Academic Careers Wiki

From Rob MacDougall’s Old is the New New:

What happens when you harness the collective gossip power / angst / desperation
of thousands of job-hungry PhDs? When you take the kind of post-rejection
Kremlinology and sour grapes that we all engage(d) in during our job hunts and
wiki-fy it? It is, potentially, a lot more powerful than wistful first person columns in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. There’s room
for all sorts of hurt feelings here, not to mention breaches of confidentiality
and professional conduct. But there’s also potential to shine some badly-needed
light on a process often conducted in conditions of extreme ignorance and fear.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” said Louis Brandeis. Let the sun shine in.

Say hello to Academic Careers Wiki.  I guess it was just a matter of time given that the concept is so simple: create a message board that can be used by newly-minted Ph.D’s who are scrambing for a limited number of jobs and who experience all kinds of frustration and angst.  Now I have absolutely no experience in the college job market and after checking out some of these postings I am grateful for that fact.  Still, I find this whole thing to be very interesting and for some people potentially helpful.  Individuals can share their interview experiences and other pieces of relevant information with one another.  For example, check out the postings on job openings in Nineteenth-Century America/Civil War, which include positions at Gettysburg College and UNC-Pembroke:

Gettysburg College AHA interview scheduled
Dec. 4; rejection letter received 12/13
anyone heard anything else
here?A friend said that everyone has
interviewed on campus, as of 2/22, and that they will decide soon

Position was not filled they plan to try again next year this is a joint Civil
War Africana Studies, Civil War types get smart on Africana Studies if you want
it
Let’s be clear: Civil War types from ivy league
schools or who fit the profile of a targeted hire. Searches where the actual
contents of a C.V. supply the criteria for a first-round cut exist, but not at
places like this.

UNC Pembroke this is new (started Feb. 2) it’s late 19th, early 20th
Century.
There may be an inside candidate for this job. This person is
presently an adjunct associate professor at UNC-P and specializes in this area.
According to sources close to the search, this info is correct. _I thought this
was Berry’s position (see above)._ This news breaks my
heart.
If Berry is leaving, its not out of the realm of possibility that
UNCP got the cash to replace him and add someone. They’ve gotten pretty
aggressive at staking a larger part of NC and SC’s college student base;
especially since it has gotten tougher (over the last decade or so?) for
in-state kids to get into UNC/NC State hence, more folks at UNCP, et al. There
are definitely two different openings, and Berry definitely is not coming back.
I’m not sure where he landed, but he was on leave (sabbatical?) this year. I find it hard to believe that UNC-P is becoming the school of
choice for Chapel Hill/NC State rejects. Isn’t it the lowest-ranked of the UNC
campuses?
Regardless of what you think its ranked within the UNC system:
they are hiring, they recognize that they have a regional role to play and are
looking for the best cadidates to fullfill that mission, they are growing, and
the UNC system has been for some time filtered more in-state students away from
UNC/NC State into the regional campuses in a general sense, so as to make room
for academic superstars from out-of-state and from other nations. UNC-Asheville,
UNC-Wilmington, the rest of the what, dozen or so, universities in the UNC
system have, by and large, seen increasing enrollments (for a lot of different
reasons)in the last twenty years. And by the way, it is disgusting that you
refer to UNCP students as "rejects." I agree. I have no connection to the UNC
system, but I found that word disturbing as well. Judging by what I have seen on
the website and by how I have been treated by the chair of the search committee
for the CW job, I’d rather be here than anywhere else I applied, including
Gettysburg. Any news on this search? Has anyone heard from the
SC since 3/15?
Nothing 4/4 phone interviews have started4/5
friend of mine invited to campus on 4/13.

I spent a little time browsing different categories and what I was surprised by was the minimal amount of emotional ranting – guess you can get a blog for that.  Most of the postings offer constructive criticism of the interview process as well as helpful pointers and updates on the status of individual searches.  It almost seems to work as a grading system for individual departments, and while it is intended to be used by job seekers individual departments would be wise to consult every once in a while.  In fact, I know one graduate director in an economics department who checks in fairly regularly and finds the information to be helpful.  In the end it seems like a fantastic way of self-empowerment during a process that I assume can be a lonely experience.

Absolutely fascinating.

6 comments… add one

  • Charles Bowery Apr 20, 2007

    Kevin,
    I still want to get a PhD someday, but I will likely be in my 50s when I do. Do you see any discussions on these message boards about older PhDs and their job prospects?
    Charles

  • Kevin Levin Apr 20, 2007

    Charles, — I didn’t come across anything that focused specifically on age. That doesn’t mean that there are not people posting to these boards that are not in your age range. Perhaps you could post a question.

  • Charles Bowery Apr 20, 2007

    Kevin,
    Not in my 50s yet, thank goodness!!! Although some mornings I feel like it. I will likely retire from the Army at around 52, so unless I can figure out a way to get Uncle Sam to pay for my doctorate (which is possible), that would put me in my mid-50s doing it. The question will remain what I do with the degree.
    Charles

  • John Maass Apr 22, 2007

    Charles–the question is, what do you want to do with a PhD!!!! I am in my early 40s and went on the market, as they say. I never heard even the slightest hint that I was too old, etc. However, I think you should be aware (as you seem to be based on how you have phrased your comments) that age may indeed be a factor the older one gets. Remember, when you are evaluated for a position at a college/univ., one of the factors will be: is this guy going to be a productive scholar, and will he be with us (meaning the dept.) for awhile so we don;t have to go thru this search thing again! That may indeed have an effect for a tenure-track search, though age may actually help you of its a non-tenure track search. Also, I would think age would matter less in non-academic jobs in history.

    Good luck whatever you do…..

  • Paul Apr 23, 2007

    Kevin,

    I’m in my late-40′s and have abandoned the dream of acquiring a Ph.D and teaching at the university level as a second career. I’ll just keep doing my own research and writing and perhaps be able to do something at an cc adjunct level… I was advised off the record by TWO deans of history at local universities that due to my age, “ageism” would definitely work against me though, of course, no one would ever admit it. Secondly, that there is quite a glut of history Ph.D’s because they never retire (2nd oldest average age of all college professors – English is first), and lastly, that white-male, American history is quite passe right now — better to focus on Islamic or women’s history. Would you concur or disagree with their opinions?

  • Kevin Levin Apr 24, 2007

    Paul, — I am probably the wrong person to ask since I do not work on the college level. You should probably consider the advice of the two deans, but at the same time remember that the sample size is insignificant. As to the number of new positions in US History from what I can tell the number of open slots has increased over the past few years. Again I say this based on very vague impressions.

    Good luck whatever you choose to do.

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