Pearls of Wisdom–The Blog

~~ “You tell the truth, you tell it well. In the crowded and fetid swamp that is the job market, that is oxygen.” – a reader

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It also makes a great gift for all those struggling grad students in your life!

For bulk orders for use in classes, seminars, and workshops, please call Crown Publishing  (Random House) Customer Service at 1-800-733-3000.

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MORE ABOUT THE BOOK

The definitive career guide for grad students, adjuncts, post-docs and anyone else eager to get tenure or turn their Ph.D.  into their ideal job.

Karen Kelsky has made it her mission to help readers join the select few who get the most out of their Ph.D. As a former tenured professor and department head who oversaw numerous academic job searches, she knows from experience exactly what gets an academic applicant a job. And as the creator of the popular and widely respected advice site The Professor is In, she has helped countless Ph.D.’s turn themselves into stronger applicants and land their dream careers.

Now, for the first time ever, Karen has poured all her best advice into a single handy guide that addresses the most important issues facing any Ph.D., including:

-When, where, and what to publish
-Writing a foolproof grant application
-Cultivating references and crafting the perfect CV
-Acing the job talk and campus interview
-Avoiding the adjunct trap
-Making the leap to nonacademic work, when the time is right

The Professor Is In addresses all of these issues, and many more.

If you would like your academic career to begin in delusion and end in disillusionment, then by all means, ignore Karen Kelsky. If, however, you want unvarnished straight talk about the academic job market—and how to navigate it—then heed her, and heed her now.” —Rebecca Schuman, education columnist for Slate.

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ABOUT THE BLOG

I post once a week, usually on Friday, on topics related to the academic job market, academic life and politics, general professionalization skills related to writing, publishing, conferencing, networking, and scholarly comportment, and the tenure process.

I also put up posts on the Post-Ac/Non-Ac job search by my Panel of Post-Ac Experts, on Monday or Tuesday.

Let me know if there’s a topic you want to see me post on!  I am always happy to put Special Requests into the queue. Comment here, or email me at: gettenure@gmail.com.

You can  always get to a particular Category by clicking it in the Categories column to the right.———>

Please note that as of January 2013  the rate of comments to this blog has exceeded my ability to respond individually to each one. I’m sorry that not all comments will get a personal response by Dr. Karen.  If you have a really pressing question, do consider getting in touch to get on my calendar to work together.  I strive to make services affordable to all.

Here’s a short glossary to help you follow the discussions in the blog:

  • TT– tenure track
  • VAP–visiting assistant professor (position)
  • ABD–all but dissertation (status)
  • SLAC–small liberal arts college
  • R1–top ranked research-intensive institution with Ph.D.-granting departments, such as University of California at Berkeley, University of Michigan, etc.
  • R2–research institution with primarily MA-granting departments

Leaving the Academy: The Painting

Kellee is recently obsessed with the painter, Remedios Varo (1908-1963), who was born in Spain but spent most of her artistic life in Mexico. Like most women painters, she is vastly underrecognized, even though she made a major feminist intervention into the prevailing surrealist ethos of her time.

In the one substantial edition available of her works, we found the picture called “Rupture” (1955). I instantly connected to it–never have I seen myself so perfectly represented in a piece of art, I said.

The next day, Kellee remarked: “That piece is also the most perfect image of leaving the academy imaginable!”

We studied it. “Yes!” I said, “the isolation!” Kellee: “the staring, judging men!” Me: “the tower!” Kellee: “the papers blowing behind you!” Me: “the glowering oppressiveness!” Kellee: “All those… EYES…”

So, here it is. I present to you: Rupture, by Remedios Varo.


Don’t Adjunct at Wright State University – It is Scab Labor

Real-time Alert: Wright State University faculty have been on strike for over two weeks.

This week Wright State University admin has sent out a call for adjuncts to fill in the positions of the striking faculty members. They are offering on-campus housing as well.

This is a call for union-busting scab labor. As someone on FB remarked: “on-campus housing? May as well call it scrip at the company store.”

I have never before used my platform to urge readers to boycott a job ad, but I am doing it now.

Please do not apply for the adjunct positions advertised by Wright State University.

I will append more info and links below as I get them. You can follow faculty member Crystal Lake on Twitter for real-time updates. Read below for reports from striking faculty members as shared on the thread on TPII Facebook Page.

Sign this petition in support of the striking faculty members.

From Crystal Lake: “Thank you for helping get the word out about the true nature of this job ad. I’m a striking faculty member at Wright State. I have loved working here since 2011 thanks in no small part to our strong faculty union. Our union has worked hard to protect our working conditions. Our union has also worked hard to ensure that the expectations for promotion and tenure here are reasonable and that the process is transparent. I’m hoping that when this is all said and done, the union’s voice is the one that people will remember about Wright State and that faculty governance will be restored as a defining feature of our institutional culture–and that we can all look forward to a day when Wright State’s job ads will return to honoring the integrity of academic labor and we can all be excited to welcome new colleagues into our ranks and our union.”

From striking faculty member Christopher DeWeese: “Thanks for sharing. I teach at Wright State, and you can bet that if what the admin is trying out works here, it will become the playbook for union busting everywhere. We need all of your eyes to watch our struggle, please.”

From striking Anthropologist Amelia Hubbard: “Thanks for your support. I am a striking faculty member in Anthropology. We have conceded $8 million in this negotiation and offered a significantly worse contract than we’ve ever had, all while protecting both tenure track AND full time (non tenure track) instructors and lecturers. This is a fight for control of the academic mission, not money and will dictate other unions’ abilities to negotiate in our home state. This sets a precedent nationally. These fights matter, because the goal is to bust unions (and as others in this thread without unions have noted… universities are operating on bottom lines over the ethical treatment of their employees).”

From striking faculty member Sarah McGinley: “Thank you! I’m striking WSU faculty and we are fighting not just for ourselves and our students, but for higher ed everywhere.”

#MakeupMonday: Thick

TPII Editor Maggie Levantovskaya kindly gifted me a copy of Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom’s book Thick last week. (I took a selfie with the book to send Maggie as part of my thank yous, and we had a moment of appreciation for the way my lipcolor (BeautyBakerie Lip Whip in Take Me to Pomegranate) picked up the color of the subtitle. OK, that’s the makeup part of this post. Beauty Bakerie is black woman owned and dedicated to makeup for ALL. Support them! Moving on.)

The book is a tour de force, written by the author, who is a Professor of Sociology at VCU, to encompass, as the Kirkus Review says, “the whole range of her being” – her academic expertise and her pain and fury living as a black woman in America.

Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom

I am stepping through the book slowly, taking the time to sit with each chapter. I hope you will read it. This week, for #MakeupMonday (I’ve been working on it all week!) I want to share the second chapter, “In the Name of Beauty.”

The chapter makes a simple and devastating claim: a black woman cannot be ‘beautiful’ in America in 2019. This has nothing to do with how any individual black woman actually looks. It has everything to do with the fact that in a society dominated absolutely by the valorization of whiteness, anything that contradicts whiteness must be seen as un-beautiful. The origin of the chapter is a piece McMillan Cottom wrote in 2012 stating “blithely,” in her words, “the observable fact that I am unattractive.”

This claim produced an intense reaction from black women, white women, and black men. Nobody was happy with it, or with McMillan Cottom for making it. The chapter walks us through why. But she’s not having it.

“For beauty to function as it should, it must exclude me. Big Beauty-the structure of who can be beautiful, the stories we tell about beauty, the value we assign beauty, the power given to those with beauty, the disciplining effect of the fear of losing beauty you might possess–definitionally excludes the kind of blackness I carry in my history and my bones. Beauty is for white women, if not for all white women.”

McMillan Cottom’s claim is not, emphatically, about acquiescing in, ie, internalizing, negative white judgment about black looks – hers or anyone else’s. It’s about objectively observing that in a racist white society, whiteness circumscribes the bounds of “beauty.” As she writes, “I sound like I am internalizing a white standard of beauty that black women fight hard to rise above. But my truth is quite the opposite. When oppressed people become complicit in their oppression, joining the dominant class in their ideas about what we are, it is symbolic violence.”

Beauty in this way is always in the service to property, specifically, white monopolization of capital.

In other words, attempts to reclaim particular kinds of black beauty reenact the violence of capital that is always, in the end, in the service of whiteness.

“That’s why beauty can never be about preference. ‘I just like what I like’ is always a capitalist lie. Beauty would be a useless concept for capital if it were only a preference in the purest sense. Capital demands that beauty be coercive. If beauty matters at all to how people perceive you, how institutions treat you, which rules are applied to you, and what choices you can make, then beauty must also be a structure of patterns, institutions, and exchanges that eats your preferences for lunch.”

Shorter version I: “(if) I believe that I can become beautiful, I become an economic subject. My desire becomes a market.”

Shorter version II: “If beauty is to matter at all for capital, it can never be for black women.”

Thus it doesn’t really matter that this or that individual black woman has been elevated as beautiful, or that beauty standards evolve, seemingly becoming more embracing of variety. Because in the end beauty-capital – and all capital – only flows in one way.

“When white feminists catalogue how beauty standards over time have changed, from the ‘curvier’ Marilyn Monroe to the skeletal Twiggy to the synthetic-athletic Pamela Anderson, their archetypes belie beauty’s true function: whiteness. Whiteness exists as a response to blackness. Whiteness is a violent sociocultural regime legitimized by property to always make clear who is black by fastidiously delineating who is officially white. It would stand to reason that beauty’s ultimate function is to exclude blackness…. As long as beautiful people are white, what is beautiful at any given time can be renegotiated without redistributing capital from white to nonwhite people.”

Leading to the gut punch: “When I say that I am unattractive or ugly, I am not internalizing the dominant culture’s assessment of me. I am naming what has been done to me. And signaling who did it.”

So, all this alone would be a chapter.

But this is not the end of the chapter.

Because then McMillan Cottom invites us to share the ways that white women (and some black men) reacted to this claim. Reacted, that is, “with impassioned cases for how beautiful I am.” She writes,” [White women] offered me neoliberal self-help nonsense that borders on the religious. They need me to believe beauty is both achievable and individual…”

White women’s desperate efforts to show beauty as individual and achievable have an implicit (and likely unconscious) agenda: to make the author the object of revision, rather than white capitalist supremacy.

“It may seem to privileged people,” McMillan Cottom observes, “that it is easier to fix me than it is to fix the world.”

“I live to disabuse people of that notion,” she notes, in one of her countless devastating seemingly throwaway lines.

Why do white women need to individualize, or personalize, beauty? “Because the alternative makes them vulnerable. If you did not earn beauty, never had the real power to reject it, then you as much a vulnerable subject as I am in your own way.”

To which McMillan Cottom remarks: “deal with that [vulnerability] rather than dealing with me.”

I had a sudden thought for how a conversation would go, among my liberal white women friends who have “good” politics, if I were to, say, report to them the point of this chapter: “This black sociologist says that in the eyes of America, she is unattractive.” “Oh no! No no no!” they would respond in utter, wide-eyed, horror. “Of COURSE not! She’s BEAUTIFUL!” “Yes but she’s claiming that to say that only white women are defined as ‘beautiful’ due to the dominance of whiteness, ie, white supremacy, in the service of capitalism.” “Well that’s just WRONG! *I* don’t believe that! Maybe before but not now! Look at Lupita Nyong’o! She’s GORGEOUS!”

This is exactly what McMillan Cottom is writing about. I know she’s right. Why would this happen? Because, I can feel in my very bones, without literal years of dedicated anti-racism work, we white women will always disavow the privilege that we KNOW (at very deep and unspoken levels) we have.

And again, all of this is in the service of capital. “All of the admonishments that I should ‘love myself,’ and am ‘as cute as a button,’ from well-intentioned white women stem from their need for me to consume what is produced for them.”

Why?

“White women need me to believe I can earn beauty, because when I want what I cannot have, what they have becomes all the more valuable.”

“I refuse them,” McMillan Cottom responds.

This chapter does much more than my brief summary here, especially around the responses by black men. But this is a #MakeupMonday post, so I’ll stop here.

This chapter is about makeup and not about makeup. The author expresses no opinions on that point. I’ve seen her chat about makeup on Twitter, and she seems to have no issue with it. Use makeup or don’t, you are still operating in the field of “beauty” that will exact its price regardless of what you want. Nobody gets secure access to that field because even “beautiful” white women occupy it only temporarily, and meanwhile it evolves continually to constantly renew its markets by destabilizing consumers.

So, what’s the right move, here?

“I want nice people with nice enough politics to look at me, reason for themselves that I am worthy, and feel convicted when the world does not agree. God willing they may one day extrapolate my specific case to the general rules, seeing the way oppression marginalizes others to their personal benefit.”

The issue is less about what you purchase, and more about, purchasing or not, you are situated in a beauty economy that must exclude blackness, as part of its determination to elevate whiteness and make black girls and women abject.

“It is actually blackness, as it has been created through the history of colonization, imperialism and domination, that excludes me from the forces of beauty.”

Black girls and women are deprived of childhood, never seen as young and innocent, considered simultaneously incompetent and dangerous, punished excessively, deprived of safe childbirth (the subject of another devastating chapter in Thick), and in grave danger when seeking medical care. Because black women are seen as not deserving. As Tressie McMillan Cottom shows us, the lie is in denying this reality, not trying to cover it over with a good (indeed even a Fenty) foundation.

Use the Spring Well

For those who know you’ll be on the job market in Fall 2019, I am offering two services over the next two months that may be of help.

These are limited time services, and only available between now and end of March; once all the available slots fill, they’ll be finished (until Spring 2020, that is!)

The Spring 3-Document Package is a discounted rate to help you get the core job application documents done well in advance of the Fall rush. And of course, it does also prepare you for any late-breaking openings you happen to encounter this Spring.

The CV Strategizing Service is something I offer each year to help you get a candid review of your CV now, to be able to identify any gaps or red flags, and make a plan to address them for next Fall.

Read below for details. And, by the way, like I do every Spring semester, I am offering limited slots for Individual Consulting by email or skype. I’ll help you think through dilemmas and worries related to the job market, your record, publishing anxieties, teaching and grad student concerns, strategizing your next job, departmental politics, dealing with abusive situations and sexual harassment, third year review, tenure and promotion, moving mid-career, administrative options, and more. Please email me if you want to learn more about that, at gettenure@gmail.com.

You can find info on all three on The Prof Shop Page, as always!

**Spring 3-Document Package**

Get your core job application documents edited this Spring at a special reduced rate of $380. I offer this special package to encourage folks to get help early for Fall 2019 (and to catch those late season Spring openings). Done separately, these three documents normally cost $450.

This package normally includes work on your Cover Letter, CV, and Teaching Statement.

This reduced rate only comes once a year!

Fine Print: Once you make the purchase, email Karen to set a start date on the calendar. You will submit one document at a time, beginning with your cover letter. Expect the entire process to take about 1 month. If you want to request a different set of documents, please email me at gettenure@gmail.com to discuss.

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**CV Strategizing Service**

What you do in the next six months is critical for your competitiveness on next year’s academic job market. In this short-term service that I offer each Spring, I examine and evaluate your CV for any gaps, weaknesses or red flags, and help you create a plan to remedy them in time for the Fall 2019 job market.

$175

**After you purchase this Session you must email me, Karen, at gettenure@gmail.com to set a date on the calendar for the work to begin.

#MakeupMonday: Always Try New Things

One of my very favorite things to do is to score a big free sample promotion at Ulta or Sephora. Last week I got a set of 29 items from Ulta, plus the usual two samples that you can always choose with every purchase. I make sure to strategize the replacement of my pricier regular products to grab promotions like these whenever I can, since there is usually a minimum purchase required. Last week I replaced my Perricone eye cream. I make sure to pace those replacements out so as to maximize my opportunities, so I’ll postpone replacing my mascara, for example, until some other appealing sample set comes up (unless of course I am totally out–but I try never to let that happen.)

Two bags of stuff!

The cleanser samples, in particular, are my favorites for travel, since unlike the rest of my skin care routine–I’m not super picky about my cleanser. The samples I’m not interested in I save for my skin care-loving friends, and for you, my readers, when I do giveaways for commenters.

So many things to play with!

There were cleansers, serums, moisturizers, eye creams, lip balms, masks… all sorts of little treasures! I’ve been working my way through many of them. And while my bar is really, really high for replacing the products in my beloved routine, I have found some awesome masks, and an Algenist moisturizer/sunscreen/blurring primer (pictured below) that is a game-changer.

Even Algenist and Perricone!

Another delight of the sample life is that when I share my samples with friends, they share their samples with me! So my dear friend Lillian shared a precious dollop of her Hormeta Flash Gold Shining Maskthat I tried last weekend.

Hormeta Gold Shining Mask

I’m honestly not sure that this $200 mask made all that much difference, and I won’t be going out to buy it, but I did appreciate the chance to try it. Thanks, Lillian!

And continuing in my experimental mode, I’m still on this strange and quixotic false lashes project. I have no idea why – I’m just endlessly curious to see if I can make them work. After weeks of struggle, I finally took some advice serendipitously offered by the checkout clerk at TJ Maxx (who I was commiserating with!) and switched to small partials just in my outer corners. And lo, it worked!

Outer corner falsies (and Beauty Bakerie Take Me To Pomegranate)

All this to say – the fun of makeup for me is experimentation. It’s fun to have a place in life to just play, with no stakes at all. In the stresses of life in the US these days, a space to play is good.

Anthropology’s Alternative Facts

After attending the AAA and AAR meetings, I wrote a blog post called A Tale of Two Conferences. In it, I bemoaned the sorry state of the AAA’s engagement with issues of real-life (as opposed to academic jargon) precarity and the scandal of adjunctification, in terms of any kind of visible programming dedicated to Ph.D. career assistance.

Very shortly after its posting, Dr. Ed Liebow, the Executive Director of the AAA, commented on that post. Here is his comment in its entirety (bolding added):

I completely agree with Dr. Kelsky’s view that the future of our discipline depends on revamping our training programs. It is absolutely central to my personal mission as AAA Executive Director to make the association a more welcoming organizational home to anthropologists employed (or aspiring to employment) in the business, government, and non-profit sectors. That is my own decades-long career background; I am convinced it is where the future of the discipline is headed, and I am pretty sure it is why the Executive Board hired me in the first place.

So when I read Dr. Kelsky’s account of her experiences earlier this month at the Annual Meetings of the AAA and the American Academy of Religions / Society for Biblical Literature, I wondered whether she and I attended the same AAA Annual Meeting.

By my count, there were 33 events on the program that had an explicit focus on careers in business, government, and non-profit sectors (see full list at the end of this comment). These events ranged from workshops in specific sectors to mentoring events to a field trip to the Googleplex to paper presentations in career domains as varied as museums, cultural resource management, user experience research, and health care. One of these events, the Careers Expo, featured more than 60 employer organizations in the business/government/NGO sector, and attracted more than 700 visitors over the course of the afternoon-long event.

Is it an upstream swim against a strong current to re-orient training programs so they valorize a diverse range of career paths and actually prepare students to be anthropologists, and not just anthropology professors? Yes, unfortunately, but there are promising signals that the tide is shifting. A summer institute of department leaders hosted by AAA in 2018 focused a considerable amount of discussion on promising practices in training program innovations, and we will continue these institutes. An Association board strategy session committed further resources to professional development across the whole post-graduate career trajectory, and we are contemplating a major fund-raising campaign that will focus on pipeline issues, professional development, and public outreach to increase awareness of the important contributions that anthropologists make to the world from a variety of different organizational platforms.

Here is my message to Dr. Kelsky and other anthropologists working in business, government, and non-profit settings: please join us to help the Association live up to its full potential as a scholarly and professional association that helps advance our understanding of the human condition and applies that understanding to tackling the world’s most pressing problems.

2018 Annual Meeting Events open to all registered attendees:
1. Anthropologists in Tech: Making the Transition from Academia to UX Research
2. Anthropology Outside Academia, Part I: Personal Reflections from Anthropologists working in User Experience Research and Design
3. Anthropology Outside Academia, Part II: Personal Reflections from Anthropologists Working in Business, Marketing, and Consulting
4. How I Built my (Van) Life
5. Profiting from Wind Shifts: Wall Street Traders, Sailors, and the Digital Transformation of Investment Banking
6. User/Design Researcher by Trade, Anthropologist at Heart: Discovering Anthropology Outside Academia through the Encounter with Cultural Others
7. We All Work in Tech Now: Some Reflections on Shifts in Career Paths in Stock Trading
8. 2018 AQA Diversity Speed-Mentoring Session
9. Anthropology between Academia and Practice
10. Black Girl Participation in Technology: Past, Present, and Future
11. Consulting in Organizational Culture and Change
12. Craft: Contestation, Adaptation and Resistance
13. Design Anthropology: three stories about cultural critique outside the academy and teaching anthropologists
14. Doing Consumer Research and Collaborating with Clients
15. Evaluation Anthropology Mentoring Session
16. Linguistic Lives as Working Lives: Legal Interpreters and Labor Organizers as Language Workers
17. Participatory Research and Ethics in Mesoamerican Fieldwork
18. Training Anthropologists Rather Than Professors
19. 13th Annual NAPA / AAA Careers Expo: Exploring Professional
20. Anthropological Pioneers in Silicon Valley
21. Anthropology in the Digital Age: A Personal Chronicle, 1962-2018
22. I Am the Very Model of a Modern Anthropologist
23. Navigating Careers in Archaeology: A Mentoring Session Sponsored by the Archaeology Division for Student Members
24. Teaching Museum Anthropology and Cultural Equity by Design
25. Technological Innovations in Anthropology at the Dawn of the Digital Era
26. ABA/AFA/ALLA/AQA/SAW Mentoring Event: Career Strategies for Contingent Faculty
27. Addressing Academic Precarity: How to Transition from Academia to Industry
28. Change in the Anthropological Vocation: Resisting and Adapting Ethnography in Silicon Valley
29. Middle East Section (MES) Mentoring Meetings
30. NAPA Networking Event
31. Standing up for Anthropology: Learning to communicate effectively across disciplines and showcasing the value of anthropological knowledge
32. Square Pegs in Round Holes

I was pleased at Ed’s comment, and took it entirely at face value. I believed he was engaging in total good faith, because it never occurred to me for a moment to imagine that the Executive Director of an academic association would do otherwise.

And so I responded instantly to him, writing as follows:

I’m glad to hear it, Ed. Is there any way to search the schedule/app so that all of these show up under a single heading, so that the job seeker can target their conference time? in other words, are these collected together under a “Careers” (or some other term) heading? Because, if not, they will not be locatable to the vast majority, and will remain known only to silo-ed sets of members (ie, the middle east section, or the ABA, etc. etc.). What I found effective in the AAR conference was the way that all careers-related content was highly promoted, and also searchable using a single term in their schedule and app.

And Ed, I’m glad you’re doing all this, but I don’t get the impression it’s visible to most vulnerable, precariously-employed members, because the AAA does NOT enjoy a good reputation among them. So step two needs to be: make it visible, make it accessible, make it affordable.

Ed did not respond.

Two other anthropologists did, however. One of them – “Avery” – shared the actual abstracts of two of the papers that Ed was proudly touting as evidence of the AAA’s careers-related programming. Neither of them had anything to do with careers. They were standard scholarly conference papers.

And the other commenter shared this: “I was part of one of those 33 sessions that are listed (but not one for which Avery helpfully provided an abstract). We briefly touched on alt-ac, but it was certainly not the focus (intended or actual) of our panel.”

This commenter concluded, “I find it a bit disingenuous to include it on a list of panels about alt-ac options.”

And I am left with only one conclusion. Ed Liebow, Executive Director of the AAA, came onto my website, and lied to me, and to my readers.

He made flatly untrue statements that 33 events were “career-related” when they were not.

Let’s look at the list above with a more discerning eye: #s 4, 5, 7, 12, 17, 20, 21, 32…. at the very least those are not papers/panels devoted to career support for precarious/vulnerable Ph.D.s. Furthermore, #s 8, 10, 26, and 29 are events arranged by particular interest groups for the benefit of their own members, and not initiatives of the AAA. It is unethical for the Executive Director of the main organization to attempt to claim credit for events the organization did nothing to organize.

Ed’s list indicates that there were indeed more careers events on the AAA meetings schedule than I realized, and I am very, very glad that there were. But there were nowhere near the 33 claimed.

I have not delved deeper into the minutiae of the list to find a precise breakdown, because the exact number does not matter.

What matters is that the Executive Director of the American Anthropological Association DOES NOT CARE ENOUGH about Ph.D. precarity to be bothered to provide either accuracy or truth about actual AAA careers programming.

Or, in the idiom of our times: careers programming for unemployed anthropology Ph.D.s is clearly such a nothingburger for the AAA that any old slipshod list of alternative facts can be thrown together as “evidence” of action.

Maybe there were 5 events, maybe 10… but when the Executive Director of an academic association will lie in public to try and make that association’s record of caring about the precarious look better than it is… well, that establishes beyond the shadow of a doubt that the problem itself starts at the very top. And as sorry as I am to say so, it confirms my impression that the AAA indeed does not care, and is not acting in good faith to seriously prioritize the needs of the actually vulnerable.

#MakeupMonday: “Dressing Like a Congresswoman”

Twitter lost it when AOC and all the other magnificent women of color were sworn in to the House last week.

This Tweet in particular:

It prompted so much wonderful commentary.

Here is Maiysha Kai in The Root:

“Indeed, as we’ve previously reported (and endlessly experienced), women in general, and particularly women of color, are regularly policed for their appearances. Our hair, our nails, our wardrobes…all are considered criteria for our ability to do our jobs and be taken seriously. And while a hoop and a strong lip may not seem an act of rebellion worth remarking on, one need only look at the old white men’s club Ocasio-Cortez is entering to understand its impact.

Better yet, consider the cries of broken royal protocol on the single occasion now-duchess Meghan Markle wore a dark nail to a public appearance (a personal preference of the Queen, but far from a law). Or Serena Williams’ French Open catsuit, which prompted major debate on how even a world-class player should be allowed to dress on the tennis court. Or the longstanding military ban on dreadlocks and braided styles, which has only recently begun to be lifted. Or Michelle Obama’s post-White House fashion, which she’s admitted is a demonstration of her new sense of freedom.

While it’s easy to point to the institutions in which these women have chosen to function as justification for regulating their appearances, the deeper implication is that they are somehow fundamentally inappropriate in their aesthetic choices. The message is that women must be controlled, corrected, and dimmed to be deemed acceptable.

So, yes, it may be a small thing, but it is both refreshing and an act of rebellion to rock a red lip on the congressional floor—or a red nail to the bench of the Supreme Court. It is its own declaration of independence, and an assertion of the fact that we have the right to occupy those spaces, just as we are.”

“Zabrinadel” tweeted: “As a Latina who works in a law firm environment, I sometimes, with trepidation, wear my thick gold hoops and some bright lipstick to work. Seeing you wear both to freaking CONGRESS was really affirming. Helps me realize I can wear both CONFIDENTLY, without second guessing myself.”

Many other women wrote things like this:

Adriana Catano on Remezcla explained further: “For women of color, wearing hoops – especially those of the shoulder-grazing variety – has come with plenty of criticism. With some calling the dangly earrings unprofessional and others labeling them “ghetto,” wearing these spherical baubles has become an act of resistance for some. That’s why it’s not surprising that many women of color were moved when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sported a sizable pair for her inauguration into Congress. Wearing her signature red lip and a white suit – which she chose to pay tribute to suffragettes and Shirley Chisholm – AOC made a statement on Thursday and channeled Sonia Sotomayor.”

And then there was this commenter on the North Star FB page :

All of this relates so much to why I started the #MakeupMonday series. And the last year of guest posts by women of color about their makeup and fashion choices just drives home the point: there is nothing frivolous about how any of us choose to look. And makeup and accessories are markers of identity and power, particularly for many women of color. The explosion of “color” in the photos above is the very opposite of random, or meaningless; all those colors – on lips, in clothes, on skin – are replete with history and cultural meaning. I’m delighted to see it celebrated, and getting ever more normalized with our wonderful new representatives.

A Joyful Job Market Digest

Normally I put the Job Market Digest on Facebook only, but my wonderful new Executive Assistant, Rain Rue (please say hello to her!) took the trouble of gathering together the outcome emails that had been gathering in the inbox the past few months. So I am posting them here.

It’s nice to be able to share the joy, and I want to particularly draw your attention to what I call “Joy of editing” emails (they are near the end), because they show how the document work itself is meaningful, entirely separate from any particular outcome. And I really love the very last entry, about Kellee’s and my Facebook Lives. Those are labors of love for us. “Neither of you pulls any punches,” writes the poster, “but you’re both tough and gentle in different, but complementary, ways. I don’t know how this works, but it really does.” 

Kellee and I both dearly love to hear when we have made a difference. Please don’t hesitate to write and tell us, no matter what the context. We take just as much pride in those who decide to leave the academy, or make a radical change, as those who get the kinds of jobs I am listing here today.  Tenure track jobs are just one option among many #realac futures.

Multiple TT job offers, client, Poli Sci: “Hi Karen, I wanted to send a final update and tally on my job market experience. First, and most importantly, I’ve accepted a position as assistant professor of political science at [Private] University! I’m beyond excited and happy to have some finality this early in the cycle. In the end, I had 13 conference interviews, 7 phone interviews, 8 campus interviews (of which I attended 6), and 4 offers. Thank you so much for helping me craft strong job materials. I have no doubt that working with you gave me a real edge and will make sure to recommend your services to friends going on the market in the future.”

TT job offer, Music, ABD at an R1 in music; Teaching college: “Dr. Karen’s blog and book were so helpful as I went through my first round of TT job applications – her advice about the interview process and campus visit were spot on. I constantly recommend this book to people thinking about a career in academia as a clear, realistic perspective on succeeding in a field that is often frustratingly opaque.”

Negotiating client, Psychology: “After 8 years in a non-TT, grant-funded research position, I was contacted by two academic departments and encouraged to apply to open TT positions. I sought advice from former colleagues that had gone on the job market directly following post-doc about what I could reasonably expect in terms of salary, start-up, etc… In general, the feedback was that TT jobs are more valued than my current position and I should expect to take a pay cut, ask for less start-up than I was planning, accept whatever the university offers for moving expenses. When the first interview offer came through, I was asked to bring a detailed list of start-up needs. I reached out to Karen because the advice of my colleagues wasn’t sitting right with me; it didn’t feel right to uproot my family for less money and a start-up package that wouldn’t allow me to rebuild my productive research program in a new location. She was flexible and was able to provide her negotiation assistance service even though I wasn’t at the offer stage. Since I was being recruited, Karen advised me to ask for more money, more start-up funds, more research space, double the moving expenses than I was planning. Even though the chair only asked for start-up costs, Karen also advised me to be upfront about my salary requirements, space needs, and realistic moving expenses. When the offer came through, it was everything I had requested, allowing me to accept the position without any further negotiations.

TT job offer and negotiating client, Sociology, ABD, mid-tier R1, the offer regional teaching: “I’m a reader of the blog and the book, purchased several of the webinars, and an interview intervention (and now negotiating assistance) client.

I consulted TPII every step of the way throughout my job application process, everything from how to write a cover letter to what to wear on the campus visit. At each new step in the job search process I would turn to TPII– I can’t overstate how helpful it has been to have a reliable source of information and expertise to fill in what my advisors on campus were unable to provide. Reading the blogs, the book, and watching the webinars (and following the advice) helped me to get 7 phone/Skype interviews my first year on the market, and the interview intervention helped me turn 3 (and counting!) of those into campus visit invitations, and now an offer!”

Interview success, client: “Dear Karen and Kellee: I wanted to thank you for the document editing services, as well as the Skype interview intervention — I now have two campus visits lined up for January! Thank you for providing a much needed service. Wishing you a wonderful holiday season.”

TT job offer, client, STEM field: “I just wanted to drop you a note and say thanks for your work editing my documents last year. I just accepted a great tenure-track position at a small research-focused university in eastern Canada

During my campus visit, three people brought up the quality of my documents. First, the department’s curator (and the only faculty member of colour) complimented my diversity statement for being thoughtful and on point. Next, the VP Academic called my teaching statement “outstanding”. Finally, the Dean of Science said my research statement was the most exciting and compelling statement he’d read in recent memory. His support translated into a start-up supplement of $50k from the provincial government.”

Interview request, client: “I thought you might like to know that I have a skype interview on Monday at a small private Liberal arts college —they got back to me on Thursday afternoon, so I am spending the weekend in rehearsal and suit shopping, and setting up lights … But this really is due to fabulous editing your end, so I wanted to say thank you!

TT job offer, client, Architecture: “Dear Karen & Kellee, I’m writing to share the news that today I accepted an TT AP offer from [Small college]! The proverbial jelly beans in the easter egg worked! 😉 But in all seriousness, I want to thank you both for your work with me both this time around, and back in 2015. I feel so grateful for your guidance on the documents and the process, and I feel like I have grown as a scholar and as a self-promoter in strategic ways thanks to your guidance. I also feel so lucky to have landed at [Small college]. It’s just the kind of academic environment I was hoping for and this conclusion feels especially sweet (and still a bit surreal) after working for it for so long.”

TT job offer, client, Australian institution: “…I knew this offer was generous to begin with so I was pleased with the additions to the new contract. Thank you for letting me know what to ask, as my contract (3 years) has gone up $5,000 per year. Plus the funded trip to Australia. I am sure when I have to re-negotiate after my mid-tenure review, I will be in contact to ask for what I deserve.”

Tenured job offer, reader: “Just wanted to thank you for the fantastic resources on your website.  I just accepted a lateral offer (full prof with tenure), and I’m so happy.  I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time, but throughout the process, I returned to your website to read and re-read your advice.  I particularly paid attention to what you said about preparing for the skype interview, your reminders about not babbling on during the skype and on-campus visits, your tips about reading up on current events, and just preparing the job talk like crazy.  I was really busy during the process with a teaching overload and job talk prep, so I might not have read up on current events, but with three weeks of reading (and somewhat skimming) the Economist, the NYT, the Atlantic monthly, the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and others, I was prepared to talk on the various topics that came up over dinner and during the campus visit.  With all this preparation, I felt fairly confident on the visit and was able to do my best. I highly recommend your website and resources to everyone on the academic market, because you state exactly what hiring committees want and expect, including their unstated expectations. Of course, these jobs are highly sought-after, and many people are qualified on paper. I think your advice makes a huge difference for those who are willing to listen and prepare according to what you say.” 

TT job offer, client, Kinesiology: “Thanks again for all the help during the job application process. I was able to secure a position at one of the top institutions in my field as an ABD and strongly believe the  guidance from TPII played a significant role in that. I look forward to working with you again.”

TT job offer, Reader and negotiation client, Art History: “I am at least a few months late on this but I had to write to thank you properly and share the happy ending of my job application season. I was on the job market last year, applied internationally and across disciplines, and had a good run. I got 6 campus visit invitations in total: 3 in the US (2 of which I had to miss because my visiting visa application was rejected under the travel ban, but the third one decided to do the campus visit via Skype), 1 in Canada, 1 in the UK, and 1 in Australia. Out of the four second round interviews that I managed to attend I received three offers for tenure-track/permanent positions. You might remember that I was working with you while negotiating with 2 of these. On top of these I got a year-long portable fellowship which I managed to keep at the institution where I was based as a post-doc, and two short-term fellowships for archival research in the UK.

Some days I forget how amazing all of this is. I have been having a hard few months after signing my contract, mentally and physically. I think all the anxiety from last year have been taking its toll on me. On good days I am excited about my new job and really look forward to getting to know a new country. I have been writing quite a lot this fall, whenever I was well. I try to remind myself of what happened, how and why it happened, and how it ended. This email is helping me with that. Looking back at how I started applying for jobs a couple of years ago, it is clear to me that without the guidance that you are providing through your work I would not be here. Thank you! I hope you are doing well. I read on your blog that you have been having a stressful year. I wish you and and your family health and happiness. I know it’s a constant battle.”

Tenured position, Ivy, STEM: “Dear Karen, I have not forgotten your tremendously valuable help last May and I wrote an endorsement – here it is: Karen helped me get not one, but two academic jobs. Before reading her blog, I had no luck with applications. For four years after receiving my Ph.D., I had applied to numerous positions without any luck. I got nothing, not even a reply, and that was because luck played no role in it. My cover letters were sheepish and unfocused. I have read them a few weeks ago, and they are a mess: I could hardly understand what my research was about. Thanks to her posts, my writing improved as my vision of the scholarship that I wanted to pursue became clearer. I got my first job after implementing her tips and I got shortlisted for all the jobs to which I applied in the following years. A few months ago I received an offer from [Ivy] University. Karen also helped me with the negotiations and that is some of the best money I have ever spent in my life. She managed to get me a pay rise and $20,000 more of research money in the first year. She helped me get many other benefits, too. Some students and colleagues confessed to me that they find Karen’s advice harsh and cynical. But I disagree: I find it honest and very much value her analysis of the academic market. I wished some of my past tutors and supervisors had offered similar guidance during my Ph.D. instead of letting me sleepwalk through it. And as a foreigner, I am particularly grateful for Prof. Kelsky’s crash course in cultural awareness. Many of the behaviors that I considered virtuous were, in fact, sabotaging my applications and I needed someone with the moral courage and experience of Karen to make me relativize them and see them for what they were. So many thanks, Karen. I hope many other people can find in your words the help that has been so fundamental in transforming my life.”

Lecturer position, client, Italian: “I just got an offer for a great Lecturer job in the Italian department of a good university and I just wanted to thank you for your help.”

The Joy of Editing, client, English: “Hi, Karen!  Please pardon my belated response and appreciation for all your clever stratagems!  The letter is so much more cohesive and succinct than my DIY version. Again, I know the T-T job market in English is at an all-time low, but whatever the outcome of these edits I’m proud I’ve gone through them. It’s good for my self esteem and has affirmed in a way that I have not felt for years the power of the revision stage of the writing process to create clarity in style and content–Dyad Alert, but I sincerely mean this and energizes me to hold my writing students to high standards.

TT job offer, client, Poli Sci: “The Professor is In–the book, the blog, the webinars, as well as the one-one-one assistance–helped me to feel confident that I was approaching the academic job market with my eyes open and with the tools I need. I relied on Karen Kelsky’s advice as I navigated each stage–from my application materials to the Skype interview to the campus visit and job talk and finally to negotiating an offer. Learning what to expect and what has worked for other candidates was beyond helpful to me during this process.”

Multiple TT job offers, client, US and UK, Psychology: “Dear Karen, I am sorry I didn’t reply to you before – at that time I just started getting interviews and things were hectic. Also, I had gotten right away a job offer (in the UK) and decided to not apply to any more jobs. I wanted to thank you deeply with all the help you gave me when I decided to go to the Job Market (aka Hunger Games). Thanks to you, I had all my documents prepared on time, and strong enough that I was competitive, and also felt more confident. I ended up applying to just a few jobs (because I got an offer right away from a University in the UK that I liked, and for the few jobs that I had applied for until then, I was invited for 3 interviews and got 2 job offers (the 3rd one I couldn’t afford to wait, as I had to make a decision for the other 2 sooner).”

Joy of Editing, client: “Karen, Thank you for your comments and edits on my four application documents. I learned so much ‘ticks’ in my writing (lists and dyads, especially), how to write confidently, and how to offer specific examples to “show” and not “tell.” I look forward to submitting my first application with an improved package.”

Interview Success, client, Russian: “Dear Karen, Thank you so very much for helping me with my teaching statement by getting rid of the extraneous details that buried my strengths.  Apologies for getting back to thank you only now. I had a Skype interview with University of XX for a Russian t-t position a couple of days ago, and I just got a request for a conference interview with [Ivy] for a Russian t-t job. Thanks so much again, and I will definitely report back.  I wish Kellee and you a lovely weekend!”

Joy of Editing, client: “have found while revising my docs that your advice is quite frank and down-to-earth and would appreciate your suggestions (if any) very much.

Joy of Editing, client: “I am writing to thank you for all of your help with my cover letter, C.V., and research statement. I never finished the cover letter with you–to be honest I was overwhelmed with application due dates plus my full-time job. I did follow your advice, especially around the gendered-nature of my writing…”

Joy of Editing, client: “Also, thank you for guiding me through the previous documents. I have learned so much from you. Your feedback has helped me become a better writer overall. Additionally, I have a much clearer idea of what I am doing in my dissertation and the article I am drafting. Thank you for taking me on as a client. I hope to be able to share with you some good news regarding the job market.”

Joy of Editing, client: “Hi Karen, Okay, this week has blown my mind.  Two things that were really one thing ultimately got to me: list/dyad addiction and a lack of inner conviction.When I went to do your directed research on the former, I ended up writing down for myself, “A mature job candidate will articulate a singular position, take a stand, and be prepared to defend it.  And that courage of conviction–manifested as the choice of one thing as the best thing–is what makes a scholarly reputation, and gets tenure track jobs” (emphasis mine). I happened upon the other post, “Finding Inner Conviction,” by accident, but it drove home that conviction is my underlying problem (hence the two things are really one).  I have been that young scholar who wants to please everyone and so does not commit to the one thing she really believes in. I have been a slave to my anxiety.No more! The dyads have been banished, Karen.  The only “ands” belong to titles, to one claim that takes the form of “between x and y” and to the single list I allowed in the final paragraph because it is verbatim from the department mission.  Perhaps you have no interest in hearing about any of this, but as someone who has felt she lacked that molecular conviction because the discipline didn’t really have the space in its traditional practices to accommodate her who can now be freed of this ressentiment, I have to thank you.  So thank you. Come what may, at least now I am telling the truth.”

TT job offer, client, Area Studies, Public Ivy: “I count this job as a truly remarkable opportunity and want to thank you for all the help. I heard that i was their first choice and that it was a unanimous vote from the search chair and I really do believe that it was because I meticulously followed your interview guidelines.  The official offer letter is still on its way and I will seek your help for the negotiating. I feel incredibly lucky as well considering that I have no US PhD — can’t thank you enough for advise in the book as well as your columns and the blog.”

Negotiating client: “Even after reading your book and many other sources on women negotiating in academia my hands were still literally shaking and my heart pounding as I sent the email with my initial negotiation requests for a TT position at a renowned R2 university. I kept staring at the email draft, almost convinced myself multiple times that I should ask for less, that I was being presumptuous, along with all the other similar stories we tell ourselves. I think I hit “send” anyway only because I promised you that I would ask for that amount.
Lo and behold, the world did not end, no one was angry, and they still wanted to hire me! I didn’t get the full 10% increase I asked for but did get an additional $4k in salary and an additional $50k for my start up package. Your responses to my email drafts were helpful and the resultant confidence I had in my correspondence was enough to talk me out of backing down several times. Contracting with you for negotiation assistance was definitely worth it for me financially and made a world of difference emotionally as I successfully navigated the negotiation process!”

TT job offer, client: “About 4 years ago you helped me to edit my job letter. I just wanted to thank you very much for all of your help! As a result of your suggestions,  I got a significant number of campus interviews at R1 institutions, which is no small feat in my tiny and highly competitive field. I finally landed a TT position at the University of XX. I just wanted to thank you very much for doing what you do, and I believe that I owe a significant part of my success to your services. I have recommended you to many colleagues and friends.

Article editing: “I wanted to let you know the article was accepted! What a trip from the first round of feedback!”

Multiple TT job offers, client: Poli Sci: “Hi Dr. Karen,I am writing because I wanted to let you know that I got a tenure-track position. I think I still had a couple of drafts left of the last document that I left hanging – my apologies for not following up with you sooner. Thank you so much for your efforts. I quite literally couldn’t have done this without you. I’ve just begun as tenure-track Assistant Professor of Comparative Politics at XX State, and will be Director of the XX Center in my third year. It’s a perfect job for me, in a nearly perfect location for my son and I. Thank you for sharing your expertise. I got zero bites my first year on the market and was pretty despondent. After working with you during my second year on the market I got two campus visits, two great offers, plus being shortlisted in the top 6 at [Elite]. The substance was there, but I couldn’t get it across until you and I began working together.Thank you again. I can now build the life my son and I need in large part as a result of your expertise and skill in this process. I won’t hesitate to send friends and colleagues your way.

UK Lecturer position, client: “I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to let you know that I had been offered a position of lecturer (fixed term appointment) at XX in London, and will start just a month from now. I wanted to thank you again for your support, and thought you might want to know what happened after we worked together (at least for your stats).

TT job offer, client: “Karen and Kellee, It was so great to see you both, and, again, I am just so grateful for you and what you do. As a 1st gen student, and the only one of my siblings to graduate from high school, being able to get my dream TT job has changed my life and given me the opportunity to now lay foundations so that I can help the futures of my family and community. You are not just helping create careers, but legacies. I will definitely stay in touch!”

Positive Cover Letter Feedback from a colleague: “In terms of the letter, I particularly admire and appreciate the tone. I did not have to struggle whatsoever to hear your voice and personality and yet it was totally professional; this is such a difficult balance. I think your letter will be read with interest not just by creative writing committee members, but by non-cw or English members, too. So often there’s that random “person from another department” on the committee who is like, “Dang, I’m an anthropology professor, I don’t know what this poetry stuff is,” but I think that person would be just as interested as a poetry prof would be.”And then later she calls the letter “pretty damn charismatic” and she also says “I get such a positive feeling from your cover letter and can say that it is much more polished and compelling than most of the letters I’ve read when on committees. “

Research position, Switzerland: “I just though I would give you some quick feedback. You worked with me in 2017 on a grant application and my application package. Unfortunately I did not get the grant but I did end up accepting a head of lab tenured faculty position at XX which is a research institute within the XX domain. So even though it is not a professor position I get to run my own full size lab, have good resources for research and no teaching obligations. I still do a small amount of teaching as a lecturer at XX, however, but this is mainly because I enjoy it and to keep me connected to the students. Thank you for all the help with my application documents and to understand the application process itself! It was really helpful.”

Negotiation client: “Hi Karen, Just a quick update. After initially declining XX College’s offer, we had a number of additional conversations exploring possibilities for a joint appointment. I ultimately concluded that it just wouldn’t be feasible given my travel constraints. So I formally accepted [Elite’s] counteroffer, and am very happy with the terms I received thanks to your sagacious guidance.”

Webinar viewer: “I am a post-doc in the [Ivy]. I am watching your NCFDD webinar from last week, and I wanted to reach out and say thank you. A colleague recommended your book to me in graduate school, and I have read it so often that the binding is falling apart. It has made a huge impact on my work, and following your advice prepared me to successfully apply both for a major national graduate school fellowship, as well as my current position.Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge about the academic job market with those of us who struggling to enter it. I look forward to next week’s webinar!”

Art of the Article and Facebook Live: “I am currently enrolled in The Art of the Article. I had worked with Karen on my CV three years ago. I also worked with Kellee in a campus visit intervention two years ago. Your resources have been, and continue to be, invaluable. I recently discovered your Facebook Live videos. I like it particularly when you each stick to your own points of view when they diverge, because each POV has been very important for me. For instance, in last week’s Facebook live, Karen matter-of-factly sets forth things such as (paraphrased) “But you DO need an article. Do it.” She’s right, of course. On the other hand, Kellee is very calm and reassuring, (also paraphrased) “You’re here. You don’t have an article. We will work with where you are and you will get there.” Both stances are necessary–it’s like Ann Swidler’s concepts of holding paradoxical logics and working with both to continue moving forward. Karen tells what has to be done and lights a fire of I NEED TO DO THIS NOW!, and Kellee eliminates all the beating oneself up over the “shoulds” in order to get rid of the baggage that’s preventing the work on what needs to be done. Neither of you pulls any punches, but you’re both tough and gentle in different, but complementary, ways. I don’t know how this works, but it really does.”

Call it Real-Ac

At the start of every talk that I give on the academic and post-academic job market, I state that in a decades long reality in which only 5-35% of PhDs (depending on field) will get tenure track jobs, the so-called “non-academic” job should NOT be called “Alt-Ac” or “Post-Ac” or “Non-Ac” — all of which continue to center the academic job as norm — and that the tenure track job should be considered the non-normative “alternative.”

(My audiences’ faces inevitably freeze at this moment. Denial continues strong in our Ph.D. programs.)

I urge my listeners not to attach to these academia-valorizing terms, and to quickly move past them toward visions of work that are not “not-academic” but pro-actively and positively oriented toward new realms and ideas.

But the frustration continues that our language for the normative work trajectory of the majority of Ph.D.s has remained so impoverished.

Until last Friday, when Kellee, during a conversation about this issue during our weekly Facebook Live, exclaimed, “let’s just call it ‘Reality Ac!!'”

And listener Kelly Zacha Merritt chimed right in — “call it Real-Ac!”

Readers, I was shook.

I knew in that instant that that was the term I’d been looking for. It’s the term that centers reality instead of delusion. “Real” in this case does not oppose academia, the way “non” and “alt” and “post” do. It simply modifies it – pushing academia itself away from its self-serving delusions of tenure track normativity into an embrace of the variability and unpredictability of academic endeavors in a world where the majority of people with Ph.D. bring their insights and training to other fields. It allows for the truth that people with Ph.D.s stay “academics” even if they are not in “academia” – ie, that “academia” as a category exists in the REALITY that scholars work everywhere, whether by choice or not. And that academia is often a route to the reality of poverty, debt, and struggle at least as often as it is to university employment, job security, and productivity.

I’m going to use this term exclusively from now on in my talks and blogging, and I’m going to make it a hashtag.

#REALAC

I hope you’ll join me in using it. And thank you to wordsmiths Kellee and Kelly, who together coined it.

#MakeupMonday: Unapologetically “Too Ethnic” for STEM (And On a Budget)

I am delighted to offer another guest post in my series of contributed posts by black women and other women of color.

If you’d like to submit a post or an idea for a post for consideration, email me at gettenure@gmail.com. I pay $150 for accepted posts. The posts can be anonymous or not, as you prefer. I welcome content on #MakeupMonday (the initial impetus was a Twitter follower asking for #MakeupMonday posts oriented toward women of color) as well as anything related to the academic and post-academic career. Today’s post is by Dr. Adriana L. Romero-Olivares – part II in a 2-part series (the first was last Friday).

Dr. Adriana L. Romero-Olivares is a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of New Hampshire. Her research examines the ecosystem-scale consequences of the adaptation of soil fungi to climate change. She uses a combination of traditional microbiological techniques and field work, coupled with molecular biology and biogeochemical analytical tools. Ultimately, she’s interested in advancing knowledge on fungal ecology and apply her discoveries to protect our environment for future generations. Follow @fungi_lover

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I am an ecologist and in the field of Ecology, wearing makeup may be frowned upon. Firstly, because when you love wildlife and spending time outside, there is no room for makeup, perfume or any other nonsense that distracts you from the holiness of nature. Secondly, no one will take you seriously in academia if you put too much effort into your looks. Well, I happen to be an ecologist, who loves nature, fungi, and my job as a scientist. Also, I love makeup, perfume, accessories, and wearing all of them at the same time. I am also Mexican, so a lot of my style is influenced by my culture; think about the color “rosa mexicano”, “azul Frida Kahlo”, the colors of the traditional “zarapes”, and the colorfulness of the Day of the Dead.

I am a postdoctoral research associate at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). In New Hampshire, the Hispanic/Latinx population is very small. With my bright lips, colorful clothing, and overall look, it is difficult for people not to notice me. I’m an avid knitter and I have a few festive pieces I’ve made for myself, such as the flower top in the picture below. I often get compliments on my appearance, although sometimes just long stares. In general, people are curious about my presence in the state of New Hampshire and UNH. Sometimes, their “curiosity” will evolve into cringe-worthy comments that can go from straight insulting to eye-rolling.

It took me a few years to embrace my style and to be unapologetic about my looks when going to work. For a long time, I did my best to not stand out, as my dad always told me, “don’t look too ethnic, try to blend in”. Newsflash, I will never blend in because in New Hampshire, I am usually the only brown person wherever I go. I have no control on how people perceive me, so I might as well wear whatever makes me feel happy and comfortable.

I have a few makeup essentials I wear every day. Since I’ve been living just above the poverty level in the USA (i.e. grad school/postdoc/school debt), I’m good at finding beauty products on a budget, and I usually invest in only one or two “expensive” products that are really worth my money; the rest of the products I use are affordable, even for grad students and postdocs. I have two perfumes I love, Indian Coconut Nectar and Himalayan Patchouli Berry from Pacifica ($22 each), they make me feel pleasant and joyful all year round.

The “expensive” items I always have are a Lancôme mascara (définicils) ($27.50) and eye liner (artliner) ($30.50). I like these because they last all day long; they’re both water proof so I don’t have to worry about awkward stains under my eyes, especially on a tough day in academia that may involve tears. My foundation is budget friendly; I use Simply age-less ($10) by cover girl and I go for golden tan-257. My blush of choice at the moment is Lychee+Gold ($14) by Seraphine  Botanicals and my bronzer is Amazonian Clay Bronzer by Tarte ($30). I want to point out that I got these from Ipsy so I only paid $10 dlls for the monthly subscription and not the full retail price. I have a lot of good makeup from Ipsy, including a super amazing pencil eyeliner, Wonderwand by Ciate ($18). As for eyeshadows, I have one palette, Naked2 by Urban Decay, which I got last year for $25 dlls during a sale (Black Friday maybe?). However, I’ve thinking about getting Born to run or Elements by Urban Decay (Black Friday this year, maybe?) to take it up a notch.

And now the fun part, lipstick. Lipsticks can be tricky because of the warm undertone of my lips. Depending on how my planner looks like for the day, I will go for lip dyes or regular lipsticks. If I’ll have a long day and I don’t want to worry about getting lipstick on my teeth or retouching my lips, then I definitely go for the best budget friendly lip dye, outlast by cover girl ($9); I have three favorite shades, brazen raisin-542, hottie pink-548, and blossom berry-555. I tried super stay 24 by Maybelline, and although some shades are ok, most colors don’t show well with my undertone; sometimes I can’t even tell I’m wearing lipstick. I recently discovered Pure Lust matte tint+velvet from Cailyn (Personable-43) ($19), and I can’t stress enough how amazing it is; personally, these are in the expensive side for me, but I am planning to budget to get more shades in the future. Another amazing Ipsy goodie was the Nars Cruella Velvet Matte lip pencil. I finished the one from Ipsy and got a full size recently, is not cheap, but it lasts a long time ($27). There’s two Maybelline lipstick shades that I love and have been using for a few years, 1) blissful berry-410 color sensational ($4.99) and 2) plum me-806 color sensational matte (which is sadly, discontinued). I love a rich dark red shade from Revlon, Black Cherry-477 ($8.90), and a matte “rosa mexicano” by Milani, aka orchid-64 ($5.99). I will sometimes use Victoria Secret’s Velvet Matte Cream Liquid Lip as a final touch (i.e. in combination with another lipstick) for extra vibrancy. I usually get them on sale (3 for $25).

Finally, last year I gave a workshop at the National Conference for College Women Leaders (NCCWSL) by the American Association of University Women, and one of their sponsors was Realher, “makeup made to inspire and empower women”. I got some freebies and I was hooked. I especially like their matte liquid lipsticks ($18), which have the best names; my personal favorites are “I am a queen” (bright pink) and “I deserve the best” (deep mauve). Finally, the highlight of my makeup collection so far: a limited edition of Selena’s “Como la flor”  by Mac which I got as a gift from my husband. I love Selena. I love the color. I love the lipstick. As a closing remark, the only downside I can think of using “too much lipstick”, especially matte lipsticks, is that they can dry and chap your lips. I struggle with that sometimes, especially during winter. My solution is to use eos lipbalm ($3.50) every night before going to bed, and once a week I exfoliate with ChapStick total hydration lip scrub ($4.50).

Overall, using shades and colors that bring out my “ethnicity” empowers my everyday life. I even wear colorful clothing during field work! The way I look, and the time and effort I put into my style, has nothing to do with the quality of my work or my ability to do great science. When I look at the mirror, I tell myself: “this is what a scientist look like, stereotypes are boring, dull, and inaccurate, I’m Latina and I’m proud”.