, K-12 Educator, Retired” category, for non-academics with an interest in the Middle Ages.

We hope that by reducing dues for our Active members who earn less than $60,000/year, we can make MAA membership more affordable for those who may be in financially precarious situations. To help compensate for this reduction, we are asking members who earn greater than $90,000/year to pay slightly more in dues.

As of October 1, the Dues structure will be a follows:

ACTIVE (the base dues rate):
Salary up to $60,000: $80
Salary $60,001 – $90,000: $120
Salary $90,001 – $130,000: $175
Salary $130,001 – $170,000: $230
Salary greater than $170,000: $275

Independent, Contingent, Part-Time, K-12 Educator, Retired, Friend: $60

Student: $30

For more information about membership, please visit our website:

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MAA News – Upcoming Application Deadlines

The Medieval Academy of America invites applications for the following grants. Please note that applicants must be members in good standing as of September 15 in order to be eligible for Medieval Academy awards.

Schallek Fellowship
The Schallek Fellowship provides a one-year grant of $30,000 to support Ph.D. dissertation research in any relevant discipline dealing with late-medieval Britain (ca. 1350-1500). (Deadline 15 October 2019)

Baldwin Fellowship
The Birgit Baldwin Fellowship provides a grant of $20,000 to support a graduate student in a North American university who is researching and writing a dissertation for the Ph.D. on any subject in French medieval history that can be realized only by sustained research in the archives and libraries of France. It may be renewed for a second year upon demonstration of satisfactory progress. (Deadline 15 November 2019)

Travel Grants
The Medieval Academy provides travel grants to help Academy members who hold doctorates but are not in full-time faculty positions, or are contingent faculty without access to institutional funding, attend conferences to present their work. (Deadline 1 November 2019 for meetings to be held between 16 February and 31 August 2020)

MAA/CARA Conference Grant
The MAA/CARA Conference Grant for Regional Associations and Programs awards $1,000 to help support a regional or consortial conference taking place in 2020. (Deadline 15 October 2019)

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MAA News – Call for Prize Submissions

The Medieval Academy of America invites submissions for the following prizes to be awarded at the 2020 MAA Annual Meeting (University of California, Berkeley, 26-28 March). Submission instructions vary, but all dossiers must complete by 15 October 2019.

Haskins Medal
Awarded to a distinguished monograph in the field of medieval studies.

Digital Humanities Prize
Awarded to an outstanding digital research project or resource in the field of medieval studies.

Karen Gould Prize
Awarded to a monograph of outstanding quality in medieval art history.

John Nicholas Brown Prize
Awarded to a first monograph of outstanding quality in the field of medieval studies.

Van Courtlandt Elliott Prize
Awarded to a first article of outstanding quality in the field of medieval studies.

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MAA News – CARA Awards: Call for Nominations

Kindrick-CARA Award for Outstanding Service to Medieval Studies
The Robert L. Kindrick-CARA Award for Outstanding Service to Medieval Studies recognizes Medieval Academy members who have provided leadership in developing, organizing, promoting, and sponsoring medieval studies through the extensive administrative work that is so crucial to the health of medieval studies but that often goes unrecognized by the profession at large.

CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching 
The CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies recognizes Medieval Academy members who are outstanding teachers and who have contributed to the profession by inspiring students at the undergraduate or graduate levels or by creating innovative and influential textbooks or other materials for teaching medieval subjects.

The CARA Awards will be presented at the 2020 MAA Annual Meeting (UC Berkeley, 26-28 March). Nominations and supporting materials must be received by Nov. 15.

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MAA News – Call for Fellows Nominations

Members of the MAA are hereby invited to submit nominations for the election of Fellows and Corresponding Fellows of the Medieval Academy of America for 2020.

The title of Fellow was created in 1926 to recognize and honor those scholars among us who over the years have made outstanding contributions to Medieval Studies through their teaching, scholarship, and service. These are normally senior scholars with an outstanding record of accomplishments, and ideally with work that manifests interdisciplinary interests.

Nominations are encouraged in all the varied fields encompassed by Medieval Studies. The nomination itself should be written in ways to make the nominee’s contributions to the field intelligible to a multi-disciplinary body of Fellows. All members of the Medieval Academy are free to submit nominations.

The nominations are overseen by the Fellows Nominating Committee, which is empowered to intervene only if there is some notable inequity in the list of proposed nominees. Existing Fellows will cast their ballots in December and January. The election of 2020 will operate under the by-laws and procedures adopted in 2013 and revised in 2015.

Existing Fellows may also have chosen to become Emeriti or Emeritae Fellows, which has the effect of opening up additional slots the following year for the election of new Fellows. Such Emeriti/Emeritae Fellows retain the position of Fellow in every respect but relinquish their right to vote in the election of new Fellows.

Current bylaws prescribe that there may be a total of up to 125 Fellows who at the time of election are members of the Academy and residents of North America, and in addition up to 75 Corresponding Fellows who at the time of election are residents of countries outside of North America. Following the rules established by the current bylaws, six (6) slots are available for the year 2020, for which there must be at least twelve (12) nominations. For the nomination of Corresponding Fellows no established minimum number of nominations is required.

Instructions for submitting nominations are available here:

Please refer to the lists of current Fellows before proposing a nomination:

Current Fellows:

Current Corresponding Fellows:

Nominations may be submitted by email (as a PDF attachment) to the Executive Director at <> or by mail to:

Lisa Fagin Davis, Executive Director
Medieval Academy of America
6 Beacon St., Suite 500
Boston, Mass. 02108

Nominations for the 2020 elections must be received by 15 October 2019. Unsuccessful nominations from previous years may be resubmitted. Please contact the Executive Director for further information.

Finally, please note that nominations are to be kept in strictest confidence, from the nominee as well as from others.

– John Van Engen, President of the Fellows

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MAA News – Good News From Our Members

Former Medieval Academy President David Wallace (Univ. of Pennsylvania) has been awarded the British Academy’s Israel Gollancz Prize in honor of his lifetime contributions to the study of Chaucer and Medieval Europe.

Stuart Manning (Cornell Univ.) has been awarded an NEH Collaborative Research grant for his project, “Medieval Monuments and Wooden Cultural Heritage on Cyprus: Building History with Tree-Rings.” The grant will facilitate field research to establish a chronology of Late Byzantine and Medieval churches and icons in Cyprus based on tree-ring analysis (dendrochronology).

If you have good news to share, please contact Executive Director Lisa Fagin Davis (

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