Pearls of Wisdom–The Blog

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

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

This single handy guide addresses the most important issues facing any Ph.D., including:

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

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



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

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

Let me know if there’s a topic you want to see me post on!  I am always happy to put Special Requests into the queue. Comment here, or email me at: You can always get to a particular Category by clicking it in the Categories column to the right—————>

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

At The Professor Is In, we have a particular commitment to supporting black women in the academy, as well as other scholars of color. This is a core company mission. If you are a member of these communities, and finances are an issue in working with us, please get in touch to discuss possible arrangements.

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

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

Workshop Summary: Hacking the Academic Job Market

By Katie Harling-Lee

This post and a companion post on the Non-Academic Job Market (coming next week) are summaries of two talks I gave at the University of Durham in the UK, generously compiled by Katie Harling-Lee, who attended. For anyone curious about my in-person talks, this is how I spend the one hour (followed by 30 minutes of Q and A). Thank you, Katie, for taking the time to provide these.

Katie Harling-Lee is a PhD student in the Department of English Studies at Durham University, UK, funded by The Wolfson Foundation. Her primary research is in musico-literary studies, exploring the thematic use of music in the contemporary novel with a particular focus on the use of Western classical music in conflict situations. In the early stages of her PhD studies, she is preparing herself for the academic career market, but also co-runs the blog Object [], endeavors to find time for ‘fun reading’ alongside her research, and tweets on the academic and nonacademic world as @KatieOsha. Find her at her personal website:, and also here: and here:


In just an hour and a half, Dr Karen Kelsky presented a room full of budding PhD students with enough advice to warrant over 2,000 words worth of notes. This post is the boiled down version, highlighting the points that I wish all PhD students could be taught during their studies. 

To Begin

The most thought-altering point of Karen’s talk: turn your PhD into a job. Yes, academic study can be a passion, but it is also job preparation, packed full with training opportunities. This idea is often frowned upon in the ivory tower of academia, but like it not, universities are in crisis — and there is no time like the present for starting your job preparations, both for academic and nonacademic routes. This post focusses on Karen’s tips for hacking the academic job market, but you can see next week’s post for a summary of her tips on preparing for a non-academic career. 

How to use grad school (PhD study) as a means to get a job 

First and foremost, remember that the best dissertation is a finished dissertation. Write your dissertation with an eye to the publications that it will become, and strategize these publications, because dates of publication have an effect on the tenure track/REF requirements. PhD study is also the perfect time for getting as much useful experience as possible, and you will be able to take advantage of numerous opportunities which will aid your CV. Alongside publications, these include conference papers and organizing a panel for a national conference, teaching undergraduates, applying for grants, and organizing academic events. To keep on top of the vast amount of opportunities available to you, you should seriously consider making a 5-Year Plan – I’ve started building my own after hearing Karen’s talk. In brief, this plan will mark out the next five or so years of your life, noting important deadlines for things such as conference papers, grants, exams, PhD defense (viva), abstract proposals, and journal publications. Your commitment to planning and execution can overcome all other hurdles, so when you’ve finished reading this summary post on hacking the academic job market, read Karen’s posts on the 5-Year Plan here [] and here []. 

The Application

The academic job market is brutal: there are jobs which may get from 200 to 1000 applications. When that happens, the overworked academics on the hiring committee have to work as fast as possible to shift through application after application, rejecting as many as possible. In Karen’s words: “If you don’t grab hold of them in the first minute or so, you’re toast”. To do this, you have to get out of your own head. An academic job application (and in fact every job application) is not about you or what you love. It’s about whether you will make the search committee’s life easier in concrete ways if they hire you by demonstrating that you are the best person to fill the role, so they need to be able to understand this in a minute’s reading. Below are summaries of tips on how to do this by building a successful record and CV and performing well in interviews. 

The Application: Your Record    

Ultimately, your record needs evidence of your success with peer review, because peer-reviewed output proves that you are a ‘pre-vetted’ candidate by other members of the research community. This means that you need to have:

  • Peer-reviewed publications in major refereed journals 
  • A list of grants received, preferably national rather than campus 
  • A history of high-prestige conference presentations or panel chairing

    You will also need a well-known recommender (known as a referee in the UK), potentially someone from another university, and you will need to show that you can teach — but don’t use teaching awards as a cover for a lack of articles or conferences. And remember, records of your professional and personal life are now easily accessible via the internet, so you need to manage your image online and on social media. You will be googled, so google yourself on incognito mode to see what a stranger will see and remember to check your privacy settings on Facebook. Social media isn’t always a bad thing though, and you should consider curating a Twitter account. As Karen says, “Twitter is like the watercooler of academia”. It is an active, engaged space, providing great opportunities for making contacts and finding collaborators around the globe, so make sure to use it, and present yourself as an academic peer in your field. It is also a very good idea to have a website or page, for example, which includes your research interests, publications, and conference papers, which you can then link to on your Twitter profile. 

    Bearing all this in mind, these are the qualities of a successful record which you should achieve when building your own:

  • Intense productivity — look forwards by mentioning your planned articles
  • Professionalization — be a faculty peer, not a student
  • Autonomy and self-respect — claim your authority in the field 
  • Effective self-promotion/entrepreneurialism — make yourself known at conferences and online (use Twitter!)
  • Affable collegiality — show that you know how to talk about things other than your dissertation

The Application: Your CV

Yes, you need a full CV. But don’t let the fear of trying to fill your CV make you say yes to every opportunity. “Avoid the temptation of the cheap”, as Karen says. Critically evaluate how each and every opportunity will fare on your CV, because your time is valuable, and not every opportunity is the best opportunity. This includes considering the ranking of journals, academic presses, and conferences — the more established, the more prestige, the more CV power. 

    When writing your CV and cover letter, be concise, be confident, and above all, focus on facts not feelings. So many of us (myself included) fall into the trap of using emotional words like excited/eager/enthusiastic/thrilled/passionate to describe ourselves and our achievements, but this is, in Karen’s words, “bragging without substance”. For example: 

Don’t write

‘I have always been fascinated… and that led me to… and then I realized… That inspired me…This important and under-studied area…. remarkable new impact…’

Do write: 

‘My work is the first to examine …. Using methods x and y. An examination of z in this manner has yielded the insight that, in contrast to previous studies,…’

Remember: focus on facts, not feelings. Academics are critical readers and, just like when you write an essay, they want argumentation and evidence, not an emotional narrative. 

Your Interview

Like in all of the above, be concise, be organised, be well-rehearsed. When you’re being interviewed, “don’t be yourself”; don’t be insecure, defensive, paranoid, self-involved, or communicatively challenged, qualities we all share in some way. You need to act like a faculty peer, not a grad student, and you operate like a faculty peer by demonstrating your contribution to the discipline. So be ready to talk about what you’re working on now, and what you will be working on in the near future. Claim authority in your field and have a strong but brief statement of your academic contribution. Display a disciplined research programme, a calm confidence in your own contribution to research, a clear and specific trajectory of publications, an innovative approach, and above all, that you meet the needs of the hiring committee. To do this, you have to prepare, and preparing for likely interview questions is the first step. Karen gave these examples:

  • Tell us about your dissertation, and its contribution to the field
  • Tell us about your five-year publishing plan – what’s on the back burner?
  • How would you teach our intro/methods course?
  • Briefly describe two courses you would develop for us
  • How would you mentor grad students?
  • How do you deal with diversity in your work/teaching? 
  • How do you see your work fitting into the work we do here at the department? (i.e. why do you want to work here?)

And lastly:

  • Do you have any questions for us?

This last question is a very serious part of the interview: do not say “No”. Calibrate your prepared questions in line with how the department sees itself. For example, if you are interviewing at a tiny teaching college in the US with no money for anything else, do not focus on asking about funded research leave. You must have questions, and they must be fitting to the institution – so use your well-honed research skills to find out what they focus on at that institution. 

Final Points

An academic career in the twenty-first century may seem daunting, and there’s no denying that it will require a huge amount of work and planning. But remember that this is your career. Academia fosters a dependency on the approval of others, which often leads to negative evaluations of yourself. Despite this, you can reclaim your autonomy, whether you stay in the academy or not. If you are considering leaving, read next week’s post for a summary of Karen’s tips on preparing for a non-academic career — because it is 100% okay to do something else. 

#MakeupMonday: Old Hair/New Hair

[Updated! See below]

I mentioned last week that in the last year it has suddenly come to my attention that my hair has, at some point, transitioned from its previous shiny glory to well on the path to shapeless old woman frizzy poof.

Because my hair is so short, and I don’t color it, and it’s such a perfectly equal salt-and-pepper mix, I think I didn’t notice this fact as quickly as I otherwise might have.

But once I noticed it, I was horrified.

This is what my hair used to look like.

This is what I realized it’s been looking like lately.

Here’s another:

Oh dear.

Even when I was working hard to look cute it STILL looked all dry and frizzy….

Once you see something like this, my friends, you can’t unsee it! I leapt into action.

First, I found a Living Proof Timeless Anti-Aging Shampoo and Conditioner trial set (unfortunately discontinued) on sale at TJ Maxx in NYC. I bought it, used it, and right away, I could see a difference in texture.

Then, after some initial reading and one very long afternoon browsing the previously never-visited hair section at Ulta testing loads and loads of products for their texture and smell, I got a Kenra Platinum Blow-Dry Spray trial size, and an Alterna Caviar Anti-Aging Trial Set (I ADORE the former and dislike the latter). I also found a $5.99 Rusk Thermal Protector Serum at TJ Maxx that has become a great love. I started seeing results right away. My hair was instantly smoother.

I’ve been hedging my bets, as I do, buying things cheap and small until I find my way among this forest of new products.

FYI: Just like with cosmetics and skin care (and honestly I think even more so), hair care products really do perform differently on everyone. Ratings and reviews will get you started, but in the end you have to depend on trial and error. I don’t know why Rusk works for me and Alterna doesn’t… Oh and BTW the standout product line for me in all this is Living Proof. I’m heartbroken that they discontinued the Timeless Anti-Aging line, at least for shampoo and conditioner, but I think I’m going to be happy with their newer Frizz line.

Sadly, I also immediately realized that my new true love, Surfer Girl Dry Texturizing Spray, was undoing all the shine I was adding in…. And that texturing sprays, which I adore, MATTIFY and DRY! Ughhhh…..

I need a texturizing spray for my spiky haircut!

Luckily my hairdresser came through with a Davines salon product (“This Is A Dry Texture Spray” is actually the name) so I could get some spike without losing sheen:

Convinced about the impact the right products can make, I finally sprang for full-priced Olaplex #3 Hair Perfecter and #6 Bonding Oil, which seem to be cult items (people on Sephora kept raving about them in discussions of flatirons), and did a treatment:

I also replaced my old no-name damaging flatiron with a GHD Gold Professional Performance Styler (I tried out the Bio-Ionic 10x Pro Styling Iron at the same time, but returned it).

Good lord, did THAT make a difference! (but see those stubborn pokey flyaways!)

Then I went to NYC and scored that totally ridiculous deeply discounted Peter Thomas Roth 24K Gold Hair Mask and Bonnet System (entails a giant black bonnet on ur head that’s attached to your blowdryer on low for a 30 min heat treatment, lol) at Ricky’s going out of business sale (mentioned last week), and tried that (while doing the Glamglow mask, natch!)

I was definitely seeing a dramatic change at this point. Not just in smoothness and shine, but also the color and feel of my hair. The color was brighter: my dark hair was returning to a rich brown, and my grays were starting to sparkle! Even more so, my hair felt soft and pliable. I could run my fingers through it without a single tangle. It started taking the flatiron instantly on a single pass, and best of all, holding its shape all day without frizz, even in humidity! Even my cowlicks (I have 7 of them!) were a little less stubborn!

Randomly I found a DryBar Sparkling Soda Shine Mist trial size somewhere, which added an amazing final shine without weighty oils or dampness. (FYI: I notice most shine sprays are so oily/wet that they instantly undo any styling you just accomplished… very annoying!)

And last night, I went back to the Olaplex #3 and did an overnight treatment as I saw mentioned on Sephora comment threads.

Check it out! Pleased I am!

Look at the shine! Even my cowlick side is smooth!

I realize there are three things that will keep my hair from ever glowing the way it did in decades past: 1) I don’t color it, and only salon color really brings frizzy graying hair back to a truly youthful sheen; 2) its salt and pepper combo means I will always have two textures competing up there; 3) my spiky short style and texturizing products means I will never have a totally smooth surface to work with.

But working within those parameters, I’m so glad to see my softness and shine returning!

Here’s the thing, though: it takes a LOT of product! First, Timeless Shampoo and Conditioner. Then, a smoothing/conditioning leave-in cream (I’m trying out a Living Proof No-Frizz sample I got just now). Then Olaplex Oil, and Kenra Blow-Dry Spray. Then the Rusk Thermal Protector Serum and a high-end straightener. Then a non-mattifying texturizer, and finishing with TIGI BedHead Masterpiece Shine hairspray and a final spritz with the Drybar Shine Mist.

I’m going to assume (hope) that with repeated deep treatments some of these temporary fixes can go by the wayside, but right now I am just piling it on and my hair is slurping it all up! The amazing thing is, so far, nothing has been too much. Not a single thing has weighed down my hair or made it greasy or flat or heavy… which for me indicates JUST how dried out my hair has actually gotten, and how thirsty it is for oils and moisturizers, etc.

UPDATE: I decided to leave the Olaplex #6 Bonding Oil in overnight last night. Wow–another upgrade!

(different lighting)

So that’s my old hair update! If you are someone with gray hair who has found products that work, share them on the FB thread! I’ll gladly try them out! I particularly want to hear about Kerastase–give me the 411! (And I’ll do another drawing.)

Interview with Karen Kaplan, Senior Careers Editor at Nature

Karen Kaplan reached out to share thoughts on the academic job market. We had a great conversation and I learned a lot about STEM career paths which I am already bringing to clients and audiences. Then, she kindly allowed me to persuade her to do this interview for TPII. Read and enjoy.

Tell us about yourself–what is your current position and what do you do there?

I’m senior Careers editor at Nature. As such, I produce the weekly three-page print (-to-online) issue of Careers, which includes a feature story and another article or two, depending on available space in the print edition.

The feature might be about managing fieldwork with your infant or child, how to write a first-class paper, how to launch a startup business, how to balance a hobby with your research programme (and still publish and not get thrown out of your lab). The secondary articles might be a news story, a Q&A with a scientist or a how-to column by a scientist who has navigated whatever quandary or obstacle s/he’s writing about.

I also produce up to three additional online-first (or  -only) articles weekly, usually a newser or column, sometimes a Q&A. I commission and edit all of this, write headlines, subheads and photo captions for each article (separate for print and online), and write social-media blurbs (for Twitter and other platforms) for each.

Careers’ mission is to provide advice, counsel and support mainly to early-career scientists (in a PhD program, a postdoc or a non-permanent or otherwise unstable position). So everything in the section ( is extremely service-based.

How did you come to this position?

I came to Nature in 2008 as associate Careers editor in our Washington, D.C., office, and ascended to then-sole editor of the section in 2014 (I have a team lead and two colleagues now, although none of our work overlaps).

I’ve been a journalist since 1987, launching my career at a daily newspaper in Connecticut, where I covered municipal and tribal government, business and big pharma. I also spent several years there as an editor, honing my editing, layout/design and headline- and caption-writing skills.

From there I moved to editing business publications in Maryland and South Carolina, and later to a national physics magazine, where I was an editor and covered the US physics community.

In your capacity as Careers editor, what is the biggest piece of advice you would give to someone considering doing a STEM Ph.D.?

Don’t expect to land a tenure-track position in academia – they’re unicorns.

During your PhD program, hone and refine your skills in teamwork and collaboration; project and budget management; discussing your research with non-scientists; and writing in a non-academic style. And do at least one internship outside academia, preferably in the last year of your program. You’ll be a far more attractive candidate to non-academic employers if you have some of the specific skills they seek.

What advice would you give to someone completing a STEM Ph.D. in terms of career choices and options?

Understand, as mentioned above, that academic tenure-track positions are are not a realistic option. So plan the time in your PhD program accordingly:

Look for a lab with a PI who understands that the career landscape has shifted dramatically from 20 years ago and will support your need to seek external career training and experience (meaning less time in the lab).

Consult with the careers advisers at your institution. (And read Nature Careers. ?) Find out what your potential career options are outside academia for your discipline/specialty and match those with what you really like to do. Governments in most nations – federal / state / municipal (depending on the nation) – do have research positions, as do non-profits and industry. You may wind up pursuing a different (non-research) track altogether. But you need to learn what’s out there for you.

Get external training and experience through internships, even for three to six months.

Form a network within your discipline’s scientific society and other related organisations, such as a campus-based or regional PhD group. Or form a group yourself. These peer groups are invaluable for exchanges of info and for support.

Reach out to scientists in your discipline who work for non-academic organizations that pique your interest. Ask to meet for coffee or lunch if they’re local. Talk by phone or whatever digital platform is mutually available if they’re not.

Ask them about their job — what they do, how they got it, how they like it; about their employer and workplace – do they have autonomy, are they part of a team, if they have appropriate work-life balance, are they amply compensated and other benefits, is there room for advancement. (This is called an informational interview – you’re not asking them for a job.)  

What do you wish STEM Ph.Ds understood better than they do?

With a little tweaking of appropriate skills, they’re a slam-dunk for for many positions and careers that have a STEM base. Don’t pine for an academic post when the world is your oyster.

Talk to me about postdocs: the good, the bad, the ugly.

Unless you have guaranteed information that you will land a tenure-track academic post, think twice about doing a postdoc if you’re in STEM. Industrial employers, for one, often don’t look kindly upon candidates who have done postdocs (unless the postdoc was at that same company) because it tends to signal to them (validly or not) that the candidate wasn’t serious about working in industry and had really wanted an academic position.

It’s not quite so heinous if you’re aiming for a government research position (for example, with one of the US federal agencies), or perhaps a non-profit, but those aren’t necessarily easy to land either because there simply aren’t huge numbers of them.

There is also, of course, the reality of being a postdoc. The compensation is dismal for science postdocs (I can’t speak to those in humanitarian disciplines). Science postdocs might get a lead authorship on a paper or three, but they are so often the “hired hands” of the lab, doing most of the work while the PI is writing grants and seeing to other obligations.

People routinely do two and even three postdocs in hopes of eventually landing that academic post, and by the time they’re done with the third postdoc, they’re in their 40s and (in the US) have accrued no retirement funds, no Social Security quarters, no employer-matched contributions. They may not have health insurance either because they usually are not a direct employee of the university. And they’re probably working up to or in excess of 80 hours a week.

Then, if they decide to switch gears and look for a non-academic position, they have no experience except in academia, so they are less qualified to compete against scientists who have bolstered their CV with plenty of stints outside the university.

What surprises you in the work you currently do?

Though it’s beginning to change, most principal investigators and university administrators  still do not actively steer PhD students (and postdocs) away from aiming for an academic research career. The employment  landscape has shifted dramatically from the time most PIs and administrators were PhD students and postdocs, but many still expect today’s doctoral students and postdocs to pursue an academic research post.

It could be argued that it isn’t their job to give career advice to their supervisees, but the fact remains that in many cases, the PI is a primary adviser by default. I’m hoping that stakeholders in academia worldwide can start to encourage junior researchers to explore other career options beyond this path, and institutionalize their ability to do so by building in time away from the lab for internships, traineeships and other such experiences.  

Any last words?

Form a peer network. Now. You need the support.

#MakeupMonday: My Haul from NYC

Thursday night is a great time for #MakeupMonday, amirite?

I promised a post this week and dammit, I’m going to give it to you.

When Kel and I were in NYC for an American Jewish Studies gig, I happened to notice that only a block away from our Airbnb, Ricky’s NYC was having a going out of business sale. I was sorry to see it go — NYC drag institution that it was — but oh my….. 65% off of everything, no exceptions!

What did I find there, you ask?

Glamglow Gravity Mud, Full Size! Normally $59 –>$21

Alterna Caviar Invisible Roller Contour Setting Spray! Normally $30 –> $10.50

The Balm Mary Lou-Manizer (luminizer) Normally $24 –>$8

Korean Ultrasonic Facial Brush Normally $24, on sale for $12, and 65% off of that, so –> $4

Nugg De-Puff Eye Pads Normally $14.99 –>$5

Peter Thomas Roth Pure Luxury Gold Hair Mask Originally $75 –> $26

(involves a cream mask, a shower cap, a bonnet, and your blow-dryer blowing hot air into a giant balloon on your head for 30 min, LOL! I won’t tell you what Kel said when she walked in on this….)

And also…. Patterned Spanx black tights for Fall! Normally $20-32 –>$9!

And the amazing thing? I love everything! Check out my post-Glamglow skin:

My hair loved the PTR mask. [BTW, my hair is my current project. I’ve always had great, thick, shiny, healthy hair. To my absolute horror it has recently started to turn the corner into “elderly shapeless frizzy poof.” Even my flat iron won’t smooth it! So it’s been all hands on deck. I’ve changed all my products to anti-frizz and anti-aging products and gotten serious about the kind of deep moisturizing treatments I’ve never needed before. I also upgraded my flat iron. Lots to say; expect a post soon!]

After just one PTR treatment it’s noticeably smoother and shinier!

And I’ve fallen in love with the Mary Lou-manizer highlighter!

Also note my cute white terry bathrobe! I’m finally a person who wears a robe for my beauty routine! I always had this longing to be that person but this weird giant double-layer, ankle-length brown hotel robe I had with sleeves 3 inches too long for me never quite allowed for it. I was always overheated with goo all over the sleeves. When I saw this knee-length, 3/4 sleeve lightweight terry beauty at TJ Maxx ($24.99), I grabbed it, and I absolutely love it! It makes me feel like I’m living my best beauty life, LOL.

It’s the little things, ya know?


We have a winner for last week’s FB drawing, a grad student in RhetComp! Also, I’m finally mailing out the box of rejected berry lipcolors from my Marc Jacobs Headliner lipcolor matching #science experiment last Spring, to the person who responded first to my offer to mail them off.

Comment this week on FB with thoughts about Ricky’s, aging hair, Glamglow, or anything else beauty-related, and if we get enough comments, I’ll do another raffle. I’ve collected another huge haul of samples over the summer!

My Fraught Relationship with Academia: Down But Not Out – 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 and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by Dr. Rita M. Palacios. Dr. Palacios is a professor of Liberal Studies at Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. She was born in Guatemala and came to Canada with her family as a refugee. Her research examines contemporary Maya artistic expression (literature, performance, and conceptual art) and she recently co-authored a book on the subject. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, walking the dog, and boxing. @ProfRPalacios

(This post also happens to fit directly into another short series we are running: “Good” NTT Vs. “Bad” TT: A Conversation. Please check out those posts as well if you are interested.)


My tale begins in 2008, as the economic crisis hit and I went out in the job market as a newly minted PhD. My advisor thought I should turn down some of the job interviews I had booked and wait for top schools to start calling me, but I couldn’t afford to not have any interviews because this was it for me (and, as the child of immigrant parents, for my family). I managed to land a TT in California and I began a job in the fall of 2009. Everyone, including me, thought that having a Canadian citizenship meant that a move to the US would be straight forward but what ended up happening was that my wife couldn’t join me and I spent three years back and forth, feeling awful and hoping for a change. That change never came, so I took a 1-year leave and then another in the hope that something would give.

Those two years were excruciating—I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t write, and I couldn’t quit the tenure-track job that everyone kept saying I was so immensely lucky to have. I was miserable. At a conference I began to say goodbye to the colleagues who had cheered me on. And they kept on cheering me on. Two amazing WOC pulled me aside to tell me I shouldn’t quit, that my work was needed. Another colleague proposed we write a book, which is no short-term commitment. And still, no jobs came up, and I had to decide on whether to return to California or quit. So I went to see a career advisor to figure out ways to move forward, but what I thought would be a series of sessions to devise a plan to quit my precious TT job became full-on counselling sessions.

In the first session I began crying right off the bat and kept on for 45 minutes—I never cry. My wonderful career advisor told me I was mourning an important part of my life. That part of my life was the career that I felt didn’t even get a chance to get off the ground. And yet, somehow, things lined up and I ended up working in Montreal on a 2-year contract. It still meant being apart from my wife, but it was doable. The job was far from perfect, but it kept me plugged in. Fast forward to the end of my Montreal stint, and I came close to landing that oh-so-rare TT gig, which is a story for another day, full of ramen, mournful tears, a dash of betrayal, and a fair bit of head-scratching. As luck would have it, I did land a non-TT job, almost immediately after I finished drying this second set of tears.

Now, I work at a community college in the city where my family migrated 26 years ago. And though I have a heavy teaching load (officially 5-5), I have a supportive chair and I don’t have to deal with internal politics (i.e., service). I don’t teach so-called content courses, and though I miss that, I’m okay with it. There is no financial support for research at the college so I have to be disciplined and fairly creative with how I allocate my time and resources.

The hardest part has been learning to accept the cards I laid out for myself alongside the micro-aggressions that people hurl my way. This has meant learning to appreciate myself and my work, which has not been easy. For me, self-doubt has been so paralyzing that, at times, writing a few lines is almost physically painful.

However, I am very fortunate to have colleagues who refused to say goodbye and who devised ways of keeping me engaged. They made me understand that my work is good and, more importantly, that it is worth continuing. If it weren’t for them, the self-doubt and micro-aggressions would’ve done me in.

Now I realize that being on the margins of academia is kind of great. Since I’m not chasing a promotion, I read, write, and attend conferences because I want to. I do the work that I like, how I like. It has been surprisingly liberating. But all of this has been possible because my wife has a full-time job, is very supportive, and we have no children. I am very aware of how privileged I am to be able to go to conferences on my own dime. Or to have time after an 8-hour teaching stint to work on an article or to review a manuscript.

Being on the margins by choice (and due to circumstance), I’ve faced some misunderstanding. I have been berated for leaving my TT job. I have been told that my research is “a nice hobby” and I have been asked flat-out “why bother doing it?” Folx who do applied research have suggested that I write case studies for them since I must be “a good writer or something.” I could go on and on.

The system to which I don’t belong isn’t built to entertain people like me once in a while either. I’ve had to painfully explain that I cannot review the promotion file of a wonderful scholar because I have no standing. I’ve had to tell a graduate student that though I would love to be on their dissertation committee, they should check with their supervisor, department chair, and possibly the dean because, once again, my scholarly identity may not compute (it did and it was a wonderful defense!). I know I’ll toughen up and the painful reminders of what I thought I would be but am not will eventually not mean that much.

In the past two years I have met some wonderful people who are working on their PhDs and are seriously considering not continuing on to the TT fast lane but want to keep a foot in the field. It can be done, I’ve told them, but it’s not easy and it goes against everything we have been taught.

I have always been well aware that the decision to leave my TT job was mine and mine alone. When I complain about not being “in” academia (specifically in terms of not having access to funding or to an immediate community of scholars), some are quick to remind me that it was my decision, as if I don’t know. I am well aware of what I gave up and I don’t regret it, but it hasn’t been easy.

I have no idea where things will take me. But for the first time in a long time, when someone derisively asked me, “So, are you happy in that job of yours?” I was quick to say “Yes. Yes, I really am,” and meant every word.

#MakeupMonday: My Must-Haves, Fall 2019

Update: photos are glitching my posts, so I had to remove them. Sorry! This has been updated to include #7, #8, and #9!

I am a dedicated experimenter in all things beauty. I am constantly trying new skin care, makeup, and haircare options (So I LUV the samples that come with every Sephora and Ulta order!), as well as new fashion directions and travel/luggage gadgets.

It’s an expensive habit, but I have gotten good at saving receipts and executing returns, so I manage expense to a degree.

But there are some items that I just rely on, over and over and over. I buy, use, use up, and replace.

Here are some of them:

1.My Old Navy Breathe-ON Waist Defined Jumpsuit. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I’ve been posting about this jumpsuit for weeks. I literally cannot take it off. It is in particular the premier travel outfit of my entire life. It FEELS like traveling in pajamas, but LOOKS like a super-stylish ensemble! It’s the only article of clothing I’ve ever owned that I keep digging out of the laundry to wear again!

For those who very justifiably wonder what it’s like to wear a jumpsuit on a flight or a long travel day (ie, will you end up trapped in yards of fabric in a tiny airplane bathroom?): this particular jumpsuit is the only one in Old Navy’s athleisure line, and this Breathe-ON fabric is some kind of sorcery: completely flexible, can be easily pulled down over your shoulders for the bathroom, but springs right back, and never loses its shape. The elasticized drawstring waist gives just the right silhouette to make the outfit look stylish, but is totally unconstricting, like a pajama waist. I pop this beauty on with a denim jacket and jewelry and cute flats, and I can sit crosslegged on the airport floor during a 3 hour delay, sleep on a 5 hour flight, and look completely fresh and unwrinkled and cute upon arrival. Also looks amazing with heels. And iT hAs pOcKeTs.

I have invested in many excellent travelwear items, but nothing has come close to this jumpsuit. I just bought it in two additional colors. BTW: never pay full price at Old Navy! They are running a 40% off online sale today–grab it now at $27!

2. My Hourglass Ambient Lighting Blush. I have just bought my third one, always in Moon Exposure. I searched for about two years for a blush that met all my requirements: subtle but visible, appropriate for a middle-aged face, long-wear, cool-toned, with glow but no shimmer or sparkle. This is it. And it comes in small travel size–what more could I possibly want?

3. My Eyeko Sport Mascara. Yes, i’ve tried others. For awhile I thought Thrive Causemetics would replace it. But no. Nothing comes close in terms of ABSOLUTE BUDGE-PROOF, SWEAT-PROOF, RUBBING-PROOF, ALLERGY-PROOF, TRAVEL-PROOF, NO-SMEAR, NO-FLAKE longevity.

4. My Becca Under-Eye Brightening Corrector. As I told my agent (the wonderful Alia Habib!) when I saw her in NYC – and we got totally distracted from discussing a possible second edition of the Professor Is In book to delve deeply into our makeup obsessions – “they will have to pry this from my cold, dead hands.” This product is pure magic. I buy it in medium-dark (I am squarely in the middle of all foundation color ranges), and I think more than any other single makeup product I use, this removes a decade off my face, and adds 8 luxurious hours of sleep.

5. My Beauty Bakerie Lip Whip lipcolor, in Syruptitious. Yes, I experiment constantly with other brands, products, and colors. Yes, I love a brilliant berry, a cool red, a dramatic plum, and a retro scarlet. But, day in and day out, when push comes to shove and I need a color that I know is going to go with whatever I have on and last all day without a single touchup, I go back to this stalwart. And… shoutout to the reader who wrote to say: “Thank you for the Beauty Bakery lipwhip recommendation- my lipstick lasted from the point I changed into my suit in the La Guardia bathroom through dinner with the search committee- about 10 hours of walking, heat, humidity, and sweat!” YAY!

6. My Smashbox DoubleExposure Eyeshadow Palette. [Note that this is the first one, NOT the one labeled 2.0] I love this rare cool-toned palette – so hard to find! I use either the mauve range on the right, or the plum range on the left, basically every single day. The black is perfect on the rare occasions I need a powder liner (rare because any kind of dark liner is too harsh for an older face), and the bright blue is vivid and fun for party looks (and I have other shadows for that). The shadows are velvety and long-lasting and easy to work with, but most importantly, they can be used wet or dry, so a) you’re getting twice the shades for the price, and b) they aren’t defeated by my chronically allergic, watery eyes! This palette is no longer made, so you have to get it used on Poshmark, etc.

7. My Vince Blair slip-on sneakers. I’ve worn through two pairs and am on my third – always in Woodsmoke color. They go with skirts, pants, and shorts. The perforation keeps them cool for summer wear. Yes, at full price they are pricey, but a) they are incredibly substantial, well-made, supportive, wear for years, and feel great on the foot (unlike cheaper knock-offs) and b) you can get last season colors half off on Amazon, 6 PM, Saks on Fifth, etc.

8. My Sabbatical Beauty skincare products. Specifically: Dorian Gray serum, Asian Powerhouse, Marine, Donkey Milk Cream, and various masks. On my fourth year of those, I think.

9. My NYX Dewy Setting Spray . $8 a pop and better than any prestige brand I’ve tried! Also comes in Matte.

10. My Tarte Timeless Smoothing Primer. I buy this, use it up, buy again, use it up… Make no mistake, I adore trying out all the primer samples that come my way in all my makeup shipments. They’re entertaining and edifying. And then I go right back to my Tarte. Note: I feel this might be a product best for older skin as, honestly, it’s a bit spackle-like. (Some other brand actually does make a primer called Spackle, lol). But OMG what it does to my skin–a smooth, flawless surface that adds this visible-yet-invisible perfecting finish under foundation. Honestly, I wear it alone sometimes on no-makeup days because it’s that good. Alert readers might remember that I once loved Dr. Brandt’s Pores No More Luminizing Primer, and I do still love it! But as I aged from 50 to now this month 55, I find that my pores have gotten a little more visible, and my skin needs more help texture-wise. Glow can be added with other products, but only primer can create a (nearly) flawless surface!

Please share on Facebook YOUR must-have makeup or fashion items. I’ll choose someone at random for another package of mostly prestige brand unused/barely used makeup/skincare samples from my stash! Remember: comments must be on Facebook, not the blog.


Why You Need (and Deserve) an Academic Coach

By Kel Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Getting published in academic journals is hard.

Not only does it take the heavy lifting of research and writing, but grabbing the golden ring of a published article in a top journal also requires the knowledge to navigate the unwritten rules and expectations of your field and its journal editors. 

So, the question is, why do academics, unlike others in almost any field where success is based on application of talent, insist on going it alone? Why do they deny themselves the assistance that their professional peers in other fields take as standard.

Doctors, lawyers, architects, CPAs, they all take part in continuing education. In fact, most of them are actually required to seek continuing education to maintain their professional credentials.

Athletes, the very best athletes in the world, work every day with a coach. Serena Williams is arguably the greatest athlete of all time, and she got to the top with both exceptional talent AND daily coaching.

Yet, here stands the academic. Often the smartest kid in the room, but rarely taught how to apply that genius to producing the one thing that exemplifies her or his success. Would we expect Serena to win a record 23 Grand Slam singles titles by insisting that she “should” have been able to perfect her serve with only occasional comments from trusted friends? Or, say, with intermittent attention from a teacher who gets no particular recognition or capital from helping her succeed?

We don’t think so.

That’s why Developmental Editor Dr. Jane Jones (from Up In Consulting) and Productivity Coach Kel Weinhold (from The Professor is In) created The Art of the Article — to coach academics with step-by-step instruction in conceptualizing, organizing, and writing an article manuscript. Instruction that academic writers can return to time and again as they move forward toward their goals.

Here are the top five reasons you need (and deserve) coaching:

  1. Reduce your chance of rejection
    • One sure way to lose a game is to fail to understand the basic skills needed, and the rules. Many new academics lack a basic grasp of the fundamental practices and rules of academic journals, and end up making unforced errors that lead to rejection. Art of the Article teaches you the system and shows you step-by-step how to execute what editors want.
  2. Increase your motivation
    • When the going gets tough, the successful turn to a support team. Having access 24/7 to professional guidance can help you to keep moving forward, even when things are challenging. In addition to 50 lessons with specific guidance based on Jane and Kel’s extensive experience as academic editors and coaches, Art of the Article includes daily reminder emails and monthly motivational webinars. Access to the material does not expire, so you can keep coming back.
  3. Reduce isolation and thus procrastination
    • The isolation of the academy can be debilitating. Just like working out regularly, a healthy writing practice is more likely to happen when you feel like someone is joining you on the journey. The Art of the Article includes access to a private social media group where you can ask questions and seek encouragement. 
  4. Gain insight into destructive habits and how to overcome them
    • We all develop habits that turn into barriers to achieving our goals. And without guidance, it can be almost impossible to see a way around them. Art of the Article includes daily coaching videos on common barriers to success and tools for overcoming them.
  5. Stop wasting time: 
    • Just like spending hours sitting at a piano won’t make you a better pianist without some kind of guidance, spending hours at a computer trying to write an article without instruction will waste your time and deplete your energy. The Art of the Article provides client-tested, efficient techniques to maximize your efforts and, in turn, improve your results.

No coach, advisor or mentor can do what you are not willing to do for yourself, but they can support and encourage you to reach your potential. The Art of the Article provides the knowledge, resources, guidance, training and skills  – in short, the coaching – that will allow you to dominate Wimbledon (errr, we mean, get your next manuscript published!).

Academic Hazing is Abuse – 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 and can be about your experiences of racism/microaggressions in grad school or the career, your post-academic musings, hard-won advice for other students/faculty of color coming up, intersectional practices in teaching or research that you have found valuable, and also of course, makeup and clothes, or even tech gear you’ve found that helps in your work. More information can be found here.

Today’s post is by Tiffany Monique Quash. Tiffany is a PhD Candidate at Indiana University-Bloomington in the School of Public Health’s Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Program and Associate Instructor. She is studying Leisure Behavior with a minor in Higher Education, and completing a certificate in College Pedagogy. Quash is also a member of the Aquatics Institute Research Team, under the direction of Dr. William D. Ramos. Her primary research interests include: Aquatic Equity and Inclusion; College Pedagogy; Leisure Theory; Qualitative Research; Social Justice; Higher Education Leadership; and Research Methods.

Tiffany is collaborating with faculty from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Predominantly white Institutions (PWIs ) on the historical analysis of aquatic programs at HBCUs and doctoral student and faculty mentoring relationships in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Studies academic programs. Her dissertation focus is the narratives of Black Collegiate Women Swimmers from HBCUs and PWIs across generations and institutions. Outside of academic life, Tiffany spends time with her partner Tasha planning their wedding, takes care of their child, Leo (a red-eared slider turtle), and works with the International Water Safety Foundation as the Director of Operations.

Tiffany and I discussed whether or not she wished to publish this anonymously, and she decided to publish it under her name, saying “I am very comfortable moving forward with my name being placed on this piece. If I do not, I will feel like he has won and I have bought into playing ‘their’ game. This is my life and I need to take it back. I hope someone else finds their strength as well.”


In my ideal world, I would enjoy introducing myself as, “I am a 39-year-old Black Queer Mermaid who has a mood disorder and had an unexpected partial hysterotomy before my qualifying exams”. My reality includes being open and honest about being bi-polar; openly discussing the intersectionality and stigma associated with race, gender, and mental health; challenging the narrative that black and brown bodies can swim through my research and professional roles; and visibly being the only Black woman doctoral student in my academic program. I love the water! I find myself fortunate to have mentors whom I trust and confide in about my academic experiences. 

The advice I have received when it comes to questionable interactions between anyone who falls within the categories of white and/or cis-gender males has been, “Keep your eyes on the prize” to help  encourage me to push through and focus on my dissertation. I loathe this response because it does not validate my voice, my experience, my way of moving through the academe. I have realized that I am exhausted having to assimilate to the submissive doctoral student role. Recently, a tenured Black cis-gender male attempted to derail my doctoral candidacy. 

In April of this year this faculty member accused me of plagiarizing my written qualifying exams. Though he never filed a formal complaint, it was the beginning of other accusations. This faculty member accused me of making plans to leave the institution this upcoming academic year early (this would impact my financial and credit status), turning in my work late (which was incorrect and my advisor had to step in), wanted to remove himself from my committee, wanted to fail me on my qualifying exams, and wanted to remain on my committee all within a week. Ironically, that same week I received the doctoral student of the year award from my department. After receiving the award, I thought the emotional pain had ended from someone whom I highly respected in my department, but it did not.

This was just the beginning from what my mentors told me were a part of Academic Hazing.

How I was being treated by this particular faculty member would become evident to others at a symposium attended by 20-25 other academics in my field who gathered to discuss race. Prior to my attendance, I sent an email (cc’ing my advisor) demanding no contact between myself and the faculty member during the event. After delivering my presentation to the group, the amount of pressure I received to focus on the narrative of Black people drowning and omit other narratives was overwhelming. My knowledge of Title IX and the historically inaccurate research related to bone density as to why Black people cannot swim was challenged after acknowledging my role in athletics (as a former athlete and administrator) and former publication. Though this faculty member did not speak to me, the line of questioning came from colleagues whom he publishes with constantly.

I knew in that moment that something had been said to everyone.

Imagine twenty people in a room watching words being exchanged between a doctoral student and 4 faculty members with no one putting an end to verbal abuse. I thought I had imagined the entire situation. I realized this was not the case when I walked out of the room for air and let out a guttural cry that I had never felt in my entire life. Confirmation of my experience came from two attending faculty members from different institutions.

I have taken the measures to speak to my mentors, advisor, administrators and have spoken to my institution’s proper channels to find out that because there was nothing said sexually inappropriate and I was not touched this cannot be proven. Nothing can be done.

This trauma was and is real.

I have been asked, “What do you want from this?” from everyone. My response has been, “I am telling you because you need to know”. I have been reminded that I am only an academic year away from graduation, but there has not been any acknowledgment of the trauma this has caused. I have been warned by other faculty members to not say anything because it may deter institutions from hiring me in the future. My partner has pleaded with me to not say anything because any action may prohibit me from graduating. I have been reminded that legal action would be costly and limit my writing and research time.

Today, I can walk with my head a bit higher and sleep more sound. My therapeutic team (whom I affectionately call Team TQ) remains supportive and I am trying to celebrate every second of the day. I know that my experience is valid.

Know that I could not sleep for more than 3 hours a night. I was afraid to be in the hallways at school in case I saw him. I refused to open my email for days in fear of receiving an email from him and/or his colleagues. I would walk through my academic office with the fear of hearing his thundering voice. Know that it was my partner and the few friends who endured the countless nights of me crying about how I avoided being seen on campus. Know that I became afraid to trust every black and brown student, faculty and staff member because they adored this faculty member. Know that I was afraid to leave my house and have been known to strategically move appointments to one or two days, so I do not leave my house for the other days of the week.

But who would believe a known, opinionated, “crazy” Black Queer student? 

Who would believe me?

Many assumptions can be made from my experience but know that I am not the only one has endured this type of emotional, intellectual abuse. There is a difference between civil academic discourse and academic hazing. If institutions and organizations acknowledge that “hazing” is an illegal action that can result in various forms of harm, what makes “academic hazing” any better? It is in my opinion that the academe understand that such behaviors can occur across and within racial/ethnic lines and that these behaviors should be dealt with accordingly. Otherwise, voices will remain silent out of fear for their future.

So, let me reintroduce myself. Hi, my name is Tiffany Monique Quash and I am a 39-year-old Black Queer Mermaid who has a mood disorder and I survived Academic Hazing. I survived abuse. I will not remain silent.

“Good” NTT vs. “Bad” TT: A Conversation (Part II)

By erica j. Whitaker, Lecturer, Mathematics Department, University of Kentucky 


Recently Karen put out a call for comparing a position as a tenure-track professor at a small teaching college, versus a clinical position at an R1 school. My own career teaching mathematics has been roundabout and varied; I’ve had visiting positions at small liberal arts colleges, regional campuses, and large R1 schools (lots of moving due to health issues and a 2-body problem); so I’ve experienced a variety of teaching positions. I enjoyed research, but my love of teaching is what motivated me to finish my doctoral degree. I always assumed I was working toward a career teaching at a small liberal arts college, or other university with a teaching mission. Instead, I have (hopefully finally) ended up at an R1 school in a lecturer position, and overall I am happy here. Someone who is motivated primarily by research would not enjoy my position at all; but if your motivation is mostly teaching and also perhaps service, it might also work for you.

The idea of “fit” is so important, and in my experience independent of the type of school. I have worked at a small school where I felt valued and supported, and another where my skills and needs just weren’t a good match for the position. I’ve worked as an instructor at a different R1 who did not (at the time) value them at all – there were all sorts of awful, petty ways they reminded us of this. But my current position has lots of support at many levels. 

The main difference in my day-to-day life at a small school versus a large school has to do with my role: At a small school, my main role was that of a university faculty member, who happens to teach in the math department. It was typical for me to regularly interact with people from many departments in my day-to-day work life, whether officially on committees or just wandering the hall. It was easy to find a diverse group of colleagues with whom to eat meals, exchange ideas, or work on projects.

At a large school, my main role is that of a math professor, who happens to be employed a lecturer – some of my colleagues have their entire university experience within just our department. For me, I appreciate the broader view of university life. I have volunteered for service assignments and experiences to make sure that I can hear voices other than just mathematicians, but forming and maintaining those connections takes more effort than at a small school. 

Here are some of the pros and cons of my lecturer position, compared to teaching at a smaller school:

I have the resources of a large, active department in my area: seminars, colloquia, software and library access, but none of my job security depends on original publications. I feel as if I have the best of both worlds, with my sometimes-brilliant colleagues and new energetic graduate students each year, but with no pressure on me for scholarship. Because of the high teaching loads I am personally not worried about long-term employment. It seems very unlikely they will run out of classes for me to teach; but my “rolling contract” is not the same as tenure. I’m reckless about speaking my mind sometimes, but occasionally I will keep quiet on something knowing I don’t have the same job security. 

My position is full-time with benefits with the same standard benefit package available to tenure-stream faculty. Because this university has a hospital, clinic and medical school on the same campus, I can walk from my office to routine and specialized care when needed. Both logistically and financially, the medical benefits are stronger than what I’ve seen at smaller schools. But, while it does not affect me personally, the maternity and paternity leave options are not as strong for lecturers as for tenure-stream faculty. My salary is higher than what I could have earned at the small schools I considered, but lower than that of my tenure-stream colleagues, even those just starting. (I just keep reminding myself of the first fact, if I am occasionally rankled by the second.)

My job is very challenging, but the challenges are different than at a smaller school. I have fewer preps and fewer teaching contact hours than at a smaller school, but many more students as some of my classes are very large (in the past five years, I have taught over 4000 students). There are many more sections of each class, so it is easier to prepare a schedule where people teach on the days and times of their choosing. For example, for health reasons I prefer to teach classes 10AM or later: this was much harder to arrange at a small school with a limited schedule. But I teach many courses that are lower-level, and only occasionally something for mathematics majors. I will never serve on a dissertation defense, will never be promoted to “professor”, will never be eligible to be department chair (which can be a pro or a con; but the choice was not mine). In taking this job several doors closed to me, while others opened. 

One of the more rewarding aspects of my position involves mentoring graduate students in their teaching duties. Some of them appreciate having someone to discuss teaching with, who isn’t also assigning them grades or judging their studies. I also observe a lot of their classes and have written  teaching-focused job letters for applications. The relationship with graduate students, something between being a professor and colleague, is something I wouldn’t have experienced at a smaller school. Another rewarding aspect comes from working with the undergraduates, who are often appreciative of my focus on teaching and caring about their well-being. 

About the “second class citizen” concern:

Before I even applied, I asked some specific questions to help determine the status of lecturers within this department. For example, I asked about travel funds, as much to notice how they answered the question, and whether the process and availability was different for lecturers. I was pleased to learn it was completely an option, and that they are open to travel for professional development, not just to present original research. I’ve been supported and encouraged to travel when it was appropriate.

I also asked about leadership and committee service. In my department there are several committees where the important decisions are made; most of them require a lecturer to serve each year. Lecturers are voting members for almost all issues (but not, for example, for tenure and promotion decisions). At the college and university level, lecturers are eligible to serve on most major committees and on the faculty senate. Because I have worked at positions where my status was less than ideal, I am protective of my situation here, and willing to do the service work to help maintain this status. 

Finally, I asked directly, “are lecturers second-class citizens, or are they full members of your department?” If they had told me it was perfect, I wouldn’t have believed them; but they admitted it was a work in progress, so I was encouraged. I especially appreciate that my department thinks of lecturers as faculty – so when something involves faculty, we are included. When appropriate or needful, they distinguish between lecturers and tenure-stream faculty. 

Overall, the large university setting has many opportunities and resources, and allows me to direct my career in the directions that interest me and fit my skills. Like any position I have seen or served in, it can be exasperating or amazing, sometimes all at once. 

“Bad” TT vs. “Good” NTT: A Conversation (Part I)

This is the first in a series of posts submitted by readers on the fraught question: should you choose a “good” NTT position over a “bad” TT position? I use “good” and “bad” advisedly just as a shorthand, because of course these judgments will vary across individuals and context. But many readers have faced versions of this choice and contributed guest posts. I’m sharing their stories.

Today’s author is an early career teaching-track faculty member at a Public R1. His background is in STEM/STEM education. His current scholarship focuses on NTT faculty issues and student’s intellectual development. In the life part of his work/life balance he runs ultramarathons so he can bake more.


I chose to be a non-tenure track (NTT) faculty member. Telling this to other academics sometimes results in confusion, surprise, or even anger that I don’t feel compelled to pursue a tenure track (TT) position. However, as a new member of the academic profession, I instead feel compelled to pursue a position that is right for me. The choice between TT and NTT faculty jobs is not as clear-cut as it once was. Every position requires you to make a mindful evaluation of the position based on the principles relevant to being a faculty member. 

I chose a NTT job over a TT job for several reasons. I have a Ph.D. in a STEM discipline from a leading institution in my field and spent 2017-2018 on the job market. In the end, I had two offers. The first was a TT position at a regional public institution in a rural area with a 4-3 teaching load, disputed expectations around research, mediocre pay, and a terrible institutional culture. The second was a full-time NTT position at a top-ranked public R1 in a city with 3-2 teaching load, no expectations of (but resources for) research, great pay, a promotion path, and a strong departmental culture. I picked the NTT position and haven’t looked back. In my choice, my network was invaluable because my advisor wouldn’t have anything to do with ‘my mistake.’ When I talk to friends in similar positions, some are eyeing TT opportunities while others are happy to be in teaching-focused positions where research is possible but not the imperative. 

I still hear NTT positions described as “second class.” That narrative is wrong – we have the agency to make the choices that are right based on a myriad of variables both personal and professional. Yes, many NTT positions have elements of marginalization compared compared to TT faculty. However, there has been significant progress towards equity for the NTT workforce. That work occurs in institutions, professional societies, and organizations dedicated to faculty representation. Compared to worrying about the death of a title, I see efforts to improve working conditions for NTT faculty as a more viable way to protect the principles that underpin faculty self-governance and academic freedom. Regrettably, much of the rhetoric today sounds the same as it did in 2001 – trying to explain that many of us NTT academics aren’t settling but are, in fact, thriving in our roles. But why is that explanation still necessary?

Titles matter less to me than working conditions. Why would I pick lower pay, more work, higher ambiguity, and a less desirable area simply for the potential of a title in six years? Instead, I have better work-life balance, an ability to connect with my students, and I use my spare time to advocate for equal working conditions for NTT faculty at my institution. I do more research, with better support, compared to what I could have accomplished in the offered TT position. Other friends in NTT roles have mentioned the opportunities of an R1 as preferable to the chimera of a TT position at the modern quasi-teaching-focused institution. The choice is easy in the abstract, but much harder in the real word. If you chose similarly to me – or even if you did ‘settle’ – don’t let people judge you. The reality is that NTT positions are a spectrum. They can refer to someone barely surviving from multiple part-time gigs or they can refer to someone in a position that is reasonably scoped, fairly compensated, and has protections similar to tenure. Without diminishing the real concerns about pay and status, the positions can be come with the respect they deserve. 

The spectrum of good and bad NTT positions is why the analysis of the position and context is critical. Just as with TT positions, any institution can be ahead of or behind the curve in working conditions. Some key questions should be obvious – teaching load, pay, contract lengths (both overall length and 9/12 month pay cycles), and a promotion path. Others are less obvious and often ridiculous. Real lessons learned from my network include: Do you get an office? A computer? Are there benefits? Are the benefits equivalent to faculty or are they staff benefits? Are you allowed to do research? Research in your discipline, or only disciplinary educational research? Can you buy yourself out of courses? Are you invited to faculty meetings? Faculty senate? Do you have a vote? Do you have professional development funds? Access to resources like a center for teaching and learning? Tenure-like protections? How does promotion work? What are you evaluated on? An annual leave? Family leave? Presumption of renewal? A specified timeline for contract decisions? When do you get your teaching assignments in comparison to TT faculty? At first,you will often get the answer ‘I don’t know’, but these are all important questions whose answers highlight an institution’s policies and norms. With administrative positions still primarily populated by TT faculty, lack of clarity on NTT issues often is not ill-intentioned, just assumed or forgotten. For example, I’ve seen evaluations for teaching-focused positions that start with research, because no one ever thought to change it. 

Most importantly, what are your interests? Do you want to focus on teaching? If so, go for it!

It’s your career and your life. Pick the job that’s right for you and ignore any naysayers. There are many reasons – both professional and personal – that might cause one to choose NTT over TT and call it a success. All the variables about TT jobs apply to NTT positions as well. Analyze each job, institution, and location with a mind towards what you want and need. While the narratives in grad schools and from long term faculty still haven’t changed, TT positions no longer hold automatic supremacy in my mind. In the end, an academic job is an (academic) job, and they all deserve the same dispassionate analysis about what will meet your basic needs. It worked for me.