Jon Wilkins on Organizing Independent Scholars with the Ronin Institute

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Podcast 1

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"Once upon a time, earning a Ph.D. in America meant you were on your way to a career in academia. With a doctorate degree in hand, you had a pretty good shot at a full professorship, research support and the backing and credibility of a university.

Back in 1970, America was producing about a third of the world’s university students and half of the world’s science and technology doctorates. So there were plenty of students for all those aspiring professors to teach. But times have changed and since then, much of the rest of the world got busy handing out their own doctorates, and the result is a global glut of Ph.D.’s.

Too many would-be professors chasing too few jobs. And here’s a stunning statistic: Between 2005 and 2009, America produced 100,000 doctoral degrees but only 16,000 new professorships. Add to that the recent recession and the problem of too many Ph.D.’s and too few jobs is more acute than ever.

So what are all these highly qualified but often under or unemployed Ph.D.’s going to do? Well, Jon Wilkins, who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard back in 2002, had an idea: he’s established something called The Ronin Institute. It’s a brand new nonprofit that aims to connect all those unemployed Ph.D.’s with grant money, research projects, fellow academics and credibility — all outside the walls of a traditional university or college." (

Podcast 2

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"An increasingly common anxiety for freshly-minted undergraduates is finding a job in their field with a decent enough salary to pay off their student loans. For those with new advanced degrees, the stakes are even higher... 2008 figures from The Center for College Affordability and Productivity estimate that 16% of those qualified to be college professors, lawyers, and doctors are working jobs at the high school graduate level. Helping wayward professionals put their highly-trained brains to work, is Jon F. Wilkins, founder of The Ronin Institute – an experiment in promoting independent scholarship and providing unaffiliated academics with confidence, funding, and community. We read about his work in an article by Keith O’Brien in the Ideas section of The Boston Globe." (

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