Why Every Doctoral Student Should Volunteer Off Campus
By Kimberly Probolus for the Chronicle of Higher Education
"I had just received a private tour of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and seen treasures like B.F. Skinner’s famous Teaching Machine, but as I sat in a curator’s office and looked out over the National Mall, all I could think about was my dissertation.
With a big deadline looming, I was angry at myself for taking a whole three hours away from my writing. I had asked to meet with the curator because I had applied for a postdoctoral fellowship at the museum, but the whole thing felt like an exercise in futility. After all, I hadn’t heard anything back from the 60 other applications I’d sent out. Why would this one end any differently?
I don’t remember much from my conversation that day with Peggy Kidwell, a curator of the history museum’s division of medicine and science, but at one point she asked me about my long-term goals. Hoping to get the postdoc, I mentioned an interest in curatorial work. She paused, leaned forward slightly, and, seeming to choose her words carefully, said, 'I realize that this might seem beneath you, given that you almost have your Ph.D., but you could volunteer here at the Smithsonian.'"