Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Advice For New Hires

I realize this is a little late, for which I apologize. You know how it is--you get busy, and then you fall behind, and so you get busier, and then you fall a little more behind, and then you look around and it's been two weeks since you posted anything on your blog. Shit.

Anyways, there was a relatively recent exchange starting about here that warrants further discussion. Anon 6:16 said (this is long, but worth reading in full),

After a number of years on the job (and several search committees), I feel comfortable saying that one reason so many people end up unhappy is that they were unprepared for what a full-time job as an academic requires. Grad school is wonderful in many ways: the teaching load is low, the service expectations are almost non-existent, and one is encouraged to spend most of one's time in research. Further, while conferences and publications are celebrated, they are not required. (That is, I have never heard of a grad student losing funding because he/she was not publishing.) Because of this, many graduates become frustrated very quickly when they realize that the job is not at all like grad school.

Recent hires (and I've noticed this in my program, other programs at my university, and other universities) are often unprepared for certain aspects of the job. Advising students (which requires learning how the major, the minor, and the college gen-ed programs all work) is both new and time-consuming for new faculty. As is service. Both of these are - for the first few years - a huge time-suck, and many get frustrated at how this works takes away from the parts of the job people are expecting (teaching and research).

But just as importantly, even if one is prepared for the teaching, new hires (particularly at my school, with a 4/4 load, or a SLAC with a 3/3 load) often end up teaching more courses/semester on the job than in grad school. So one must spend more time on teaching, *and* find time to sit on the department curriculum committee, meet with the faculty senate, and schedule 20 advising appointments just when you finish grading midterms. Additionally, one is often preparing new courses for the first couple of years (especially in small departments, where one is expected to cover more areas). Though this is no less the case at research schools; even if one is hired to a sweet 2/2 load at an R1, one may still find oneself preparing a graduate seminar for the first time (which, while fun, still takes time).

And additionally, one must research. Not that one should research, but one must research. Unlike grad school, research on the job is most certainly tied to your funding: publish or perish. This is true for all levels. "Teaching schools" may have lower publication requirements for tenure and promotion, but those requirements are still higher than what one found in grad school. In grad school, presenting at conferences and publishing articles was a job well done; in a TT position, they are how you survive reappointment. And given that many people want to publish their way into a better job, they are taking on R1 publishing expectations in addition to all the advising, service, and additional work on teaching expected of new hires.

In my first two years on the job, it didn't matter where in the country I was, because most of my time was spent in the office anyway. Rural Mississippi or mid-town Manhattan wouldn't have mattered; I spent more than 12 hours a day on campus. Yes, location will matter in the long run, but in those first few years on campus, most new hires are run so ragged that they have no idea where they are anyway.

Good schools do what they can to minimize this culture shock: no advising first year, reduced teaching load first year, easy committee assignments at first, etc. Even still, it's a huge change, and one that few PhD programs seem to prepare their graduates for. I think it's a shame that hD programs don't do a better job of preparing grads for the jobs they are sending students out to. It's frustrating that so many grad programs assume that they only job worth getting is a TT job in the field, and then turn a blind eye to what such jobs will actually require of their graduates.

Then, Squid Pro Quo said,

Anon 6:16 makes several excellent points - especially about the transition from grad school to teaching a 3/3 or 4/4 load. This is why I strongly disagree w/Dr. Kelsky's claim that there's no point in teaching more than 3 courses in grad school. I taught or TA-ed for 8 courses in graduate school, and have found that experience invaluable now that I'm teaching a 3/3 load. Having lots of teaching experience as a grad student enables you to know how to quickly and effectively design syllabi, grade, lesson plan, etc. All this experience has made the adjustment to a 3/3 teaching load much smoother for me.

And then 6:16 replied (in part),

Maybe we could have a thread based on 7:15's comment? That is, for those who have recently been hired (and have spent at least one year in that job), what do you wish you knew ahead of time? What kinds of training/preparation/etc. was helpful for the transition, or would have been helpful? [...] Similarly, what should hiring departments do? In my department, new hires have a year off from advising and are given easy committee assignments at first. In the second year, new hires are given advisees. In the third year, they are expected to branch out from department service to university service. But even with this system, the shock to many new hires is still profound.

When I was in grad school, I taught at most one class at a time, and was responsible for maybe 50 students per semester. I made myself pretty much always highly available to them. For example, I'd answer emails immediately whenever they came in, even if it was pretty late at night or on the weekend, and I'd offer to read and comment on their exam study-guide practice essays, which, since I employ blue-book essay exams, could be as much as eight or ten essays per student who took me up on it.

Nowadays--and this connects with some stuff Second Suitor was talking about the other day--I generally teach four classes at a time, with two or three preps, and am responsible for at least 200 students. This is a lot more work, and I can't do that stuff anymore. I generally always respond to every email (once in a while one slips through the cracks), but if it comes in after I've started working on/eating dinner or watching baseball, it's going to wait until morning. And if it comes in on the weekend, it might wait until Monday. And while I'm happy to answer specific questions about the study guide, I don't offer to read whole study guides and say what all is wrong with it, and I decline any such requests.

I guess what I'm getting at is, because the teaching duties of my VAP job involve a lot more work than my grad school teaching duties (duh), I've found that I have to put a wall around them. This is partly to protect my personal life, so that my wife knows that I'm spending the evenings with her and not my students. But it also protects other aspects of my professional life, since I also need to spend time writing papers, refereeing, and staying current on the literature. And I did not find that I needed any such wall in grad school.

--Mr. Zero

Monday, April 23, 2012

40-hour week?

I keep stumbling on this blog while looking about the internets:

A fairly recent post called for a 40 hour academic work week.

I just wanted to give an Amen! I've spent the last year or two "rescuing my life" from philosophy. This isn't a knock on philosophy (I mean, I've spent the last decade of my life in the discipline), but I found the things that made me a successful grad student -- like internalized guilt when not working, putting philosophy at the center of my world, spending 'down time' thinking about the professional side of philosophy -- didn't really cultivate sustainable life habits.

Now I make a pretty concerted effort to do things like not work after 7p or on weekends. It doesn't always happen, but it's really opened up some space for life (admittedly at the expense of productivity). For me, protecting life from work feels a bit like protecting time from students - you want to give them their due, but setting clear time boundaries doesn't make you a bad teacher.

-- Second Suitor

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

To get a job in philosophy

Carolyn Dicey Jennings has done amazing work running the numbers on Tenure-Track hiring this year. Here is her report (emphases added):
Overall, what are your chances of getting a job as a philosopher? Well, if we just look at overall numbers, there are 139 jobs (188 including post-docs) and around 800 estimated candidates. That is, over 700 candidates applied to Barnard, so I am conservatively guessing around 800 candidates total. Thus, overall prospects are at around 24% chance of getting any job, 17% chance of getting any tenure-track job, 6% chance of getting a ranked tenure-track job.

What if we add data about your PhD granting institution? Well, for American institutions we can use the NRC numbers on average numbers of PhDs granted from 2002-2006 to estimate the number of candidates from each school on the market and compare that to how many people from that school got jobs. The numbers from this are reported to the right. *NOTE: I only report the top 66 institutions ranked by the NRC, according to the 5% R score. Thus, when I say "ranked by the NRC" I mean "ranked 66 or above for the 5% R rankings of the NRC."

On average, the ranked NRC schools granted 3.9 PhDs each year from 2002-2006. Thus, something like 257 ranked graduate students can be expected to be on the market from the United States in any given year. 132 of the successful candidates were from NRC ranked institutions (101 of successful tenure-track candidates were from NRC ranked institutions, and 27 of successful ranked tenure-track job-getters were from NRC ranked institutions). Thus, one's overall chance of getting any job (post-doc or tenure-track) coming from an NRC ranked institution may be as high as 51%, 39% for any tenure-track job, and 11% for a ranked tenure-track job.

What if we add information about your gender? The top 66 programs I selected from the NRC data had an average of 29% female graduate students in 2005 (and 20% female faculty). Thus, around 75 women from ranked departments are likely to be on the market at any one time. 7 NRC ranked women got NRC ranked jobs, and 33 NRC ranked women got tenure-track jobs in general. Thus, if you are a woman from an NRC ranked department looking for a ranked job, your chances might be around 9%, whereas if you are looking for a tenure-track job in general they at are around 44%. If you are a woman from an NRC ranked school looking for a post-doc, be advised that only 15% of ranked women achieved post-docs this year (5 out of 34 ranked post-doc achievers), whether or not the post-doc was itself ranked. Because of that fact, the chance of a woman from an NRC ranked department getting a tenure-track job or post-doc is about the same as for a man from these departments: 51%.

Means and Medians

1. The mean worldwide Gourmet ranking of the PhD granting institution for those who got a tenure-track job(rank=25) is significantly lower (p=.01) from those who got a ranked tenure-track job (rank=20). Miss Median Job-Getter comes from either Texas or U Chicago, whereas Miss Median Ranked Job-Getter comes from Berkeley.

2. Using Kieran Healy's rankings of areas of specialization as they contribute to the overall Gourmet ranking (ranked from 1-12, M&E to Continental), the mean specialization rank for those who got a tenure-track job (rank=5.2) is significantly lower (p=.01) than for those who got a ranked tenure-track job (rank=4.3). Miss Median Job-Getter does Political Philosophy, whereas Miss Median Ranked Job-Getter does Philosophy of Mind.

3. Those ranked institutions offering post-docs and fellowships (rank=18) have a significantly higher (p<.00001) mean worldwide Gourmet ranking than those ranked institutions offering tenure-track jobs (rank=36). Mr. Median Ranked Post-Doc was hired by UCLA, whereas Mr. Median Ranked Job-Getter was hired by UC Irvine. (Moreover, 2/3 of tenure-track jobs are unranked, but only 1/3 of post-docs are unranked.)

4. Those institutions offering post-docs and fellowships (16% women) hire significantly fewer (p=.01) women than those institutions offering tenure-track jobs (35% women). There is a non-significant difference between the numbers of women hired by ranked and unranked institutions (35% unranked TT, 39% ranked TT, 16% unranked PD, 15% ranked PD).

5. The mean number of peer-reviewed publications for those going to ranked tenure-track jobs was 3 (Median=2), whereas the mean number for all post-docs was 2 (Median=2).


6. The most substantial correlation is between the hiring institution rank and PhD granting institution rank, at .3 (a mild to moderate correlation). That is, the higher your PhD granting institution is ranked the higher your hiring institution will be ranked.

7. I also found a negative correlation between PhD granting institution and number of publications (-.17: the lower your PhD granting institution is ranked the more peer-reviewed publications you have) and between gender and number of publications (-.21: if you are a man you likely have more publications than if you are a woman). Some caution is needed here because I only looked up the number of peer-reviewed publications for those getting ranked tenure-track jobs or (ranked or unranked) post-docs. Thus, to get one of these you may have needed more publications if you are from a lower ranked institution and fewer publications if you are a woman.

Comparison with the NRC Rankings

If you do the same thing for the National Research Council’s “R” and “S” Rankings (100 Philosopher Survey), some interesting things happen. For “R,” Miss Median Job Getter comes from UPenn and Miss Median Ranked Job Getter comes from Syracuse. These are Johns Hopkins and UCLA, respectively, for the “S” Rankings. More interestingly, there is no significant difference between ranked and unranked departments preferences in area of specialization, both of which come to a mean rank of around 5.

I then looked at the National Research Council reports for number of PhDs granted between 2002 and 2006, and then compared those averages to the number of successful candidates (post-doc or tenure-track job) to yield a ranking of schools. Interestingly, this ranking correlates equally well (both have a coefficient of .3) with the NRC “R” rankings and the Gourmet rankings. (I also computed the “S” rankings, which do slightly less well, with a coefficient of .25.)

Carolyn provides a link to a protected Excel spreadsheet:
Everyone thank Carolyn for her work; soooo great.

-- Jaded

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

View #8 & Update

So, it seems as though enthusiasm for the contest format of the View From Your Window series has waned significantly. And I include myself here. Going forward, I'm just going to tell you where the photos were taken.

Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA. Submitted by Nicholas Havrilla and Angela Coventry. Thanks for submitting, and keep 'em coming!

--Mr. Zero