My PhD is in philosophy, but my background in cognate field X is sufficiently strong that I'm now a VAP of X at a SLAC. I expect that at a handful of schools, separate tenure-track jobs may be advertised this year in both philosophy and in X. I'd like to apply to both jobs when that occurs, but I can foresee upsides and downsides of that strategy, and I'd like advice on how to maximize the upsides and minimize the downsides.
The main upsides I see are that I can teach interdisciplinary courses, conduct research with faculty members and students across disciplines, and foster student and faculty dialogue across disciplines. The main downside I see is being perceived as a unique kind of flight risk. Philosophers might think that I'll either leave for a job in X or, worse yet, use up a line in their department while only really contributing to X. Members of the department of X might have the reciprocal thought.
Am I overthinking this, overlooking other concerns, or both? And do you have any advice on how to navigate this situation? Thanks!
Good questions. I'm not very sure on what the best answers to them might be, but here are a few thoughts...
The real issue for VAP of X, it seems to me, isn't whether they should apply to both types of jobs (again, I think they clearly should). The issue is rather how to apply in a way that is likely to make the maximally competitive in both areas. Here, my sense is that VAP should probably have at least two different dossiers: a philosophy-focused dossier (cover letter, teaching statement, research statement, writing sample, and an X-focused dossier. This is because, in my experience, different disciplines and departments are often looking for different things. For example, my spouse is just finishing up her PhD in Industrial-Organizational Psychology. People with her degree often get jobs in two very different disciplines: psychology departments and business schools. I've seen firsthand in her case how different disciplines look for different things. She will be starting a job in the Management department at my university this fall, and it was clear that the department's and college's priorities are different than a psychology department's would be (among other things, she is expected to teach business courses related to organizational culture and publish in Management journals, whereas in a psychology department the expectations would be different). Anyway, because different disciplines tend to look for and expect different things in a hire, I think it would behoove VAP of X to have one dossier that is more likely to speak to the interests and expectations of philosophers, and another dossier that likely to speak to those in X-departments. Finally, given that some institutions may be genuinely interdisciplinary between philosophy and X, it may make sense for VAP to have a third dossier, one that aims to highlight their interdisciplinarity more than, say, their other two dossiers.
Anyway, these are just my thoughts. Though I could be wrong about all of this, my sense is that VAP of X may be overthinking these issues in one sense (viz. their flight-risk worry), but not in the sense that they should probably tailor their materials quite a bit for jobs in different disciplines (something they didn't mention in their comment, but which again seems to me very important). What do you all think, particularly those of you who have gone on the market with an interdisciplinary background and those of you who have served on search committees?