Alfredo Cumerma is a Gilman Research Fellow who recently completed his Ph.D. in Modern Languages, with a concentration in Latin American culture and American foreign policy. He’s currently serving as an administrative policy analyst in the police reform section of the Baltimore Police Department.
I came to Johns Hopkins because of the extraordinary support of my advisers, who understand the evolving labor market for PhDs of all stripes. More than half of PhDs today–sciences, social sciences, and humanities alike–work outside of academia by choice, life circumstances, or due to the waning state of stable academic employment.
I needed advisers who would support me on my path toward academic specialization and professional development for the modern workforce. I found that one of the advantages of a Hopkins doctoral education is its deep interdisciplinary nature. I’m not talking about working within your usual allied fields, but with experts in areas radically different from one’s own, which is how you generate innovation.
As Hopkins PhDs, we have access to coursework and programs across all of its schools: the Carey School of Business, School for Advanced International Studies, and School of Medicine, among others. I also encourage any incoming PhD to consult with Hopkins’ Life Design specialists early in the process, before even committing to study here.
This multifaceted approach allowed me to design a research project which threaded its way into areas of critical social importance, all the while preparing me for the project management and problem-solving expected in public and private sector employment.
For my research, I examined the works of Latin American intellectuals: how they write about the state, why they write about the state, and how American foreign policy helped shape that human expression. The topic had a lot of connections to the intelligence community and disinformation campaigns we see in society today.
By the time I was finishing my dissertation, and contrary to the typical misperception of students in the humanities, I had secured more than 20 job interviews in eight months. The right one finally landed in front of me, right here in Baltimore, which I am now proud to call home. Now that this huge endeavor is over, I have an opportunity to shift gears and enjoy other aspects of life: a new job, home ownership, marriage. All of these happened during my last six months of the PhD, and I think that these life milestones are often overlooked as part of one’s education.
Sure, the point is to get where you want to be intellectually and professionally, but your education is also about designing your life in a way which makes living it satisfying.