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« Unconventional teaching ideas that work: training students to communicate to 'non-academic' audiences (Guest post by Andy Fisher) | Main | Remarks on the Peruvian philosophical profession »

10/21/2019

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Going fast

Interestingly, I had colleagues that did not care that it took someone a long time to complete a PhD. I did think it mattered, especially for the type of job we were offering. One had to hit the ground running. Someone who took a long time in a PhD looked to me like someone who would probably take a couple of years to get on their feet ... and by then the prospects of being tenured were going to look grim.

UK Based

"My sense is that people on the hiring side of things care about whether candidates have a track record of being able to succeed in a full-time faculty job, with all of its competing demands (research, teaching, and service)"

This might be the case in some places, but certainly not all, and certainly not in the UK (perhaps rest of Europe too). Additional service and teaching (beyond a basic minimum) seems to be worth very little (or even nothing) when going for permanent jobs. Publications is all that committees will look at.

anon

As the author of the question in question, my thanks for the very helpful feedback. Some follow-up thoughts on which feedback would be *greatly appreciated*:

I am interested in a research-intensive career with a community of philosophers (and frankly, to be taken seriously by those within my area). The direct solution of a research-intensive job at an esteemed department is very unlikely. However, as for a research-intensive career, this seemingly would be compatible with even a regular 5/5/2 load *IF* there were minimal preps—e.g., teaching at a community college that only offers a handful of Phil classes (i.e., after prepping for the first iteration of each class, those preps are basically done). (This may reflect misimpressions. Underestimating service-work? Corrections appreciated.)

As for a community of philosophers, what I have in mind is just stuff like attending colloquia and afterward, talking philosophy over dinner and drinks. IF at least some people are genuinely nice and don’t turn their nose up at their “lessers,” this is seemingly doable by just living in an area with a lot of departments (e.g., NYC, Boston, greater LA, etc.), attending talks, and making friends.

As for being taken seriously, hopefully, good philosophizing will be sufficient without the job title.

The preceding may be full of false presuppositions. Corrections appreciated!!!

Thoughts?

Thanks!

https://static-media.fxx.com/img/FX_Networks_-_FXX/727/495/Simpsons_07_13_P3.jpg

Marcus Arvan

Anon: can I ask what kind of grad program you are coming out of? (Highly-ranked, mid-ranked, unranked?)

Here's why I ask. I apologize in advance if this already obvious to you, but although it is of course valuable to know what you want, it can also be important to pay attention to what is realistic given one's actual situation.

I take it that most philosophers finishing their PhDs want what you want: a "research-intensive career with a community of philosophers." I know I did. But this just isn't what most philosophy PhDs actually get. Most of us (myself included) have to adjust our expectations. If you came out of a 'Leiterific' program or have published in some tippy-top journals, then perhaps a research-intensive job is still in the cards for you. However, as you note, you don't have any publications yet.

Anyway, I don't know if now is the point (as I really don't know your situation). However, at some point you may need to come to grips with the possibility that you might not be on a professional trajectory for research-intensive jobs--and that it may be wise to alter your job-market strategy to make yourself more competitive for other types of jobs.

Peter Furlong

Hi anon,

I just wanted to chime in on the question of whether it is possible to have a research intensive career in a 5-5-2. This is the load I currently teach, and I have been in this position for 5 years. It is a TT position, and I go up for tenure this year. It is important to keep in mind the service requirements at teaching oriented schools; at times they will require quite a bit of work. I do think, however, that depending upon what you mean by research intensive, it is possible to have this sort of career at an institution like mine. I am far from research-intensive, but I was able to get a book out earlier this year, and have both a monograph and an edited volume in the works (but both are in the early stages). If you were willing to focus even more than I do, or work some nights or weekends, you could conceivably do quite a bit more. The sort of productivity Jason Brennan spoke about in a post a few weeks ago might be unrealistic, I think, in my current position, but I don't see why at least a few articles a year, with a book now and then, would be impossible.

I don't have anything much to add on whether you will be taken seriously or find a community of philosophers--I think that likely depends on the nature of your work, the sub-field you find yourself in (I think some are more prestige biased than others), and where you live.

Good luck finding something that suits your goals!

Martin Shuster

Honestly, pick the option that you think you will enjoy the most and/or will benefit you the most as a *philosopher* or as an individual.

The job market is so variable, such a crapshoot, and so unpredictable, that--apart from the basics ... having some experience publishing and teaching--everything is essentially up for grabs.

I could imagine scenarios where either (A) or (B) could lead to success ... I could also easily imagine scenarios where (A) or (B) lead to a lack of success, each in equal parts.

I think Marcus is right that how your overall dossier is *perceived* matters and picking (A) or (B) could affect that, but without knowing *what else* is in your dossier, it's really impossible to say how much of an effect it will have.

In a decision here, I would prioritize something like self-fulfillment (again, within reason, without knowing other aspects of your dossier) over "gaming the job market," since it is pretty much impossible to do the latter.

Sam Duncan

I really agree with Marcus and I'll come back to that point but let me add a few more considerations for the VAP job. The biggest one has to be that every VAP I've heard of has health insurance and almost always the same health insurance the other faculty gets, which is usually darn good. I don't know of any adjunct gig that has health insurance. This is a pretty big deal for anyone but if you're sliding into your early to mid-30s it's an even bigger deal. I had a health scare and then later an injury when I was at my old lecturer/VAP job and had to get tests for the former and physical therapy for the latter. If I hadn't had the university's very good health insurance I'd have likely went thousands or more into debt. And one important thing to know is whether the VAP is renewable? If it is that's even more reason to take the VAP job. Sure most schools will renew you as an adjunct, but you likely won't know for sure until right before classes start each semester and they'll vary your number of classes (and consequently pay) every semester. That uncertainty is pretty stressful and trust me that stress leaches into other aspects of your life and will make getting work done hard. And I very much doubt that adjuncting will be as conducive to publishing as you think. You'll likely need to pick up classes at more than one school to make ends meet and the time that commuting eats is considerable. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there's the whole academic caste system to consider. You'll almost certainly be treated as more of a colleague and a member of your department as a VAP than you will as an adjunct. And as Marcus notes trajectory matters. From everything I've heard most research intensive jobs will count adjuncting against you. A VAP looks better (or so I've heard) especially if it's at a moderately prestigious school or even one with a graduate program.
On a slightly different note: Community colleges expect that you will continue to refine your classes after the initial prep and not just get it done and forget it to focus on research. Some people do that, but that's not who they want to hire. In my experience we actively worry about hiring people who plan to do the minimum teaching wise and then focus on research. If you get an interview at a CC a lot of the interview will be trying to suss out whether you have a plan like that (I had two or three questions from the deans to that effect when I had an interview). If that's the impression the committee gets they'll move on down the line. I suspect that a good many teaching focused schools are the same. Don't get me wrong you can do research at a CC-- I've published about a paper a year since taking this job-- and most will even support and encourage it. We have a really good travel fund here and my dean is delighted when I go to conferences. But our focus is on teaching and we want to hire people with the same focus.

non-VAP

Sam and others
incidentally, SUNY adjuncts get health insurance. So not all adjuncts are equal.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Martin: I respect your viewpoint on this, but I have to disagree. I might write a follow-up post on this, but I think a big problem that many candidates may face is that they don't try to "play the market" and end up paying for it, as they may end up adopting a market strategy wildly out of touch with their situation. In particular, judging by a lot of online discussion, many candidates seem to think that publishing up a storm (in good journals) is the way to make themselves as competitive as they can be. But many of those very candidates (including ones with lots of excellent pubs) get very few interviews. Why? Because, as I've argued before, R1 places (the places that care most about publishing) tend to hire people right out of top programs, making other candidates who try to publish their way into jobs fight a losing battle. In a lot of these cases, I think candidates would be better served on the market by building up their teaching and service credentials. But that means changing their expectations and market strategy.

Anyway, I could be wrong, but I think (from some personal experience) that it may be very wise for candidates to think carefully about these things and not just do "whatever feels best".

Jen

Cal state adjuncts get health insurance too, along with a lot of private school adjuncts.

Martin Shuster

Marcus - I don't think you and I disagree. Perhaps I was too vague, but I meant to countenance exactly what you say in your rejoinder to me with my concluding paragraphs:

"I think Marcus is right that how your overall dossier is *perceived* matters and picking (A) or (B) could affect that, but without knowing *what else* is in your dossier, it's really impossible to say how much of an effect it will have.

In a decision here, I would prioritize something like self-fulfillment (again, within reason, without knowing other aspects of your dossier) over "gaming the job market," since it is pretty much impossible to do the latter."

I don't know enough about the candidate in question, so without knowing those details, this what I would say. If I knew for sure, say, that the candidate's dossier is such that they are not going to land a R1 job (given all of the issues you've posted about before), then I'd change the exact nature of my recommendation. And vice versa w.r.t. liberal arts colleges or other types of jobs (all of this is what my phrase "within reason" was meant to try to sweep up).

My recommendation is in response to the generality of the post: I think people should absolutely be conscious of their limits, the (generally silly but nonetheless binding) nature of perceptions within our field, and the possibilities that follow, but I think that needs to be tempered by a recognition that the market is a fundamentally chaotic thing with very little certainty even if you "do everything right."

anon

Thanks for all the helpful feedback!

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