Versatile PhD started as a listserv called WRK4US (Work For Us), founded by Paula Chambers in 1999 while she was dissertating in Rhetoric and Composition at Ohio State and wondering what else she could do with her PhD besides teach. She started the list in order to provide a safe space for humanities graduate students to discuss non-academic careers positively and supportively. Membership grew because there was no other community like it; word of mouth spread to other disciplines and the reach broadened to include social sciences. Even some scientists and mathematicians found their way onto the list. A 2008 subscriber survey revealed that 98% of WRK4US subscribers had benefitted in some way after subscribing to WRK4US for at least 6 months:
- 67% discovered at least one interesting career path they didn’t know about before
- 49% received an emotional boost and felt more positive about their futures
- 41% discovered they have more skill than previously realized
- 34% received advice that helped them through a specific career situation
Meanwhile, Paula finished her own Ph.D. in 2000 and went on to become a successful grant writer in her hometown of Los Angeles. She continued managing the list on the side and eventually left grant writing to devote herself entirely to PhD career development: in 2010, she transformed WRK4US into The Versatile PhD and moved the community to its current home here on the Versatile PhD website. It became at that point a social enterprise, with revenue generated by institutional subscriptions to Premium Content. Responding to calls from members in STEM disciplines, and recognizing the longstanding presence of STEM in the community, Paula added a STEM discussion forum in 2011 and expanded the premium content to include STEM in 2013. Now institutions have the option to subscribe to Humanities and Social Science, STEM, or both.
Versatile PhD was acquired in 2018. The company’s “2.0” development path includes more PhD-specific courses, job analytics, new planning tools, and live webinars–all the with same goal of helping PhD and post-docs envision, prepare for and excel in professional careers.
VPhD received early support from several key institutions: The Ohio State University (1999-2002), the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (2002-2006), and Duke University (2006-2010). Today, Versatile PhD is supported by every member of the community including the many fine institutions that subscribe to the premium content service. The first five institutions to subscribe to Versatile PhD–the “Founding Five”–deserve special thanks: Michigan State University, University of Pennsylvania, Duke University, Yale University and Harvard University.