I hope everyone is enjoying our Real Jobs in Philosophy Series so far. Given that we haven't had any contributions from anyone at a midsized liberal arts university (MLAC), I thought I might chime in at this point to share what my job is like.
As I have explained before, I struggled substantially in graduate school (like many people do), especially at the dissertation stage. Fortunately, I finally found my way and received my first job offer, a 2-year Visiting Assistant Professor position at the University of British Columbia, while ABD at the University of Arizona in 2008. I successfully defended my dissertation just before beginning the position, and spent one year at UBC. It was a great position, with a light 2/2 teaching load requiring little prep. I spent approximately 80% of my typical work week at UBC on research, and 20% on teaching. However, my fiancé at the time (who is now my spouse) could not work in Canada, and wanted to attend a PhD program in Industrial Organizational (IO) Psychology. So, I applied for jobs in the states, and was offered an attractive VAP at the University of Tampa. The position was attractive for a number of reasons. First, it was in the US, where my fiancé could live and work. Second, it is located in the same city as a top-5 program in IO psychology (which my spouse later applied and was accepted to). Third, while the VAP I was offered was technically a one-year contract, I was told it could be renewed annually for up to seven years, depending on university needs (which I had no reason to think would change) and performance. The fact that the position could be renewed for so many years was particularly attractive, as I figured it would allow me to significantly improve my dossier for the TT job market (I hadn't published as a graduate student, and only published one short "reply" piece while at UBC). In any case, I spent the next six years in that VAP position at UT before finally being offered a tenure track position (with a substantial tenure clock reduction) last year. This was my first year in a TT position, and I passed my mid-tenure review this past Spring.
I am now at the University of Tampa, a private mid-sized liberal arts university with 8,000 students (mainly undergraduate, though we offer 11 Masters degrees). The university has grown substantially during my time here, from about 6,500 students when I began in 2009. Our department, the Department of Philosophy & Religion, is the smallest department at the university. During most of my time here, we have had three full-time members. However, our most senior member retired last spring, so we have had only two full-time members this year. Fortunately, we hired a new full-time faculty member, Chelsea Haramia, to begin this coming Fall. I am expected to devote 45-60% of my time to teaching, 15-40% to research, and 10-40% on service and student involvement (the precise percentage within those spans are up to us to self-define in annual evaluations). During the semester, I currently devote about 75% of my time to teaching, 20% to service and student involvement, and 5% to research. I make up for the sharp skew in these figures by devoting 90-100% of my time to research during summer and winter breaks.
I have a 3/3 load, though as I will explain momentarily this is a bit deceiving. My standard course load is something like the following: one Intro class (which all full-time members teach just about every semester), an upper-division seminar, and a third course either at the 200 or 300 level (roughly, a sophomore/junior level class). However, I do not have anything like a "standard course rotation." I have had to teach a very wide variety of courses in my time here: everything from Ancient Philosophy to Biomedical Ethics, Business Ethics, Philosophy of Law, Justice, International Justice, Human Rights, Morality of War, etc. Indeed, many of my courses are in areas not in my AOS, so in many cases I have to self-teach the material along the way. Finally, aside from my intro class, all of my classes typically are a mix of majors and non-majors, so I have to teach upper-division courses in a way that are simultaneously advanced enough for majors but do not presuppose any background in philosophy (a real challenge!).
I mentioned a moment ago that my 3/3 load is a bit deceiving, and there is a very simple reason why. At most universities (indeed, all four universities I had first-hand experience with), courses are three credit-hours, which means one spends three hours in the classroom per course per week. At the University of Tampa, our standard classes are four credit-hours, which means we spend four hours in class per class per week. What this means is that, whereas MWF classes at most universities are 50 minutes long and T/Th courses are 1:15 long, at UT our MWF classes are 1:20 (three times a week) and our T/Th classes are 1:50 minutes (twice per week). I cannot emphasize enough how big of a difference this is--and indeed, I am not the only one who had this experience: our department had a full-time faculty member from a Leiter top-50 school spend a year visiting, and she remarked that she was astonished how much more prep our courses take than a standard three-credit hour class. And one can easily imagine why! It is one thing to hold a standard philosophy lecture/discussion with undergraduates for 50 minutes or 1:15. It is another thing to try to do that for 1:15 three times a week or 2 hours twice a week. And indeed, when I first started at UT, my course evaluations were absolutely brutal: the standard teaching strategies I had learned in grad school and my first job didn't work at all (students got bored, tuned out, etc.). So, I had to rebuild my teaching strategies from the ground up, giving a lot more graded daily assignments (to ensure students read before coming to class), and splitting my daily course meetings into multiple parts: lecture/discussion, discussion of homework questions, and graded in-class group activities. I have found that this formula works like a charm, in terms of student learning and satisfaction--but it is a lot of work!
Finally, I also teach one or two freshman "transition to college" courses for one hour a week on Fridays, with students for whom I also serve as academic advisor. This course does not require a ton of work, but I got approved to put together a "themed course" this year for our university QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan), and did a course on transformative experience and rational life-decisionmaking which required some real amount of prep.
When all is said and done, I spend about 44 hours each week during the semester on teaching. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I spend about 8 hours on grading and prep for the next day's classes. I start working at 9am and finish up by 5pm. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I begin work by 9am, prep a bit, teach two 2-hour classes back to back from 12-4pm, hold office hours for two hours, and teach a third class from 6-8pm. On Fridays, I teach one or two 1-hour freshman transition courses, and usually do some grading.
Like I said above, I don't have much time for research during the academic year. Sometimes I will find time to get some research done on Friday afternoons, but in all honesty, that doesn't happen very often. Fortunately, I have found summer and winter breaks to be sufficient to get the kind of research done I need to get done to put myself in a good position for tenure at my university, and have been pretty productive over the past seven years here (15 peer reviewed publications and one peer-reviewed book). In fact, much to my surprise, I've been a whole lot more productive as a researcher here than I ever was in grad school or at UBC--and, when I reflect a bit, the reasons for this seem to me pretty clear, though perhaps counterintuitive. I actually think it has been (A) my lack of research time, (B) sheer variety of courses I have had to teach, and (C) lack of pressure to publish in top-ranked journals.
When I was in grad school and at UBC, my reading interests were very narrow: I basically read journal articles and books within my primary research program at the time (nonideal justice), and little else. Once I came to UT, and had to teach things like free will, human rights, etc., my research interests expanded dramatically. In fact, many of my published papers emerged from trying out fun new ideas in the classroom in lower and upper-division courses. Further, I have found it really helpful not to have so much research time on my hands, as while I was at Arizona and UBC I often found myself wasting days in front of my computer not being able to figure out a way forward with the papers I was working on, whereas these days my teaching schedule forces me to let those ideas "percolate" in the back of my mind--and, in a weird way, my mind seems to solve philosophical problems better that way (it's almost as if the more time I have to think about a problem directly, day-in day-out, the more difficulty I have finding the answer). I also think having to teach undergrads has helped me as a researcher. Teaching undergrads really incentivizes breaking complex philosophical arguments down to their simplest, most intuitive constituents--setting aside jargon, etc. I, at least, think it has helped me become a much clearer thinker than before (though of course this is just my judgment; I could well be wrong!). Finally, I have found it really nice not to have the extreme pressure to publish in top-ranked journals that I might have at an R1. Although my institution does care about quality of journal venue, I have felt much freer here than I think I would at an R1 to publish on whatever strikes my fancy, as opposed to caring predominantly about where I publish. In other words, I think working in a less pressure-filled research environment has incentivized "taking chances" with fun ideas I really care about.
My university and department care very much about service, especially service to students. Each Fall, I spend two hours every Friday working with an Ethics Bowl team, which competes each November in a regional competition. Three of the past four years, our team has qualified for the national competition, which has meant that I work 2-hours per week in the spring semester as well. I have also coached a Bioethics Bowl team almost every spring after Ethics Bowl stuff is complete, which requires a similar amount of work. This, in all honesty, has been one of the most fun and gratifying parts of the job. The students love preparing and competing, and it has been a real joy seeing students develop as thinkers and speakers. I also organize an annual interdisciplinary human rights conference on campus each spring semester, bringing in academic speakers, NGOs, etc. Since this past August, I am also Education Director with UNA-USA Tampa Bay. I also serve as my department's assessment coordinator, which means I have to collect and upload work from our department's instructors, prepare an annual report to the administration on how our department is measuring learning outcomes, etc. Finally, I have also served on committees, and will be serving on our university's faculty senate for the next two years--and of course, I blog on the Cocoon!
A Typical Week
I've already mentioned what my typical work week is like during the academic year, but here it is again. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I prep/grade from 9am-5pm. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I start work at 9am, grade/prep until my noon class, teach two classes from noon-4pm, hold office hours from 4-5:30, and teach from 6-8pm. On Fridays, I teach two 50 minute freshman transition courses in the morning, coach a debate team for 2 hours in the afternoon, and, if I'm lucky, find a couple of hours for research. During summer and winter breaks, I do only research, usually from 9am-4pm or so. I have a policy--which I put into place several years ago--of never working after 5pm (teaching nights aside) and never working on the weekends. I have learned it is important to set work/home boundaries, and yes, important to rest. At the end of the day, I work about 50 hours per week during the semester, and close to 40 hours a week during summer.
Life Outside of Work
Unfortunately, my seven years on the academic job-market means that I have few friends or hobbies. For seven years straight, my one overriding goal--to myself and my spouse--was to secure a tenure-track job. That means that I had to put everything on the backburner, and am just now (now that I am in a TT position) beginning to feel free to return to other parts of my life. Part of this is my fault. I spent far too much time playing music in graduate school (in large part due to losing confidence in my philosophical abilities), and not enough time putting myself in a good position to get a tenure-track position sooner than I did. In any case, once I was lucky enough to find myself in a full-time non-TT job, I decided that I owed to myself and my spouse to give it everything I have, so that I could not look back later and think that I could have done more to achieve career stability--so, for the past near-decade of my life, philosophy (research and teaching) has been basically all that I've done with my life. I am also shy and introverted, which has made it difficult for me to forge close friendships. For me, friendships tend to result from mingling with people with common interests (e.g. music and philosophy), and, since I have put music aside and only have one colleague in philosophy at my current institution, my colleague is pretty much the only close friend I have now (though he is an absolutely superlative friend and colleague!). Fortunately, my spouse--who is gregarious and extroverted--picks up the slack: she has a lot of friends, both within graduate school and without, and I am fortunate enough (in too many ways to count) to be married to her. She keeps me grounded and works hard to give us both a good social life. I owe more to her than I can ever convey.
Anyway, long story short: spending so much time to get a tenure-track job required me to not have much of a life outside of work. I hope to rectify this now that I have a permanent job, in large part to be fair to my spouse, as it is not fair to her to expect her to foster a social life for the both of us, but also because, to be fully frank, my life has gotten a bit lonely (except for her). Lest this sound too depressing, I will close with this: I am incredibly thankful for the job I have, do my best every day to deserve having gotten it, and I really derive a great deal of meaning from my research and teaching. My university treats its faculty very well, and Florida is a wonderful place to live. Research, teaching, and service are a lot of hard work, but I am truly doing research that I love and try to be the best teacher I can be out of the belief (based on past experience) that an excellent teacher can change lives, if only a few (I would not be a philosopher at all were it not for a great teacher). In other words, I recognize that I have very much to be thankful for: a wonderful spouse, a permanent job, research and teaching that I find meaningful, and many other things as well. My only real complaint is lack of better work/life balance, and that's really my bad--something I need to work on as a person!