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I am a graduate student being given my first opportunity to design and teach a course in September. The course is a 4th year undergraduate seminar, and I am somewhat daunted by the task. If the course was lecture format I would feel confident that I could fill all of the space each day, but because of the seminar format (minimal lecturing) the success of the course is going to come down to whether or not my students are keen to engage with the material and to enter into dialogue in class.

I am wondering if anybody has tips for approaching seminars that help to get students engaged. I've tried to build some things into the syllabus that encourage / require this: in particular, I am requiring students to provide questions / comments about each week's readings online before seminar begins, so that we can discuss them as a group. But are there any other tips that others have for me?


Is it worth to edit a special issue for a journal?
I was accepted (I contacted the journal myself) to co-edit a special issue (with a more senior colleague) for good specialised journal. The topic is something I have myself published and reviewed for.

I assume there is quite a lot of work to do, but what are the potential benefits? Publishing is must to get a job (I have done that and continue doing it) peer-reviewing and writing book reviews, on the other hand, seem to have almost zero benefits in the job market. So what about co-editing a journal issue? Is it worth doing it? (I am doing it anyway because I think it is itself valuable thing to do and something I am very much looking forward to). But perhaps others have some ideas or experience regarding this.


I do not think editing a special issue of a journal gets you much credit. I have never given it any consideration when I review job applications. One assumes that connections play a big role in people getting these opportunities, especially when the editor is junior. But, with all that said, it may be a good experience. I edited a textbook, which is worth almost zero, but I learned a lot doing it. We should do more things in the profession because we would enjoy doing them, and we would learn. I am more senior now, and I think peer review, for example, does help one understand publishing better.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Elder: thanks for weighing in.

However, I'd like to ask for commentary to be reserved for the new threads I will open for each query--just so that discussions can occur in one place and comments don't have to be repeated!


I second UKgraduate's question. I'm coming at it from a slightly different angle: I've been teaching introductory courses for a few years (25-120 class sizes), but have my first fourth year seminar coming up (15-20 class size) and have been wondering about how to approach it differently.


Marcus a problem with waiting for a new thread to answer the question, is you do not always make threads out of these questions. Sometimes I have asked questions that do not turn into a thread, and if someone has something to say it would be nice to hear. Also sometimes I want to help someone with an issue that won't become a thread. Anyway, if you can think of a way to manage this that would be great.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: I try to turn new threads into questions whenever possible. If I miss something, please do let me know! In any case, I think it's best try to have discussions of queries in a single thread so we can have a full discussion in one place (rather than preempt discussion with initial answers that might have to be repeated again in the new thread).


I'm planning to go on the job market next year, and lately I've been thinking about my teaching statement. I know that it's often said to be a good thing to stand out here, to make sure that you don't sound like every other candidate. And I suspect that I do, indeed, stand out here. Yet I also worry whether some aspects of my teaching philosophy and pedagogy are simply *too* radical, such that they'll scare search committees off. For example, I don't require attendance in my classes, nor do I require that students do the suggested readings (I don't give reading quizzes or assign homework on the readings). Nor do my classes have any required papers or other assignments. Rather, students may turn in a variety of different kinds of work (papers, posts on the class blog, presentations, podcasts, an optional exam, etc.), and the number of points they get for a given submission depends on factors like the kind of work it is, how long it is, and its quality. A student's final grade for the course is based on how many points she's accumulated by the course's end. There's essentially only one due date for students' work, and it's at the very end of the course. Before that due date, there's no limit to the number of submissions a student can turn in.

There are of course other aspects I could mention, but the above should give a basic picture of the structure that I prefer in my courses. When I talk to others about this way of structuring a course, often the initial reaction is to think that I must be crazy. People seem to be particularly struck by the absence of an attendance requirement and of a requirement that students do the readings. The message I get is "In a class like that, no one's going to show up, no one's going to read any of the readings, and no one's going to do any work." (As a side-note, such predictions have not been borne out by my experience thus far. While I'm still in the middle of teaching my first class, so far I've been quite impressed with the level of initiative students have shown. Many students have given presentations and written blog posts and other kinds of writing, and in a given class session there are typically no more than a few absences. Several students have spontaneously written to me or approached me after class to tell me how much they appreciate the freedom the course allows them.)

Once I get a chance to explain my rationale for structuring a course in this way, I've found that people's disbelief often becomes a bit more tempered. But it's the initial reaction, the moment of being taken aback, that worries me when it comes to search committees. I worry that my preferred pedagogy will make me seem too "weird," too much of a risk, and that it'll be difficult to give as full or convincing a justification of it within the confines of a teaching statement as I could in a longer document or in person. And so, not that I suspect the question has a simple or easy answer, but I thought I'd nevertheless ask: When it comes to a teaching statement, how radical is too radical?

Tenure a-comin'

I go up for tenure this year, and am going on the job market because I'm pretty scared about the future of my current state university. I've heard some people say that you should make clear in your cover letter when applying to any TT job that you're willing to start over from scratch - but I'm not. I want my current pubs counted, and I want to cut at least several years off the tenure clock. Given that I'm not willing to start from scratch, should I address this in cover letters at all? What about when/if people ask about it in interviews?

Anonymous TT prof

I too will be going on the market from a TT job. It would be great to have a thread with advice about how to carefully do this. As Tenure a-comin' asked, should I provide some sort of explanation in my cover letter as to why I am applying out? When (if at all) should I tell my colleagues? Have others had to manage being on the job market and a search committee at the same time?


When choosing which PhD program to attend, is it more advantageous to choose a program based on the reputation of one's (presumed) advisor, or based on the reputation of the program itself? That is, when considering future employment prospects, is it more important that one's advisor/letter writer is a "star" scholar in their specialty, or is it more important that the overall rank of the program where one receives one's PhD is high? I am a recent MA who is interested in some PhD programs in philosophy that boast "star" scholars but not high overall rank.


Greetings, and thanks for this "how can we help you" feature.

My question is perhaps larger than what is intended here but it is about the philosophy business, and I do need help, so here goes.

I'm a member of the public, not an academic or student. I'm very interested in the question of our "more is better" relationship with knowledge, which I propose to be outdated and dangerous. I've written a 1200 word article which explains my reasoning, available here:


I've spent months on multiple sites trying to engage academic philosophers in any kind of conversation on this topic, without success. I'm now wondering whether younger philosophers might be more open minded and receptive to this topic, or whether I should just give up on the philosophy profession.

I'm struggling to remain open minded and could use some assistance. I hope to understand why there appears to be so little interest in this topic among professionals, or be directed to those already addressing the topic.

If the thesis of my article is generally correct (debatable), and if it is true that the profession is largely ignoring this topic (debatable), some of your readers may want to reconsider the career path they have in mind.

I hope this is helpful. If not, ok no problem, and good luck to you all.


A correction! Above I wrote..

"If the thesis of my article is generally correct (debatable), and if it is true that the profession is largely ignoring this topic (debatable), some of your readers may want to reconsider the career path they have in mind."

Well, that's the wrong attitude for me to have taken, apologies. What I should have said is that if claims #1 and #2 are generally correct, this creates a leadership opportunity for any young philosopher willing and able elevate this issue.

I should probably offer the warning that anyone taking up this issue is likely receive a good deal of push back, which could even possibly endanger a career. But then, that's always the price of being a leader, right?


So, you've had posts on this before, but I would love it if we did it again:

Where, other than philjobs, should I go to look for philosophy jobs? More specifically:

o If I want to job at a community college, where do I find them advertised?
o If I want a job in Italy, where are those posted?
o How about it I want a job in India?
o etc.

Anyone who can answer any one of these questions will be doing us all a huge favor. Answers of the form `here is a link to several job descriptions' are also waaaaay more appreciated than answers of the form `you have to look hard', since having examples of what I'm looking for often helps making the search easier.


Nick Z

Hi Tom,

Most community college jobs are posted on HigherEdJobs and the Chronicle. Even this late in the summer there are two full-time teaching positions posted at the former, one in Buffalo, NY, and the other in Plano, TX. (Both positions are made even more attractive by their proximity to the border, just in case the political, social, and economic conditions of the US get even crazier.) Philjobs rarely posts community college positions.


comments aren't open for the tenure post.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks Amanda - don't know how that happened!


Thanks Nick!

Marcus: I think it would be great if there were another sidebar where people posted links to non-philjobs jobs.

Meh. Actually maybe that wouldn't be great. It would get to be a mess pretty quickly. But anyways. At least a post where folks like Nick can answer with details about what they know would be good. It's easier than one think to miss opportunities!

Marcus Arvan

Hi Tom: that's an interesting idea. I'll give it some thought, and may put a thread up soon!

Anonymous associate professor

Hi Marcus - I'm not sure this has come up yet on the blog. If so just ignore. I'm an associate professor, and have some name recognition in my AOS.
After several years on the market, my partner is still struggling in VAPs, postdocs, adjunct positions and so forth. My school didn't offer a partner hire and as I am in the UK they don't have such a policy. There was the idea of a new tenure-track line opening a while back, when he was a temporary lecturer there, but now our school is facing drastic cuts including in admin and library support, and things are much likely to get worse.
For these and other reasons, and also because our 2-body problem remains unsolved, I am looking to move, and am hoping that we can solve it this time (I would be looking to move in any case because of the financial difficulties our school faces). Any tips on how we can solve the 2 body problem best much appreciated.
In particular:
- How do we look for jobs? Should he look for tenure-track jobs and should we then try to negotiate a tenured hire for me (I've been associate prof for 3 years, and quite frankly, would rather not restart the tenure clock). Or should I look for tenured jobs and try to negotiate a tenure track for him?
- There are right now 2 positions that are open rank and that fit our respective AOS. Should we somehow mention that in our letter? Or just apply and see what happens? (Without 2 positions we cannot realistically move there - the salary, even if I manage to negotiate the top of the salary band, is not good enough for a one-income family to survive on. I've made inquiries with people who live in the area and they told me this).


Asking for a friend: If you filled out the mentoring application form, and never heard anything, should the assumption be that your services aren't needed?

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: At this point, it is likely that if someone hasn't heard from us, we may not have a match for them--but we still do have some mentees to match, so it is not out of the question.

In past years, we had far more mentees apply than mentors. So this year we went out of our way to recruit more mentors, and surprisingly ended up with the opposite problem: significantly more mentors than mentees.

Given how unexpected this was, we do apologize if people took the time to sign up and we have not been able to match them--but we do appreciate their having done so and hope they understand that it was quite unexpected on our end.

In any case, if anyone (mentee or mentor) wants to inquire with us on where things stand, they should always feel free to shoot us an email!

VAP of X at a SLAC

Hi Marcus (and readers),

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!


I guess this might help me in terms of understanding my own attitude toward the profession. I am curious whether most philosophers like writing or reading philosophy more? Also, I am curious whether most philosophers read things they like, or mainly read for the purposes of their own research. Either way, what percentage of the philosophy that you read do find intellectually fulfilling? Lastly, if you were starting your PhD (in philosophy) over again, would you study the same AOS, why or why not?


So I am frustrated, and to some extent legitimately worried, about some university administrators I have dealt with recently. And I don't mean the former academics who turned admin, but the admins who are more like secretaries. I am not sure how else to describe it. Anyway recently I have been dealing with a few that are unhelpful, passive aggressive, and seem increasingly annoyed at me for every email I send. However, it is like I kind of half to deal with them in order to get certain things done. As a recent hire there is a fair amount that needs doing and I do have a lot to learn. Anyway, I am in this catch-22 where as an untenured person I do not want to annoy the admins, but I also have to have a relationship with them. I am always very professional/polite in my interactions, and to some extent this makes me feel like they only use this to take advantage of me. I also have a strong suspicion (which could be wrong) that they are treating me this way both because I am young and a woman. I just can't imagine them talking down to a male professor in his 50's like they are talking down to me. Any advice? Does anyone have similar experiences? Thank you.


I have seen it and experienced it before. At every new job, you run the risk of meeting a real ¤sshole. I am male, so do not think it is necessarily a gendered thing. One thing you can do is see if a colleague peer can answer your question first, or see if you have to deal with the secretary to get whatever it is you need done. Some things you will need to. But some you do not have to. One especially incompetent person even once said "I like this job because I do not care about it, like I did my last job, working with plants!"

Marcus Arvan

Anonymous: I have seen and experienced it before as well. Although some administrative assistants are kind and helpful, others can be harder to deal with--and while it would not surprise me if there were some gender issues here, my sense is that difficult admin assistants can treat everyone the ways you describe.

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