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.

---------------------------------------------------------------

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What You Can Do With "Any" Postac Job

The other day, I happened to notice a twitter conversation going on between several postacs and near-postacs, in which one of them seemed to be lamenting the fact that if their efforts at networking and job hunting didn't pay off shortly, they would have to take "any" job after leaving academia.

The implication there - not necessarily coming from that person, but in general - seemed to be that taking "any" job would be a letdown for a postacademic - a signal that you'd failed, or would no longer be doing postacademia "right" or something like that. Right? Because if that wasn't the case - if there weren't good or bad postacademic jobs, as I've argued - then "any" job wouldn't be second-best, right? "Any" job would be what you were going for!

So of course, I jumped right into that conversation, arguing that there was nothing wrong with taking a "just for now" job, and that a person who took a job like that should still have plenty of free time to work on furthering their career (or whatever else they want to do).

After jumping into that conversation (and sending out some random tweets later that night), I thought that this might be a good week to write about what my first job after leaving academia (three years ago!) has meant for my financial stability and plans going forward.

(This post is also a partial response to some criticism that we've received on the privilege piece at HTLA, in which some commenters (one at Versatile PhD in particular) have suggested that we are doing postacs a "disservice" by pointing out that some of them are in dire straits and might need to find a temporary, just-for-now type of job to pay the bills while they work on their future careers. I'm not sure if I understand why such advice is a "disservice" - because it's bad to point out that some people are struggling? Because everyone should follow a certain postacademic path, and deviating from it - even out of desperation - is a bad idea? I don't know...but I know I disagree.)

In brief: taking a random job to pay your bills does not mean that you will stay in that job forever, or that you've given up on your chance of having a different or better career. And to bring it to a meta level: recommending that a struggling new postac go work at a temp agency or to wait tables to pay their bills does NOT mean that we are telling them to stop thinking about their career dreams, or to stop trying to be an entrepreneur, or to stop working on skill translation or networking or anything else.

Monday, March 3, 2014

"The Post-Academic Privilege Divide"

Hello, everyone!

Piggybacking on my recent post about what constitutes a "good" postacademic job - as well as the related posts from Kathleen and Lauren - the three of us have put our heads together to write a post at How to Leave Academia that we are pretty proud of.

If you have a few minutes, head on over and let us know what you think.

More soon!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Columbia University and the Continued Rise of Adjuncthood: Does Mentoring Even Matter Anymore?

Now that I am back from my blogging hiatus, one of my goals going forward is to work harder to raise awareness of "academic justice" issues - i.e., how faculty, adjunct instructors, and grad students are treated by their institutions and by higher education more generally.

(Hint: the treatment is oftentimes not very good.)

As I mentioned years ago on this blog, during graduate school I had no idea about how widespread the labor problems in academia actually were. In my program, the cheap teaching labor came from graduate students; therefore, the "fulltime adjunct" problem was not as obvious to me as it was to folks in other disciplines. In addition, my graduate program was highly ranked and seemed to be able to hire an endless stream of new tenure-track faculty, year after year. Meanwhile, I watched graduates of my program go on to solid tenure-track positions or good postdocs every single year. From my perspective, then, things in academia appeared solid and stable.

It wasn't until I left academia in 2011 and started reading about the wider academic job market and the working conditions in colleges and universities other than my own that I realized that things were not as rosy as I had assumed. To my surprise, I discovered the existence of full-time adjuncts. To my greater surprise, I discovered the graduating Ph.D. students who just sort of "disappeared," never to be tracked by their graduate institutions unless they got a tenure-track job. To my even greater surprise, I discovered the existence of faculty (both tenured and non-tenure-track) who were laid off from their institutions without notice and often without cause.

In the past few years as I've continued to read these stories and as my blog gained an audience, I've found that negative stories about academic labor just keep on coming. So even as my personal story about academia has come to an end, I want to use this blog to keep the conversation going about academia's working conditions.

So here we go...a few stories about academic labor justice to start off your week. One relates to general patterns of faculty and staff hiring, and the other to a series of worrisome faculty layoffs that are currently occurring at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.