Links on pedagogy and after

I am totally blown away by the quality of “Dartmouth’s Academic Skills Center”: Typically these sort of teaching and learning centers seem to be staffed by people who have not experienced tons of academic success themselves and have reams and reams of well-meaning but essentially-contentless material. The Dartmouth site, in contrast, has “links to genuinely useful pages”: which include handouts on “time management”:, “reading effectively”:, and yes, even “alcohol and sleep”: They even have “videos”: on these topics which are cheesy and incredibly slow-paced for those of us whose idea of a good time is watching tankspot videos on YouTube but hey, they’re trying, right?

But what happens after you take a normal person and turn her into an anthropologist? The “Center for Innovation and Research in Graduate Education”: issued a report a while back on “where anthropology Ph.D.s are five years after they finish”: The report has gotten some circulation before but I link it again here because it is the only study I can think of — outside of some cursory statistics from the AAA — about what happens to grad students when they finish.

The answer mirrors my intuitions pretty much: they adjunct for a couple of years, and then get academic jobs — although often not in anthropology departments. And of course they also go on to find jobs in other areas. What they don’t do, according to the report, is starve in an alley somewhere. This is a good reminder since sometimes the stories we tell ourselves of the hardships of grad students are really terrible and while terrible things do happen the entire thing is not, so far, as glum as we sometimes make it out.


Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at

8 thoughts on “Links on pedagogy and after

  1. I have a couple problems with the study.

    First, according to the executive summary, the study had only a 45% response rate to its survey which yielded a sample of 3025 respondents. That means approximately 3697 did not respond to the survey. Additionally only 432 of the respondents in the original survey were anthropologists. For anthropologists, the nonresponse rate was 53.8%. Its entirely possible that those who did not respond are in jobs that nothing to do with anthropology and/or are in crappy minimum wage jobs. When you have non-response bias which is that high, I do not see how you can take the study seriously.

    Second, there are a number of institutions missing such as the University of Arkansas, University of Wyoming, University of Arizona, University of Kentucky, University of Hawaii and Wayne State University which do grant PhDs . It is possible that these institutions did not meet the study’s criteria for granting doctorate degrees. However, it important to know how people are fairing from all graduate programs. When I look at the list of schools that were actually surveyed, I notice that it contains mostly schools that are considered to be prestigious and/or of high academic caliber. As a PhD. student at “lower tier” school which is not listed, I wonder what my actual job prospects are. Do individuals at the unlisted (and sometimes lest prestigious) colleges have an equal chance on the market for any “good” job (i.e. non-Wal-Mart, non-service industry, etc.)? How many of them actually get academic jobs? Is the percentage less, more?

  2. @grad student guy. I don’t usually defend statistics, but to your first question, a) it’s a fifty percent response rate, which is actually pretty good these days and b) you trust that number by trusting the sampling methodology, not the response rate. I’ve seen claims made recently with as low as 15% response rates.

    that being said, I think you point to a very interesting problem with the study, which is that not all PhD programs are equal. But I think the imagined survey that you are referring to is hard to construct… what (besides the Research 1/2/3 tier rankings, whatever those are) would you use to capture this difference? How should we track the differential job prospects of people across different levels, without implying that there is some objective reason why one program is in a lower class than another?

  3. At the risk of getting savaged for our methodological naivete, can I draw your attention to a reasonably solid survey of what happens to anthropology PhDs after they finish the doctorate. David Mills, Anne Jepson and I googled our way through a more or less complete 10-year list of PhDs from British departments, tracked most of them down, and squeezed questionnaire responses out of enough to be interesting. (‘Enough’ is a technical term.) The good news is that most of those who’d finished the course were doing interesting things which seemed not entirely unconnected to their training in anthropology, even if only a minority were in mainstream teaching positions in anthropology. Our initial report on this can be found on the ESRC website at “linktext”: We’ve been promising to work this research up in more depth but other commitments keep intervening. We’re still interested in feedback on the original report.

  4. My thanks as well, for creating a nice opportunity to cross-post a conversation on Anthro-L that begins with a list member’s horrified response to the theme for this year’s AAA.


    bq. What is the relevance of anthropology in today’s world? Where does our
    discipline stand in the age of hyper-science and the genome; during an era
    in which ethnography – as a method and form of textured representation – is
    being mobilized with vigor and confidence by those working in other
    disciplinary formations; at a moment when the questions we’re asking are
    also being answered by others in the humanities, social sciences, and media
    (and often with much more popular recognition)? Does anthropology still
    provide a unique contribution? What are its contemporary goals, and are
    they different from those of previous intellectual generations?

    I said, “About time.” He said, “I suppose you have an answer to this.” I replied,

    bq. Heck, all you have to do is check the archives. I’ve been beating this drum for years.But no, I don’t have an (a.k.a. a single) answer. I don’t know that there is one.

    bq. The point is that the issues raised are real ones. What do you call a field distinguished neither by particular methods (lots of other folks doing ethnography now) nor particular ideas (we’ve always been borrowers, but we used to be able to say, at least, “Not in the Trobriands or among the Nuer, etc.)?

    bq. Once we were part of a conversation that made a lot of sense given a grand narrative in which the languages, customs and artifacts of “primitive” peoples were seen as relevant to the natural history of homo sapiens revealed by paleontology and archeology. But, without that big story line?

    bq. We had something important to say when the academic world was divided along the lines described by Immanuel Wallerstein, with the other social sciences focused on modern, mainly Euro-American places, area studies folks concentrating on high culture (mainly art, philosophy, political history), and the primitives and peasants our bailiwick. But, hello? “When the questions we’re asking are also being answered by others in the humanities, social sciences, and media (and often with more popular recognition),” what, specifically, do we bring to the table?

    bq. For the primatologists, the fossil hunters, and the prehistoric archeologists among us, the answers are pretty clear. As for the rest of us? Indiana Jones is a cultural icon. Cultural anthropologists appear as comic figures in Gary Larson cartoons and Altoids commercials.

    bq. So, maybe it’s time to take a hint from the management gurus and ask ourselves seriously, “What is the business we’re in?” “What do we produce?” “Why should people want it and be willing to pay for it?”

    bq. There are answers to these questions though we may not much like them. There are opportunities out there wherever cultural differences generate misunderstandings that get in the way of, for example, medical treatment, education, economic development programs, management, marketing, product design. Attend an SfAA meeting and you’ll meet all sorts of people doing all sorts of interesting things that non-anthropologists seem to find valuable. Check out my review of Sunderland and Denny ( That might be a good place to begin.

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