We are starting a new series called New jobs in philosophy. The aim of this series is to give graduate students a sense of the wide diversity of philosophy jobs out there. We give a sense of the nuts and bolts of teaching, across a large range of institutions (from community colleges, SLACs to research-intensive), different levels of seniority (we have assistant, associate and full professors lined up, as well as non-tenure track faculty members such as visiting assistant professors), and we also aim for large geographical diversity. Our first contributor is Mark Alfano, who is an associate professor at TU Delft in The Netherlands. If you are interested in being part, please contact us at either helenldecruz at gmail dot com or marvan at ut dot edu.
------- By Mark Alfano
I have worked in a variety of settings: various CUNY colleges (large, urban, public university), Notre Dame (large, private, religious university), Princeton (small Ivy League university with immense resources), University of Oregon (large university in a small town that is pathologically obsessed with sportsball), and now Delft University of Technology (large technical university in a foreign country). I'd like to think this has given me some perspective on working conditions.
While I was a Ph.D. student at CUNY, I sometimes referred to the collection of CUNY colleges as an educational gulag archipelago. Most of the grad students who were working there at the time taught between 4 and 12 courses per year. Many also had second and third jobs to help make ends meet. My understanding is that things are now quite a bit better for CUNY folks, thanks in large part to recommendations made by Steve Stich and Brian Leiter when they performed an external review a few years ago. The contrast between CUNY and Notre Dame was pretty stark. At CUNY, I shared a windowless office that had 1 desk with 8 other people. At Notre Dame, I was in the Institute for Advanced Study, where I had my own beautiful office on the 12th floor. Notre Dame also has a crucifix in pretty much every room. While Notre Dame is well-staffed, Princeton was something else entirely. It's hard to comprehend the level of support one receives there, even as a postdoc. I got a lot of writing and interdisciplinary cross-training done during the postdocs at Notre Dame and Princeton, both of which allowed me to devote 100% of my time to research.
But I guess you are more interested in what it's like to have a faculty position. At UO, I was assistant professor for two years. I did some small service tasks, but my time was pretty well protected from the drudgery of committee work. I was the instructor for four different courses each year. Nominally, my teaching load was 5 courses per year, but I was able to get research-related releases both years. To my mind, this was a perfectly reasonable teaching load. Each course ran for only 10 weeks, and for the big ones, I received grading support from Ph.D. students. I spent the rest of my work time on research and grant-writing. No one was expected to write grants in my department, but because much of my work is empirical and interdisciplinary, I teamed up with various people to do so. However, I had problems with how the university and department worked, so I left in 2015.
And I landed in a terrific job at Delft University of Technology. The move was, naturally, a bit stressful. Waiting a month for all one's stuff to pass through the Panama Canal and across the Atlantic Ocean can be nerve-wracking. And I can tell you there are certain outfits that, having worn them for 4 straight weeks, I would rather not put on again.
Here at Delft, I do a mix of research, grant-writing, teaching, and service. The philosophy program here is the only humanities unit in the whole university, so that has been a big change. However, my colleagues in other departments, such as human-machine interaction, systems engineering, data science, and industrial design (to name a few), are very open-minded about philosophy. They are especially keen to have ethicists involved in their projects, which is pretty exciting for me, as it means that I get to contribute to the design of products and systems with an eye to the ethical implications of their implementation and use.