In a specialization that some say carries limited career opportunities, graduate students in the humanities are touting a new program to grow their skill set not only on campus but also in real world applications.

A new program paid for in part by a $1.1 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will place five graduate students in a paid part-time fellowship in the community.

The program aims to open up career choices for students in the humanities, Sara Guyer, director of the University of Wisconsin Center for the Humanities, said in an email to The Badger Herald.

“Scholars have historically focused on a single track career as a professor in academia and more than that, university departments have focused on that career as the only viable outcome of a Ph.D.,”  Guyer said.

Guyer said she hopes to adapt the focus of a graduate or Ph.D. degree in the humanities to reflect what is really happening in this field. The program will help ease the view of real world versus academia, she said.

The belief that humanities degrees are no longer viable are false, Guyer said.  Thinking, interacting with language, literature, art and ideas is something “completely real world,” she said.

Guyer said the outlook for jobs in academia is “bleak,” as many students do not get jobs right away or at all in their fields of study, she said.

“Experience outside of academia during the course of graduate education helps to connect these skills to career possibilities outside of academia and allows graduate students to get career-appropriate training and mentorship, so that they are prepared for these other careers,” she said.

Anna Zeide, a graduate student in the program, said in an email to The Badger Herald that the program did not teach new skills, but provided an awareness of the versatility of skills. Not only will the students in the program benefit, but the community around the university will also be enhanced, Zeide said.

She said the program allows her to express her passionate about blurring the “town/gown divide.”

“Making the university feel responsible for creating some research that can be put to the use in the community and helping the public to see the university is a crucial and vibrant part of the broader social landscape,” Zeide said.

Zeide hopes to help UW and the surrounding community to work together in the program. She said she thinks academics must shift from thinking about working for public partners to thinking about working with them.

It is important to listen to partners and respond to existing needs, rather than focusing on preconceived notions of what a community organization needs, Zeide said.

Guyer said the program was continuing to look for donations to support the expansion of the program’s reach. She said she would be interested in partnering with UW because the program fit nicely into the Wisconsin Idea.