Who is Dr. Karen?

“Karen Kelsky is a sort of macabre ‘Ms. Mentor’ for the 21st century” ~ Matthew Pratt Guterl

Karen Kelsky is the Founder and President of The Professor Is In, which provides advice and consulting services on the academic job search and all elements of the academic and post-academic career. She speaks nationally and internationally on topics related to Ph.D. professionalization, and is a weekly columnist at Chronicle Vitae.  Her latest book is The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job (Random House 2015).

Karen is a former tenured professor and Department Head with 15 years of experience teaching at the University of Oregon and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.   Her Ph.D. is in Cultural Anthropology, with a focus on Japan, from the University of Hawai’i.  Her B.A. is from the University of Michigan.  Her first book, an academic monograph, Women on the Verge: Japanese Women, Western Dreams, was published in 2001 by Duke University Press.  She trained 5 of her own Ph.D. students who have gone on to successful careers in academia and related fields.  She worked as a committee member with numerous Ph.D.s and Masters students, and hundreds of undergraduate students.

Karen held her first Academic Job Market Workshop while still a Ph.D. student at the University of Hawai’i, after she was offered her first tenure-track job.    It took her two years to land that job, and she wanted to pass on the hard-earned lessons of those years to her fellow graduate students.  That was the origin of The Professor Is In, which launched in 2010.

Karen and Kellee, protesting.

Karen was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city she still loves.  She spent two years after leaving her tenured position working in the federally-funded McNair Program at the University of Oregon, where her job was to advise qualified UO undergraduate students to prepare for and succeed in Ph.D. programs.  With the success of The Professor Is In, though, she now devotes all of her time to the business.  She lives in Eugene, Oregon with her partner Kellee Weinhold; they now jointly run the business, with Kellee handling the live Interview and Campus Visit Interventions and  the Unstuck Productivity Coaching program. When Karen isn’t working, she’s dancing 4-5 days a week, and experimenting with skin care and makeup, her latest passion project.

Karen’s dance community

Karen and Kellee have two children, and two rabbits, Penelope and Morris.  Currently much of their time is spent in political protest against the current administration, with a focus on Black Lives Matter, and the #MeToo movement. Karen was the originator of the #MeTooPhD hashtag as an outcome of her Sexual Harassment in the Academy crowdsource survey that went viral in late 2017.

In her previous life Karen made and sold jewelry from Japanese paper and fabric in her business Paper Demon Jewelry. That is on hiatus now, as she’s occupied managing thousands of clients at The Professor Is In, writing a weekly advice column for Chronicle Vitae, and speaking nationally and internationally to university audiences and scholarly associations about the academic job market and Ph.D. professionalization. Check out her book, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide to Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job (Random House, 2016)











Learn more about Dr. Karen, Kellee, the team, and ways we can help, by reading The Professor’s Testimonials.   Read examples of her advice to students and junior faculty on the page “Pearls of Wisdom: The Blog” And get in touch—she’s always happy to hear from you.  

Contact her at:  gettenure@gmail.com.


Who is Dr. Karen? — 53 Comments

  1. Hi Karen,

    Great blog- I found it through your article in the Chronicle today. Good stuff. Just thought I would share one of my books with you, Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles- it may be a good resource for your and your students. Easy to follow tools of the trade and tricks that many of my mentees have said work. http://lyceumbooks.com/PracticalTips4Pub2E.htm

    Best of luck to you in your consulting business- totally needed.


    Rich Furman

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  4. Just wanted to let you know that there is an “i” missing in the word “qualified” in the third line of your last paragraph! And thanks for your blog, I have found it incredibly helpful as I begin my first academic job search.

    • You might also consider spelling the number five, as you do the number two in the two subsequent paragraphs. Thanks for the resource!

        • To the contrary. It’s not rude at all. It’s helpful. Just look at wikipedia, or spend any time around a bunch of reporters working on copy. I guarantee you they point out errors like that all the time.

          But, I would have felt that it was rude when I was in academia, because it’s supposedly a “flat” structure, but the actual truth is that the unwritten rule is that you are only allowed to make comments like that down the metaphorical totem pole, not up it. Which just goes further to emphasize that academia actually has an extremely strict hierarchy.

          If you work in industry, you will find it is the exact opposite. I used to work in a company with thousands of employees. Nobody was shy about publicly telling managers they had made mistakes, right on up to individual contributors calling out the CEO. Despite the rhetoric you get in the academy, the truth is that most corporate structure is far far flatter than what you get on campus. All the better for it. It made us a more competitive company.

          Nope, not rude at all.

          • theflow@att.net. If you are in an academic setting and/or a seasoned author, the above editing comment is not rude by normative, cultural standards for these specific roles. I can understand how an *editing* or *grammatical* correction in a somewhat public forum may appear so. I am grateful for necessary and appropriate corrections of my written work, especially online postings, drafts, and published work. I publish textbooks and ask my students to note necessary corrections, as they are reading, which I send to my publisher for subsequent editions. There are exceptions: when and where matters. I would not be as appreciative IF corrections were suggested in a setting where my authority was necessary for credibility and professional validity, such as my classroom, in a large formal presentation, or in the presence of my superiors. I would much rather a private note be shared in those instances.

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  15. Karen, I have greatly benefited from your website and I am just finishing my first year on the tenure track! My challenge right now is figuring out how to organize my office and my computer files. The part-time teaching and TA-ing I have done before has not prepared me to teach the same classes again and again. My professors had multiple stacking file cabinets overflowing with xeroxed articles, but I have a new computer that will soon be filled up with PDFs. My inbox is shameful. I am not sure what I should keep and what I should simply remember how to find. Help!!

  16. Hi Professor,

    I was just curious if you’d be willing to provide some suggestions for gaining leadership for students in their PhD (that are eventually interested in administrative positions in academia).

    Thank you,

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  20. Hi Karen! I read your post about your difficulties with graduate school in Germany. I am looking into some graduate programs in Chemistry. Do you think this experience would be different for my major or would you still advise against it?

    Thank you!

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  32. July 18th 2011 post about leaving a tenured position at the university of Illinois “Death of a soul (on campus)”, you mentioned the pervasiveness of attitudes like homophobia and being homosexual and then you make a derogatory remark about disability and persons with Asperger Syndrome. I’m not at all surprised that you did not fit in with the culture there. Your eletist and ableist attitude shows in that single comment and undermined what ever message you might have thought was of value. Your experience was, quite literally, your own fault and you made the correct decision to leave. That campus in one of the leading institutions for the integration of disabled and people with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome and you think your struggling facing homophobic attitudes makes it acceptable for you to degrade individuals expressing traits of Autism just because you felt the need to discuss your disregard for the culture at an academic institution. Way to model for academics and represent the LBGT community. You really should be ashamed of yourself for being a derogatory jerk towards a marginalized community. What you wrote is equivalent in nature to the spirit of homophobic offensive remarks and you would understand if you grew up in the disability community and lived with Autism and Aspergers Syndrome. Consider sensitivity training and a retraction for the shit you wrote an an apology for those of us on the spectrum who have to deal with discrimination from people like you who think that homophbia is such a problem and then turn around and degrade the disabled community. Super not cool.

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  39. Have been reading your articles on Chronicle Vitae and have liked those articles. Hopefully, you will be able to contribute to the BioChem Adda community as well.

    Thank you.


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  45. I have been following your posts for years. Now, I need your help. After 12 years at the same university, after being promoted to the rank of full professor — I’m now back on the job market and even willing to be demoted.
    How are earth (if at all) do I address this in my cover letter.

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