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RMA History Blog

Ruben Schalk: Unintentional PhD position

Ruben Schalk: Unintentional PhD position

By Gijs Dielen


Ruben landed a PHD-position at the University of Utrecht within six months of graduation despite the fact that it was not really his intention to pursue a PhD position when he initially applied to join the RMA program. “I was especially looking forward to the tutorials,” Ruben explained. “Tutorials would allow me to really delve into a single subject that interested me.” Eventually, this would allow him to explore whether he enjoyed long-term research.

The research skills he developed during the master prepared him for writing his dissertation. Long-term/in-depth archival research and the processing of data involved in writing his masters’ thesis allowed him to further develop his ideas in articles he published after graduation. Moreover, writing an excellent thesis made him stand out, and landed him a commission to write a promotion proposition.

“I was lucky that a PhD position related to the subject of my proposition opened up almost immediately after [I finished my thesis]” Ruben said. “Writing my masters’ thesis helped me a great deal in attaining a PhD position since success depends on your network and recommendations. In the end, my story became one of the ‘usual’ routes to a PHD.”

Even though Ruben never personally considered a career outside of academia, he would recommend the RMA program to students who wish to pursue a non-academic career as well. Ruben supports this viewpoint by pointing out that the diverse skill set the program helps students develop is applicable to a number of fields: “History students do not always realize that skills like reporting and writing are highly appreciated outside the academic world.”