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« What can be done to improve the philosophy grad school experience? | Main | Diversity in philosophy courses - an empirical approach and request for feedback »

09/05/2016

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Sara L. Uckelman

I'd love to contribute to this, but it'll take time to write it up. In the meantime, my "What is My Lecturer Doing?" page (aimed at undergrads) covers quite a bit of my life as an academic philosopher: http://community.dur.ac.uk/s.l.uckelman/whatismylecturerdoing.html

Marcus Arvan

Hi Sara: Thank you for your comment and the link to your page. I think it's great, and would be delighted if you contributed a post to this series. Just send it to me if/when it's ready! :)

Pendaran Roberts

Interesting story Marcus. Thanks for sharing!

I too have difficulty sleeping. It's been a problem my entire life, or as long as I can remember. I am a very light sleeper, and almost anything wakes me up (I wear earplugs or its hopeless!). Moreover, I am prone to anxiety at night lying in bed. I think if I could have one wish it would be the ability to just turn off at night, like a robot. haha!

For me grad school wasn't too bad. I was quite capable of fulfilling all the requirements and had no problem finishing on time. In fact, I finished 6 months early, writing my thesis without much problem. I also didn't seem to have any problem publishing. I mean this has to be qualified. Publishing was really challenging, and basically took my entire intellect and will to achieve. However, I was able to do it consistently from pretty early on.

However, after finishing grad school I've really struggled. I got minimal help from my university regarding the job market. They really seemed as if they could care less whether any of us found employment. After complaining, the HOD finally put together a little job market work shop, but it wasn't really that helpful. It's taken me reading the cocoon and talking with Marcus and others to figure out how to apply for jobs, especially in the US. For some reason philosophy comes rather intuitively to me, but the job market is beyond mysterious.

SD

Marcus,
Thanks for posting this. It's brave in a lot of ways, and helpful. It's too bad that one of the rules of academic philosophy these days seems to be, "Never show weakness or doubt in any form." I'm particularly struck by your insomnia issues, as I've struggled with that myself and still do. Though mine has never been worse than a sleepless night every few months or a string of night with not much sleep for a week or so. Going three or four nights can only be hellish I imagine and it puts my own issues in a bit of perspective.
Anyway, there's a lot of other stuff here but one other thing I was struck by was this sense that philosophy changed for the worse in the early 2000s. I had a similar experience. I did a good bit of PhD. work in the same state university dept. where I got my BA (I got my MA elsewhere and did some doctoral work abroad as well) and I had the sense that the whole environment of the place had changed in the years I'd been away between BA and starting my PhD program. There was just a competitiveness and a huge emphasis on reputation and one's place in the professional hierarchy that wasn't there before. We'd done a lot of hiring (five people if memory serves) while I'd been away and I noticed that there was a huge disconnect between the way that the older faculty members thought and approached things and the way the new ones did. Don't get me wrong all the new hires were good philosophers and I owe some of them a huge debt in my own career, but that sense of competition but a big damper on my own love for philosophy and had I known just how deeply competitive academia is I'm not sure I'd have went into it. I wanted what the older guys in our department had. They got to publish when they had some new idea they thought worth developing-- but only then-- and talk about stuff they loved with bright motivated young people and really make a difference in people's lives. I wouldn't have wanted the stress and status obsession that characterized the new hires, and still don't. I'm curious is this transformation really a profession wide thing? I was until recently a VAP at another state flagship and it seemed something very similar had happened to them a few years ago from what the older faculty said. I also noticed a similar division between old and new faculty in terms of priorities and general relationship t the profession. Is there really a shift? Is the internet really to blame? I'd be interested in what people think.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Pendaran: Thanks for sharing your experience. I agree. It's one thing to learn how to do philosophy. The job-market is a beast of its own, requiring all kinds of very skills--skills (such as presenting oneself as an attractive candidate at different types of institutions, interviewing, etc.) that are difficult to develop, and which do not always seem to be cultivated well in graduate programs. In any case, I am glad you have found the Cocoon helpful in that regard!

Marcus Arvan

Hi SD: Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your experience. Yes, the insomnia was pretty terrible-- debilitating actually. I would almost certainly not be where I am today were it not for a lucky coincidence that finally led to good treatment. In any case, I too am curious whether there has been the trend in the profession you mention (and whether the internet has had a role).

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