Thursday, February 27, 2014

So, you want to be a VAP

A thread on VAPs has been requested. I've never had one. Don't think I ever applied for one. But, you know, I live to serve, dear readers. And 'tis the season for VAP applications.

I would think, but can't verify, that VAPs have gotten pretty competitive, just like TTs and post-docs. And I would think that the dossier is more or less the same as it would be for any other teaching-oriented job. How does the interview process differ? How does the timing differ?

So, questions, comments, advice on VAPs, VAP-seekers, VAP-applying, etc.? Rack 'em up.

~zombie

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are there VAPs out there thatbetter than an additional year of grad funding? If so, what are they like, e.g. in terms of years and teaching load?

Set aside extreme circumstances, e.g. a need for more money or departmental problems that require leaving early.

Anonymous said...

Having been on the hiring side of these things, I can tell you that the decision process is very different. In some cases the Chair makes the decision without needing to consult the rest of the department, and in some cases a small committee is formed to make the decision.

Personal recommendations matter a whole lot more. If someone in the department knows you or is good friends with someone who knows you, that goes a long way. In some cases, faculty elsewhere will call up and ask the Chair to do them a favor by hiring one of their out of work grad students.

So, this might not be the case everywhere, but in some places VAPs (and similar positions) are even less under the control of your CV as an applicant.

Anonymous said...

209,

One thing that VAP positions offer is the opportunity to teach one's own class as a primary instructor. For students in programs where teaching one's own class is not an option, this opportunity may improve their dossier for future years on the market (at least in the eyes of some search committee members)

Anonymous said...

As 2:57 noted, the search process can run very differently. When I'm on a TT search committee, I'm highly motivated to dig into files, to be sure we're hiring the best candidate, given that this person will be with us, hopefully, for 30 years. With a VAP search, I don't put in nearly so much time. So it's even more important to make your file "pop" and be easy to read. Don't make me dig through a list of papers to see which are pubs and which are under review. Don't make me dig through 30 pages of numerical teaching data to figure out your course averages. If I already have a few attractive files already, yours has about two minutes to earn its way into that pile. I won't look at your writing sample, letters, etc. until you've made it into the final 20-30. (from a prof at a SLAC you've probably heard of)

Anonymous said...

I was a VAP at a 2nd-tier state school and am now TT at the same school. I've also been involved in the process of hiring a couple other VAPs at this point.

At my school, half-time VAP positions do seem to get given out based on the chair's decisions and require no search committee or real search process. Full-time VAP positions, however, pretty much get all the trappings of a TT search. We form a search committee, comb through the dossiers pretty carefully (although I don't think anyone read the writing samples), and conduct Skype interviews with the top candidates. Last year, we didn't get authorization to advertise the position until the beginning of the summer, and we still got around 40 applications, of which maybe 10 were pretty good (i.e. right AOS, some publications, teaching experience, degree from a decent school). Our VAPs get almost the same pay and benefits as TT, so MUCH better than grad student funding (at least any grad student funding I've heard about).

Anonymous said...

I agree that the hiring process is different for VAPs and TT positions. The latter are much more involved and intense. VAP hires sometimes are at the discretion of the chair alone.

I will also add that at my budget-strapped state uni where new TT lines are rare, it can be easier to convert a VAP to a TT position than to get approval for a new TT search. VAPs often become TT here.

Anonymous said...

Is there a difference, besides institutional norms about titles for the role, between a limited-term lecturer position that's full-time, carries benefits, etc., and a VAP position?

Nescafe Slacker said...

Just to sound a counter-note here.

At my SLAC (top-10) we conduct our VAP searches the same as our TT searches: APA interview and/or Skype, we bring 3 or 4 people to campus, and there they give both job-talk and teaching demo. We don't ask for a writing sample for VAPs, and we are slightly less concerned about their research trajectory (and more concerned about their ability to hit the ground running on teaching). But we read the files with equal care, and our VAP positions typically get almost as many applicants as our TT searches do.

So, all of that to say that don't assume as a candidate that you have to take the application process more lightly. Each stage is very competitive, and while we aren't looking to hire our VAPs into TT slots here, we do want to help them move to TT slots elsewhere, and have been successful in this. Recent VAPs have moved into a range of TT positions, from RU/VH to non-elite SLAC.

Best of luck to you all!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps it would be good to add a thread just for people who got VAPs this year--much like Leiter does with people who got TTs this year?

Anonymous said...

I've had VAP's that appeared to be almost entirely conducted by the chair, and I've had those that involved on campus visits. The long and the short of it is: it varies by institution.

Can I ask why this question is even that important, since it's not as if you are going to insert typos into your already prepped material. You apply for a VAP the same way as any other job, and you can do nothing about the outcome anymore than you can with any other job.

zombie said...

"Is there a difference, besides institutional norms about titles for the role, between a limited-term lecturer position that's full-time, carries benefits, etc., and a VAP position?"

A VAP generally gets paid something fairly comparable to an assistant prof salary. A lecturer or instructor position typically pays less (and sometimes does not require a PhD). But there are insitutional variations. My department happens to have both a VAP and lecturers -- the lecturers get paid less even though they are, for all intents and purposes, permanent non-TT employees.

Anonymous said...

"Is there a difference, besides institutional norms about titles for the role, between a limited-term lecturer position that's full-time, carries benefits, etc., and a VAP position?"

Academia is obsessed with rank, and the VAP carries the rank of Assistant Professor, even if it's a temporary gig.

Anonymous said...

The hiring process might be different (or might not, depending on the case...), but the process of applying isn't much different. You send 'em your file, you'd better write a good cover letter, and you're still competing with lots of other people.

As far as comparing a VAP to another year of grad funding, I think the VAP is preferable in almost all cases. Getting hired by a school is the best predictor of whether you'll get hired by another one, and probably most grad students now hold at least one VAP/lectureship before getting the TT gig. Unless you've got some really good reasons to prefer to stay at your grad institution (e.g., family commitments, the VAP teaching load is worse than 4/4, etc.), I think you'd be much better off taking a VAP over another year of funding.

Anonymous said...

Accepting the VAP is probably on the whole better than staying in grad school another year. But it's not without cost. One cost to accepting the VAP (as opposed to staying in grad school) is dealing with the pressure now to publish so as to avoid the perception of one's PhD going stale.

Anonymous said...

Original commenter here. Could people explain a bit more *why* taking the VAP is preferable?

1:46, you say that getting hired by a school is the best indicator of whether one will get hired by another one. One might object that getting an *offer* is an equally good indicator, at least at the early stages of one's career. If it's not, then what's the extra bit added by actually taking the VAP? Degree in hand? Teaching experience? Something else?

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Whether it is better to take a VAP position (or limited term lecturer, for that matter) than have another year of grad funding will depend on one's circumstances.
1. Are you in a position to finish and defend your dissertation? If not, take the year of grad funding.
2. Finances: Typically VAPs and LTLs pay significantly more than a grad stipend, but maybe that depends.
3. Teaching experience: How much independent teaching have you done as a grad student? All but the very top programs are genuinely interested in how capable a teacher you are, and your ability to balance teaching and research. Evidence that you can do that is good.
4. Networking: Getting to know people outside your department is good. Being able to include a letter about collegiality and teaching from the department you are visiting is a also good.

Dr. Killjoy said...

A bit of advice from your ol' pal, Doc Killjoy:

As you all are no doubt aware, forays into the primary job market season are massive time sinks within which otherwise productive philosophers take a 6-month forced vacation from research to wander a neurotic and barren nightmarescape from which few publications may ever escape. Even charitably assuming a 6 month average between paper submission and notification of acceptance, those unfortunate enough to spend multiple consecutive seasons face an uphill battle to recover so as to improve their CVs in time to preclude falling yet again into the following market-year's research sinkhole (shout, cry, repeat). As such, folks with non-TT option should consider the importance of minimizing non-research workload (e.g., that 3-2 VAP might pay twice as well as another year of grad school, but it also comes with a hefty research price tag).

Anonymous said...

Here is one benefit: I was a VAP for two years before landing a TT position at a different institution. I was able to negotiate a considerable salary bump with the Dean (5%) on the basis of my previous work at the Asst. Prof. rank.

Anonymous said...

The point, I think, is that it looks good to hiring departments when they see a VAP on your CV, but they will not see an offer on your CV if you do not accept it. What they will see is a longer time to completion.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap. If going on the market had taken six months of my research time every year I've done it, I am pretty sure I would have been doing something wrong. Not even the first year took six months of prep and fret time.

Anonymous said...

Why would someone on a hiring committee think it was appropriate to share a private email with Brian Leiter? And why would Leiter think it appropriate think it appropriate to talk about it on his blog?

Anonymous said...

Because Leiter is, among other things, an Attention Monster.

Anonymous said...

Why would someone on a hiring committee think it was appropriate to share a private email with Brian Leiter? And why would Leiter think it appropriate think it appropriate to talk about it on his blog?

Although I'm not typically a big fan of Leiter's blog and I agree that it was inappropriate for the SC member to share the candidate's email with Leiter, Leiter's post is tremendously valuable. The sort of sharing Leiter describes goes on all the time. We can put aside the SC member's indiscretion, and agree that it was wildly foolish for the candidate to send such a note. I personally think the note was not only ill advised from a purely practical standpoint, but also extremely poor form. But again, putting aside the latter issue, the social dynamics among professional academics are such that this sort of sharing and gossip is rampant and it isn't going to change any time soon (or ever, really). Candidates have every reason to handle rejections gracefully. In general, if a hiring institution interviews you at the APA (or something analogous), they think you're great. I don't see the point in altering their thinking to whine about not being the last person standing among the very few (of hundreds) they would have been happy to hire.

Anonymous said...

"the social dynamics among professional academics are such that this sort of sharing and gossip is rampant and it isn't going to change any time soon (or ever, really)."

It would never have occurred to me that sharing the private emails of job applicants to amuse one's friends is rampant amongst professional philosophers. If that's true I guess those of us looking for jobs have one more thing to worry about. In any case, it's reasonably despicable of Leiter to be participating in the practice (never mind discussing it on his blog).

Anonymous said...

Anon 1:48, now you know: academics are inveterate gossips. (This is an attribute they share with nearly all other human beings.) If you present an academic with something funny, unusual, shocking, or out-of-the-ordinary, they will often go out of their way to share it with their friends and colleagues. (This is another attribute academics share with nearly all other human beings.)

If you want to say something to an academic (or, really, any human person) and don't want that person's friends/significant-other/etc. to know what you said, then you need to assure yourself before speaking that the hearer in question will keep it in the strictest confidence. And the best way to assure yourself of that is to already be the hearer's friend/significant-other/etc.

In general, you should always operate under the assumption that anything you reveal to random members of hiring committees who don't know you from Adam has the potential to become semi-public knowledge -- even if you think you could have a legal case against the person for disclosing that information. It's not the best possible world, but it is the one we do live in.

Anonymous said...

Whoa. Readers of this blog actually thought that someone who sends a sarcastic reply to a SC member could expect that it would be kept private??

2:23 has put it more nicely than I would.

Anonymous said...

I guess my sense of outrage isn't finely calibrated enough, for I don't see how relating a story of someone's bad behavior in which no identities are disclosed or even hinted at counts as despicable -- or, for that matter, how it even counts as gossip.

Anonymous said...

Obviously no one thinks that "relating a story of someone's bad behavior" is despicable. What is at least mildly despicable is a member of a search committee passing along private correspondence from a job candidate to a friend in another department to amuse that friend. It is also mildly despicable for that second person to read the email and then talk about it on his blog.

Anonymous said...

7:15,

What you claim to be obvious is far from obvious, at least to me. And simply asserting that the actions of Leiter's friend or Leiter are despicable, as if it were a matter a plain fact, isn't very convincing.

Given the stress placed on the privacy of the correspondence by some of the commentators here, where's the despicability when no one's identity has been revealed or even hinted at?

Perhaps we just have different standards of what's despicable. For me, conduct has to be pretty shamelessly base to merit that judgment, and I'm just not seeing it here, even if what was done isn't something I would do. But then again I don't think it's despicable for to share with a friend a jaw-droppingly inappropriate email from a student. But maybe that's because I can't face my own despicability.

My guess is that many folks already despise Brian Leiter and so are disposed to find his conduct despicable.

6:14

Anonymous said...

I said "mildly despicable" rather than just "despicable" because despicable is too strong a word. Substitute "unseemly" if you like.

In any case, I hope everyone agrees that a member of a hiring committee shouldn't share the private correspondence of a job applicant with his/her friends just to amuse them (or worse, to attempt to harm the job candidate).

Anonymous said...

The intention may well not have been to harm the candidate, but to give others more information. Someone who writes an email like that sounds like a dick, and like someone with bad judgement. As someone on a hiring committee, I would much rather hire an otherwise equally qualified person who was *not* a dick with poor judgment - especially when the pool of applicants is chock-full of highly qualified applicants, and I need reasons to decide between them.

zombie said...

I suspect the information was shared (by Leiter and his correspondent) as a cautionary tale. The point (it seems to me) was not to humiliate or out a particular individual, but to warn job candidates about burning bridges. That's not wrong. Philosophy is not so huge that you can expect to never encounter the people in a department again in a professional capacity. Given that anyone who gets a fly-out is considered a desirable candidate, you should expect that, unless you totally bombed the interview somehow, the SC has a high opinion of you, even if they ended up offering the job to someone else. Connecting with real people who respect your work is good for your career, and it is shortsighted (or a sign of hubris), to think that you can alienate them with no negative consequences. (That you might never know what those consequences are doesn't mean they do not exist.) e.g. someone on that SC moves to a different school, and serves on an SC there. You apply for a job there, and said person remembers that you were a bitter, conceited jerk who judged the SC incompetent. I should think that would not be very helpful.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect the information was shared (by Leiter and his correspondent) as a cautionary tale. The point (it seems to me) was not to humiliate or out a particular individual, but to warn job candidates about burning bridges."

Yup. To give another story, the placement director in my grad department used to keep copies of angry emails from rejected applicants, and share lines from those emails (never the names, or the positions to which they applied), as a cautionary tale. He told us that we cannot control how we are notified about rejections, or how awful the rejections letters can be. But we are in complete control over how we respond to them.

He told us that it's not entirely inappropriate to ask about what was missing (especially if you are a finalist and lose out after the campus interview), and some hiring committees will even provide such feedback. But angry, spiteful, dismissive, etc. emails are never appropriate. Write them, share them with friends, and delete them if you must get it out of your system. Over beers with friends is a great way to blow off steam. But never send anything improper to hiring committees.

This is the professional world you are trying to enter. These people will be on panels, at journals, and will in many ways be working with you in the field. You accomplish nothing by burning bridges.

Anonymous said...

It is unprofessional to use non professional emails and other non work related material to evaluate a candidate, or to hold past behavior against a candidate indefinitely.

Anonymous said...

Hiring committees, especially in philosophy, should not act as if they are immune from criticism, even from candidates. This is a fundamentally anti-philosophical attitude.

Anonymous said...

"It is unprofessional to use non professional emails and other non work related material to evaluate a candidate, or to hold past behavior against a candidate indefinitely."

An email from an applicant to a hiring committee *is* a professional communication.

The content and tone may be unprofessional, but any communication between a job applicant and a hiring committee is professional communication.

Anonymous said...

I do find it curious that (nearly) no one is complaining about W's having shared her correspondences with Nazareth College. Perhaps it's the power asymmetry that accounts for the difference.

Anonymous said...

This is slightly off-topic, but can anyone give me any information about how one can anonymize one's CV? There is a job ad asking for this and I am not sure if this just requires eliminating name, address, email, website, phone number, or even things like details of where one received one's PhD and/or other details. I am not sure what the anonymizing is supposed to accomplish.

zombie said...

9:06, I've never heard of this, but FWIW: http://jobsearch.about.com/od/jobsearchglossary/g/anoncv.htm

Maybe the point is to eliminate sex/ethnic/racial bias?

This is probably a good question to ask someone in your institution's HR or career placement office.

Anonymous said...

9:06 here--thanks, Zombie!

Anonymous said...

If you are (sadly) searching for a visiting position for a second year in a row, do you send applications to departments that advertised for a visiting position in previous years but didn't interview/hire you?

zombie said...

1:52: YES!

I applied for a TT at the same school 3 years in a row. In the third year, I finally got an interview. They're not going to remember you out of hundreds of applicants that they also rejected in the past. You are (presumably) a better candidate this year.

Apply.

Anonymous said...

For a VAP research will matter less at some places. The ability to step immediately and teach very specific courses is important. People spend much less time looking at your application.

Anonymous said...

The ability to teach your own courses, if you haven't done much of that, is good. But the time and energy needed to relocate (especially if you have children) and getting ready to teach courses you may not have done before, then the teaching and grading, can take a LOT of time. I have seen few VAPs do nearly as much research as they hoped, much less do it in time to help them the year they are VAPing.