Thoughts from the UK and Denmark

Kellee and I are heading into the final week of our month in the UK and Europe!  We’ve had an absolutely amazing journey so far.   We visited the Universities of Aberdeen (thank you, Amy Bryzgel), where I did a talk on the US job market, and an interactive talk on women’s leadership for female faculty, and Kellee did an Interview workshop.

Kellee at Aberdeen (with a little help from the sea captain)

Kellee at Aberdeen (with a little help from the sea captain)

Then (as I told you last time) we went on to St. Andrews, where I did a keynote at a Ph.D. careers conference (thank you, Catherine Spencer and Laura Goddard!).  We then traveled to Edinburgh, where I did a workshop to an audience of more than 100! (thank you, Carol MacDonald!)

I’m glad to say we got to fit in some excellent sightseeing in Scotland, and I am now determined to move there – it stole my heart.  But we had to move on to London.  I spoke to a big crowd at Kings College London (Thank you, Kate Murray!)


That went great.  The food poisoning following the dinner afterward, not so much…

Kellee at London School of Economics

Kellee at London School of Economics

So, Kellee took over my talk at London School of Economics, to great acclaim! (of course) (Thank you, Catherine Reynolds, especially for your flexibility with that last minute adjustment!)

We then moved on to Oxford,

Karen at Oxford

Karen at Oxford

where I gave two events: a talk to about 50 on hacking the academic job market in what is surely the loveliest space for a talk I will ever encounter (a restored 18th century chapel),




and a breakout workshop on job documents for a smaller group, while Kellee did a great event on Interviewing.  (Thank you, John Miles!)


Kellee at Oxford

And then on to Cambridge, and a packed and very friendly house of over 200 for the big talk, and another breakout session on job documents. (Thank you, Steve Joy and team!)



At Cambridge


At Warwick

The very next day, it was on to University of Warwick, for an evening talk to about 100 (Thank you, Becky Kaner!)

And after a day of travel to Denmark, we traveled to University of Roskilde, where for the first time I got to work for a full day with a small and intimate group of students and faculty,

Karen at Roskilde

Karen at Roskilde

on the US job market, the post-academic job search, and grant-writing (Thank you, Lisa Ann Richey!)

In my last post, I made the observation that we are all in the same boat, trying to use our Ph.D.s in a time of severely contracting budgets.  No, the UK doesn’t have quite the adjunct situation that we do in the United States, but they do have the breathtakingly quantified rubric of academic productivity represented by the REF.  No Denmark doesn’t have anything like the level of Ph.D. debt that we have in the States (their grad students are generously funded, albeit only for a brisk three-year total program), but they have seen federal grand funding evaporate entirely (I mean, entirely), forcing them to compete for EU grants against a multi-national population of competitors.   On no campus could a majority of Ph.D.s expect to find secure academic work.

The specific pressures we confront are different, but the big picture is the same.  The world has turned sharply in an anti-intellectual direction, and funding for scholarly work has drastically fallen (that is, outside of Oxford and Cambridge, which did seem, as far as I could discern, stunningly insulated from these trends.  But insulated only for those ON the faculty!  When I spoke with my faculty host at High Table dinner, the phrase that most struck me was “So that’s definitely a problem… but we don’t have to worry about it at Oxford.”)  This was of course not the case for the Oxford and Cambridge Ph.D. students and postdocs themselves, who have to seek out work in more prosaic circumstances.

I wondered how my message would be received, and I was relieved to find it was received very well.  Ph.D. students and postdocs at each campus needed the core Professor Is In reminders:

  • Recall this is a job, not a calling
  • Prepare for your career from your earliest days in the program
  • Recognize the ways you “act like a grad student,” and jettison them
  • Claim authority and expertise in your field
  • Make your case for yourself on facts, not on saccharine feelings
  • Recognize that your project doesn’t speak for itself–it requires a careful disciplining of writing and speaking
  • Know that the tenure-line (secure academic) job is the exception, and be open to the non-academic track
  • Cultivate multiple mentors who can provide concrete, reality-based, denial-resistant career advising

I happened to hear President Obama’s commencement address to Howard University while staying in Oxford, and I was struck by a line:  “I want you to have passion, but you have to have a strategy. ”  He was speaking of changing the world through activism and political organization, of course. He went on to say “Not just awareness, but action.  Not just hashtags, but votes.” But I, of course, thought how the thought applies to careers as well.  People who go into the Ph.D. tend to be passionate about their subjects.  And passion fuels you through your many years of study.  But passion alone doesn’t yield jobs in this economy–that requires the discipline, forethought, and calculation of strategy.

It continues to be countercultural to state this so baldly in the academy.  Even more so in the UK and Europe, it seems, where the ivory tower ideal is perhaps more intact than it is in the States.  But I saw my audiences take it in, grapple with it, and engage with it, just like audiences do in the States.  In a world where governments have withdrawn support for scholarly work (particularly in the humanities), we must all become strategists of our careers.


Breast Cancer Pink: My Story of Dissertating, Chemotherapy and Healing With Digital Storytelling (A Guest Post)

More on the theme of bodies, wellness, and healing and our struggle in academia to find and connect with them… a guest post.


by Chelsey Hauge and Kate Reid

Dr. Chelsey Hauge

Dr. Chelsey Hauge

Chelsey is a media artist and writer, and is currently Visiting Assistant Professor at Mills College. She holds a Ph.D. in Education from the University of British Columbia and her research interests include digital literacy, youth media production, and girl-led activism. You can find out more about her here:   Find her song and video here.



Kate Reid

Kate Reid


Kate Reid has a Master of Arts in Social Justice, and a Bachelor of Education from The University of British Columbia. She delivers keynotes, concerts, and workshops for secondary and post-secondary schools, and professional organizations. For more information about Kate, please visit


About a year before I (Chelsey) was scheduled to defend my dissertation, I found a lump in my breast. Shortly thereafter, I found myself formatting dissertation chapters from the chemotherapy chair. I dealt with my cancer by diving into my academic work. When that failed, I used my university library access to read everything I could about young women and breast malignancies, and I theorized my cancer. I identified and participated in cancer chats on Twitter and when I wasn’t writing about youth and media, I blogged about my treatment. I met other young women dealing with cancer by leveraging digital media, and I noticed that just as it had been for the youth in my research, social media was networking me in life-saving ways. Even though I was actively building a cancer-community, I felt isolated and invisible and angry. My grad school friends were on the job market and having babies while I made decisions about which body parts to amputate and amassed a wig collection- I couldn’t help but feel terribly left out. And that is why I turned to storytelling.

I was a little shell shocked when within weeks of my mastectomy, I defended my dissertation successfully. All of the sudden, everything was done.  I was no longer a cancer patient. I was no longer a PhD student. I was exhausted, but  couldn’t figure out if it was from months of cancer treatment or from years of dissertation writing. In the midst of my confusion, a grad school friend named Kate approached me and asked if I’d be interested making some music about my experience with cancer. She was a queer, feminist musical storyteller and she thought one of my blog posts would make a great song.

I saw my own work reflected in her request. For years, I have asked youth to trust me enough to make video stories about their lives. I believe in the power of collaborative storytelling and in the relationship between storytelling and social justice. And so even though I can’t sing even remotely in tune, I stepped out of my own comfort zone, and took her up on her offer.

What transpired was nothing short of magical. We sat on her living room couch and I told Kate my cancer story, and she listened. She really, deeply, carefully listened. And then she harmonized my stories, and we worked together to craft a song, Breast Cancer Pink, that beautifully narrated how much I hate the pink ribbon, how angry I felt about my cancer catastrophe and my nascent hope that I might actually survive the whole ordeal.

In my academic work I have written about youth voice in media programming, and about the idea that youth can experience agency by making digital stories. As Kate and I sat together and wrote that song, and later, as we recorded it in a professional music studio and eventually produced a music video for it, I felt like my voice was heard. I felt empowered. I felt agentive. I was experiencing the rush of possibility, the hopefulness, and incredible healing power of art-making that I have so often written about as an academic. And it was awesome.

I listened to the song on repeat. Again and again and again. Like four thousand times. There was something so incredibly healing about this musical artifact that so simply and so clearly communicated about this experience that had previously felt so shameful, so invisible, and so embarrassing. On the morning we were to shoot the music video, my grad school friends all showed up in downtown Vancouver to be part of the chorus I envisioned singing together at the end of the song. I wasn’t alone with the cancer anymore- in the making of this song and music video, I found a tangible way to share my story and bring my community into my experience.

As I reflect on the production of the song and music video alongside my academic work on youth and media, I can’t help but notice the synergy between the projects. I’ve always understood that media can facilitate something really magical for people with a story to tell, that media can make visible stories that have felt shameful or embarrassing, but Breast Cancer Pink gave me an entirely different and deeply embodied way to think about media art, healing, and community. And for that, all I can say is thank you, world, for conspiring to bring so much awesome into my life.


We’re All In the Same Boat

The European tour is going splendidly!  So far I’ve spoken at University of Aberdeen (2 events by me:  Hacking the US Academic Job Market, Academic Leadership for Women; 1 event by Kellee Weinhold: The US Academic Interview), at University of St. Andrews (Keynote for the Making Your Ph.D. Work for You conference), and University of Edinburgh (Hacking the US Academic Job Market).  Here are some pics!

At Aberdeen

At Aberdeen, in the 7th floor room, a blizzard whirling outside!

With the wonderful organizer at St. Aberdeen, Prof. Amy Bryzgel

With the wonderful organizer at St. Aberdeen, Prof. Amy Bryzgel

At St. Andrews

At St. Andrews

With the organizer at Edinburgh, Carol MacDonald

With the organizer at Edinburgh, Carol MacDonald

IMG_2064 copy

Talking to grad students after the event at Edinburgh


The rooms have been packed at each event – with almost 150 people coming at Edinburgh. One surprise—the large number of American students and faculty here in Scotland!  At the undergraduate level as well, apparently.

Here’s what I can say:  the Ph.D. students here have mostly the same anxieties and concerns that they do in the States.  How can I get a job? Where are the jobs? Do I really have to publish? What about postdocs? How important is teaching?

What Ph.D. students here don’t seem to have is huge debt (thankfully).  What they are most worried about is a lack of teaching experience—in their 3-year Ph.D. system, there is no standard practice of TA-ing or teaching.  And they are anxious that while the 3-year program is quick and relatively affordable, it leaves them without time for significant publishing.

The other big question is this:  how is a Scottish Ph.D. read on the American job market?  I have tried to be honest:  like any non-US-elite Ph.D., a Ph.D. from an institution like Aberdeen, St. Andrews, and even to some degree Edinburgh, is going to be harder to interpret for US search committees.  They probably won’t have much familiarity, and may find it more difficult to relate to than a standard “default” like Berkeley, Michigan, Cornell, and the like…

I tell them what I tell all audiences: you can compete to the degree that you render yourself legible to search committees through your record and your materials.  An excellent publication and grant record will make a huge difference. Try and have one US-based recommender if you can.  In an over-stressed job market, with distracted and exhausted search committees in downsized departments, make sure that your record makes sense according to American hiring standards, and makes your case quickly and with evidence rather than rhetoric.

The UK seems not to be as deep into adjunctification as we are in the States, but is far deeper in a quantitative productivity rubric (the REF).  I was interviewed about this in a piece published in The Guardian.

At the same time, Andrew McRae of the University of Exeter argues on his blog that the REF, as well as the National Student Survey, in mandating productivity rubrics, is working against a logic of casualization of labor.  Interesting.  I will be asking my hosts their thoughts about this as I move forward, next to Kings College London and London School of Economics.

In a global contraction of higher ed, we are fighting for our livelihoods and the space to pursue intellectual pursuits free of a profit motive.  What I can say is: we are all in this together.

Chasing Rainbows – An Adjunct Farewell

An email I received earlier this year.  If you are confronting a similar situation, remember that my post-ac team can help, and the initial consult is completely free.
At this point, I am giving up. This interview was my last real shot at academia and it is no longer financially and mentally sound for me to continue working toward the goal that I have desperately been trying to achieve (and thought I would) for eight years. It has been taxing, but now it is too much. I am now living the adjunct’s life I feared, shuttling between campuses to earn a few thousand dollars for each class. I just don’t have the ability to convince myself anymore into thinking that adjuncting is going to pay off.
Moreover, I am also a father. My son was born in 2012, and addition to teaching 3 to 4 classes a semester, I have also been his primary caregiver since my wife had to go back to teaching after 2 months. (In XX city, there is no maternity leave for teachers.) This meant that in addition to teaching, applying for grants and fellowships, revising a dissertation for publication, for 5 days a week from 8 to 5, I was taking care of my son from the time he was two months to now. (Having these roles made me realize how gender inequality in academia works when the duties of the private sphere–which wasn’t even the case with me– are exclusively thrust upon women, while at the same time they are expected to produce as scholars and be great teachers.)  This has also meant that I am not the priority anymore, my son is and always will be. I simply can’t forsake his future happiness and education to continue chasing rainbows.
In short, I am 35 years old and I have been mostly adjuncting for 8+ years now (except for a few years where I received fellowships in exchange for teaching). I have no money–in fact I am $30,000 in debt from undergrad and grad school. All the money we have saved is contributed by my wife, who is an elementary school teacher and has supported me financially and psychologically through the grad school and job market process. Without her, I would not be able to continue through grad school and go on the market, which I feel incredibly terrible about at this point. I just feel universally overwhelmed and rudderless.

The problem is I simply don’t know what to do. I never had a backup to academia. I don’t particularly like the institution of academia (the inequality among adjuncts and the academic 1%, the elitism, snobbery, increasing neoliberalism), but I love teaching. More important to me, I want to keep writing and publishing. I just don’t know where to go do these things. I applied to jobs in the federal government, thinking that might be a start, but I am not sure. But I do know that I do not want to feel this way anymore. I want to earn a living for myself and my son and be rewarded for my work, not underpaid, ignored, and rejected.

I can’t take it anymore. I can’t take the instability and the constant rejection. I can’t keep trying to make people notice me so that I can feed my ego and feel validated. It’s not working.

Reflections On Our Way to Europe

As this goes out to you today, I am on my way, accompanied by my partner in crime Kellee Weinhold, to Scotland to start a month-long speaking tour of Scotland, England, Denmark, and Switzerland.

Here’s the schedule:

University of Aberdeen: April 25-26
University of St. Andrews: April 27
University of Edinburgh: April 29
Kings College London: May 3
London School of Economics: May 4
University of Oxford: May 6
University of Cambridge: May 9
University of Warwick: May 10
Roskilde University, Denmark: May 12
University of Zurich, Switzerland: May 19

I’ll be speaking mainly about the US academic job market, but also, at different points, about the post-ac transition, interviewing, and academic leadership for women.

Here’s where we’re going, pictorially:


University of Aberdeen


University of St. Andrews (founded 1413)


University of Edinburgh


Oxford University


(Kellee and I will be having dinner at High Table at Worcester College, Oxford, invited by historian Josephine Quinn)


Dinner at High Table, Oxford


Cambridge University



Roskilde University (ah, Denmark…)


University of Zurich


There are moments when you wonder, how did I get from where I was, to where I am now?  And you marvel. This is one of those moments.  That is all.

The Post-Ac’s Guide to the Resume

by TPII Post-ac Coach Darcy Hannibal

Dr. Darcy Hannibal

Dr. Darcy Hannibal


Many job applicants make common and nearly universal mistakes in their resumes, but some are more specific to people with PhDs. I also made many of these same mistakes until I became a supervisor and realized just how tiresome it is to sift through a stack of resumes that bury what you need to know in way too much detail and overdone formatting. Even though it is part of a supervisor’s job to review resumes, it is one small job duty among many others that are more critical and more demanding. Supervisors aren’t going to spend extra time on your resume if yours takes more effort to read than most of the rest. If you want the job, make your future supervisor’s job easier—give them a resume that shows in simple and clear language what you can do for them.

Pass the <10 Second Scan Test

Professional recruiters only spend a mean of 6 seconds scanning each resume. The first goal with your resume is to pass the scan test that decides whether to put you in a “no” or “consider” pile. That first round of elimination will be done by a computer or an actual human (possibly HR staff, the actual hiring supervisor, or one of your potential future co-workers delegated the task of culling applications). The more applicants there are, the more crude and error prone that first round of elimination. If your value as a potential employee is buried in a bunch of irrelevant text, you increase your chances of elimination because your job materials won’t be read closely enough to uncover it.  If you use the same terminology from the job ad to describe your skills, experience, and accomplishments you have a better chance of passing that first cursory scan. If you make it into the consider pile, your application will get more attention later to determine interview selections.

Large employers have online application submission systems. The best way to deal with these is to go around them and deal directly with the hiring supervisor (more on this in my next few blog posts). Some hiring supervisors are required by policy to hire from the pool of applicants that submitted to the online system. If this is the case, then you should both contact the supervisor directly to find out more about the job and submit to the online system.

Organizations that routinely receive hundreds of applications for some positions may have a uniform policy to use “applicant tracking system” (ATS) software to sort through applicants. This can be as minimal as a source to view and download applications or as substantial as parsing your information into a database and summarizing it into a report with a score for how well your resume matches the job description (for more on this read: 5 Insider Secrets for Beating Applicant Tracking Systems and How to Get the Applicant Tracking System to Pick Your Resume). If your resume is formatted in an unusual way, it may cause reads errors for the ATS and your application will likely just get rejected. Don’t give it a reason to cull your application!

Formatting Basics

No special paper, fonts, tables, or graphics (including watermarks). Attempts to grab attention don’t make anyone look special or stand out (in a good way), ever, only desperate to be special. These sort of tactics are typically employed by those with few or no relevant skills and experience—this is not the group you want to be associated with. You don’t need to grab attention—you are going to apply to jobs and write cover letters and resumes that deserve attention because they have substance.

1 to 2 pages long with breaks between short paragraphs. If the applicant pool is relatively small, the hiring supervisor will likely review about 10-15 applicants. If each applicant has a 1 page resume and a 1 page cover letter, that is 20-30 pages of text to read through and assess. Each page of your application is precious real estate. Shorter is better as long as you’ve covered all elements. Never submit your full and lengthy master resume, thoroughly describing all of your work experience, for any job application. You will edit down a specific version of each job application highlighting your duties, skills, and accomplishments that are most relevant to the job description, with little to no additional information.

Standard 1 inch margins and standard 12pt font. Use a simple, standard and readable font type (such as Calibri, Arial, Georgia, Garamond, or even plain old Times New Roman). What matters is that it is easy to read and not annoying (like Gothic or Script type fonts, seriously).

The Necessary Elements

Name and contact information. List simply and on separate lines: your name, email, phone number and LinkedIn profile address. No fancy bullets or graphics (even simple lines) to separate them. This will mess with the ATS and is visually distracting. Keep it simple!

Work experience. For each item list employer or organization, your title, and dates. Or your title, then employer, then dates. Just don’t put dates first—it will throw-off an ATS that parses resumes. 1-2 sentences that describe the position, followed by bullet points describing your most relevant skills and accomplishments in terms used in the job description.

Don’t try to make your resume more interesting by using similar, but slightly different words. The people reviewing your resume have the words from the job description in mind when scanning your resume, so use those.

Phrase your skills as fact, not opinion. Anyone can say “Excels at data analyses,” however, “Performed multilevel GLM analyses in Stata and SAS for multiple projects” tells the prospective supervisor something specific about your experience.

Work experience doesn’t have to be in chronological order—you can list these in order of relevance for the job you are applying to. Have little to no detail for jobs that are less relevant.

Include your dissertation research! This is where you honed your most important professional skill—managing all aspects of a major project. Your title will be something like “Doctoral Candidate,” “Research Fellow,”  or “Visiting Scholar,” depending on whether you were funded, at a field site or research center, etc. Include any experiences that built the skills you have for the jobs you want and put a title on it. The key is nothing with “student” in it.

Education. Yes, this goes after work experience and not before it. It probably seems most important to you if you’ve recently been steeped in earning it, but your work experience matters more. Also, only use the header “Education” so the ATS can recognize it. List the most recent degree first, with: degree type, department or program, locations, and date received. Nothing more. No details on your coursework, thesis, dissertation, etc.

The Optional Elements

Skills. If you include a section that lists skill separately, do not put it at the top and only use it to summarize skills that are evident in your work experience. This should go at the bottom. Too often applicants use this as a way to stuff in a bunch of keywords that appear in the job description, but not in their work experience, in an effort to get an interview. For this reason, a skills section at the top is a red flag that the applicant may not be qualified—again, not the group you want to be associated with.

Professional associations, certifications, and other credentials. If these are relevant to the job you are applying to, then include them after education. Otherwise, omit them.

The Elements to Exclude

References. No one should call your references until after interviews are completed and they’ve at least narrowed it down to a few equally good candidates. Unfortunately, not all employers follow the rules on references. If you are doing a stealth job search and don’t want your references to know you are on the job market, it is critical you avoid giving them out early. If you have to (some online submissions require it) leave out anyone who you are not ready for them to contact. If you get an interview, you can provide an updated reference list at the appropriate time.

Career goal statement. This is unnecessary and does nothing to showcase your skills and accomplishments. Your immediate goal is obvious—a new job, preferably this one. Don’t waste your precious resume real estate on this.

Applicant summary/profile statement. Again, this does nothing to showcase your skills and accomplishments and wastes precious resume real estate. However, you should absolutely have this on your LinkedIn profile and that is why you will include a link to it at the top of your resume.

Dance, Dance, Revolution

Years ago, the gender studies program at my university hosted a Latin American female hip hop group, who gave a roundtable on women and rap in Latin America on campus, and then a live concert.  The roundtable was great, but I’ll never, to the day I die, forget the excruciatingly painful sight of my colleagues and me attempting to “dance” at that (spectacular) hip hop concert in that conference hall on campus.  I love to dance, but in that context, I could barely move.  Stiff, self-conscious, repressed… We were a group of people who existed entirely in our brains.  There was no conceivable space to “let go,” or “move” or “feel.” When we were asked to, by the performers we’d allowed into that space, it produced a horrifying degree of total cognitive dissonance. We shuffled about miserably, avoiding each others’ eyes.

That concert stays in my mind, a decade later, as the thing that I find most soul-crushing about the academy.  It’s not that the academy is a place that prioritizes mental or cognitive work that is the problem.  It’s that it prioritizes that to the exclusion of all else.

When we leave the academy, recovering our bodies and spirits is the first order of business.  But of course, even those who are still inside (ha!) might want to do that as well.

For the last three years I’ve been dancing with a group of women in Eugene who take classes from two particular teachers, Cynthia Valentine Healey and Shelly Galvin [see their bios below!]

We do all kinds of dance in these classes–hip hop, Latin, African, and burlesque, to name a few.  Here is a burlesque night at Shelley’s class.  In the front row, I’m on the left, Shelley is in the middle, and Cynthia is on the right.

How great is this, seriously?

This isn’t the first time I’ve danced; in fact, I took dance classes for about twelve years when young–mostly ballet and modern dance. I even went to dance camp!  But I never went on to do any performing. I didn’t expect to ever go back to a dance class again, actually–i thought it was a thing you do as a kid. I wasn’t drawn to it the way I was to intellectual work.

But for some reason, about three years ago I tried out a zumba class at the YMCA, attracted by the booming hip hop I’d hear on my way to swim or work out.  I was instantly hooked.  After about a year I got into the classes I go to now, and truly I’m not exaggerating when I say they are the centerpiece of my week.  Cynthia and Shelly are best friends, and fierce in their commitment to the power of dance to empower and heal both individuals and the world. It inspires all their work, and it inspires us.  They’ve gathered a passionate following among a group of us who have become essential community to one another.

This is class last week. In the front row again (I like being in front- I’m sure that surprises you) I’m on the right, Shelly is in the middle, and on the left is Jess, who owns and runs one of the top yoga studios in Eugene.

Dance has given me back to myself.  It’s endorphin-pumping fun, it’s exercise, it keeps me fit, it lifts my depression, and opens up my heart. It’s given me new friends and ways to reconnect with old friends, including a former tenured UO colleague who is one of the regulars.  And the way we do it, it’s pretty raunchy.  And I love that – the raunchier the choreography the happier I am!

What dance does for me is exorcise the remnants of academic repression from my body and spirit.

There are a surprising number of Ph.D.s and other hyper-educated sorts who come.  The other day, in Cynthia’s class, I realized I was in the front row with 2 other Ph.D.s, a JD, and an MD.  Cynthia is herself a Ph.D. (Psychology, now in private practice), and she and I have talked a lot about the mind-body disconnect of the academy, and what it takes to heal from it.

Here is Cynthia, in a video collage she and Shelly made to share their dance empowerment vision.  All of her choreography is original and may soon be licensed!  For a lot of us, it’s like church (and I say that as a Jew).

(I don’t have any videos of me dancing in Cynthia’s class.  But if you watch to the end of this video you’ll see another bit from one of Shelly’s classes. I’m in the back).

I’ve wanted to share my dancing here on the blog for awhile, because I have become such a proselytizer for self-care for academic women.  Self-care that goes beyond saying no to committee work and speaking up in negotiations and lowering your standards on the housework — although these are all essential.  This is self-care that actually nurtures you and build you up and reintegrates your mind and your body and your soul.

Everybody has their own thing– it might be running, or art, or music, or yoga, or knitting, or walking, or meditation or a hundred other possibilities.  They’re all good. For me, it’s dance.  If you’re still looking for something for yourself, I encourage you to try dance.  There is somebody in your town teaching it, and you’ll be amazed at what it does for you.  But do something.  For your own sake and everybody else’s.


Shelly Galvin

Shelly Galvin

Shelly Galvin is Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for tech education firm, CBT Nuggets, based in Eugene, Oregon. Shelly’s passion and life’s work is to develop, build capacity and further the success of global humanitarian efforts. Along with CBT Nuggets, Shelly is pioneering a revolutionary and exemplary philanthropy program, stay tuned!

Dr. Healey

Dr. Healey

Cynthia Valentine Healey is the founder and creative director of Dance Empowered, a dance fusion fitness experience. Having studied numerous dance genres throughout her life, Cynthia leads dancers of all ages and abilities through high energy choreography paired to evocative and carefully chosen music from around the world. In addition to Dance Empowered classes, Cynthia also has a private practice as a holistic psychologist where she integrates evidence-based intervention approaches with mindfulness and energy medicine. Cynthia is also the lead singer for the band Concrete Loveseat.

The 30,000 Foot View – a STEM Postac Guest Post

By Brandon Cochenour, Ph.D.


It would seem lately that a lot of the discussion around “alt-ac” are mostly “Variations on a Theme”…

Get PhD
Search for tenure track position
Receive tenure track position (or not)
Fall out of love with Academia
Figure out what the heck you’re going to do next

Indeed, there are some heroic stories and lots to learn from those brave enough to “make the leap” after you get to the last step.  It occurs to me though that most of this discussion assumes that “alt-ac” is something that you only arrive at after all else fails.  But why does this have to be the case?  Why can’t “alt-ac” be the plan all along?  Why does getting a PhD presume the only logical conclusion is landing a professorship?  And why does it assume that being “academic” can only take place in “Academia”?

Some of this perspective may stem from my own personal experience.  I went to work at a Navy research lab immediately after the undergrad, and only pursued graduate education to enhance an “alt-ac” career that was already in progress.  Revisiting Academia provided me with the opportunity to develop and fine-tune skills I needed to be successful in my field, while my prior experience as a practicing engineer allowed me not to get lost in the Ivory Tower.  It’s a path that’s served me well, and affords the opportunity to mix the best parts of “in-ac” and “out-ac” into a hybrid pathway.

But what can you, as a current or aspiring PhD student in a STEM field, do to develop your alt-ac skills and set yourself on a path that provides you with the most options after the defense?

To this end, I see two broad “alt-ac” career paths for us STEM folk.  One is being an Academic…just not in Academia.  After all, you know how to operate in a lab.  You’re technically competent.  Maybe you know how to code.  None of this means a life destined to Academia.  In my own experience, I’ve been able to do cutting edge research without having to be on the tenure track at a major research university.  I can teach and mentor young engineers without the pressures of course loads and student reviews.  I can collaborate with industry, small businesses, and start-ups to help bring new technologies to bear in my field.  And, I have the work-life balance that allows me to pursue other passions outside of STEM, like my other ‘job’ as a jazz pianist.  There are plenty of opportunities outside the University to maintain your scientific prowess, if that’s what you desire.

On the other hand, what if you end up wanting to leave the lab bench all together?  Fortunately, I think we STEM folks are inherently well set up for success here too simply due to the nature of our studies.

How so?

Someone once told me that in the STEM disciplines, a B.S. student knows how to perform an experiment, an M.S. student knows how to design an experiment, and a PhD knows which experiment to do next.  In other words, STEM PhDs, through their training, are placed at the forefront of the “state-of-the-art”.  They’re able to use their training to see into the future and connect dots that aren’t yet connected.

In the end, we Scientists and Engineers are problem solvers.  While our initial training may be in the nuts and bolts of a particular scientific field, there’s always some bigger picture.  What solution does this science address?  What are the implications?  What are the potential real-world useful applications of this technology?  Point being, once you zoom out from the textbook, the “alt” options become clear.  Business Development.  Public Health.  Policy.  Non-profit.  Technical Communications/Journalism.  Law. Tech Transfer (i.e. – Entrepreneurship or Venture Capital).  Taking a 30,000 ft. view of the field may help overcome the initial obstacle of, “what do I do if I don’t do science?”.  Remember, you’re the expert in your area!

In future posts, I hope to be able to share with you some practical ideas on how to start building these alt-ac skills while pursuing your STEM PhD, and how to leverage everyday Academic experiences to develop your “alt-ac” swagger.


Bio: Dr. Brandon Cochenour has served as an Electrical Engineer with the U.S. Navy since 2004.  In his current role, Brandon collaborates with industry, academia, small business, and other federal labs to develop next generation laser imaging and communication technologies for ocean exploration.  Brandon obtained his M.S. and PhD both while maintaining his duties as a Navy engineer, an experience that gives him unique insight into the worlds of academia, industry, and government service.  Brandon is an avid supporter of STEM outreach, appearing before thousands of young students interested in STEM fields through classroom visits, science fairs, laboratory tours, and mentoring. He has twice been named Navy Scientist and Engineer of the Year, and is a Maryland Academy of Sciences Outstanding Young Engineer.  On weekends, you can find him moonlighting as a jazz pianist in the Washington DC area. On the Twitter, you can find him moonlighting as @DocBrando.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not not necessarily reflect any official policy or position of the U.S. Navy or any other federal agency.

Starving the Beast

“I’m glad it’s sunny out today.  Because it sure is dark in here.”

So said a grad student during the Q and A following my talk last week at the University of Oregon. The talk, “Hacking the Academic Job Market,” is a talk that I’ve given at almost 50 universities and disciplinary association meetings over the past three years.

The talk starts by pointing to the “crisis” in academic hiring, and then immediately repudiates the term “crisis.”

Because “crisis” means an immediate or short-term moment of emergency or calamity, and/or a turning point, or a watershed moment.  But the current moment in academic hiring is none of these things. It is merely the latest point in a perfectly consistent, predictable, and totally transparent 40-year trend replacing tenure line and tenured faculty members with contingent instructors.  In 1980 75% of university instructors were tenure stream and 25% contingent. Now 25% are tenure stream and 75% are contingent.

This is not news.  Every single source of data confirms it. The depredations of the adjunct population have burst onto national consciousness. New stories of adjunct debt and poverty, and the efforts of NTT faculty to unionize, come across Twitter and Facebook daily.  If this were merely an outcome of economics, it would be improving with the so-called improvement of the economy.  It is not.  It is a systematic POLITICAL disinvestment in the idea of higher education as a public good.  Learn more from the new documentary, Starving the Beast: The Battle to Disrupt and Reform America’s Universities.

And yet, talk after talk, campus after campus, grad student after grad student, my message—that only a tiny minority of Ph.D.s get tenure track jobs, that the tenure track job is the “alternative” job in virtually all fields, that the financial costs of the Ph.D. in terms of debt and opportunity cost (ie, payment into social security or another job retirement fund, for example) are skyrocketing, and ivory tower idealism, perpetrated by self-serving advisors, departments, and graduate colleges,  mystifies the actual existing price tag of graduate school — comes as a total shock to the majority of the audience, who turn pale, slump in their seats, and look around anxiously.

I speak not to brand new first year grad students, mind you, but almost exclusively to advanced ABDs, new Ph.D.s, and postdocs. How is it possible that I am the first person to deliver this message to these audiences of highly intelligent adults who have been working in the academy for 5 or 10 years or more?


Well, a combination of denial, self-interest, and deliberate misinformation.

Grad students remain enmeshed in denial. Why, I do not know.

Faculty, meanwhile, are motivated by self-interest; they  will almost never voluntarily give up the prestige of their own Ph.D. students and Ph.D. programs in their departments. (There are exceptions to this, I’m glad to say. But they are rare). Indeed, I continually hear of departments that are CREATING — incredibly, unbelievably — new Ph.D. programs.

And there is deliberate obfuscation by administrators, who know that their campus will lose essential teaching staff, tuition dollars, and AAU ranking and prestige, if the supply of naive, manipulable new graduate students ever dries up.

Where will it stop?  When will people face the truth?  In almost all fields jobs are disappearing. Debt is increasing.  When I did the Ph.D. Debt Survey two years ago, many contributors from the humanities and social science had six figure debt–some as high as $200,000 or even $400,000.

Now, the National Science Foundation provides the latest data:

More people are pursuing Ph.D.s than ever.  American universities awarded 54,070 research doctorates in 2014, the highest total in the 58 years that the National Science Foundation has sponsored the Survey of Earned Doctorates, a new edition of which was released Friday.

Number of Doctorate Recipients by Field of Study

Field 2004 2009 2014
All 42,123 49,553 54,070
Life sciences 8,813 11,403 12,504
Physical sciences 6,047 8,324 9,859
Social sciences 7,043 7,829 8,657
Engineering 5,777 7,642 9,568
Education 6,635 6,528 4,793
Humanities 5,210 4,891 5,486

The number of those Ph.D.s leaving with jobs is down. Note that the figures below are NOT figures for secure tenure track placement!   “Job commitment” means only a job of some kind, including contingent, visiting, instructorship, postdoc, etc.

Percent of Doctorate Recipients With Job or Postdoc Commitments, by Field of Study

Field 2004 2009 2014
All 70.0% 69.5% 61.4%
Life sciences 71.2% 66.8% 57.9%
Physical sciences 71.5% 72.1% 63.8%
Social sciences 71.3% 72.9% 68.8%
Engineering 63.6% 66.8% 57.0%
Education 74.6% 71.6% 64.6%
Humanities 63.4% 63.3% 54.3%



And debt continues to increase.

Debt of New Doctoral Degree Graduates, 2014

Field Mean Cumulative Debt % With Debt > $70,000
All $22,392 12.6%
Life sciences $19,605 9.8%
Physical sciences $12,365 5.1%
Social sciences $34,999 22.6%
Engineering $11,645 5.1%
Education $36,260 23.3%
Humanities $29,953 17.4%


Almost a quarter of those finishing Ph.D.s in Education and the Social Sciences carry debt of more than $70,000.

Please.  Stop the madness.  Faculty: stop admitting new Ph.D. students.  Students: stop going into Ph.D. programs.  If you’re in one, calculate the real likely ROI, in terms of your years out of the job market, the financial cost, the opportunity costs in terms of lost wages and lost payments into social security/retirement, and the debt accrued.  Face reality.

How to Be a Fiction Editor, Part II: Novelists’ Views – Postac Post by Joe Fruscione

By Postac Coach and Consultant, Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione

Joe Fruscione


In Part I of this series, we heard from three editors who’ve worked on fiction projects. Now we flip the conversation and hear from two writers who’ve worked with freelancers to edit their work. Erika Robuck has published Hemingway’s Girl, Call Me Zelda, and The House of Hawthorne, among other works. Fellow post-ac Katie Rose Guest Pryal has published Entanglement and Love and Entropy, among other fiction and nonfiction works. Their perspectives will help expand your client base, frame any edits or comments you have, and understand the marketplace for creative writing.

I’ve tightened, proofread, and polished several fiction and nonfiction manuscripts before they went to press. My background in English and Writing studies helps me edit fiction, but post-acs from various academic backgrounds can also do this kind of work. Frame your editing experience and marketplace knowledge effectively. A STEM or Social Sciences background might be an incentive for hiring you, depending on the writer’s subject and needs. Writers often need an educated non-specialist’s perspective on a manuscript to help them see if their work appeals to a wide audience.


A successful freelancer is an active freelancer. Although some projects might fall into your lap, you should be proactive in advertising your services and expanding your client base. Remind friends and colleagues of your editing work, and ask former clients for references or referrals. Always be connecting:

Katie: The editors I’ve “hired” I’ve met through workshops and conferences, mostly. Some I’ve never met in person—only through social media. Many are former academics. It’s important to decide the scope of work in advance. Don’t be surprised or defensive if an editor comes back to you and suggests that your book needs more work than you think it needs. At the same time, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion.

Erika: I hired a freelance editor in 2011 before sending Hemingway’s Girl to agents. I met my editor at a writing conference where I had an opportunity to work in instructional and critique sessions with her and several other freelancers. We had a connection, and she had an understanding of what I was trying to accomplish. Her website clearly listed her pricing, and she offered a slight discount to participants she met through the workshop. Because my budget was tight, I hired her for a partial edit: the first 100 pages. I couldn’t have been more pleased with her suggestions and insights, and I ended up receiving multiple agent offers. I believe the workshop and her editing contributed to my success.


Writers, like students, have different preferences for discussing their work. Communication is key at all stages of an editing relationship: from deciding on the kind of editing needed to sharing your revisions and queries. During an initial Skype or phone chat to discuss your standard practices, ask your potential clients how they prefer getting feedback.

Erika: My ideal editor would have a phone conversation with me about my project, themes, and goals. He or she would provide thoughtful feedback in terms of both content and style—within the body of the manuscript and in an editorial letter—and would allow for one or two follow-up conversations. It is helpful to hear what works well and what needs work.

Katie: I went through one of the roughest workshop experiences imaginable during my creative writing master’s degree, so I’m pretty much bullet-proof now with feedback. Aside from ad hominem attacks, I want a reader/editor to tear up my writing, pulling no punches. I recognize, however, that most people are a little more personally attached to their writing. They might perceive attacks on their writing to be ad hominem because they have a hard time separating their selves from their writing. A good editor realizes this and can personalize feedback to the person. I want a Word document so covered in comments and tracked changes that I have to make it quintuple-spaced to read them in the margin. The more the better.


I asked Erika and Katie what would comfort and concern them about working with a post-ac freelancer. Learn from their answers when marketing yourself as an editor who can work on fiction.

Erika: Of comfort would be the technical expertise, the well-rounded background in literature, and the deeper understanding of fiction, in particular, they might have from teaching. What would concern me would be their removal from the marketplace and the possibility of an affinity for an outdated style. I would like an academic-turned-editor to have a clear pulse for the market (blog posts or social media presence) that demonstrates they are both savvy and capable.

Katie: What I would look for in post-ac editor is one who wrote for discourse communities beyond academia while still an academic. Does this person write…a foodie blog? Regular letters to the editor? Literally anything beyond the super-narrow genres expected of her field? If so, then she can likely move across discourses. Ideally? The person would have written the same genre, or at least a similar one, that I am hiring her to edit. If I’m hiring a person to edit a novel, it would be great if she had published, say, a long-form narrative essay on Medium. Her narrative essay-writing would tell me that she is likely comfortable with narrative genres.


“We write how we practice,” notes Katie. “If the only writing that you have done is a certain genre for a certain discourse community, then that is the genre and discourse that you will have perfected. It is difficult to move between discourse communities if you don’t have practice doing so.” Practice—and then keep practicing—how to move between different writing communities. If you want to edit fiction, learn more about the marketplace, and explore options to get your work published outside academic circles. Post-ac freelancers aren’t pigeonholed by field in the same way academics are. The more you can edit or write across genres, the more attractive you’ll be as a freelancer.