Alison Li, PhD, University of Toronto
Dr. Alison Li is a partner in HJC New Media, a consulting firm that helps nonprofit organizations use new media more effectively. Clients include Amnesty International, Greenpeace International, and the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees. As an historian of medicine, Alison has a special interest in the development of medical research and has focused on working with health charities.
Alison received her Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1993, and after a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was hired to a tenure-track position in Science Studies at York University in 1994. In 1998, having become disenchanted by the academic politics in her unit, she took a one-year leave of absence. She joined two friends who had established a consulting business with a special expertise in helping charities use the Internet. Alison valued the opportunity to work with fine organizations and to engage in creative and practical projects with concrete results. Moreover, having experienced being part of a large institution, she found it gratifying to become an entrepreneur and to take on the challenge of shaping a new business. She decided to leave York University permanently and became a co-owner of HJC New Media.
The decision to leave academia was not an easy one for Alison to make, and it has had its price. Building a small business has certainly had its share of struggles. However, she has found that the loss of the stability, secure income, and prestige associated with an academic appointment has been more than compensated for by the gain in being able to steer her own course and the satisfaction of making a tangible and meaningful contribution. As a consultant, Alison has continued to carry out research, win research grants, and publish in both the history of medicine and nonprofit studies (she is a co-editor of Women, Health, and Nation: Canada and the United States Since 1945 and the author of J.B. Collip and the Development of Medical Research in Canada: Extracts and Enterprise).
Molly Sutphen, PhD, Yale University
Dr. Molly Sutphen received her doctorate in history with an emphasis on British and colonial medicine from Yale University in 1995.
A researcher specializing in nursing education, Molly works at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. She describes herself as being both in and out of academia---hired to think about teaching and learning while working outside the traditional university or college format.
For the first few years after earning her PhD, Molly followed a traditional path holding two post-doctoral fellowships. During her second post-doc at the University of California, San Francisco, Molly became interested in conducting research on contemporary health care issues. She worked for a small health policy research company and began conducting program evaluations for non-profits groups. Beginning in 2002, she returned to UCSF to work on an interdisciplinary project specializing in medical education, before moving to the Carnegie Foundation in September, 2004.
In describing her work, Molly says "all of the jobs I have held since 2000 have demanded an ability to conduct research, write and write closely with a team." In her work on medical education, she actually did a great deal of archival work. She says that the most obvious difference between her historical work and the work she has done more recently (and now) is working with a team on a shared project. Although she experienced a steep learning curve, she has come to enjoy this aspect of her work.
Molly notes that she uses her training as an historian every day. While she puts on what she calls a health policy researcher mask and uses words like "coding" or "sample size, " she sees herself using similar tools and approaches in her work to those she used as an historian.
Saying that she likes being on "the border of academia, able to crane my neck and see both landscapes," Molly says that she likes working with others on a common goal, which is what teaching is at its best moments. She has also enjoyed escaping from the insularity of the tenure track and she finds it refreshing to leave the academic cocoon. For Molly, the uncertainties of a non-tenured life are balanced by the possibilities of being an historian outside of academia.