Archive for the ‘academia’ Category
At the LSE blog (via Contexts), Philip Cohen has an interesting post about how economics is discussed in the NY Times in comparison to other social science disciplines:
As my co-editor Syed Ali wrote recently about Orlando Patterson’s op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, sociologists are used to hearing about our irrelevance. Elizabeth Popp Berman pointed out on Orgtheory, however, that we can’t explain this pattern just by looking at sociologists. Economics in particular has been the beneficiary of a long campaign that includes academic expansion, political institution-building, and — Syed adds — political centrism or conservatism.
One result of that development is there are a lot more people outside of academia whose job title is “economist” than there are “sociologists.” So Wolfers’ use of “economist” versus “sociologist” catches all those non-academic economists, while the non-academic sociologists may be more likely to have other titles. To choose one example, Pew Research Center analysts are frequently in the news, with titles such as “Senior Researcher” (Gretchen Livingston and Wendy Wang), “Demographer” (Conrad Hackett), and “Research Associate” (Besheer Mohamed) — all of whom have PhDs in sociology.
Don’t get your hopes up, but I reran the trends in the NYT‘s Chronicle tool using “professor of economics [etc.]” and “economics [etc.] professor,” to narrow the comparison of references down to academics. This really boosts the standing of political scientists, sociologist, and historians, relative to economists.
Read the whole thing.
Before the holiday, we discussed Sam Perry’s job market advice, which is that grad students should really buckle down on research. A number of commenters thought that Perry’s advice was misleading. Sure, if you want a job in a doctoral program, focus on research in graduate school. But, the critique goes, there are many jobs that are not in research intensive programs, so you don’t have to focus on research in grad school.
After giving this a bit of thought, I still side with Sam Perry. The argument has two parts. First, list the typical outcomes for graduate students and you will see that for many, focusing on research is the obvious thing to do:
- Doctoral/MA program employment: obvious.
- Administrative position in higher ed: They don’t care about your research post-PhD. They mostly want to know that you have finished your degree (e.g., your dissertation).
- Policy/private sector: They don’t care about teaching, just that you finish the degree (i.e., get your research done).
- Competitive liberal arts school: They tend to hire from elite schools, so you need to get into elite schools, which look for research potential in applicants. They also want PhD holders and publications for tenure. That suggests to me that a heckuva lot of effort should be put into research. Don’t believe me? Check out the CVs of the sociology faculty at Swarthmore, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Bates, Amherst, or other well known liberal arts school.
So, in these cases, research is either integral to the job or how you are selected for the job (i.e., getting your PhD and moving on to administration).
The second part of the argument: the major category of work that we have not discussed are jobs in less selective teaching intensive schools. Here, the advice is that one is best served by having a portfolio with a good mixture of teaching and research. Why? If you look at the CVs, that is what you see (pick a few random schools – like IU Northwest or Knox College). You see that those with tenure are those who have good teaching records in addition to *some* publication.
To summarize, if you look at typical jobs for academics post-PhD:
- research is the job (doctoral programs, policy shops)
- research screens applicants (higher ed admin, teaching intensive schools, some policy/private sector)
- research is part of the package (most teaching intensive schools).
Final thoughts: (a) research is scarce compared to teaching; (b) having research on the CV broadens the jobs you can consider; (c) “research” means different things – it can range from “get your dissertation done” to “respectable peer reviewed journal” to “flagship journal hit;” and (d) if you are shooting for teaching intensive jobs, it is not too hard to acquire teaching experience of varying types to create a complete application.
Sam Perry is a recent Chicago grad student who is now an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma. On Academia.edu, he has posted his job market advice. All I can say, “yes, that is correct.” Perry’s advice boils down to a few obvious points:
- Your CV drives your career.
- Your CV is mainly about your publications.
- Your competition is not other grad students. It is other people who publish, who may be grad students, post-docs, and professors.
- Quality trumps quantity.
- Thus, grad school should be treated like a job where you religiously show up every day and work hard on your publications.
- Other activities, while commendable, are not the job. It’s ok to do them, as long as they don’t distract from your job.
- Successful people start early. To go on the market in year X, means submitting papers in year X-2, at least.
I have quibbles here and there. For example, students from elite programs can often get away with some truly weak CVs, but overall this is solid. And of course, it contains the best job advice of all – buy the Grad Skool Rulz!!!!
Academia is a career that expects you to give up most (or all) choice about where you’ll live. It is also a career in which it is considered perfectly normal for spouses to live in different states, and sometimes on different continents. Every grad student sort of knows this by the end of their first year, although it may take much longer — hello, job market — to fully internalize.
This has the potential to create relationship problems regardless of your gender or sexual orientation. But societal norms mean that women partnered with men are particularly likely to confront gender expectations when planning academic careers. Will a potential partner be able and willing to follow you where the job is? Or will you find yourself forced to choose between pursuing your career and living in the same city as your spouse?
There have been some new articles about the relative scarcity of Black, Latino, and Native American faculty. Phil Cohen notes that the news exaggerates the results, but the basic trend is still there. The growth in minority faculty is mainly in Asian American numbers and the gap increases as one goes up the ranks (i.e., the gap is largest among full professors). Cohen notes that when you look at the data, you see a poor pipeline – few Black undergrads at leading universities. I have also noted on this blog, that the pipeline is very leaky at many points for under represented groups.
There’s a lot of hand wringing on this issue, but precious little action. At the undergraduate levels, much of the problem is in poor high school preparation, steering people to competitive schools, and not letting people fall through the cracks during the undergraduate degree. At the graduate level, the problem, in my view (see this comment), is that the faculty at the PhD programs simply don’t co-author/collaborate with many students of color and so they either have poor CVs, or they have little connection to the profession.
For example, look at recent issues of leading journals, how many have co-authors from under represented groups? Answer: the last two AJS issues (July and September 2015), I think, have one African American faculty author and zero African American student co-authors out of 16; the previous two ASR (Aug and Oct 2015) issues have 35 authors and I could not identify any African-American authors. Please correct me. I emphasize that this is not an accusation of overt racism. I personally know editors at both journals. They are good people. What I am suggesting is that the pipeline is broken. The very best scholars in sociology appear in these journal issues (e.g., SEE NOTE) and they are not matching with the fullest spectrum of students available. This is not an editorial problem, this is a graduate school problem.
There are many parties that could step up to address the situation. Those in teaching intensive institutions can be on the look out for for talented folks and see if grad school is right for them. Those who work in graduate programs have a much harder task. They need to actively ask themselves: Am I working with all students in our program? Why not? We should look at the CVs of professors in leading programs and ask: who are the co-authors? The oldest among us should also ask how we can mentor younger colleagues, so they can attain a position of leadership. Only when this happens, will you see racial gaps in the professoriate decrease.
Note: Originally, I had listed some senior scholars by name if they appeared in the journal issues I discussed. Over email, a colleague suggested that I was casting these scholars in a way that suggests ill intent or downplayed their work co-authored with people from under represented groups. In fact, the opposite is true. These people were highlighted in the post because they are decent folk and highly regarded scholars, which magnifies the blog post’s original point. If you look at the gate keeper journals, you see a co-author imbalance even among people who are on the right side of things. That suggests to me that the problem is structural and that graduate programs are set up in ways that discourage matching of minority grad students with the faculty who can best promote their careers. So I stand by my original point (and data), but I do recognize that my argument can be read opposite to my intent. Thus, the names have been removed and I apologize to readers who may have thought I was disparaging these scholars.
As the yearly season for academic hiring opens, and as students consider applying to graduate program, now is the time to reflect on one’s place and prospects in the academic pipeline. Written by two economists who also are parents, Professor Mommy: Finding Work-Family Balance in Academia raises important issues germane to those who are entering, navigating, or exiting the academic pipeline. While the book is aimed at academic women, a general audience would benefit from tenure-track tips. (Examples: the authors suggest working on and submitting grant proposals so that senior colleagues who serve on grant panels can become acquainted with junior colleagues’ work. The authors also recommend against co-authoring with colleagues who might be able to write tenure review letters, as co-authorship will preclude letter-writing.)
Like Fabio in his Grad Skool Rulz book, the co-authors Rachel Connelly and Kristen Ghodsee have a brutal and blunt chapter (“Know Thyself, part 1”) urging those unsure about academia to understand the limits of the academic job market, such as being expected to move where the jobs are and facing continual rejection. They warn that applicants should expect to spend between 3 to 5 years on the job market and that any job prospect might become THE job.
One especially illuminating section addresses how some job applicants may take positions at particular kinds of institutions, assuming that these allow for a work-family balance, without understanding that other institutions may have the resources better suited to support working parents. Although the authors don’t go into this in great detail, some employers are prepared to dole out substantial resources to faculty – funds that can cover all of conference travel expenses, a book allowance, a guaranteed spot in a desired school for a child, subsidized housing in a good school district, college tuition payments for children, etc. – that other employers cannot.
The book excels in revealing strategies used by academic parents to manage the limitless demands of academia and parenting. The one quibble that I have concerns a section where the authors offer a composite case of a “good student” who embarks upon an academic career as a default. The hypothetical academic struggles with the everyday challenges of academia and parenting; she eventually resigns from her tenure-track position to stay at home to raise children, supported by a husband who agrees to be the bread-winner for the family. Using this case, the authors invite readers to assess whether they truly enjoy “the life of the mind,” which include self-managing an academic career where deadlines can be postponed up until a point. The authors urge readers not to opt out of the pipeline in the way that the composite case’s academic does. They want readers to examine their “motivation” for considering an academic career.
While the authors’ advice adopts a realist perspective, as we know from Herbert Simon’s work on decision-making, people often don’t know what their preferences are (or fully understand the consequences associated with certain choices), until they try them. My added suggestion is that students and tenure-track faculty try cultivating certain habits – namely, formulating research questions, writing regularly, and meeting publication deadlines – as early as possible.* If these don’t jibe, move onto other career paths.
* As an analogy, read Dan Chambliss’s “The
Mandanity Mundanity of Excellence” article about swimmers.