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when to say yes and no in academia

Last we discussed how to say no. But there remains the question, what should you say no to? It helps to start with a baseline – what should ALL academics do?

  • Say yes to teaching at least one service course a year. Why? Most programs survive on enrollments. Unless you are a star faculty who can opt out, most people will like you if you reliably do some basic teaching.
  • Say yes to serving on one “heavy” committee per year. In most programs, this includes grad admissions, recruitment/evaluation, and the governing committee of your program. In teaching intensive, there are various undergrad affairs that require attention.
  • The tenured should say “yes” to one committee outside your program. For example, for multiple years, I served on our seed grant committee at IU. For two years, I did NSF reviews.

If you say yes to these requests, then you have earned the right to turn down other requests. But these are minimal. Here are the requests that you should say to *occassionally*:

  • Journal/book manuscript reviews. My rule is simple, I say “yes” until I have three in the hopper. Then people have to wait or go elsewhere. By saying yes, you ensure that you are giving back, you help with quality control, and you learn new research.
  • Requests for research collaboration. You only have so many hours a day, but you can say yes to really strong projects or people who have a good track record.
  • Dissertation committees. Most people can handle a few students and to be honest, being a third or fourth reader requires little work.
  • Fancy committees outside the university for non-profits or the profession.

Notice that each of these recommendations isn’t about the activity itself. It’s simply a time budget. In my experience, for example, I simply can’t do a good job reviewing if I have more than one or two papers on my desk. Either I write bad reviews or I slow down a lot. Either way, it doesn’t help anyone.

So what should you avoid in most cases?

  • Remedial work with students. Most colleges have basic support for writing and math. It is your job to teach college level material. Unless your job is in the writing program, it is not your job to teach basic writing, though you can certainly offer your opinions.
  • Personal therapy. This is really tough. But once again, in many cases, you probably aren’t qualified to give advice on issues like drug problems or sexual assault. Be compassionate but get them to the person who is qualified to help.
  • Fluff committees. These are hard to define in the abstract. But there are committees people set up just so they can sound off, not to accomplish anything of substance. In general, the core of the university is teaching, research, and fund raising. If it isn’t one of those, you should be careful.
  • Pre-tenure consulting: Unless they are paying serious cash, you should probably say no. If they pay, make sure the time commitment is limited.
  • Toxic people. Even if the activity has merit, toxic people can make the experience miserable and pull you down. Avoid at all costs.

To summarize: You should always be a good citizen. Beyond that, budget for things that are central for academic work. Beyond that, just say no.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

 

Written by fabiorojas

January 13, 2016 at 12:01 am

job market tough love from sam perry

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!!!!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

 

Written by fabiorojas

December 17, 2015 at 12:01 am

junior faculty rulz? we got ’em!

I occasionally get asked: what about career advice for junior faculty? Don’t worry – you’re covered! The Grad Skool Rulz already includes all your heart desires. Remember, the subtitle is “Everything you need to know about academia from admissions to tenure.” And that is 100% true. The GSR includes tons of information for tenure track faculty:

Chapter 42: What is Tenure?
Chapter 43: How Does Getting tenure Work?
Chapter 44: What Counts for Tenure? How Much Do I Need?
Chapter 45: Publication Strategy
Chapter 46: Working With Graduate Students
Chapter 47: Keep Everything in a Box
Chapter 48: Service, Time Management, Saying No
Chapter 49: Professional Obligations, Conferences and Referee Requests
Chapter 50: Grants and Fellowships
Chapter 51: Department Conflict
Chapter 52: Be Nice to the Staff
Chapter 53: Midterm Review and Yearly Reviews
Chapter 54: The Tenure Dossier
Chapter 55: The Actual Tenure Review Process
Chapter 56: Early Tenure and Switching Jobs
Chapter 57: Success
Chapter 58: Failure

All for a measly $2. Cheap!!!!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

October 22, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, grad school rulz

crim/deviance PhD programs?

Question: Someone asked me – good soc PhD programs for crim/deviance? Student is interested not only in elite programs (e.g., as long as Rob Sampson is at Harvard, it will produce good crim students) but also lower ranked programs that have solid placement records in crim/deviance. Please use the comment section.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

August 7, 2015 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, grad school rulz

grad skool rulz #40: the quality/quantity trade off in publishing

Students, and early career faculty, often ask about whether they should “go big” or fill up the cv with “smaller” publications. Here is my view: start by asking about the type of program you want to be in and your career stage. Then, apply the following rules:

  • High status programs prefer “big hits.” In some programs, AJS/ASR is a prerequisite for promotion and is the most common cv item for ABDs who get assistant prof jobs. If you are at such a program, or aiming for one, this is your first strategy.
  • Most other programs will be happy with a healthy number of publications in more modest journals. In fact, one can have an outstanding career in mid or low ranked MA/PhD programs with lots of “small” hits and they will almost certainly help with tenure at teaching intensive institutions.
  • If you want to move up (though not laterally), a big hit is often required. Otherwise, people will think you are only capable of small hits.
  • The tenure worthy package at most decent PhD programs is one or two “big” ones and other non-embarrassing publications. For other places, about 4-5 “small ones” will often suffice if well written.
  • Time: If you don’t have big hits, and tenure/job market is coming up, sometimes filling it up with small hits might work.
  • People in unorthodox fields can sometimes get away with specialty hits in “cool journals.” Thus, if you are in one of these fields, you might want to move along the quantity/quality curve.
  • Book writers: If your field is mainly books (historical or ethnography), you can get away with a book that counts as multiple big hits. Articles, if well written, may not need to be in top journals.

Bottom line: Big hits will always help. But unless you are at an elite program, there are many plan B’s that work well.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

June 23, 2015 at 12:01 am

grad skool rulz on sale – $1 cheap!!!

To celebrate 2015, Grad Skool Rulz is on sale for $1 till the end of Jan 2015.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power/Party in the Street!!

Written by fabiorojas

January 1, 2015 at 5:52 am

so, you wanna be fabio’s student?

In this post, I want to discuss my style as a dissertation advisor. This is mainly for potential students, but I also want to start a thread on how to best advise doctoral students in sociology and related areas.

1. Statue of Liberty: With a few exceptions, I will accept any student who needs a dissertation advisor. This is a personal decision on my part. In my career, I’ve been in institutions where students couldn’t find advisers. It’s a problem when faculty get too picky about who they take on and a few advisers get saddles with most of the load. I will not contribute to the problem. The exceptions to the Statue of Liberty policy are where (a) the student is really having academic problems; I’ve never been able to help these students as much as I have tried and (b) you happen to be in a specialty where having an non-specialist advisor will really create problems for you.

2. Even though I accept the masses, I have a few general areas where I am most helpful: orgs/economic sociology; political sociology; education/higher education; sociology of knowlegde and science; formal methods/computational sociology. Specifically: institutional theory, networks, movements, social media, rational choice, higher education/disciplines, computational sociology. I am also developing my knowledge of health.

3. General approach I: I think it is important to tailor the CV to the student. If you want an R1 job, I will encourage publication. If you want liberal arts, we will work on your teaching CV. For policy jobs, speedy completion and showing research in a policy related area.

4. General approach II: I focus on nuts and bolts “American social science.” In other words, I like clearly stated problems, high quality data and a focus on description or inference. I don’t care if you are qualitative or quantitative. Just make it good.

5. General approach III: In general, I don’t tell people what their dissertation will be about. I do try to tell them if it is a good or bad. In other words, I don’t say “this will never work.” Instead, I’ll tell you about what’s been done, what sounds good, what might get them a job and so forth. But making a decision is what the process is about. If you want to do it, convince me!

6. General approach IV: Hands on. I believe in solving problems now rather than later. Some of my students come by all the time, others once or twice a semester. In general, I believe in constant interaction so we move students forward. For this reason, I think an open doors policy is good.

7. Philosophy of the dissertation: First, my default for most sociology students is “three chapters.” Why? The dissertation is a pedagogical exercise meant to show that the student can do research. It is not a masterpiece. Also, most students will start with articles so this is good. I note that this is a default – not a rule. If a student really needs a book format dissertation, that’s ok.

8. Dissertation quality: It is important that students be judged according to their career goals. All students must submit a good dissertation but how good can vary. The research oriented PhD student should be held to a higher standard than the student who will find non-academic work.

9. Graduation: For students oriented toward academia, article = graduation. For other students, we can start the graduation process as soon as I have two or three complete empirical chapters.

Use the comment to disucss how you approach PhD training.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz/From Black Power

Written by fabiorojas

December 30, 2014 at 12:01 am

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