English & Writing StudiesWestern Arts and Humanities

Alt-Ac Careers

"Alt-ac" is the short name for "alternative academic careers"--forms of employment that mobilize the skill sets you develop in a graduate degree to work within universities in a range of positions beyond tenured and tenure-track faculty jobs. Several graduates of the Department of English's Master's and PhD programs have gone on to pursue exciting careers in the alt-ac stream and we have featured a few of their stories below.

To search for academic jobs, the following databases may be of use:

Academica Group's database of job postings within universities (not solely tenure-stream jobs): http://www.academicacareers.com/

Staff Positions at Western: http://uwo.ca/hr/working/staff/index.html


Aisha Haque, MA, Language and Communication Instructor, The Teaching Support Centre at Western
Alisha HaqueAlternative academic careers encompass both staff and administrative positions within the academy.  These positions fall outside the realm of traditional tenure-track faculty careers and can vary significantly in their roles, responsibilities, and required qualifications.  Most alt-ac positions include the following responsibilities: project management, communication with various groups across campus (students, faculty, administration, stakeholders, etc.), and program evaluation.

Many alt-ac jobs even require graduate level degrees and include a teaching, research, and publication component.  One example of an alt-academic field that bridges teaching, research, and administration is Educational Development – the advancement and support of teaching and learning in higher education. This is the area that I have pursued in my career since February 2013 when I returned to Western as an Instructor at the Teaching Support Centre after teaching at the college level for 3 years.

I was drawn to Educational Development because of my background in teaching and my desire to support pedagogical excellence in the university setting.  My graduate degree in the Humanities has equipped me with many of the core competencies required in my career, such as the ability to develop resources, write reports, and effectively conduct and present research.  In my role as coordinator of the Lead TA Program, I am further able to draw on my own TA experiences to better understand graduate student concerns.

If you’re interested in a career in educational development, get involved with the teaching centre at your university and sign up for the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) listserv to keep up-to-date with job postings.  There have been over a dozen positions in Ontario alone this summer! If you have any questions about how your English degree can lead to a career in educational development or instructional design, feel free to contact me at ahaque23@uwo.ca.


Jessica Schagerl, PhD, Alumni and Development Officer, Western University Faculty of Arts and Humanities
Jessica SchagerlAn entrepreneurial thinker who started her own clothing business at 17, I rejected the option of pursuing a business degree, following my passion for beautiful words and complex stories. Twenty years later, I still have a hands-on attitude, big thinking mentality, intrinsic motivation, and predictive tendencies —only now I hold a PhD. It’s the perfect combination for work in university advancement, sometimes called alumni relations and development or educational philanthropy or simply fundraising, the field in which I have worked since 2011. I’ve also held positions at the Canadian Federation of Humanities and Social Sciences, as a sessional instructor, and as a freelance writer, editor, and researcher.

In my current role, I develop, implement and manage individual strategies to help prospective and current donors to the Faculty of Arts and Humanities meet their philanthropic ambitions. To do this, I need to maintain an in-depth knowledge of the Faculty and University’s activities, priorities and needs in both teaching and research. I work collaboratively and confidently with my academic colleagues to build effective partnerships within a complex research institution in order to implement these strategies. I’m happy working in this fluid, challenging, intellectual environment with heavy responsibility, tight, changing deadlines, multiple priorities, diverse personalities, and potentially divisive situations. I get to meet great people, travel, learn new things every day, and I have never had the same day twice (which for me is a good thing).

I was fully on ‘academic track’ for a long time, and I had a great deal of success (and fun!) pursuing that avenue. When I made the choice to stop pursuing a tenure-track position, it forced me to go back and look discriminately at the choices I made along the way. What I saw when I did that was someone who gravitated towards promoting what she’s passionate about; who liked to deal with people and help them fulfil their own ambitions; who liked the challenge of creating things; who was able to execute a plan and get others on board. Three things specifically helped me pursue work in my current field. First, I had direct, hands-on experience as an entrepreneur as an undergraduate, experience which means that I am comfortable with numbers and money, and I am not shy about talking about it. Second, I had experience working in an office environment, so I understand the value of coordinating efforts. Third, my work as a PhD candidate organizing conferences, workshops, and being part of academic governance meant that I knew ways to engage senior administrators, leaders and volunteers. When I turned to the list of awards I held throughout my academic career – a list that included awards named in honour of people, national and international awards, awards of small value, awards that allowed me to travel for research, and ones that meant that I could buy a variety of healthy food each and every month – I knew that I could work in fundraising. Someone, at some point in time, made a decision to provide support for a student in English. That student, at some point in time, was me.

Graduate studies in English helped hone my ability to both create new ideas and ensure their well-executed implementation. I report directly to the Dean of the Faculty and I have to engage Department Chairs, Directors, and senior staff across the University; having a graduate degree affords me credibility with all of these colleagues. In my current role, I use a combination of experience, intuition, diligence, and inspiration to benefit my institution on a daily basis – and all of these capacities were developed and fine-tuned through the rigors of graduate training.