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.


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) WOC Guest Post

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 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


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”.

The Power of Privilege: a Mexican Ecologist in Academia in the USA? – WOC Guest Post

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 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.

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


Ecology and the appreciation of nature is highly associated to privilege, this is one of the main problems of the lack of diversity in academia in ecology in the USA. As a Mexican, born and raised in Mexico, I was lucky. I had the privilege of having access to higher education regardless of my background or my race. I had the privilege to be encouraged by high-school teachers to pursue a career in sciences. I had the privilege to go to a public university and get whatever degree I wanted almost for free (annual tuition was $800 Mexican pesos, at the time approximately $80 USD). I had the privilege to not be segregated by school districts. I had the privilege to always have role models throughout college that had similar life experiences to mine and who look like me. I had the privilege to have mentors who amplify my voice. I had the privilege to be granted opportunities. Now, I’ve been in the USA for six years and I understand the privilege behind pursuing a career in ecology and the power mentors and role models have had in my professional development. In the USA , there is a lot of interest and efforts going into recruiting POC into STEM, ecology included, but not enough is being done to retain them. The education privileges that I had as a Mexican woman in Mexico pursuing a STEM degree, should be the same for every POC in the USA. Here’s my story.

I came to the US in 2012 as an international student to pursue a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in Southern California. I was born and raised in the north of Mexico in the state of Sonora, so traveling with a tourist visa across the border to the USA is something that I’ve done throughout my entire life. I used my tourist visa mostly to travel to Nogales, AZ to buy shoes and clothes. I am very tall compared to the average Mexican woman, so getting clothes in Mexico was complicated; but finding shoes my size, and jeans that were not “unintentional capris” was easy in the USA. Overall, growing up in the Mexico-USA border area, I knew a lot of people who migrated to the USA, including family members. I was jealous. The way I saw it, living in the USA was great. You didn’t have to wear a uniform to go to school, you could buy clothes that fit most sizes (including tall people like me), affordable Crayolas, plastic boxes for your pens and pencils, Lisa Frank stuff, and many other things that my 10-year-old self considered priorities in the early 1990’s.    

But at the same time, I would hear negative comments from friends and family about their experience living in the USA; most comments were along the lines of racism. Although Mexico is no stranger to racism, overall, the opportunities for Mexicans regardless of color are ‘somewhat’ well distributed, especially for lower- to upper-middle class people (although there is still a lot to be done regarding equal opportunities for indigenous people). For example, I come from a working class family in Mexico. I’m first generation college-graduate, I grew up in a big city in a neighborhood with gang activity, I’m brown, I’m a woman, and I have a BS in Biology, an MS in Molecular Ecology, and a PhD in Biological Sciences. I can’t help but wonder, given my background, what are the chances I would’ve accomplish all this if I grew up in the USA?  Many POC in the USA grow up in similar conditions to the ones I grew up in Mexico, but I have not met one of them yet who is a professor in Ecology.

I learned English at a very young age. I had a scholarship to attend a private elementary school where I learned to read, write, and speak English. Most kids in the school were rich and white. I was neither, and was discriminated for both, but the one that hurt me the most was the discrimination associated to something inherently mine that I couldn’t change: being brown.

This is a wide spread problem in Mexico that’s finally coming out and finally being acknowledged (learn more about this here). After elementary school, I moved on to the public education system for middle school and high school. Here, I felt like home, without discrimination and with a sense of belonging, I thrived. I got very good grades, I participated in district- and state-wide competitions on Chemistry and Biology. I joined the History club and the Philosophy club and was encouraged by several teachers in high school to study a career in sciences, and I did. I was supported, encouraged, and not discriminated against based on my sex or race at a crucial age, which is key to recruit girls in STEM according to this study. In addition, worrying about paying for college was not a concern because university tuitions are fairly affordable to middle class families in Mexico compared to the USA.

In college, most of my professors were men but there were a few women. I experienced some sexual harassment from a few male professors -which is sadly very common in universities in Mexico- but I was lucky; the harassment was not unbearable and it was overshadowed by an outstanding group of great supportive professors, both men and women. Overall, I did really well during my college degree and graduated with honors. I did my master’s in a small but amazing department with mostly women professors, and again, I did really well. I was encouraged to apply to a PhD in the USA with a full scholarship from the Mexican government, and despite my extremely low GRE scores, I got in. Once again, the strong support and encouragement of role models, including many of them who looked like me,  helped me tremendously on my road to pursuing a PhD in Ecology.

Fast forward a few months, I’m sitting in ecology group a few weeks into my PhD program in the USA. Today’s topic: “addressing lack of diversity in ecology”. I was taking notes because this was so new to me. Diversity? What do they mean? I start to hear about a lack of women in science, and a lack of people of color in science, and all of a sudden I feel very self-aware; there’s only 2 non-whites in the room, myself and another grad student. I got flashbacks from elementary school, except this time there’s no discrimination; in fact, the opposite, there’s an interest in inclusiveness. The other person of color was my office mate back then, so when we went back to our office she told me she felt really uncomfortable having a bunch of white people discuss the lack of people of color in sciences, but she was happy this was being finally addressed. And then she asked me, “how did you feel, especially being the only Hispanic in the room?”. I was so confused, I don’t even recall what I said. A few weeks later I read a proposal where I was used in the section of broader impacts: “a Hispanic PhD student in my lab…” I was again really puzzled about what was so important about my ethnicity in the sciences and ecology in the USA.   

There was a disconnection between how I felt versus how I was perceived. I did not feel Hispanic –  whatever that meant – I was Mexican. At first, I did not feel that the lack of women and people of color in sciences and ecology was a problem. I came from Mexico, where all my professors were Mexican, some light brown, some dark brown, some white, some blonde, some women, yes, most men. Granted, there was a lack of women in science in general, but the race portion was very difficult for me to grasp. Sadly, it didn’t take long for me to start experiencing micro-aggressions: “oh, you’re a ‘real’ Mexican”, “you’re so well-spoken for a Mexican”, “were you really born and raised in Mexico?”, “you’re so tall for a Mexican” (I have to agree with this one though), and my favorite, “you must be very smart, I never heard of a Mexican pursuing a PhD”. I do want to point out that none of these aggressions happened with colleagues nor in any academic event, but some of them happened in university settings or in university-related events. I know they all came from a place of ignorance, but still they were offensive and mostly, unbearably annoying.   

So yes, it took no time for me to be fully aware of what it is like to be Hispanic in the USA, and not only Hispanic: a brown, Mexican woman. What a load to carry. I thought of all the people I knew that had migrated to the USA, and what I once thought was an amazing and an incredible opportunity, was still amazing and incredible, but came with certain obstacles that I needed to address. So even though I felt a disconnect with being classified as “Hispanic”, I chose to embrace it.

Due to my very long name (including two last names), my accent, and how I look, as soon as I started to TA, there were always students at the end of class that would approach me and asked me where I was from. Most of these students were Hispanics too and they had questions. A lot. They wanted to know how I got into grad school, what my family thought about me pursuing a career in sciences, how it was like to be the only person with a college degree in my family, what my parents do for living, how was I brought up, did my parents encouraged me to study sciences (short answer: no), and a list of endless questions associated to my experience as a Hispanic pursuing a career in ecology.

I noticed immediately that these students and I were culturally the same, and they could tell too. They needed to connect with someone with similar life experiences to feel that pursuing a career in sciences, perhaps in ecology, was possible. I started to do outreach in local communities of southern California, in areas mostly populated by Mexicans and other Hispanics, and I found that I had a great impact in these kids. What usually surprises them the most is not that I’m a woman, it’s not that I’m an ecologist with a PhD, it’s not the fact that I do amazing science, it’s not that I work with microbes, it’s the fact that on top of all of that, I’m Mexican. Very often I hear, “you’re the first Mexican I’ve ever met with a PhD”; it’s bittersweet. I’m happy they finally get to meet a Mexican woman with a PhD, but I’m sad that I’m the only one they’ve ever met. Recruiting is important, but retaining is crucial. Let’s create a scientific environment where people of color are as visible as anyone else.

What Is Free? Elitism and University Careers Advising

I wrote last week about my good times at the American Academy of Religion conference. And it was indeed a very good time. But there was one incident that I can’t stop thinking about, and I want to share it here. Because, it gets at the elitism that creeps into some efforts to assist with Ph.D. professionalization.

As I mentioned, one member of my panel at the AAR was a representative of ImaginePh.D., a newly launched career-guidance tool that is the brainchild of the Graduate Careers Consortium.  The Graduate Careers Consortium is an organization of graduate level careers advising staff at universities around the country.  When I first learned of the GCC in about 2013, I immediately got in touch. How great, I thought—an organization that is entirely devoted to Ph.D. career advising! I’d love to join! But when I inquired, I was told, “sorry, no, no people running businesses allowed at present.”  “Really?” I responded. “That seems a shame!” “Yes,” said the director of the time, “we’ll be raising this for further discussion, so please check back.”

I promptly forgot, until I think last year, when encountering a column written by GCC members in Inside Higher Ed,  I decided to check back in.

“No,” I was told, in no uncertain terms this time, “no businesses.”

Huh, ok.

Fast forward to my AAR panel. When it finished, I turned to the representative, and said, “you are here from the Graduate Careers Consortium, right?  That’s the group that won’t allow people like me to join, yes?”

“Yes,” she said.

“I think they need to change that policy,” I said.

“They will,” she replied tartly, “NEVER change that policy.”

“Why not??” I asked.

“Because GCC members provide services,” she responded with great self-righteousness, “for FREE!.  And they do not want to include any members who provide services that have to be paid for.”

Huh, ok.

“You do know that careers centers services aren’t free, yes?”

“Oh no, she said, with wide eyes,” they are COMPLETELY FREE to the students!  No student has to pay ANYTHING for the help.”

Errrr… ok…

Let’s just unpack this a bit, shall we?

What, exactly, is being called free in this scenario? First off, students have already purchased access, or membership to the career services office at their institution, through some form of financial transaction through their tuition or labor or both. At many institutions, post-docs are excluded, adjunct or visiting faculty are excluded, as are students on leave.

And the thousands upon thousands of Ph.D.s who lack the institutional affiliation—well, they are out in the cold.

Career services are not even like (public) university libraries, where one can go in and read a book or a magazine.

The do not serve the larger academic community. They serve only the students who pay into that institution, and nobody else. Money = access.

And the five or six figure debt that the majotiy of currently enrolled graduate students accrue for this “free” service? Well, let’s quietly sweep that under the rug here, just like their academic departments do.

Let’s go further.  University career services departments are subsidized by the exploitative financial structure of the institution as a whole. Their staff salaries are paid by virtue of students who TA and adjuncts who teach at poverty wages and academic departments staffed almost entirely by the contingent. And their lights are kept on by virtue of the endowments that yield the bulk of operating costs for virtually all higher education institutions. And where does endowment money come from? Oh, right, corporate profits.

Universities are parasites on corporate profits, as salaried faculty and staff are parasites on tuition paying and TA-ing students and on precariously employed adjuncts and contingent faculty.

But never forget, they are “free.”

Now let’s examine the way that “free” here is weaponized as a synonym for “virtuous.”  As if, the purveyors of this advising are operating in a sphere entirely free of self-interest.

Do these advisors work for free? Are they volunteers? Do they do this work out of the goodness of their hearts?

Would they continue if the paychecks stopped arriving?

I didn’t think so.

As a current student, you…

Why is salaried work, paid through institutions that operate based on labor exploitation and endowment earnings,  somehow less self-interested than work that is openly charged for?

More broadly, how exactly is the system of labor exploitation and debt peonage that underwrites the contemporary neoliberal university imagined as a place of ethical “purity”? What self-serving mystifications, what delusions of elite status make this possible?

Answer: the very same self-serving mystifications, and delusions of elite status that characterize the faculty and advisors in Ph.D programs, who persistently, even in 2018, refuse to consider the Ph.D. as vocational training for a wage-paying job, and insist on keeping their graduate students in a state of enforced ignorance and dependency on ivory tower illusions of scholarly “purity” – ie, the illusion that academic work is somehow separate from concerns of money, financial gain, and profit.

University faculty and staff believe that because an intermediary institution takes corporate gains and doles them out into monthly paychecks into their personal bank accounts – obscuring the exploitative and predatory financial foundations that make those salaries possible –  they are somehow independent from capitalist relations.  The resulting state of denial then allows faculty and career advisors to abnegate their responsibilities for the actual job training that Ph.D. students desperately need to confront the catastrophe of the academic job market, minimize debt, and prevent financial disaster.

GCC members would, I assume, not encourage their Ph.D. job seeking clients to work for free (or would they?)  But they then in their organizational practices characterize only certain forms of getting paid as proper, and other forms as unseemly, or debased.

This attitude ignores (or deliberately mischaracterizes) the impact of mission-driven post-ac businesses like my own and many others (Beyond The Professoriate, ScholarStudio, Beyond The Tenure Track, JobsOnToast to name just a few) that have generated countless pages of free information available to anyone with a computer and internet. This information is literally available to all, no affiliation needed.

But we are the ethically suspect.

(Speaking just for myself now, it is indeed my independent small business model that is what allows me to openly critique the depredations of the Ph.D. training apparatus as well as the abuses of the academic system. I can only name and shame institutions and individuals, expose the scandals of Ph.D. Debt and Sexual Harassment in the Academy, call out the self-serving politics of graduate training, and generally speak truth because I enjoy an independent income stream, and am bound by no institutional obligations that would limit my speech.)

“You do realize that post-ac businesses like mine and many others provide loads of targeted professional and career information for free?” I asked.

Her, with finality: “We’re. Not. Going. To. Include. Businesses.”

Me, emphatically: “Well, I think that is a wrongheaded policy.”

Her, tightly: “Well, [avoiding eye contact, gathering up her papers] “I’ll be sure to pass that message along.”

And there it ended.

Relating this conversation later to another postac business owner, I learned that the GCC does allow businesses into its conferences – but only in a segregated category, as “vendors.” In other words, a professional organization that purports to prepare PhDs for nonacademic professional careers others the world of businesses in its own professional practice.

Only in the minds of salaried staff and faculty  – and those graduate student still fondly invested in the “life of the mind” goods they are shilling – are university teaching and advising services “free.”  Only for those whose identities depend on elitist proclamations of the “anti-capitalist difference” of the academy is academic wage work innocent of the profit motive.

But more importantly, the rhetoric of “free service” weaponized by the GCC reinforces the self-serving academic delusions that have left Ph.D. students so vulnerable to the existing economy in which they must survive.  This is the attitude that quietly communicates to desperate Ph.D.s that some career options are ignoble and wrong. It is the attitude that works to sustain their investment in the self-destructive dead-end of adjuncting because adjuncting on food stamps is “noble” while running a business is corrupt. This attitude is pervasive, it is bullshit, and it keeps people trapped in an exploitative cycle of precarious labor. It is time to expose the lie behind what the university and organizations like the GCC call “free.” Graduate students deserve better.

A Tale of Two Conferences

I am just back from a back-to-back conference trip, first to the American Anthropological Association conference in San Jose, and then on to Denver for the American Academy of Religion. At each conference I spoke on the postacademic transition. I encountered quite a contrast.

My event at AAA was one of just a tiny number of professionalization events. Searching “career” in the conference app, in fact, led to only four open events. The AAR, by contrast, had 16 that I could quickly identify in the program – and there seemed to be more.

At the AAA, the crowd for my event, which was meant to be a discussion-based workshop with one other postacademic speaker and me, was very small, even though the wonderful and dedicated organizer worked hard to promote it.

[Addendum: neither my co-presenter nor I were listed on the conference program. Why? Because we had not registered. Why had we not registered? Because why would two postac scholars pay the $3xx it costs to register for the AAA?  And when our dedicated organizer approached the AAA to ask if they’d cover our registration fees, the AAA refused!

Meanwhile, I WAS listed on the AAR program. Why? Because the AAR voluntarily offered me registration as part of the invitation. And that, my friends, should have cued me into the two diverging experiences from the start.]

The tenured white man who introduced the panel appeared not to have the remotest idea who my co-presenter or I were, and laughingly wondered aloud if The Professor Is In were some kind of “pressure group or something.”

When we two presenters finished our talks—both very pragmatic and filled with examples of specific avenues for Ph.D. job seekers outside the tenure track job market — the first audience member to speak up was an apparently tenured senior white male.  In great consternation he fairly shouted at us: “all this talk of autonomy and empowerment… Foucault would be turning over in his grave!” He went on, almost sputtering, “surely we need to stay IN the structure and SAVE it! Surely THAT should be the priority?”

I of course did not come all the way to smoky San Jose to spend my time talking to tenured white men about how to save the academy.  I responded, “I am not interested in the structure and feel no obligation to save it, and neither should its victims, because it’s the STRUCTURE that is producing the victims: it is what leads thousands upon thousands of Ph.D.s to be launched into a catastrophic job market, and end up with six figure debt, the dead-end life of adjuncting, and qualifying for welfare and food stamps. I have no interest in the “structure,” and it’s not what I wish to spend my time here today discussing.”

He looked startled.

As the meme (quoted by my friend Adeline Koh recently on Facebook) puts it: “if you hire people into a broken culture, you don’t fix the culture, you break the people.”

The conversation went on from there, with a good part of the audience visibly unhappy at the concept my co-presenter and I were putting forward that an anthropology Ph.D. could or would choose to exert agency over their own fate. “All this talk of ‘improvisation’ and ‘entrepreneurship’,” said one young woman unhappily, “it’s upsetting and scary! How can you expect us to embrace that?” To which I responded, “Yes. It is scary. It is fucking scary. And the cause of it is the macroeconomic neoliberal shifts that have entirely defunded higher ed and the entire concept of a public good OR a secure job, in any field. My goal here is to try and point out options for individuals to survive and even thrive in these defunded, impoverished conditions, by telling you the truth about them, trying to pierce through the denial and mythologizing of your departments and advisors about them, and present some options for you to consider.”

“Ok, you’ve ALMOST convinced me,” announced the first tenured white male commenter as discussion drew to a close (I was not attempting to convince him). The introducer in turn gestured to me and exclaimed—“Surely universities would want to hire YOU in a position on their payroll to help their students with this! Is that not possible??” Not bothering to mention that I did not leave the academy and start a highly successful business that takes me all over the world and employs a whole team of people to entertain the idea of working for a paycheck in some university careers office, I responded, “Well, I’m not going to do that, but sure, somebody should.”

He looked startled.

Why would I not want to be on a university payroll, his look seemed to ask. He was, after all, the man who referred to himself several times during the event as “being one of the lucky few,” ie, those with tenured positions.

As a postacademic colleague remarked later, upon hearing my story, these are the people who are continually reminding everyone who will listen that it is they who  have The. Best. Job. (“T.B.J.” in her disgusted parlance).

It was this introducer, indeed, who spoke glowingly of the large Executive Session that had been held that very morning on “Precarity” in the academic job market.  “This double session, anointed by the highest AAA admin, surely reveals just how SERIOUSLY the AAA is taking these issues!” he enthused. Having not been aware of this session, I searched it right away on my phone, while listening to the discussion sputter along.  Ah. There it was. A big fancy Executive Session on Precarity. That was made up of 14 presenters of whom – and no, I’m not making this up — eight were TENURED OR TENURE-TRACK PROFESSORS. Indeed, some of the same professors who caused this mishigas that I blogged about a few months ago “Epistemological Crisis?”  read one title (love the question mark);  “Provincializing Precarity,” read another.

These securely employed academics are literally still adding CV-lines on the backs of adjuncts.

I don’t even have words.

All I could say, as I left the workshop, was a text to an anthropologist friend: “I’m done. I’m never coming back to the AAA again. They are lost.”

Discouraged, I packed my bags and journeyed on to the AAR in Denver.  This was my first time at the AAR, and I didn’t know what to expect. I did know that my invitation was to an event that clearly had the official imprimatur of the association as a whole and that the AAR admin appeared quite invested in this and a host of other postacademic and professionalization events that filled the schedule. Indeed the first event I was able to attend at the meetings was a lunch for contingent faculty with the incoming President of AAR, whose purpose was to provide a venue for them to freely express to her the things they most want her to know and to do on their behalf.  I was stunned by the care with which she listened, and the total absence of what I have come to call “tenured bullshit.”

This impression was intensified when I wandered through registration and the book exhibit and saw that there was a whole official initiative called “#AARSolidarity” meant to foreground the position of contingent faculty in Religious Studies departments.

There were pins, and postcards, and badge tags to wear to demonstrate awareness of the issue. And more than that, there were placards set conspicuously in the main hallways, making the issue truly unavoidable to all participants.

Then I attended my events. I did two of them. One was a panel discussion with four other postacademic Ph.Ds: Dr. Amy Defibaugh, Assistant Director of Academic Affairs at Temple University, Dr. Sarah Peterson representing the ImaginePhD initiative from the Graduate Careers Consortium,  Dr. Jenny Whitcher, founder of the Juniper Formation non-profit, and Dr. Emily Swafford, who is the Director of Academic and Professional Affairs at the AHA.  The conversation on this panel was absolutely fantastic – every member of the panel was deeply and imaginatively invested in the true scale of both challenges and opportunities that the postacademic job seeker encounters. Every speaker brought the intellectual sophistication of their Ph.D. training to very specific suggestions for job seekers. There was not a moment of empty rhetoric or mournful performativity (or performative mournfulness). The speakers were smart, focused, funny, empathetic… and the Q&A session could not have been more dynamic and engaged.

I was delighted with the audience of approximately 40; imagine my surprise when the organizers rued the “small numbers.”  The AHA speaker was particularly incisive, explaining the many initiatives spearheaded by that association to assist History Ph.D.s in the postacademic transition. One of the most valuable of these to me is their investment in the idea that just because you work outside the academy, you have not lost your identity as a scholar or a Historian. One of their motivating queries is: “how am I a historian in this job?” – helping Ph.D.s to reclaim the scholarly identity that may have been brutalized by the unsuccessful struggle to find a tenure track position.

It is true, as one postac historian colleague pointed out to me, that this move is potentially quite problematic: it can be interpreted as a discipline and association attempting to disappear the pain, loss, and crisis of Ph.D. career reinvention and under-report the true level of historian un- or under-employment. However, I do think based on my own life trajectory that it can be valuable to discover that one brings ones disciplinary training into other career realms. It took me about five years of running The Professor Is In to realize (and only because a client said it) that I was indeed an anthropologist of the academic career. At the panel, discussing the tension between jettisoning an over-rigid investment in a singular academic identity, and re-embracing a flexible sense of scholarly identity later, I blurted out, “It’s like a Hegelian dialectic!” to which a co-panelist said, amidst general amusement, “See, and you still get to talk this way!”

Fresh from the AAA, seeing the AHA determination to actually consider Ph.D. unemployment a crisis was heartening. As was the willingness of an AAR event to share initiatives from another discipline.

Similarly, my own individual event that followed right after (a one hour Hacking the Post-Academic Career talk followed by Q and A) drew a crowd of approximately 60 responsive, attentive audience members, who stayed engaged even when I mortifyingly lost track of time and spoke almost 20 minutes too long (breaking my single most sacrosanct professional rule!) and staying for energetic conversation that pushed us well past ending time.

The previous day, shortly after I arrived at the conference, a TPII reader who came up to introduce herself smiled mischievously and said, “I know you have sometimes called yourself an ethnographer of academic conferences! I’m dying to hear what you think of the AAR!”  At that moment I had not yet had time to make any observations, but writing this on the flight home, I can say this: I am struck yet again by the contrast in disciplinary associations’ and tenured faculty members’ willingness to engage in the scandal and crisis of contingency in any meaningful way. The AAA is truly an embarrassment, and it saddens me, since it is my home discipline. But other associations are doing better.  To be sure, I don’t want to idealize, and I know that insiders can see things that I can’t.  My postac historian friend is entirely disgusted with what she sees as the AHA insistence on co-opting History Ph.D.s’ struggle to survive in order to rationalize the continued existence of History Ph.D. programs. And there was conflict at the AAR around the issue of #MeTooPhD, and graduate student members issued a statement about their feelings of exclusion and silencing.

But, as a few folks I spoke with at the AAR panel remarked, the foundational “ethical” orientation of many of the scholars who belong to AAR may be playing a role in sensitizing the association to its obligations to its least powerful constituencies and to the devastations of adjunctification in the academy. Some of its administrators, at least, are not turning a blind eye, and are not coating the issue in self-serving academic jargon and elite and elitist events. Anthropology, by contrast, apparently seems determined to continue to package “precarity” as the latest academic buzz-word, and leave the actually precarious out in the cold.

Productivity Tuesday: Unstuck is Not About Making You a “Better” Worker

Testimonials from Unstuck participants:

It is no exaggeration to state that Unstuck has changed my academic life. I was ready to leave academia as toxic working practices were taking over, and I had imported self-doubt and anxiety into my writing practice. I believed that writing was, and would always be, a miserable experience for me. Unstuck changed all that: I treat writing as an automatic part of my job (like service and teaching) and no longer attach unnecessary emotional baggage to it, or the inevitable rejections and set backs that are part of academic life. Unstuck has enabled me to reclaim writing as a pleasure that fits within the 9-5 contractual obligations and not within holidays, weekends and in place of my actual life. The core benefits of Unstuck has been a rewiring of my writing brain, and a recognition of where I have not always been my own best advocate (setting down those rocks, and staying in my own lane). I now have a regular writing practice (5 days per week); i produce more work than I ever have in my 13 year career (since Unstuck in 8 months I have submitted 3 journal articles and a book chapter). Most of all, I am happier in my job. It was the worth every penny!

I cannot recommend this course enough — even my husband (a non academic who runs his own business) has gotten a lot out of listening to the coaching videos with me, so your influence has been spread far and wide

Associate Professor

I’m an assistant professor on the tenure track. I participated in “Unstuck” over a year ago and I continue to practice things I learned from the meetings and activities.

I particularly benefited from what I learned about time management. I used to work on projects in long, unpleasant jags that would be too unfocused and haphazard to move a piece forward in a clear, strategic way. I don’t do that anymore, and have gotten better at putting in short, focused effort on projects so I can to move forward coherently and with purpose. In the past, I didn’t trust myself to get things done unless I worked on them in a compulsive and unsustainable way. I now know from experience that if I break a task into achievable pieces, it is inevitable that I will finish the job.

As a result of revising parts of my approach to time and work, I am much more efficient than I used to be. At the same time I have a work-life balance that is sustainable. This year I wrote four grant proposals, published two articles, designed a new course, began a new research project, passed my second-year review, and began work on a book proposal. I also started a new hobby, made it to the gym regularly, and invested time in my recently minted marriage. I work hard, but I do not feel overwhelmed all the time.

Most significantly, I found “Unstuck” to be a great counterpoint to the tendencies that I absorbed in graduate school – overwork, insecurity, and unhealthy identification with work products instead of process. Kellee really understands the psychological and emotional dynamics that make academics unproductive, and she has solid and practical suggestions for replacing them in your own work process. Additionally, she has a well-founded critique of how academic institutions encroach on the time and happiness of grad students and faculty, and her productivity coaching is not just about being more productive and successful. An important goal of “Unstuck” is becoming a mature and self-respecting person with good boundaries – not just a better worker.

Assistant Professor

I just wanted to drop you a line to honor how incredibly helpful the Unstuck program has been. I can hardly believe that in the last 16 months I have:
1. Taken a sprawling dissertation and brought it to the point where I am now looking at the copy-editing notes from the publisher;
2. Going over final edits for a chapter in an edited volume, the proposal for which I wrote in mid May 2018;
3. Preparing to attend an international conference to present a scholarly paper (a first for me, and this is a top-tier venue), the seeds of which have been germination for almost 2 years, but which really took off over this past summer;
4. Awaiting decision on grant application for said international travel, which, short though it was, required a somewhat substantial narrative.
This is just incredible productivity considering I carry a 3/3 load in an environment that is not particularly supportive of scholarship (although it makes high demands).
Assistant Professor

I read about UnStuck at a critical stage of my PhD program. The timing of the UnStuck course coincided the approval of a second extension for my PhD program. I was exhausted. Over the previous six years I juggled responsibilities as a part time PhD student, a full-time non-tenure track faculty, and a Faculty administrator. My original plan was to complete the PhD in 3 years. Get in. Get out. That didn’t happen. I felt like I failed. Even though I was determined to focus on writing, even when teaching or other responsibilities were no longer in the way, other burning issues emerged (anything but writing). I had to admit it to myself: I was stuck.

I decided to register for the first UnStuck course beginning in May 2017. The course provided structure, inspiration, and support. Over the first few weeks, I identified practices that were preventing me from meeting my goals, such as binge writing and not scheduling time off. After 2 weeks in the course I began to enjoy writing again. I was writing each day and accomplishing other tasks. I was meeting regularly with a small group as well as interacting with the larger group taking the course. The feelings of failure and isolation diminished.

By July, I wrote the final three chapters and submitted a full draft of my dissertation. I completed my PhD a few months later. The UnStuck course created an environment I needed to achieve this goal and feel very,
very good about it. For me it was all about community. I revisit the course often and remain in contact with members of my small group. My approach to writing continues to evolve.

Thank you Kellee!

Former ABD, now PhD

Stop Struggling Alone

Unstuck: The Art of Productivity is a 12-step, self-guided course that walks you step-by-step through acquiring the tools and practices of a productive academic writing practice. Membership includes access to daily blog posts, checklists, coaching videos and live webinars with Productivity Coach Kellee Weinhold as well as interaction with a writing community. Each part of the course is designed to help you identify your negative habits and rewire your brain for regular and enjoyable writing! (NOTE: The content is “dripped” M-F over 12 weeks, but your access to the course and the community does not expire)

New sessions start the first Monday of every month.

Read more about the program HERE

Know enough already? Choose a payment method below

Unstuck begins the first Monday of every month.

Register for January 7th cohort

UNSTUCK: The Art Of Productivity First Monday

* PLEASE NOTE: Failure to pay the agreed upon installments will result in cancellation of all access to the program. The online course system does not allow for partial access!

#MakeupMonday: How Can You Code Switch Your Face? Managing Hyperpigmentation in the “Natural” Sciences – WOC Guest Post

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 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. Bala Chaudhary


Dr. Bala Chaudhary is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Studies at DePaul University. Her research examines plant-soil-microbe interactions using a combination of experimental, macroecological, and data synthesis approaches to study multi-scale questions in microbial community ecology. Follow @balachaudhary




Confession: I am ecologist and a daily makeup wearer.

This largely stems from the fact that, as a woman of color with hyperpigmentation (HP), I feel more comfortable and confident wearing makeup to even my skin tone. I also have become tired of hearing comments like:

“Are you ok? You look tired!” or

“Jeez you don’t look so good!” or

“Why do you paint those dark spots on your face?” (My personal favorite)

These are all comments, by the way, from fellow ecologists that would likely claim that makeup is a waste of time and money, a tool of the patriarchy, and that no woman that wears makeup could be taken seriously in ecology. The current president of the Ecological Society of America recently shared via twitter a story of a faculty search where a woman in, “somewhat formal dress suit and makeup, hair is nicely ‘done’…is scorned by faculty and grad students as too feminine, couldn’t possibly work in field.” This is a familiar story and I applaud leaders in our field for bringing such issues to light that may seem minor, but have real consequences with respect to jobs, salaries, and promotion.

Me at my wedding

One year later at grad school

To adapt to the cultural norms of ecology, I both consciously and unconsciously engage in a fair amount of code-switching, the act of changing the way you speak or act depending on the audience. I am a child of Indian immigrants and grew up in suburban Minnesota, so code-switching is second nature. Imagine cross-country ski races preceded by bhangra dance practice. As a result, in ecology grad school, code-switching was a cinch. I bought chaco sandals, hid my diamond wedding ring, and even attempted an embarrassing period of trying to grow dreadlocks. If code-switching sounds fake or disingenuous to you, I suggest using your excellent research skills to learn more about this very real sociolinguistic phenomenon and the reasons why people code-switch, because this is a make-up blog.

But, how can you code switch your face? My au naturale beauty regime is failing me as approach mid-life and I find myself spending more and more time investigating ways to apply makeup to make it look like I’m not wearing makeup. I’ve learned a few tips along the way that I’d like to share to hopefully save y’all some time and also help bring to light issues surrounding appearance norms in ecology. When I share my experiences of code-switching, makeup wearing, and beauty norms in ecology with white female and minority students, I see how strongly it resonates with them (some even visibly relax). I share these stories to encourage students in my lab to speak and act in a way that feels true to their identity instead of the perceived norms of our field.

Many women of color develop hyperpigmentation (HP) as a result of many different factors: age, genetics, sun exposure, acne, dryness, hormones, stress, etc. It’s totally normal! If you choose, a few extra beauty regime habits can help even out your skin tone and keep you looking fresh. There are two aspects to managing HP: prevention and coverage.

Prevention of HP requires understanding the cause of your HP. For me, it’s a lovely combination of sun, dryness, and hormones. Eczema patches leave behind dark spots. I also developed dark patches on my eyelids, around my nose and around my mouth during pregnancy. Note that this was NOT the same as melasma or the “mask of pregnancy”, a menacing phrase I always hated. Therefore, the prevention aspect of my HP involves sunscreen, excessive moisturizing, and waiting for my hormones to calm down post birth/nursing. Yay waiting! If you’d like to see a dermatologist about your HP, I’m just going to be frank here and suggest you find a WOC doctor. In my experience, if you can’t find a WOC doctor you’ll find just as good info on the internet. I would also consult a WOC dermatologist before any more intense medical skin treatments (e.g. peels) as, depending on your HP, patterning these can lead to raccoon eyes.

I use Origins Mega-Bright SPF 30 Oil-Free Moisturizer on my face and neck and Mega-Bright Dark Circle Minimizer on my eyes since I have very dry fragile eye skin. I also use Cetaphil Cream on my body which locks in the moisture and helps your face. My dermatologist said I should be going through a tub a month! I don’t come anywhere near that but I try. Drinking water and sleeping with a humidifier helps too.

For coverage and to even our my skin tone, I use Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer SPF 20 in tan. In the summer, when my skin is darker, I use the oil-free version which has a darker tone. To find the right skin tone match, I go to Sephora on a slow day, stalk a POC employee (are you listening Sephora HR!?), and ask them to help me find the right tinted moisturizer shade to provide HP coverage without making it look like I’m wearing heavy makeup. I put a nickel size amount on my palm and apply with a Multitasker complexion #45 brush. Since the goal is even skin tone, no other applicators works as well for me. Start with your darkest spots and blend throughout. Afterwards, it’s a bit dewey for my taste, so I dust with NARS Setting Powder using a Sephora #59 powder brush. I have learned from Karen the magic of setting spray and use NYX Matte Finish Fini Mat because you can get it at Target and it recently worked wonders after an overnight transatlantic flight! The final step for me is a long-wear lip color and I use Sephora cream lip stain, though the quest for a shade that looks like I’m not wearing anything continues.

I have no connections to any of the above products or businesses and would be curious to hear what has worked for other WOC in ecology or other WOC with HP!


A Personal Note From Karen

I want to offer a personal note. I’ve had an extraordinarily difficult year. My teenage son has struggled with mental health challenges that have required constant attention as well as constant travel, along with a profound reevaluation of my family system and my own history of mental illness. My 90 year old mother was in a serious car accident. Other family members have been dealing with major health issues. The stress of all this, and the continual travel (I was traveling 21 out of 31 days in October) have – along with the escalating grief, strain and fear of being a queer Jew with biracial children in the national nightmare of 2018 – damaged my mental health and immune system, and I’ve spent the year struggling with both almost continual illness (in the past two months, for example, I’ve had both Epstein-Barr and coxsackie virus), weekly migraines, low grade depression, and constant state of overwhelm. The travel and illness have kept me from the dancing that is my front-line mental health defense, which has exacerbated the struggle.

Some of you may have noticed a decline in my rate of blogging and social media activity, and disruption in my editing schedule. I want to acknowledge that. If you’ve had encountered any frustrations in engaging with The Professor Is In this year, please accept my apologies.

I decided to just share this openly, because I know how many of you are struggling as well (because you tell us)  and because I strongly believe in de-stigmatizing mental health struggles. Secrecy and shame are major elements of the toxicity of the academy. I am a real person and The Professor Is In is not a faceless corporation and after eight years of existence I feel like it is ok to say: sometimes this is really, really hard.

The fact that I can write this, however, is a good sign–it means I am able to see and articulate my circumstances, instead of just drowning in them. That means I’m coming back up. Writing this today, on the literal eve of the midterms, may be tempting fate, of course. But this time around we at least know the enemy and its strength, so whatever happens, it won’t be the sickening (literally sickening) shock of 2016.

Blogging is still challenging, however. Writing takes a level of focus that has been hard to muster.  It has been hard to stay focused on the conventions of the academic job search when so much that we’ve taken as “conventional” has evaporated or been exposed as a sham. At the same time, speaking directly to audiences, either at talks around the country or virtually online, has been much  more meaningful for me this year.

And so, right now, I am relying on webinars where I can talk through the topics and also respond to live questions. I’ve scheduled three webinars for the next three weeks. The first one is tomorrow. To make the webinars more useful to everyone, I give all registrants open access to the recordings afterward, whether or not you attend the live events. That schedule is below. Please use WEBZONE10 as a discount code for these, which provides 10% off.

And I also want to invite you, if you haven’t been coming already, to our weekly FB Live on Fridays at 11 AM EST, where Kellee and I talk through the stresses of staying active under the psychic assault of the present moment.

And my series of guest posts continues.

Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you all, in the comments, as to how you’re all doing. How has this past year been for you? Has it caused any reevaluation of your life? Your goals? Your relationship to academia? Please share.


Interview Intervention Webinar

In this 90-minute webinar Karen Kelsky shows you how to interview effectively for an academic job. She covers the major questions asked most often, and their unspoken agendas.  She discusses the most common errors made by candidates, and how to organize and deliver concise, content-rich, non-desperate responses.

She will provide templates for responses to basic questions about your dissertation/current research, publishing, teaching, and fit, and abundant examples of both bad and good answers from actual client interviews.

In addition, we confront illegal/inappropriate questions, micro-aggressions, and the all important issue of overcoming Imposter Syndrome, and communicating confidence through verbal and non-verbal modes. And she spares a few words for how to dress, the best shoes for cold weather, and ideas for briefcases!

The material applies to skype, phone, and conference interviews, and the campus visit (although note that we have a whole separate webinar and recording available that is devoted to the campus visit!)

This webinar covers the same content, and addresses the same questions, as the live Skype Interview Intervention service ($250); it is an immediately available and cost-effective way to learn what to expect and how to prepare for all forms of academic job interview. Some clients do the webinar as preparation for a live Skype Intervention, if there are slots available.

As always there will be plenty of time for Q and A at the end.

You have access to a recording of the event afterward.

Tuesday 11/6 at 6 PM EST

Cost: $50

After completing payment by clicking below, you will be redirected to the dedicated Go-To-Meeting Webinar Registration page, where you will fill out a registration form and be given instructions and an access code to sign in on your chosen day.

Add to Cart


Campus Visit Webinar

In this 90 minute webinar I walk you through the basic expectations and potential pitfalls of the dreaded Campus Visit (sometimes called a Fly-Out). We will cover all of the core elements, including:

  • The three key criteria at play in a campus visit

  • The single biggest pitfall for candidates

  • The basic organization of a campus visit

  • The initial arrangements and scheduling

  • Preparing for the visit

  • Meetings with faculty, Head, Dean, and graduate students

  • The formal interview with the Search Committee

  • The job talk and Q and A

  • The teaching demo

  • Handling meals gracefully

  • Maintaining your stamina

  • Evaluating campus climate

  • What to wear, especially in cold weather

As always there will be time for Q and A at the end. You will have access to a recording of the webinar 24 hours after the event.

Campus visits are hard!  A little advance knowledge will save a world of hurt!

Tuesday 11/13 at 6 PM EST

Cost:   $50

After completing payment by clicking below, you will be redirected to the dedicated Go-To-Meeting Webinar Registration page, where you will fill out a registration form and be given instructions and an access code to sign in on your chosen day. 

Add to Cart

Job Talk Webinar

In this webinar we will delve into the challenges of the all-important job talk.

I will explain the role of the job talk in the campus visit (it’s the single most important element) , and what it is meant to show about you as a candidate (it’s not what you think).

Kellee and I together created this webinar because I edit hundreds of job talks a year at TPII, and she hears them in her live skype Campus Visit Interventions, and the first drafts we see are routinely truly awful. (And when we were faculty members, in truth, most job talks we heard from candidates were pretty bad.) This is not because your research is poor!  It’s because nobody has ever explained to you WHAT a job talk is supposed to accomplish and HOW a job talk is supposed to be organized.

We now understand that most candidates have no idea about the proper ethos and organization of the job talk. They don’t get the “point” of the job talk, what it’s meant to achieve, and then how to achieve that through specific substance and organization.

So I will explain the most common pitfalls of the job talk, which are legion, including:

Excessive lit review (this isn’t your comprehensive exam!)
Forgetting to explain the topic before the analysis
Imbalance of theory and data
Overambitious scope
No clear argument
Overwhelming, illegible powerpoint slides

And I provide a proven template for job talk structure that will ensure yours showcases your research, engages the audience, and establishes your scholarly profile AND collegiality.

Finally, I will discuss the treacherous Q and A after the talk–what kinds of questions to expect, how to handle the audience, and most importantly, how to handle challenging, critical, or inappropriate questions.

Includes 30 minutes of Q and A.

All participants get access to the recording of this webinar.

Tuesday 11/20 at  6 PM EST/23:00 GMT. 

Cost:   $50

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An Open Letter to the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Delaware – WOC Guest Post

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 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. Arica L Coleman.

Dr. Coleman is the author of That the Blood Stay Pure, a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2014. Her essay “Mildred Loving: The Extraordinary Life of An Ordinary Woman” received the 2016 Gloria E. Anzaldúa Award for Independent Scholars Honorable Mention from the American Studies Association. She is a frequent contributor to Time Magazine, History News Network, and LA Progressive; and has also contributed articles to The Washington Post, and The Crisis Magazine. She recently completed her second manuscript titled “Long Stories Short: A Womanist Exploration of The Personal, The Political, and The Spiritual.” Follow @


Dear Former Colleagues:

I recently participated in a weekend writers retreat with renowned author Marita Golden. Marita graciously carved out time in an already packed schedule to celebrate the publication of my latest Time Magazine article and also recommended that everyone in the group purchase my award winning book That the Blood Stay Pure: African Americans, Native Americans and the Predicament of Race and Identity in Virginia.

At the conclusion of the retreat I purchased Marita’s first book Migrations of the Heart and her most recent book The Wide Circumference of Love and asked her to autograph them. She signed the first book, “To Arica—a dynamo, a scholar, a wonderful writer.” In the second she wrote, “To Arica—Thank you for all the wisdom, ideas, and spirit you bring into the world through your writing.”

Marita’s words were “like cocoa butter on my heart,” to borrow from songwriter India.Arie. There is no balm more soothing to a heart—which has been shattered by years of academic hazing and the trauma of tenure denial–than to have this writer-scholar and elder black stateswoman join the chorus of affirmations confirming that the person I am and the work that I do, matters.

Yet, four years ago when I left the department at the conclusion of my terminal year, I indeed had my doubts. Those doubts were the consequence of what Carole Boyce Davies demonstrated in a recent article for Black Perspectives titled “The Persistence of Sexism in Africana Studies.” Davies argued. “While institutional racism . . .  is identified as being more prominent and therefore more recognizable, institutional sexism, its twin, remains largely overlooked in many institutions. Black women, often the recipients of these twinned social ills, are the most disadvantaged in these institutional practices.” In other words, most people fail to understand that Black women are equally challenged by sexism which is a daily reality they face even in Black institutions.

To demonstrate the prevalence of institutional sexism or rather to be more precise misogynoir, a term coined by queer black feminist scholar Moya Bailey which “describes the anti-black racist misogyny that black women experience,” Davies used her home institution Cornell University as a case study to demonstrate the “presumed incompetence” of black women who continue to be passed over for the leadership of Africana Studies despite being qualified and in some cases more qualified than their male counterparts. Hence, black women faculty are left to navigate a power structure comprised of departmental and college administrators hell bent on maintaining the status quo. As Davies aptly observed, “ the larger institutional arrangements solidify a decidedly racialized sexist pattern of leadership at both departmental and college levels, which reinforces institutional sexism [misogynoir] in which Black women are decidedly disadvantaged.”

Indeed. Dr. Carol E. Henderson, one of your own senior faculty also noted this disadvantage in her review of the highly acclaimed book Presumed Incompetent titled “A Politics of Color” stating, “advances in racial and gender equity at all levels in the academy have moved at a snail’s pace. Within administrative and faculty ranks, in particular, women of color find a lack of presence and parity with their peers at many of the major universities and colleges in this country.” Henderson concurred with the editors’ use of personal story stating, “storytelling as qualitative research is important to bridging the gap between those who have the privilege and power to speak within any given structure and those who hold subordinate roles within that same institution.”

My choice to speak my truth openly rather than anonymously is my contribution to bridging this power gap.

As you are well aware, the University of Delaware’s lack of diversity in general and of women faculty of color in particular has been well documented since the late 1970s with more recent examples here and here; and its campus reputation as one which is inhospitable towards black students and black faculty is well known. While the Africana Studies Department was a nourishing and supportive space for all students, it was the opposite for black female junior faculty as was documented in the department’s 2013 External Review Report completed the fall of my terminal year. That report took particular note of the problem of promotion and tenure of women faculty of color stating, “While there is never one factor that speaks to each individual’s tenure and promotion experience, we suggest that BAMS (formerly known as the Department of Black American Studies) and the College [of Arts and Sciences] pay acute attention to the mentoring of all junior faculty and particularly women. Mentoring is a key element in increasing the success of junior faculty women of color.”

Indeed. The double jeopardy of being black and female in a department steeped in a masculinist epistemic tradition which privileged the teaching/research of the department’s lone core black male junior faculty and a black male junior affiliate, marginalized the four black female junior faculty (2 core and 2 affiliate) who were not only left to navigate the tenure track as best we could but whose scholarship was devalued by the department.

As Henderson further stated: “aware of the informal, nebulous demands of promotion and tenure that favor the ‘good ol’ boy network’” in which “their [women of color] intellectual capacity and their scholarship are deemed wholly unacceptable, summarily questioned, and even dismissed by colleagues . . .  lead to disrespectful and even vitriolic behavior . . .that resolidifies the historical racial hierarchy of academic culture.”

I would only add that this behavior also resolidifies the historical gender hierarchy of academic culture.

Hence, it was no coincidence that the two aforementioned male colleagues were tenured—another black male who was denied tenure remains as contingent faculty and is now an Africana Studies affiliate–while 100% of  black women hired on the tenure track between the years 2005-2007 left the university untenured.

With respect to my own experience, Africana leadership demonstrated a blatant disregard for  my scholarship despite having exceeded the department’s tenure criteria with articles published in respected peer review journals such as Souls and the International Journal of Africana Studies; essays published and anthologized in volumes edited by distinguished scholars Manning Marable, Beverly Guy Sheftall and Johnnetta Betsch Cole; and a book in production at Indiana University Press. When the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences declared my scholarship “insufficient” senior faculty did not utter a word.

Consequently, I—the last black woman standing– was left to appeal my tenure case to the Provost without one single member of the department in attendance to support me. In fact, the department chair, who was appointed Vice Provost of Diversity the following spring, declined my request that she attend the appeal in an email. “You know I have other administrative duties to attend to,” she stated.

As Davies contended and I concur, the dirty little secret is that misogynoir is alive and well in black academia. Poet Audre Lorde stated, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Yet, rather than dismantle the house, some are using the tools to help renovate it.

In closing, celebrated author Alice Walker stated, “We are a people. A people do not throw their geniuses away. And if they are thrown away, it is our duty as artists and as witnesses for the future to collect them again for the sake of our children, and, if necessary, bone by bone.”  I am thankful for Marita Golden, the late Manning Marable, Beverly Guy Sheftall, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Howard Johnson (Africana Studies Professor Emeritus), and the countless others whose faith in me and support of my work has enabled me to witness the fruit of my labor while I am still alive and well to continue to do this work for the academy, for the nation, and for all of humanity.


Arica L Coleman



#MakeupMonday: Travel, More Travel, and Falsies

I have to apologize for the long pause in blogging. Things have been intense around here. My 17 year old son has been in a residential treatment program for mental and emotional struggles over the past year. I’m happy to say that he’s made incredible progress and is getting out earlier than expected. That is wonderful news, but it has meant that a bunch of traveling related to him (to his graduation, his college tour, and a promised graduation trip to Japan) has all been drastically condensed into a two month period that ALREADY had no fewer than five trips planned  – to Ohio State for a day of talks (with Kellee!), then on to Mizzou for another day of talks, then to Berkeley to see my daughter for Homecoming, to Hawai’ii for a Sexual Harassment in the Academy talk, and to San Jose and Denver for the AAA and AAR meetings, where I’m doing panels on ac and postac careers.

I really like my “Don’t even start with me” look

That does not include the emergency trip to Youngstown, Ohio to assist my 90 year old mother, who was in a serious car accident and ended up in the hospital there, or the detour to Pittsburgh to get her home and settled with in-home care (requiring the 11th hour cancellation of the Mizzou event – UGH. My mom is fine btw).

And that doesn’t include travel to Portland for a Thanksgiving family gathering there around a family member receiving medical treatment at OHSU.

All this to say, I’m basically living out of a suitcase in a state of constant fatigue. I’m writing this post, in fact, sitting in bed at midnight in a hotel in Amherst where my son and I spent the day touring U Mass Amherst, before leaving super-early tomorrow to drive to U Conn.

One positive: I’ve truly TRULY solidified my travel makeup kit, and now it runs like clockwork! I’ve got the best lighted travel mirror AND extra batteries. I’ve got ALL the brushes I need in miniature size. I’ve got my regular eyeshadow palette and eyelash primer and mascara and blush and primer and foundation and concealer and finishing powder and finishing spray all set in dedicated travel versions so I’m never caught without. The only thing missing are my contour products… And, I have made sure to find some moments of rest and rejuvenation amidst all this. It’s a necessity. And the ocean is my love.

But when I’m home, as you may imagine, I’m exhausted.

My blogging energy is depleted.  I know I promised (and started!) a series on the tenure process – but I can’t muster the focus to continue right now, and won’t do that vital and fraught topic *without* total focus! So, thank you for your patience.

Last Friday night all I could find the energy to do was a face mask, and then playing around with a new lipcolor sample I got from Sephora (which was AMAZING! Giorgio Armani Lip Maestro in color 504 – wow I love this product  – it goes on so smooth and weightless and super pigmented!) and….


Yes, I finally succumbed. I just wanted to TRY. And since Miyako and I had enjoyed our usual multi-hour sojourn at the Emeryville Ulta during my visit to Berkeley, I came home with some basic, cheap, natural-looking ones (by false eyelashes standards) to try out. They are Eylure Naturals 15.

They looked sort of like this (couldn’t find a pic of the 15s):

Here are the pics.  Excuse the red, bloodshot eyes. That’s just how I look right now. And yes this is the Giorgio Armani Lip Maestro mentioned above. Not shown: Kellee standing nearby looking deeply nonplussed by the appearance of false eyelashes on my face.


Here’s a close-up.  Black and white helps the lashes stand out a bit more.

I actually really liked them. I got a really “natural” style and they honestly looked pretty legit, not weirdly conspicuous, and quite age and professional-realm appropriate.

But, they are just so f-ing hard!  I am really just not good at getting them on. And then I’m not good at getting them off. Even when I used the special tool!  And then I did NOT realize that you have to thoroughly clean and disinfect them to be able to reuse them! Which, I proved completely unable to do, even after about an hour of soaking, and gently rubbing, and picking at with tweezers, etc. etc. The gunk would not come off!

So…. the falsie life is probably not for me. Basically it made me INSTANTLY dissatisfied with my own lashes, while proving that I am incapable of really committing to doing false lashes. Yay.

But what is the makeup life if not constant experimentation?  And what I reject one week, I may enthusiastically endorse the next. So, we shall see. I am going to try one more time since this is obviously another technique requiring much practice.

If you have any thoughts or advice on false eyelashes, please do share!