Back in December, I started a conversation with the staff at Savage Minds about professionalization, particularly in relation to recent Ph.D. recipients who might be on the job market and who might also be adjuncting. While we often collectively bemoan the state of affairs around non-tenure track employment in academia, it seemed to me that very little had actually been written about navigating the waters between graduating, adjuncting and finding a tenure track job. We began with a couple of surveys — one for people who are currently adjuncting and seeking more permanent employment, and another for people who had adjuncted and successfully made the move to a tenure track job or moved into a different form of work. About 50 people responded to each of the surveys (although if you’re so moved, you can fill them out now). Over the next month, I’ll be presenting some of the findings we collected from these surveys and thinking about the kinds of challenges that people face and how they might be overcome. In addition, I’ll be writing some posts about professionalization in anthropology in our current climate — an extension of some of my work on my professionalization blog based on the series I run in the anthropology department at UC Santa Cruz.
My interest in professionalization is based on my own experience, which has been characterized by a persistent need to pull myself up by my bootstraps. I’m now halfway through my fifth year on the tenure track at UCSC, and was previously employed at Wayne State; I was fortunate to enter the job market in 2007, at the height of jobs being offered. I graduated from Oakland University, a little-known liberal arts school is suburban Detroit, with a BA in Literature; taught elementary school for a year in Columbus, OH; went to the University of Liverpool for an MA in Science Fiction Studies; returned to the US for an MA in American Cultural Studies at Bowling Green; and then went on to work on my Ph.D. in Anthropology at the University of Minnesota. By no means do I have an elite background, and I attribute my professional success entirely to robust efforts to professionalize early in my career, a quirky project on sleep in American society, and supportive mentors.
For readers who are interested in the context of my meager expertise about these matters, I’ve included a little biography below. In addition, I’ve participated in several hires over the last decade, sometimes on hiring committees and other times as a graduate student representative or community participant — I’ve seen hundreds of job letters, CVs, syllabuses, and writing samples. Although it’s all subjective in the end, I do have a sense of genre and form. As someone who has never received a massive grant, graduated from a elite university, or received a prestigious dissertation writing fellowship or postdoc, I’m interested in opening some of the black boxes associated with getting a secure job in higher education.
I’ve been teaching at the university and college levels since 2001, first at Bowling Green, and then at the University of Minnesota, both times as a graduate student. While at the University of Minnesota — to make ends meet — I took adjuncting work at the University of Phoenix and a local culinary school, in both cases teaching courses as part of their general education curriculum, and not necessarily anthropology. In fact, it was never anthropology, and more often World Literature, Ethnic Studies or Composition. After finishing my fieldwork — during the one year I took off of teaching — I began at Wayne State, and have been teaching at the university level since then.
Drawing on my MA research, I started working on publishing in 2002, and have published something annually since then; I’ve also attended and presented at no less than two conferences for most of 2001-2010 (and then I cut it down to just the annual AAA meetings). In 2002, I started a cultural studies journal with a number of friends, including Davin Heckman, which provided us with a number of networking opportunities; now in its 12th volume, Reconstruction continues under the editorship of Marc Ouellette.
I’ve done a number of other things over the years — organized conferences, guest-edited journals, etc. (I have my old CV available here, as part of a tutorial, in case you’re really interested). I wouldn’t recommend it all to everyone, but in my experience, there’s very little stopping graduate students and junior faculty from being professionally involved in a variety of contexts and in a number of ways. I’m not sure that anything I’ve done has directly contributed to where I am now, professionally speaking, but, taken together, they provided me with a broad network of colleagues and a breadth of experiences that graduate school doesn’t normally provide.
Over the next month, I’ll draw on my experiences and the experiences of those who have filled out our adjuncting-related surveys. I have a few posts in mind, and more to write based on the surveys, but if you have burning questions or concerns about professionalization in anthropology, I’m happy to tackle those as well. With the Savage Minds community behind me, I’m sure we have plenty of answers to give.