Brave New Ph.D

Here is a very good post on the proposed overhauls of Ph.D programs.

Did you expect to get an academic job, though? At Berkeley we were always told not to expect to get jobs, and I fully expected my academic career to end when I filed my dissertation. This may be part of my problem — professordom caught me entirely by surprise.


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Filed under Questions, Resources, What Is A Scholar?

2 responses to “Brave New Ph.D

  1. I did, yes. Of course I was afraid I would not, and I did not expect to get a job at the kind of institution I had attended, at least not at first—I hoped to work my way up to a state flagship. But my school had a decent placement rate and did quite a lot of training/assistance before these things became so common. For instance, I had a summer of training in teaching freshman writing (some people would say that is not enough, but it’s a lot more than some others get), and departmentally-organized review of job application materials, and a mock interview with debriefing afterward. I had both experience teaching and a final full-year fellowship so I could concentrate on finishing the diss and applying for jobs. Some of the job-market prep is now standard but this was not the case then. There were plenty of stories about alums now working here or there; indeed, some of them came back to give talks or teach in the summer, and I met others at conferences; my program still has a strong though informal alumni network. And my professors were generally encouraging; they never said “you won’t get a job.” Some allowed as how the market was tough, but mostly they predicted success for their students. We did have a few who dropped out before finishing, several who got jobs and then decided they didn’t like either the work or the place, and one who got very ill (Lyme disease or something like that) about the time of finishing, who followed her husband to his job and never tried for a TT position, but by and large, we’ve done okay.

    • Z

      In our case, the phlegmatic men in Classics who were the ones that got the entering fellowships, as opposed to TAships starting out, and were of a different caste than the lumpen-modernists (n.b. for us modernity starts where late antiquity ends). They seemed to see themselves differently and things worked out differently for them, too.

      We did in fact have the job market and c.v. prep which is why in fact I always did fairly well. I had lots of teaching experience, conferences, fellowships, and at least one well placed article by the time I finished.

      But, we were told we would not get jobs and I believed it. This was in the late eighties. I was in graduate school for personal development and professional experience, and expected to go on to an internship in a think tank of some sort and then a research / writing job in an NGO or some sort of government agency. Not because I wouldn’t like an academic job, but because I had been told I had better prepare myself for alt-ac. I therefore sort of tracked myself that way, which is what put me into the less than interesting academic jobs I have mostly had.

      Our program was very demanding; I finished in nine years which was faster than average; most people did not finish and many of those who did were exhausted. What was so exhausting really was the negativity, the you will never get a job patter. Part of why faculty did not attach to us was that they assumed we would not finish, since so few stayed. Another issue is that we were not in their departments all the time (we were Comp. Lit.!) or if we were, we were not in their fields. We had no idea we were being so brilliantly prepared, but we were.


      I think part of this had to do with the Spanish department. I emphasized what I did because of the job market, but I note that the people in some languages did better than those in others, because of departmental atmospheres. A lot of the people who were in French, for instance, a shrinking field, have actually done really well, as have many English and Ethnic Studies people. Those in Spanish, Russian, German, Classics, and anything Oriental or Asian who are now happy are fewer, and I think this has to do with having gotten beaten up more.

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