Wednesday, June 17, 2009

An exciting, thrilling post

Sorry about the light posting and mundane topics lately. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that things slow down for the summer. Between teaching more than my fair share of summer school, preparing for some conferences, doing some editing on old papers, watching at least one baseball game every day, and trying to avoid having to take a bartending job for the fall, I haven't had a lot of time to devote to blog writing. I've even resorted to shamelessly hijacking STBJD's topics. I've got a couple of meatier posts in the hopper, but they're not ready to go yet. Please bear with us.

--Mr. Zero

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Don't worry. I watch at least one baseball game a day, too.

Anonymous said...

While we're waiting on those "meatier" posts, I've got a question to throw out there (in between baseball games). I imagine other people reading this blog may contend with a situation like this.

A number of colleges and universities out there have religious affiliations. To what extent should one's application materials, and agenda during interviews, reflect one's religious commitments (or lack thereof) when looking for a job at religious institutions? During the past job season, I had an interview with a religiously-affiliated school, and it was clear that matters of faith were on the table during the interview (i.e. relevant to determination of fit).

Of course, it's unlikely there is any one-size-fits-all answer to this question; religiously-affiliated schools range from moderate to conservative, from fairly secularized to explicitly committed to certain beliefs or practices. But I am wondering if any of you out there have had experiences you can share of interviewing with or teaching at institutions with religious affiliations. To what extent do you think it is wise/unwise to be open about one's views regarding religion when applying/interviewing with such schools?

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:22,

What is your relationship with Jesus Christ?

Jesuit-raised said...

Anon 8:22am:

This obviously depends upon the school with which one is interviewing. In my experience, Catholic schools vary according to how seriously they take the Pope's statement in the late 90's (?) that Catholic universities had to re-assert their missions. Even then, I don't think there is much danger at not revealing anything concerning your religious affiliations to such schools. Smaller, uber-conservative schools (e.g. Huntington College, which I think is University of Huntington now) is a United Brethren school, and they strictly hire people in that faith.

Here's a creepy experience for you:

A colleague of mine interviewed with a small Christian school in Indiana. She had a very Jewish-looking last name, and they asked her if she was Jewish, telling her that if she was, that would be a major problem!

When applying to religious schools, I would research them thoroughly to make sure that you can come close to being a fit. There are just some places that one would not enjoy working at all, so it would be a waste of time to apply.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:13 said...

Anon 8:22,

What is your relationship with Jesus Christ?


Anon 8:22 here. If the schools were as direct as your question, then that would settle the issue of what to say or not in application materials. But they often aren't so clear.

I can imagine a question like that could come up during an interview or during a casual moment on campus with an evangelical college or university, but I wouldn't expect such a question at, say, a Catholic institution. Yet they too might well be interested in knowing about how an applicant's commitments relate to the mission statement of the institution...

p.s. Regarding questions like the one you, Anon 12:13, raised, I prefer to answer them in a setting conducive to detailed and personal conversation (over coffee, lunch or a beer, for example). But to not be too difficult, I am a Christian but of a main-line, liberal protestant sort.

Anonymous said...

He's a nice guy. Hell, I had lunch with him last week. But he is a poor philosopher...didn't even know what scientific realism is. Like many of our political representatives, though, he was honest and confessed to not believing in evolution.

Anonymous said...

Anon8:22 here...

Thanks, Jesuit-trained. I taught as an adjunct at a catholic school at one point. I recall the chair asked about my religious background, to make sure I understood the mission of the institution, only to then tell me he was basically an agnostic himself...

Anonymous said...

Don't try an fake anything. I teach at a SLAC and your theology or lack of care for the issue will be clear. They should be looking for your teaching skills and your religious views shold be low on the list. If your religious views are on the top of the list it is either going to be a great fit or a disaster. Just be honest, it is the best for you and the college.

Matthew Pianalto said...

I had APA interviews with a few Catholic schools, and my religious affiliation (or lack thereof) did not come up in the interviews in any direct way. At one place, it did come up in very indirect ways; if I recall correctly, I got a question of the sort: how do you deal with students coming from a very dogmatic background? (Obviously, even if you're not religious, or don't subscribe to that particular religion, to the extent that you can show an understanding of such beliefs, even if you don't subscribe, will surely figure into fit. A person who doesn't know the first thing about Christianity may not be in a good position to "handle" classes where the majority of students are such.)

I was also asked in one of the interviews how I saw myself contributing to the mission of the school. This is a case where having a particular affiliation might not be necessary or sufficient. How are you going to relate to the students? How are you going to foster the pursuit of wisdom, the cultivation of moral responsibility, in an environment that cares about faith and reason? Having answers--and probably stories--that get at the mission is going to determine fit. Since many such schools ask in their ads that applicants address their mission statements in their cover letters, this also shows that you should in general take what you say in cover letters to these places very seriously.

Do your background work on the school to figure out whether it's worth your time, and squares with who you are (or want to be). I didn't apply to places which required a signed faith-statement because I could not in good conscience sign such a document. If you could, then all the more reason to apply. (If you don't care about good conscience, I don't know what to say...)

In some cases, it may just be that in an interview you or the interviewers come to see that you wouldn't be a good fit. And that, in itself, is no tragedy--or something to be avoided at all costs. (NB: I didn't ultimately get any of these jobs, so maybe everything I've said should be taken with a grain of salt.)

Xenophon said...

Mr. Zero, Conferences, plural? Why? Fewer conferences, more papers. Chop chop. And enjoy your summer. :)

Anon 8:22, Look at the mission statement and other places on the website where a school tells you who they are and what their values are. A school that has a particular Christian commitment will say so: it helps them recruit students (and faculty) who are appropriate for the institution. On interviews you can also ask directly: "what does your affiliation to ___ mean in practical terms?"

Anonymous said...

I vote for a thread on how many conferences vs. how much writing/publishing. Are the two separable? Or does conferencing fuel the conference-goer with new paper ideas? Once teaching is factored in, is it nearly impossible to do either? When one has some free time, should one choose to write an abstract and send it off to a conference or write a full paper and submit it to a journal?