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« Impact and Engagement for Early Career Philosophers: Part III | Main | Pop culture and philosophy bleg »

02/27/2018

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RC

Well I have two different sets of questions. I feel like I'm hogging this a bit but since no one else is asking anything....

1. How do people decide what to focus on in their research? It's not that I don't have any ideas the problem is that I have a lot of different ideas and I can't decide which to focus on. And how do people stay motivated to work on research? My current job has pretty low research expectations so there's not really that push any more. But I do want to stay active in that. It somehow feels like I'm not a real scholar if I don't. And while I don't have any plans to go on the market in the immediate future, I wouldn't mind keeping my options open in the long term. (I love the day to day work of my job, but I'm increasingly less sure about the upper level admin and not crazy about the region).

2. This is more nuts and bolts. I'm scheduled to teach online for the first time in the near future. I'd like to hear any recommendations people have. Do you video your lectures? Do you try to put them in some kind of written form? Do you have any interesting strategies? Are there any huge and unseen pitfalls you'd warn me about?

Amanda

Asking for a friend. No really :) Anyway, suppose one has an R1 offer, along with other non R1 offers. The R1 offer is fairly generous, but one is told by the dean that if they need anything do not be afraid to ask because the school will do a lot to get their first ranked candidate. In this situation, is it just kind of typical to ask for an increase in salary, initial teaching reduction, other stuff? Would love to hear thoughts.

Chris

Hi Amanda,

Yes, it is typical to ask for such things at an R1. For example, you might ask for a teaching reduction for some term or two a couple of years before coming up for tenure (or some time during the first couple of years of your appointment). You can also ask about whether there is money for travel (sometimes this is standard; sometimes not).

Re: salary - it depends on the University. Sometimes they don't have a lot of flexibility about what to offer, but often times there is some. It can't hurt to ask (nicely).

I asked

Amanda
Your friend should think carefully about what s-he really wants. They can ask for any of the things you list, but they should figure what would most help them succeed there, and what they most value. So, to get some benefit, just to have some benefit is not wise. Also, they should not try to get everything. be focused.

Amanda

Thanks for the feedback! Any other thoughts would be helpful. He was surprised the salary was so high, but also sort of thought that what the hell doesn't everybody ask for a salary increase? Thinking of asking for a reduced teaching load his first year, and maybe some extra moving money since his move will be particularly expensive. I think everyone now is kind of nervous about asking for stuff after the horror story of the offer rescinded. That is probably not rational though, given the extreme things "W" asked for and the type of school she was at.

Aristotle's Problem XXX

Hi Marcus,

I'm aware there was a discussion about impostor syndrome back in 2014 on this blog, and it's been somewhat useful. But I wondered if you might at some point want to run a post on the clinically defined "impostor syndrome”. I'm currently relapsing into a cyclical depressive episode and have just read a couple pieces on impostor syndrome and depression in academia. I also just re-read Peter Railton's heartwrenching APA lecture. I suspect more people suffer from depression, depressive episodes, and the like than we care to admit. I believe it has a lot to do with, among other things, the impossible standards of our discipline, how we're not equipped to transition well into new life stages, to appreciate the role of luck, the randomness of what brought us where we are, etc. If you think this could be a good topic for discussion that'd be great. Since there's probably a good deal of cultural and national variation here, experiences from abroad are welcome (I wasn't trained here myself). The problem is certainly not confined to US/UK academia. Thanks!

Ash

I've been denied tenure. It was unexpected. I've been told that I should just get back out there, write up a storm, double down, push hard.... all to get a NEW great job, and that that's how I'll show them. (Them = the Dean/TPC/few Dept'l colleagues that didn't vote for me, since almost all of my colleagues thought that I was not just a yes but an obvious yes.)

All I feel though is *done*. And exhausted. Thinking about writing sometimes makes me feel ill and other times makes me want to throw things. I suppose that's normal, at this stage in the game. But I think it's possible that it's permanent--that I don't have it in me to start striving and "selling my work" again. Not even for one more year.

I'm not sure exactly what I'd be looking for in terms of advice or discussion; I feel unmoored and I have no idea what to do.

Lauren

This is a good problem, but I would love advice. I've just accepted a job, and the schedule has me teaching a grad seminar my first semester. I'm excited, but also a little terrified. So, I'm wondering what advice others have for selecting the topic, prepping for class, or anything else they wish you wish you had known before teaching your first grad seminar!

Amanda

So I am down right now. I just finished grading the worst group of essays I have ever had. Last semester as part of my hiring gig, I taught only one course and it was a grad course. This semester I am teaching 3 undergrad intro courses. The paper qualities are just awful. And not only that, but the ability to follow instructions. I asked my students to write on one of 6 ethical topics and include two objections to their view. I had A LOT of students just write on some random topic and not include any objections. I had many students turn in their paper very late and more than a few not at all. I am so confused. I have taught this course many times before as I was an adjunct. And not at a fancy school but a fairly run of the mill state school. And I have never had anything like this. As far as I know I haven't done anything differently. I went over exactly how to do the essay in class several times. I could not have been more clear about the due date, but I still had students acting confused like they didn't know what to write about or when to turn it in. In the past I have received not just good but some of the highest evaluations at my school. The way the students give me the blank and the WTF stares I just have a feeling I will not get good evals this semester. Has anybody been in a situation like this? This is my first semester here so perhaps I am just not prepared by the low quality of students. But it is not like I am coming from anywhere fancy, at least not where I did the adjunct work.

I know I clearly need to change my strategy, but I don't know where to start. When you have taught for several years and suddenly old things don't work it is exhausting thinking of how to fix it. I would love to hear thoughts or suggestions.

anon

Do you ever do mid-semester evals? They're a good way of informally checking in about this sort of thing / getting ideas about what changes you might need to make, if any. I usually set up a Google Form with something quick (What do you like best about my teaching / like least about my teaching / if there was one thing you could change about this course it would be ... ).

Recent Grad

Amanda,

Several thoughts:

(1) Grading the essays strictly might be a good idea. It sounds like lots of your students may be blowing the class off--just treating it like a requirement they can sleepwalk through. If they see they won't be able to get a good grade (or pass) that way, they might put more effort into the next paper (hopefully, there's another one).

(2) Along these lines, you could grade strictly and allow students to do re-writes, though that will be extra grading work.

(3) It sounds like in the future you might want to do an outline type assignment first. That should get most people on track.

(4) Also, it sounds like you should do a writing assignment (and grade it strictly and maybe allow a re-write) early in the semester. That should get them in line with your expectations sooner.

Good luck.

Anon

Following up on the thread about impostor syndrome and the one on Daily Nous about the graduate student mental health crisis (which is probably a faculty crisis too) I think this might be a good time to focus some light on the following issue: What is the worst aspect of your job as a professional philosopher? Or if you are a graduate student or job seeker, what is the aspect of the job you look forward to least, and wish most to avoid. Basically what is the one thing in the profession that most drags you down, saps your will to work (or to live even), such that fixing this problem would result in the single largest improvement in your professional, and hence personal, well-being?

For me, I think it is the relentless speed-up of the job driven by the relentless demands for ever-increasing "production". It is bad enough when it comes from the mindless MBA-bots which run universities now, but the worst thing is that so many academics have now internalized this imperative and it guides their professional actions and expectations (even while they complain about it). I find this incredibly alienating, in the Marxian sense. The constant pressure, combined with the fact that I have to publish on what's fashionable, rather than what I think is worth working on (let alone interesting), has utterly drained my work of any value to me. This, in turn, is compounded by the need to publish quickly, so the work is necessarily half-assed, which in turn saps my self-respect since I am not even producing the best crap that I can (and I have to spend time engaging with work that is, it seems to me, similarly rushed and drained of value...). I feel that I am not a researcher but simply an academic "content-creator", whose job is just to generate a fancy version of click-bait. I often find myself day-dreaming that being an adjunct would be preferable; yes, I would have less time to write, but outside of class my time would be entirely my own.

I know not everyone feels the same way about the need to produce, and I am interested to see what other people consider the worst thing about their job, or the profession more generally.

Amanda

anon and Recent Grad,

Thank you. I did not do mid-semester evals but I should have. I have never felt the need before. And yes, I think the idea that a lot of them are sleep walking through the class is spot on. I am not a hard grader but I have my standards. In the past out of a group of 30 essays I would only feel a need to give below a B on maybe 3 or 4 essays. This time it is at least half of them. So I will give those lower grades and hopefully it wakes them up. One thing interesting about this school is many of the undergrads are far less grade driven than at other places. But I do think they want to pass. Luckily I have always had an unlimited rewrite policy on my essays (per Marcus's suggestion) so I am crossing my fingers students will take advantage. I sort of think because I am young (for a professor lol) and run a causal class many students just assumed I was a total pushover. Not so much hahah.

jdkbrown

Lauren,

There are a few strategies you can adopt. The first is to teach a class on the topic of your dissertation research. You know this material backwards and forwards already, so you won't have to put in as much prep--both for the planning of the course, and day-to-day--as you otherwise might have to. (This, I think, is one reason departments often give new hires seminars right away--they see it as a way of lightening the workload for you. It's also gives the grad students an early chance to get to know you, and you a chance to know them.)

The second strategy is to pick a bit of the literature that you'd like to be more familiar with, and build your seminar around that. For example, I taught my first grad seminar right as Sider et al.'s Metaontolgy collection was coming out. So after a few introductory readings, we simply worked our way through it. This strategy is a great way to have your teaching feed into your research.

Brandeis job

Round Two posted a couple of weeks ago that Brandeis had begun shortlisting folks for their Phil & Neuro postdoc. Around that time, Brandeis also asked me if they could shortlist me of if I had another job. They told me they'd be in touch after I said to please shortlist me, and then... fell off the face of the Earth for two weeks.

Is this normal? Has Round Two heard anything, or is s/he just as confused as me?

Amanda

Can we have a thread where we talk about different activities we do when teaching? I can use some new group work ideas. (This is similar to a past post, but I think asking this specifically might get more uptake.)

Peter

I’m currently finishing up at a fairly prestigious graduate program. As expected, all of my advisors are interested in getting me a research job. They tend to talk up opportunities at R1s and talk about the “struggles” of teaching at SLACs and state schools with hefty teaching loads.

Here’s the problem: I desperately don’t want a research job. The only part of philosophy I like is teaching it. I’m happy to do research to make sure that the content I teach is accurate and informative, but I have no interest in churning out papers to be cited four or five times. I do not want to be a leading scholar of anything. I want to teach my students how to think for themselves and how to think well.

How does someone from a research-obsessed PhD program position themselves for jobs with a strong teaching focus? (I mean where the requirements for tenure are at least 50/50 teaching and research.)

My program has given me severa opportunities to teach and I have received accolades and good evaluations for my teaching, but I’ve had no luck at all convincing schools that I’m dedicated first and foremost to my students.

Amanda

Peter first I would try applying to prestigious slacs. They like fancy degrees and care a lot about teaching.But also getting involved in any programs that focus on teaching. There are camps and stuff like that you can do. Do adjunct work, even if it is just one class and you don't "need" to do it. It would help show you as a serious teacher. Put teaching first on your CV (before publications) and emphasis in your cover letter what you said above: that despite the pressure to be a researcher you prefer a teaching job. Lastly, I would avoid too many and too prestigious publications. With your degree it could be easy to "over-qualify" yourself for many teaching jobs.

As for your professors. I would not mention your goals/plans unless you really really trust them, as they will try to talk you out of it. Just apply for teaching jobs and when you accept one that will be that. Given this market, it is very hard to criticize anyone for accepting a TT position of any sort. Lastly, if you are sure you would be much happier at a teaching job, I would not apply to research jobs. If you are offered the position there will be all the pressure in the world to take it. And just like that you could end up in a life-time position that makes you unhappy.

ABD

I'm wondering if anyone has any tips or methods for quelling the anxiety that occurs during the period of time between the fly-out and when you expect to hear about whether or not you're getting an offer. In my case, I had one fly-out, and it is for a job I would love to have (though I'm not in the position—thankfully!—where, if I don't get this job, that's the end of my career in philosophy, or anything like that). I keep thinking "ah, but if I had done this slightly differently during my job talk, or if I had asked this question during our meeting, then..." etc. etc. It's making it tougher to get quality sleep and focus on my work when I need to. I'd be grateful for any and all sage advice.

Mask

ABD
The best advice I heard was to remember what your role is in the process. You did the interview. Now it is the committee's move. They do the deliberations - you are not part of that process. If you keep clear on what is in your power, and what is not, then you should let go of what you cannot affect.
Good luck.

anonymous

ABD--different things work for different people, obviously, but a number of times during the year I was on the market, I had to just completely abandon attempts to get work done and try to use chunks of time for other things. (So, e.g., I went on a week-long hiking trip with a friend.) I found that I was incredibly productive after taking time away each time. (I think it helps to do something that doesn't allow you to constantly check your email. For me nature-related stuff was the best.) If you have the luxury of doing this--if e.g. you're not teaching and are just working on your dissertation, or have a relatively lightweight teaching schedule--I really recommend it. Visit friends you haven't seen in a long time, visit a nearby city you haven't been to, etc.

Amanda

I am not sure if you can do this on command. But what helped me was always assuming I didn't get the position. After all, whether they choose to flyout 3 or 4 people the odds are against you. Also, the longer time before they contact you, the more likely you did not get it. (Of course, how long it takes depends on if there were other flyouts after you.) Anyway, I managed to have this attitude and when I did get offered a spot I was happily but genuinely surprised. In the mean time I had just gone on with my life as though I had already been rejected.

As for whether doing one little thing differently could have made a difference: unlikely. And if it could have, oh well, it is done.

Marcus Arvan

anonymous: That's so interesting. I'm the exact opposite! The only way I could deal with it was by immersing myself in work. Time away from work for me (including vacations or time with friends) was just time to ruminate--and rumination usually led to more anxiety. Individual differences here are fascinating.

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