Thursday, September 10, 2015

Article on Quitting Academia

Hey everyone,

As I said in one of my more recent updates, I'm basically absent from the whole postacademic/alt-academic world these days, mostly by choice. I see an article about academic politics or the job market or whatever, and I'm like ..... meh, do I really want to get more depressed today? Nah, I don't think so.

But I promised a few months back to bring you links to anything that I read on academic or postacademia that I find to be particularly good. And I think this piece at Vox definitely applies.

There are about a million parts of this piece that I want to highlight and would love to discuss - if I didn't have a pesky day job that I have to attend to right now - but in particular, this passage spoke to me, and I believe it will be useful for readers of this blog:
The concept [of alt-academia]  is good enough in theory, but in practice it's just another way of phrasing the problem: There's not enough room in academia. Go find a job in a different field.
Some blame scholars themselves for the problem — claiming that today's PhD holders aren't as capable or as qualified as generations past. But after sitting on hiring committees and reading hundreds of CVs and writing samples, I refuse to blame the earnest applicants whose sole crime was being told scholarship was a worthwhile pursuit and believing it. If anything, market pressures have resulted in the production of some of the finest scholarship in generations, with even many adjuncts having a handful of great publications under their belts. The problem is that the system is more than happy to take their money and use their services from undergrad all the way to their doctoral graduation, but when it comes time to pay it off with a real job? Sorry — best look somewhere "alternative."
 There's a lot of good stuff in this piece about student engagement, tenure, how the promise of grad school and academia relates to the reality, and quite a few other things.

Read it, enjoy, and feel less alone!

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Side note: For those who regularly look(ed) at our website How to Leave Academia, we are aware that the site is having massive problems and is currently unavailable when you try to navigate to it. We've been trying to figure out what's wrong - though, of course, our attempts to fix the problem are hampered by the fact that even WE cannot access the site to even poke around behind the scenes to see what's happening.

And, you know, all of us have day jobs and real life to attend to, so trying to get the site back up and running definitely has fallen fairly low on our priority lists in recent months.

But we are aware of the problem, we are trying to see if we can figure out what's happening, and hopefully we can figure it out one of these days! In the meantime, you can always find us and reach us via our personal blogs.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

STEM Readers: Can You Help Advise a Student Reader?

Hey everybody!

I received the following email from an undergraduate student in biochemistry who is currently enrolled as a senior in a university in the United States.

This student wrote to me yesterday to see whether I might be able to offer some advice, as they've come to think that grad school might not be the best option for them after all.

Unfortunately, since I haven't taken a "hard" science course since my freshman year in undergrad and my only two friends who come from the biosciences are currently enrolled in graduate programs, I don't think that I can be much personal help for this student. So I thought I would pass their question along to you, dear readers, to see if anyone has any advice.

If you can offer any advice for this student, please leave a comment below! I allow anonymous commenting and don't review/approve comments before they're posted, so advise away!

The student writes:

I’m an undergraduate biochemistry senior. Lately I have become sort of disinterested (sort of disillusioned) about graduate school in the sciences and pursuing a science career. From my undergraduate research experience this summer to interacting with professors, I don’t feel like I could handle the lifestyle nor would I want to. I don’t know what options there are though. Biochemistry isn’t really extendable to other careers, and I’m not even sure where to begin. Most of my professors advocate for graduate school too. What would you say to someone in my position? Thanks for any help!

So what do you say, dear readers? Can anyone offer any advice to an undergrad who really needs it?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Some Thoughts on the LaCour Scandal

So as I've learned this week, apparently there is at least one thing that will get me sucked back into reading and writing and thinking about academic work and the controversies therein. And that one thing is an instance of research fraud so massive that it almost defies imagination.

I mean......really, Michael LaCour? You published a huge study in Science with a fancy glittery co-author, and it turns out that you completely fabricated your data? And apparently didn't even bother to get IRB approval for a face-to-face survey until after you already "carried out the interviews?" (Scare quotes intentional, obviously.) And then you faked a few grants and a teaching award, just because the research fakery wasn't enough? And you even stopped to falsify a document of research integrity along the way?

Wow. Wow. That's...astounding.

(For those who don't know what I'm talking about, here is a good overview of both his fraud and of the excellent work by the grad student who uncovered it.

Or just google LaCour's name. Even if you think you're done reading about academia, this scandal might just suck you back in for an hour or two or ten. Or maybe that's just me.)

Anyway, many people smarter and more engaged in these issues than me have done great work writing about the underlying issues about research ethics and coauthor relationships, etc., that are related to this fraud. I don't have much to add on those issues since I haven't done research in almost five years, so I'll leave it to others to dig in on those important and relevant topics.

I do have a few things to say about this scandal, though, from the "postacademic, cynical-about-academia" side of the aisle.

Friday, March 6, 2015

How To Succeed in Academia: Be Rich!

I ran across another link that those of you who find your way here may be interested in reading: an article by the excellent Sarah Kendzior, who writes about the reproduction of privilege and inequality in academia for the Chronicle's Vitae website.

Those of you who have been reading here for awhile know that this was a bit of an obsession for me for awhile - you can see my old posts on privilege and academia here, here, here, and here. I've also written about how this privilege divide has followed people into postacademia as well, both here and at HTLA.

But Kendzior takes it further, by pointing out that the vast majority of tenure-track slots in many fields are going to graduates of elite programs...but that the solution to this apparent problem, unfortunately, isn't as simple as telling prospective graduate students to only apply to elite programs:
The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/929-academia-s-1-percent#sthash.sbh256KX.dpuf
The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less.
 She goes on to note that while it may be fiscally responsible for a prospective student from modest means to go to a cheaper graduate school in a cheaper city, by doing so they are likely dooming themselves to a tenuous career marked by low pay, insecurity, or even adjuncthood.

Academia’s currency is prestige, but prestige is always backed up by money, whether the expenditure for life in a costly city, the expectation of unpaid or underpaid labor, or research trips assumed to be paid out-of-pocket.
Her article references several studies that have recently been done on the hiring practices of academic departments. Since I no longer have access to a university library and the journals therein, I can't pull up the original studies. But for those of you who are still in the academic club, they might be worth a look.

For many of you, it's probably too late to forego grad school or to transfer programs. But if you can gather some information and prepare yourself for what you'll be facing on the academic job market, perhaps you can plan ahead, research some (just in case!) alternate careers, and NOT wind up toiling in adjuncthood once you graduate.


The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/929-academia-s-1-percent#sthash.sbh256KX.dpuf
The answer is often financial, and, again, speaks to privilege and discrimination endemic to academic culture. The most prestigious universities – the Ivy League, University of Chicago, Stanford University, the University of California system – tend to lie in the most expensive parts of the country. Even with full funding, it is nearly impossible to live in such costly cities without incurring debt, given that stipends tend to be $25,000 or less. - See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/929-academia-s-1-percent#sthash.sbh256KX.dpuf

Monday, March 2, 2015

Why You Need To Leave Academia

Since I promised that I would do this in my last post....here's a new(ish) article I ran across today that has some very good (and strong!) sentiments about why leaving academia is not just a good option, but might be the best option for a graduate student in 2015.

This site seems to be offering services for helping you "rebrand" or reorient your life for postacademia. I certainly can't vouch for their services - and in fact, I've gone on record several times as being somewhat skeptical about some of these services - so please don't take this as an endorsement of the services offered on the linked site. Again - I know nothing about their site and have not been asked to write this post, so be cautious if you start exploring their services.

But I read this piece this morning and it struck me as exactly the kind of thing I was hungry to read in 2011 and 2012, when I was newly leaving academia:
Academia is broken. The time to leave it is now. If you don’t leave, you will be poor, mistreated, and unhappy. There’s a myth in academia, perpetuated by other (mostly unhappy) academics that says you can only be a successful PhD if you become a tenured professor and continue to publish in academic journals. This myth survives by encouraging young PhDs—postdocs and PhD students—to look down on anyone who expresses a desire to leave academia. As a result, a kind of feedback loop is created in academia. Once you’re in the system, the system keeps you there by weakening your mind and eroding your confidence.
You’re told over and over again that nothing else but staying in academia is respected. You’re told over and over again that you can’t do anything else—that there is nothing else. The academic system makes you so dependent that you get used to being treated poorly. You get used to your advisor yelling at you or making you feel small. You get used to believing that there’s nothing else for you in the world.
So if you're finding this site and you're new to the possibility that you might leave academia, let me just say that as a long-term veteran of the leaving process, I agree with every word of this essay. And I agree that if you're really, truly considering leaving academia, you are probably leaning toward making the right choice for yourself.

Monday, February 23, 2015

I'm Still Here!

Hello, dear readers of this blog (and of How to Leave Academia)!!!!

It has been far, faaaar too long since I've updated this blog....and unfortunately, far too long since I've checked the comments to clear out the spam nonsense. I apologize to anyone who's had to scroll through offers for free online classes and moving services in Dubai (????) and other nonsense in order to get to the useful and supportive comments. I promise that I will try to stay more on top of that in the future so that those of you who need it can easily find the helpful comments and conversations that keep showing up on my posts.

Along those lines, though...I'm so glad that, all of these years later, so many of you are still finding this blog and appreciating what I wrote and finding some hope for the future! As I've said all along - there is life, and happiness, outside of academia. I promise you that.

In fact...if you're anything like me (and you take a job that is entirely outside of the university/academic realm), you will eventually get to a point where the world of academia seems so far removed from and irrelevant to your daily life that you simply don't think of it much anymore.

Honestly? That's the real reason I haven't updated this blog in so long. I have now been out of academia, officially, for 4 long years. (Holy crap! I could have gone back for a whole new bachelor's or master's degree in that time! Maybe two masters' degrees!)

But that also means that for 4 years (208 weeks! 1460 days! Over 35,000 hours!) I've had a life that is completely outside of academia. I work with 11 coworkers who have no idea what a peer-reviewed journal article is, I come home to a partner who has never had to write a teaching statement for a job application, and I take vacations without ever having to worry about work while I'm gone. I have a few friends who are former grad student colleagues, but we have so many other things going on in our lives - new jobs, new relationships and kids and pets and whatnot - that, honestly, academia hardly ever comes up.

So, to be honest, I don't spend any significant time these days thinking about academia...which is why I haven't had anything new to write over here.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Want to Contribute a Story to HTLA?

Hi everyone!

We at HTLA are planning to do a major expansion of our site in the upcoming weeks and months. Now that the e-book is finally published (and we've had a chance to lay back and enjoy Actually Having Accomplished That Big Thing We'd Been Working On For a Year, yayyy!), we are ready to get back to updating and expanding the content available on our site.

Along those lines, one thing that we want to do is to create a section in which postacademics can tell their "leaving stories" and have them published on our site for others to read.

We aren't going to solicit these from specific people, and we aren't looking for a particular type of story or for stories from people with particular types of jobs. If you're just a normal, everyday postacademic who left and found ... something? If you're doing academic advising or managing an office or directing a think tank or working at a diner or temp agency or running a side business? Then we want to hear from you. All of you.

Don't sugarcoat your story if you don't want to. If your journey has been great, then tell us that! But if you've struggled, or have been desperate, or if it's been hard? Don't be afraid to tell us that either. We want more postac stories to get out there, and aren't picky about what those stories are.

We are happy to keep stories anonymous if you want us to. See the announcement below.

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We want to expand our site and include more personal stories of #postac life that focus on how people found work and what it’s like to work in different kinds of #postac or #altac places. Also interested in your “just for now” job experiences.

Keep it personal and not preachy, pretty much anything welcome. Brief is fine; no dissertation required.

It’s fine if you need to remain anonymous.

We are happy to link to your website, business, or twitter account.

We do not pay. This is gratis, because our site is peer-to-peer. (Maybe someday when we start raking in the big bucks we can offer compensation; for now, our income from the book (which is our only source of HTLA income and - given that the book is bargain priced - isn't much, covers basic site maintenance.)

Message us on Twitter:
@mamanervosa (Lauren)
@leavingacademia (JC)
@projectreinvention2012 (Kathleen)

Or just use good old fashioned email:
laurennervosa@gmail.com
leavingacademia@gmail.com
projectreinvention12@gmail.com