Recently, I wrote here about how poorly we prepare students for careers. Even our most academically successful students are often ignorant of the day-to-day details of their chosen professions. I dropped out of a Ph.D. program after three years because i realized that late into the game that I am poorly suited to reading multiple hundreds of pages of theory each week and intensively coding large interview samples. No one explained to me exactly what it would take to fully explore my chosen research questions before I started the Ph.D. program. Here, Rogue Cheerios explains how even someone more savvy than I can find herself at a loss about the systemic flaws in academia and how they impact her career trajectory and measures of success.
Originally posted on rogue cheerios:
This past year, I served as a “Visiting Lecturer” at a private, liberal arts college and this coming year, I’ll be a “Visiting Assistant Professor”. I used to think “visiting” sounded really distinctive, like your talents were so specialized that another department invited you to visit their campus. I have come to learn that “visiting” simply means “contingent” and carries no special status after all.
This particular visiting position is the kind of job I’d hoped to find after graduate school. I study the sociology of education and this highly interdisciplinary program focuses on the study of education and schools with a serious commitment to student service in the local school district. Over the last year, I finished my dissertation while prepping new courses, advising students, participating in college committees and generally being a good citizen of the college. I feel conflicted about my contingent status because I am making relationships with students, giving them advice about their lives or careers, and I have no guarantee that I’ll be around in another year or so. I would like to stay there long-term, but when I interviewed, it was made clear to me that no tenure track line would materialize in the coming academic year (or the near future, really).
When I tell local folks that I have a job lined up at this college for the coming academic year, they all seem impressed because the institution is considered an elite place. However, few people understand that the jobs with the most status are the tenure track jobs. So I go through the exercise of explaining that I’m a contingent faculty member, and when I explain that the position isn’t a tenure-track job, folks stare at me blankly.