November
20th 2008
Demoralized Debby from DSU desires to return to academia

Posted under: jobs, publication

detail from "Sad Woman" by Gilli Moon

detail from "Sad Woman" by Gilli Moon

Today’s mail brings an urgent plea from Debby, who needs your advice, dear readers:

Dear Historiann,

I graduated from a top university in my subdiscipline; I love research and writing and teach okay to well, depending on the circumstances. It’s tough to get a tenure-track job in my subfield, and I was the only one who did from my grad program the year I graduated:  a tenure-line, mostly administrative position as director of a program embedded within a humanities department at Disintegrating State University.  I got pregnant second year and got zero support, institutionally or from colleagues, and suffered from postpartum depression.  In my fourth year there, my colleagues voted “not to reappoint” (i.e., to fire) me, mostly because of a hatred of my subfield; malicious, scapegoating, and backstabbing colleagues; and bad department management.

For over a year, I’ve been mourning the loss of a career I love. My CV includes a frequently cited article in a top journal; one in a book from a top press in my field; a few articles tossed off in crummy journals; two forthcoming in book collections and one forthcoming in another top journal; a fancy award.   I’ve applied for a few jobs, but have had no luck. So here’s my question:  I think my dissertation topic is important, interesting, and timely.  I’d love to write a book about it.  Would publishing such a book help me get back on track–tenure-track, that is?  The caveat: I will never work at another place like DSU—only at a college that values good research and conducts itself with reasonable integrity.

Debby, it sounds to me like you were treated very badly by your former department.  Why would they hire a new Assistant Professor to run a program?  And if as you say, your sub-field didn’t enjoy strong support in the department that hired you, then it sounds like you were set up to fail.  In cases like this I think it’s really important not to internalize the judgement of people who clearly were clueless about defining the job and neglectful (or malicious) in not working to help you succeed.  I don’t know why departments do this, but they do, and it just perpetuates bad juju.

But, it sounds like  you’re clear about your strengths as a scholar, so why not write that book and see what happens?  Publishing your book may get you back on the tenure-track in a job that suits you.  At the very least, the process of writing and publishing will necessarily draw you back into supportive networks (through conferences and contact with publishers) who will affirm your worth as a scholar, and who might have valuable connections to job and fellowship opportunities.  And in the end, a book in your hand will make you feel like you achieved something distinctive.

All of this is contingent on you having the time (and therefore the money) to do this.  You mentioned that you were pregnant, so I assume you have at least one toddler or preschooler now–and if baby needs new shoes, that will certainly take priority.  Readers, what do you think?  How would you look at Debby’s CV if she publishes her book and applies for a job in your department?

30 Comments »

30 Responses to “Demoralized Debby from DSU desires to return to academia”

  1. Indyanna on 20 Nov 2008 at 8:57 am #

    Wow, having to “write that book” before getting that next job–i.e., as a precondition for being considered seriously in competition with a pool of people who have (largely) X-number of dissertation chapters done in draft and can (hopefully) promise their interviewers to have the degree by next August/September–seems like a high price to have to pay for having been at Dysfunctional State U. Especially with the resume already on the table. If she does this, will it be a second book for tenure, at a good but less than stellar institution? This could merit a dialogue/ debate about how departments assess promise or “potential” versus documented accomplishment; as well as how any murky deviations from standard model smoothe ascent are inferred about and judged.

    Have to run to a class now, but will look forward to hearing much more about this one.

  2. Poe on 20 Nov 2008 at 9:00 am #

    No – I don’t think we would touch Debby with a ten-foot pole. I work at non-disintegrating state university, where we value teaching; we’re not interested in hiring people who teach “okay to well, depending on the circumstances.” If Debby is primarily interested in scholarship, she should probably restrict her applications to R1 institutions. One of my mentors worked outside of academia for many years, then returned after having published a series of seminal (or ovarian?) essays – but she also edited a topflight avant-garde journal for years. So I guess it can be done.

  3. Knitting Clio on 20 Nov 2008 at 10:04 am #

    I agree with Poe — if your teaching is mediocre and/or you’re more interested in research than teaching you should not apply to jobs at places that prioritize teaching.

  4. Debby on 20 Nov 2008 at 10:17 am #

    Historiann, you’re right: the job responsibilities were unfair to impose on a dewey-eyed new Ph.D. In fact,the chair hirself told me–after I got axed!–”What we asked you to do was probably impossible.”
    Poe, I often enjoy teaching, especially in smaller classes, and have then gotten excellent evals. But it’s hard to teach well when you’re under intense stress,as I was. I’m thinking that an R1y instantly would reject someone fired from a Tier 9 school, though…a smaller private college might be more open??

  5. squadratomagico on 20 Nov 2008 at 10:19 am #

    I find this story curious. I think there are a number of questions to be read between the lines:

    -If Debbie got pregnant, had a child, and then suffered from post-partum depression, all starting in the second year of her contract, then how well did she perform her teaching and administrative duties in the four years leading up to her review? Her situation presents extenuating circumstances, but it also seems like she didn’t have much time to “prove” herself at her focused best before having to deal with these other issues and distractions. We only have Debbie’s side of the story, and it may well be the case that her colleagues were unsupportive jackasses. But it also strikes me as possible that her non-renewal had something to do with poor or distracted performance.

    -Re: the non-supportiveness of her colleagues and institution: Debbie was hired to a position with significant administrative responsibilities. Presumably, she received some trade-off for those duties: a lower teaching load perhaps, undoubtedly less service in other capacities, maybe even a little extra pay. What she characterizes as a lack of support sounds to me like a complaint that her colleagues did not cover for her enough. Now, let me stress that I do think it is reasonable to expect colleagues to help out in the days, even weeks, immediately surrounding a birth, especially if the new mother offers to reciprocate at some future time. That’s a reasonable part of the social contract and community spirit. But did she expect this help for months? Did she expect it to continue because of her post-partum depression? Speaking as a happily childfree woman, I resent being asked to take over the duties of someone with children, with no extra compensation. Debbie sounds to me as if she was unable to complete her job description, and believed her colleagues should have picked up her slack for, let’s say, late pregnancy + birth and recovery + post-partum depression. That’s a lot of extra work to ask for from her new colleagues as a charitable contribution to her family.

    -What was expected at this review? At OPU’s equivalent review, a faculty member with indifferent teaching and no book chapters would be booted. Expectations differ by institution, of course, but Debbie’s achievements, as reported, wouldn’t cut it here. We want chapters and good teaching.

    -If Debbie is not getting much interest from the job market now, then I don’t think a book will help things, for two reasons. First, her articles should give some sense of the importance of her research topic. Search committees will look at them as an indication of the possible book to come; if they are not contacting her, then perhaps her topic is less intriguing than she believes. Second, and more important, even aside from all subjective and (with the information provided) unanswerable questions of quality, timeliness, etc., publishing a book before getting another TT will disadvantage Debbie because she will be between ranks. The book would make her associate material, but the job history will not make any department likely to hire her with tenure — future colleagues will want a few years to vet her, as an assistant, before making a career commitment.

    A search committee presented with Debbie’s application will assume, if she has a book, that she is looking to be hired with tenure. (Some institutions, including OPU, would even require someone at that stage to be hired with tenure.) Yet, no department will want to hire to tenure someone who has an indifferent teaching record, and who was not renewed in a previous position.

    My advice would be for Debbie to get a good start on the book, if she wants to write it, but NOT to publish it before interviewing.

  6. Susan on 20 Nov 2008 at 10:24 am #

    What everyone has said. A department will always look at, and ask questions about, the gap in the cv. So, even if Debby could afford to do nothing but writing the book for a year, I’d look into at least some local teaching as an adjunct. Not for the pay, but then the narrative on her letter can be “I wanted to stay in touch with teaching in my field so I have. . . ” That makes you look more committed as a teacher.
    An SLAC will really care about commitment to students, so anything that she can do to show that is good.

    The other thing is that anyone who has been anywhere in the academic world for more than 5 minutes knows that crazy decisions are made all the time. But Debby has to find a way to talk about it that doesn’t sound like “poor me, I wuz victimized” because no one wants a victim.

  7. Matt L on 20 Nov 2008 at 10:35 am #

    Sorry, I don’t think another book is going to get Debbie a job at a state school or liberal arts college. Poe is right, someone with a good publishing record, and light teaching experience, actually raises flags at teaching schools. The administrators would love you, but the people in the department will wonder if you are going to stick around.

    I don’t mean to be a downer, but it sounds like Debbie’s job didn’t have a lot of teaching opportunities and focused primarily on administrative responsibilities. Good evals from small classes that focused on her particular subfield are not going to carry a lot of weight. Debbie probably needs to go out and teach/adjunct some large survey classes in her major field to burnish her teaching record.

    I’ve watched my department go through multiple hires in the last four years. The same concerns about teaching came up again and again. Its nice to interview people who are doing exciting research and that have interests which overlap with the other department members, but the job usually goes to the person who can teach. T

  8. Debby on 20 Nov 2008 at 10:54 am #

    squadratomagico–

    thanks for your thoughtful reply and insightful questions. I got a course reduction from a 3-3 to a 2-2 for the administrative duties. No extra pay; same service responsibilities. I never asked others to cover for me or used illness or my child as an excuse; I took my maternity weeks off and returned. Most people didn’t know I was ailing.

  9. GayProf on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:00 pm #

    Maybe I am more optimistic, or possibly generous, than the other commentators, but I don’t think that it is the end of the line for Debby. Obviously, it’s hard to assess without more knowledge of particulars, which are probably best left anonymous.

    Nonetheless, an individual who publishes a solid, respected book is going to have some options. While I can’t be specific, I can say that I have seen cases in my current institution where candidates have been considered even if their traditional tenure time clock had expired. The key was whether the work itself is interesting, completed/near completed, if there are understandable explanations for the past delay, and evidence of forward momentum towards a new project.

    I would also caution those who serve on hiring committees about jumping to conclusions or ruling out candidates based on narrow standards. Are you colleagues or gate keepers?

  10. Penny on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:16 pm #

    As Historiann has discussed many times here, tenure-track jobs aren’t especially family-friendly. So maybe it also makes sense for Debby to look at other possibilities–there is breathable air off-campus (whatever they tell you at conferences), and if you’re a strong writer with good research and interpersonal skills, and if you’re not fussy about prestige, you might could find happier employment elsewhere. Look into organizations like the National Council of Independent Scholars for more on that path (or the H-Net listserv H-Scholar, which serves indy scholars very broadly defined).

  11. Historiann on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:28 pm #

    Well said, GayProf–I’m a little surprised to see the lack of compassion here, as well as the assumptions about Debby’s situation that weren’t in her original letter!

    Squadratomagico, you raise some good questions, but I don’t think that having a book means that a job candidate should or would expect to be hired with tenure. We have people apply all the time to my department for assistant prof. jobs with books, and we’ve interviewed them–they understood, though, that we couldn’t change the job description based on their accomplishments. We’ve recently hired an assistant professor (untenured, natch) who’s almost completed his second book (!), so I don’t think a book will disqualify someone at all–in our department, it almost always gets someone an initial interview.

    I don’t think it’s fair that you assume that Debby’s one pregnancy and birth of one child was something that was unduly burdensome to her department. I don’t know exactly what her experience was or expectations were, but Debby is not the bad guy here. I agree with you that one’s colleagues should not be burdened with covering classes for people recovering from childbirth, and I’m very sorry if you feel like you’ve been taken advantage of, but that’s not the problem of the pregnant individual to solve. This is an issue that demands institutional solutions, like hiring substitutes or offering paid leave to faculty who give birth or adopt a child. Unfortunately, individuals are all too often expected to solve this problem, and they’re usually untenured women.

    Furthermore, if her postpartum depression affected her job performance, this is something that her colleagues should have taken into account rather than punishing her for it. People have bodies, and they break down or don’t work optimally all the time. I think it’s customary at some universities for people to apply to stop the tenure clock when they’ve experienced a major illness–this is an option that should have been extended to Debby, instead of cashiering her at the first opportunity.

    Susan’s suggestion of finding some adjunct teaching is a good one, and will help provide Debby with a narrative to talk about her extended leave of absence. Of course, Debby’s letter to Historiann was written in a style quite different than she’d write her application letter or present her experience in an interview. You’re right Susan that no one wants to hire a “victim,” but isn’t this one of the insidious effects of bullying workplaces: they’re very good at convincing you that you were the problem, and this makes it very difficult to speak honestly about these experiences?

    That said, I think there are a lot of helpful ideas and sensible warnings in all of your comments for Debby. It sounds to me that either an R-1 or a small liberal arts college might be good fits for Debby–she’ll have to apply selectively and use her judgment in evaluating her opportunities.

  12. Tenured Radical on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:31 pm #

    I am with Gayprof — not the end of the line at all, since clearly she was publishing. That said, in the job she says she wants, she will — as squadratomagico implies — need to either learn to teach, or learn to value the teaching well enough to not make it seem like a sidebar to everything else.

    That said, having a contract not renewed means you are lucky to move laterally: more likely, you will take a step down, and that may be a place where teaching expectations are very high. And Debby really doesn’t like to teach very much (which she hasn’ t said — only that it didn’t go well), make a living doing something else and write. I would strongly suggest administration, publishing, or whatever the equivalent would be in Debby’s field to an archives management, IT, or public history degree.

    The option of being a scholar outside of a tenure track teaching position is something to explore, rather than finding a teaching position that may not play to your strengths or desires.

    TR

  13. Historiann on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:35 pm #

    Penny and TR–great suggestions. Thanks for stopping by to comment. (I like Penny’s suggestion that “there is breathable air off-campus.” Who knew? ;)

  14. Poe on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    Sorry Debby – I was rushed and didn’t mean to be snarky. What I was responding to in your discourse was the privileging of scholarship over teaching – it seems as if you love scholarship, and teaching is a bit of an afterthought. But the vast majority of higher ed institutions in the US are about teaching. Therefore, if when applying for many academic jobs you present yourself the way that you have done here, you will not impress your potential employers and colleagues, the vast majority of whom see scholarship in service to teaching (as opposed to vice versa).

  15. The_Myth on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:42 pm #

    I am concerned by the rhetoric among commenters that debby is a poor teacher simply because she said she can “teach okay to well.”

    I never, EVER believe the wackos who shout from the rooftops about what GOOD…no, make that GREAT…no, no, EXCELLENT!…teachers they are. No one can be on their A-game every single day, class, term, or even year; everyone fucks up sometimes. These sorts of claims smack of arrogant hubris [pardon the redundancy]. Also, considering the recent posts about sexism on this very blog, couldn’t this just be a simple gendered rhetorical tactic of modesty by Debby? After all, she did say she does well sometimes; maybe the last few courses after she found out she was fired crapped out.

    She might be an excellent instructor who had some bad students, bad courses, or had her teaching impacted by that service assignment [and as Historiann said herself, that assignment seemed odd for a fresh Ph.D.]. Think about it: She named the place Disintegrating State U for a reason. If we read that sign correctly, it wasn’t a good place for one to hone their entry-level pedagogy into that of an expert! All while trying to clean up colleagues’ messes! [We don't know how work-intensive that admin post was/is.]

    I am horrified that so many commenters have such unforgiving reactions when we all know what a fucked up world academia is. Also, considering the very fucked up nature of academia, I think debby’s gonna need more than a book to get back into the right groove; I think the short-term teaching/adjunct suggestion is apt…if she can get it.

    I have a great deal of sympathy for debby because I am in a similar situation, which might explain why I am shocked by some of the extreme reactions I’ve just read. You’re not alone debby!

  16. New Kid on the Hallway on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:56 pm #

    I just wanted to point out that post-partum depression, like all depression, is an illness, and to say that a department shouldn’t have to “cut Debby slack” because of post-partum depression is like saying they shouldn’t have to cut her slack because of cancer. I mean, come on – just because it’s an illness incurred through having kids doesn’t make it an instance of the child-bearing imposing on the child-free.

    This is difficult, of course, because there’s a pressure not to tell colleagues about something like PPD, and then there’s no way for them to help you, legally. I think I encountered a similar situation – I suffered from depression while at Former College (especially during the first year), and of course didn’t want to tell anyone about it – but I do think it affected my performance of my job in ways that bit me in the ass later.

    Otherwise, I have nothing to say, because I feel like I was in a situation a bit similar to Debby’s, and, well, I went to law school. I just *felt* stale/unappealing on the job market. But that’s probably just me.

  17. squadratomagico on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    Let me clarify my advice to Debby about working on the book, but not publishing it. I still think this might be the better course of action, because there are institutions, like my own, where this would present a significant “between ranks” problem. Some universities, like Historiann’s, will hire faculty with books to an assistant rank, but at OPU, such a hire is actually not permitted. It’s a question of equity, so that we don’t end up with two faculty who have roughly similar cvs or achievements, and one is at an associate rank while the other is an assistant. Here, rank is dictated by certain benchmarks on the cv, like a book, and we cannot hire someone to a lower rank than their cv warrants. It’s actually quite a good policy.

    That having been said, a candidate with a good start on a compelling book manuscript would get serious consideration here, even if there were other factors in the file, like a non-renewal, that raised questions. If we liked the book, we would probably interview the person and try to learn more about hir situation. But legally and institutionally, we simply could not hire Debby as an assistant prof. if she had a book on a major press.

  18. Historiann on 20 Nov 2008 at 12:59 pm #

    Thanks, The_Myth. I’m someone who teaches okay to well, and I’m, well, okay with that. I think you make a good point about gender and bragging (or not-bragging), and I too am pretty skeptical about people who are reallly happy with their own teaching. I think good teaching is highly situational: what works with one set of students in one kind of institution with one professor’s personality won’t work in all cases. Everything is very fluid and highly variable.

    (Your comment was held in moderation because of the F-word, which is perfectly OK to use, but I put a block on comments with the F-word in them because I was at one point getting some porny spam. This is just FYI to any commenters out there who might wonder why their comments don’t appear instantly as usual).

  19. Historiann on 20 Nov 2008 at 1:02 pm #

    p.s. to Squadratomagico–I’m sorry, your original point was clear. I’m the one who introduced the fuzz. I think you’re right that being able to show significant progress on a book and having a working relationship with an editor who’s interested in the project might be the best of all possible worlds. Plus, why should Debby stay out of academia even longer while waiting for the book to make it into print? I think your advice on positioning re: the ms. are exactly right.

  20. Indyanna on 20 Nov 2008 at 1:54 pm #

    I was going to (try to) write more elaborately but I’ll just sign on in concurrence to _The Myth_’s very well-expressed opinion. Everyone loves great teaching, but nobody’s ever very well philosophically figured out what that means. Historiann’s point about “situational” comes close.

    I also think we could re-think what “rank” means in an academic context. Nobody gets to be an executive vice-president of classroom presentation, or a global brand manager of lecture development, or even a product group leader of testing strategy. It’s really more about compensation callibration than about function or authority. Tenure, which embeds within rank but is functionally different, is what governs the latter.

  21. Bing McGhandi on 20 Nov 2008 at 3:00 pm #

    Network like a maniac! Your scholarship puts you in good stead for that. I wonder if you think that postpartum depression affected your chances at reappointment? I have immense sympathy for you. Depression makes just about everything more difficult. Notwithstanding that, you should be optimistic because you have clearly remained active and are apparently still a player, despite that significant obstacle. 3 bits of advice:

    1) Make sure that you are healthy first.
    2) Make sure that you are healthy first.
    3) Make sure that you are healthy first.

    HJ

  22. Historiann on 20 Nov 2008 at 3:06 pm #

    Bing, that’s great advice. Beyond the basic need for good mental health at minimum, it takes time to get over a bad job. I think in some ways, it’s like a divorce: it may take at least as many years that you were in the bad job/bad relationship to recover. I know that I was still very angry for a long time, and I still have moments of rage when I think back on certain incidents. (And I wasn’t fired–I resigned for a better job, and I was still angry about the way I was treated at my old job.)

    And, Indyanna–very insightful, as usual! (I really like the notion of “global brand manager of lecture development.”

  23. Dr. Crazy on 20 Nov 2008 at 3:33 pm #

    Coming to this late, but I think that if what Debby wants is a private LAC that is not elite or even just selective and aiming at elite, she probably needs to reverse the ways in which she describes her attitude to research/writing and the ways in which she describes her teaching. The fact is, at a school that puts teaching first (like mine), somebody who described their teaching in the way that she did in this letter would very likely not make it to the interview stage, whereas a person who talked about their love of teaching and their abilities as a teacher but who liked to do research in a lukewarm sort of way would be just fine. I take Myth’s point about shouting about one’s teaching from the rooftops, but if you wax poetic about how you love research and then call yourself only an ok teacher, I know my institution wouldn’t see that as modesty: they’d see it as bad fit.

    It sounds like Debby had an awful time at DSU, and that’s got to be awful to get through. And PPD combined with such an awful work environment and then to be let go – I can’t even imagine. But I think it’s important, if Debby is attempting to get a gig at a teaching-intensive place, to note that Historiann, Gayprof, and Tenured Radical are all at the kind of institutions where research is central to what they do, and these are the people who are saying, “Oh sure, we’d totally be into somebody with interesting research! All is not lost!” In contrast, I think a lot of the more negative comments have come from people at institutions where research is not central, perhaps ones like the ones Debby believes she has a chance at being hired into.

  24. squadratomagico on 20 Nov 2008 at 4:14 pm #

    I’d like to make an observation that may offend some people, but I really do feel compelled to say it: Sometimes departmental decisions are made on the merits of the case. Of course, sometimes such decisions are completely ridiculous as well: as Susan noted, it doesn’t take longer than five minutes to see that there are lots of insane and inhumane things going on in the academic world. But I feel that it displays a lack of critical inquiry to assume, with the incomplete information we have presented here, that this necessarily is one of those cases.

    Trying to sort out what Debby’s review file looked like suggests something like this: At the time of her review her publication record included one important, peer-reviewed journal article, plus one article in an edited collection; these two serious research pieces were supplemented by some others “tossed off in crummy journals.” Debby was a passable, but not exciting (or excited) teacher. She tells us nothing about her administrative duties, so we don’t know if her program prospered, stayed stable, or declined under her directorship. I assume if there were major progress on that front, she would have mentioned it, so let’s assume that the program at least stayed stable. She did not have collegial relationships with others in her department.

    In my department, this would be an extremely serious position to be in at fourth year review.

  25. Historiann on 20 Nov 2008 at 5:23 pm #

    Squadratomagico–fair enough. But we weren’t asked to decide whether or not Debby deserved tenure at DSU. She asked if writing a book would be a good strategy for getting back in the game. I am very sympathetic to Debby, because I once had a job where I was bullied and told that I was the problem. That didn’t mean that I was completely unsuited for any academic job, just that I was unsuited for a job in that department. Furthermore, as Dr. Crazy suggests, different departments have different standards for tenure. Debby’s department may not have valued her research at all, whereas at other places she’d be considered a star, and at yet still others she’d be in deep trouble, as perhaps at your institution. So, there may be a place for Debby, but not at every institution. (But how many of us can honestly say that we could succeed at any kind of institution? I think there becomes a point beyond which we’ve conditioned ourselves to adapt to our circumstances that it makes it difficult to make a change.)

    Dr. Crazy is correct to note the different orientations of the schools we all teach at, and to suggest that that conditions our responses.

  26. Dame Eleanor Hull on 20 Nov 2008 at 5:35 pm #

    I’m with the people who say a book could be helpful; in my department, someone with a book (or a contract) could be hired at assistant level. It might be a short track (3 years) or the person might have the option of going up for tenure early. And the administrative experience would be a plus. I also agree that Debby needs a better teaching narrative for interviews; but I took this to be an off-the-record request for advice, not a sample job letter.

  27. hysperia on 20 Nov 2008 at 8:39 pm #

    I don’t have any idea how to advise Debbie, but with respect to her self-description of being someone who teaches “okay to well”, I didn’t take that as a sign that she doesn’t care much about teaching. I would not have dared say that I taught any better than that for at least five years. University teachers don’t get taught to teach but learn on the job. There are a few extraordinarily talented people who take to it like fish in water. I think that I was somewhere in the middle, but not especially talented. I did get better. I don’t think it’s fair to assume that someone who doesn’t yet teach exceptionally well doesn’t care about teaching, especially if they are in a non-supportive environment. As well, even if Debbie was “distracted”? by her pregnancy, this ought to have been taken into account and the Department that I worked in would have done so – it’s so unfortunate that she didn’t have that benefit.

  28. prof bw on 21 Nov 2008 at 9:24 am #

    I had two former grad students in similar circumstances to Debbie, neither has a book, and both have been on several interviews this year so be heartened.

    If you publish your book now, instead of just lining up a contract or putting out feelers, at least at my institution (poorly funded state school) you will be expected to publish a second book for tenure.

    Also, the thing that gives us most pause, at least in the last two hiring cycles, was people who sounded broken (so avoid discussing how you feel about your past appointment even if someone brings up how ridiculous it was to put you in an admin position so soon), had an extensive (5-10 years) period without employment, or were hopping from short term appointment to short term appointment. Your best bet is to apply to a place with similar interests; as others have said, if you value research over teaching then you need to apply to R1s not small liberal arts places. Highlight your important current publications, get some others out there that show an expansion of your current research or new interests, and send in a packet of your teaching evals whether requested or not. Put in your cover letter that you focused more on admin and what you accomplished as a result. Also make sure you get a rec from the previous appointment, some times all it takes is seeing that you did have positive colleagues to turn the tide of the one bad phone call. And last, be kind to yourself no matter what happens with the application process. Whatever happens, you are not a bad person for making the choices you made and you are not a failure at your profession b/c you ended up unemployed and on the receiving end of some gatekeepers’ disdain. If your work is solid, no one can take that from you, and several people on hiring committees will recognize it.

    Historiann’s suggestion of getting back in the conference circuit is also a good one. It will help curb your anxiety, make needed connections, get you back in the mode of writing and presenting, etc.

    I wish you the best. :D

  29. Historiann on 21 Nov 2008 at 9:45 am #

    Thanks, Prof bw–very wise words. It’s interesting to hear about your experiences with recent job candidates who weren’t 30-year olds right out of grad school. I’m glad to hear your students are doing well (at least with getting interviews so far)–best of luck to them!

  30. Deborah Judge on 21 Nov 2008 at 10:41 am #

    You might want to consider finding a particular ‘niche’. Hiring committees don’t want some platonic idea of the perfect academic, they want the best person for doing the particular job that they need someone to do. My college, for example, needed someone who loves and is good at teaching and mentoring smart students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and who likes to do collaborative and interdisciplinary research. They couldn’t care less about my ability to teach advanced courses to grad students or to manage very large courses, since we don’t have either, and they don’t much care which journals I publish in as long as I publish regularly. Your self-description reads, basically, adequate to good in teaching, research and service. Is there a particular kind of demographic that you love teaching? Is there a particular kind of research that you like doing? Are there places that value that kind of teaching and research in particular? You might need to do some research to find them, since departments usually don’t put the demographic that they serve or the research trends of their faculty in their job ads.

    I also want to second the suggestion about public history. A lot of my friends who prefer research over teaching have found good homes in museums, and still publish and participate in academic conferences. One even did work for a hospital that needed a study of how the demographic it serves has changed. If you want to spend most of your time doing research and to know that it is valued, but you don’t care as much about having total control over your research agenda, public history might be something to consider.