Higher Education Career Advice

Career Advice

Robert Kelchen offers advice for working with journalists in ways that may help you become a regular source.

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January 26, 2009
After recently reading Stanley Fish's NY Times blog oneducation, I felt moved to write in. I recently attended a talk aboutcurriculum and program design where large university decided to rollout a new undergraduate program (let's call it "computer sciencelite") since enrollments were collapsing in a related discipline("traditional computer science."). As part of the planning process atthis university, the committee asked for consultations fromprofessionals in the IT industry (and presumably other educators). TheIT sector said that graduates were clearly weak in professional skills(defined to be skills such as communications, project management etc).Industry feedback seemingly played a major, possibly decisive, role inthe design of this new undergraduate program. This focus on employerinput as central strikes me as interesting and rather unusual inhigher education.
January 25, 2009
Any advice if you have a crappy advisor? I am going for my PhD and although I thought I asked him some good questions, and received solid responses, in our interview, my advisor turns out that he is not a good mentor and not much of a help. He is mainly, at best, a time-suck with all the meetings he wants to make sure things are "going well" but doesn't actually want to help me with anything and gets petulant if I ask for help or advice. I don't know that many other people with a PhD so I thought I'd ask just in case you wanted to share some words of wisdom. I had a crappy master's advisor but that was two years and another year of not being around him, but writing while working full time. I finished though and it was worth it. Now the funding my new advisor said I'd have is virtually non-existent, he thinks the fact that I'm getting a stipend is enough for me to praise him daily and kiss his ass while running errands for him and taking care of all of his tech problems (i'm not doing that anymore). One semester and it's already an enormous headache. You can't get far in my field without a PhD. But I'm starting to get sick of the attitudes in my field...and yet I've been working towards this for 15 years so I have no idea what else I'd even do and it took me 4 years just to get in to a program.
January 25, 2009
After six years of teaching and academic administration at two proprietary schools (neither one being your Proprietary U unless you've disguised it incredibly well), I am applying for a position at a local community college. As someone who has made the transition, what concerns do you think I should be prepared to address on the off chance I get an interview? I know I have no experience working with a faculty union, but I have worked at an R1, so I am at least familiar with the concepts and structures of faculty governance. I'm a little more concerned about what assumptions, groundless or otherwise, they'll have about my background. As ever, advice from wise and worldly readers is welcome. Having done this myself, I agree that there are both fair and unfair barriers you'll need to be prepared to address.
January 22, 2009
The letter about the horrible adjunct struck a cord for me, but for a very different reason. I am an adjunct at a local community college and it while I have enjoyed it, and learned a lot about what works and what doesn't in the CC classroom, I can't help but wonder if there aren't more 'horrible adjuncts' out there. I can imagine there are, because although I believe I am competent and capable, I have never had an official evaluation (in fact, no one has ever come to watch me teach), nor are there official student evaluations of courses. And that doesn't even begin to address the issues with the dean, who has told instructors that students shouldn't be called out for texting in class and has accused others of racism for questioning the removal of basic English language competency requirements, or for failing students who stop showing up to class.So I guess my question is, where does one go when it seems the whole college is one giant lump of incompetence? And yes, this is partly selfish, because the school I'm teaching at is on the brink of losing its accreditation, and how does that look on a CV? But more than that, I worry about the students who pay good money, and think that they are getting an education, when what they are getting may or may not be.
January 16, 2009
I have a question to ask you and your "wise and worldly readers." :) I'm a PhD candidate in an evergreen social science, and I just taught for the first time last semester. While I loved many things about teaching, the biggest surprise for me was how much I loved teaching writing. I loved marking student papers, trying to teach them about how to structure an argument, working with them on how to craft a better piece of writing and thinking. I know most writing is taught in English Comp classes, which I'm obviously not properly placed, disciplinarily, to teach. But, at different sorts of schools, what opportunities are there for social scientists to teach writing? I know the elite SLAC my wife attended had "writing-intensive" courses across the disciplines; how common are those? Is wanting to teach writing an asset in the job market? How might I position myself (beyond saying "I love teaching writing!" in a cover letter) to show this interest?

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