Thursday, May 04, 2006

    Should grad students be warned?

    The following is a cross-post from a comment I posted here:

    Smarting from a crass comment from another board, I have been thinking a lot of graduate school the last couple of days. I was not informed of the job market until my first year of the PhD program (my third year of graduate school). Sure, I heard the murmurs, but it wasn't until then that a professor (on a one-year stint himself) talked openly about the market.

    I am a first generation student. Both parents have an associates from the local cc, and they were the over-achievers. I muddled my way to a land-grant teaching U., where, the conversation went, two older, white men told me I was foolish to even try to complete the degree. Why? Because their experience, which came off as really bitter at the time, told them that white men were too-un-PC to get an English job anymore. This would have been around 1996.

    I ignored them, of course, writing them off as bitter and socially retarded (which I still think is the case). But I have been hard-pressed to prove them wrong. Was their advice accurate? Somewhat. Was is good to hear? Not at the time, but I did jump on an opportunity to become a traveling consultant teaching ERP software (SAP, specifically). This has led to exposure to a life otherwise closed (nice hotels, decent billing rate, immersion into business life, intricate technical education, adult learning thoery and practice, distance education, etc.).

    Am I better for the liberal education? Hamlet doesn't come up often, but I am able to capture nuance of process and interogate systems better than my family (my undecated baseline), so...

    Would you like me to read this to you? Listen


    Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Warned--well, where I went to graduate school, decades ago, the first of the warnings about the job market came with the application packet. Granted, this was at a school with more applicants than they could shake a stick at--they didn't need to 'entice' graduate students. Where I am now, I think they are misleading more than one, and I think it's unethical.

    From what I have seen on the other side of hiring, though, first generation people do pretty well, and white guys are do just fine. What is amazing, though, is that anyone gets a job at all: the whole selection process is pretty demented. So many people weigh in that in the end, the person hired is less often the best than they are simply the one the fewest people objected to. This is unfortunate, but it should not be taken personally. It's about the system.

    Friday, May 05, 2006  
    Blogger App Crit said...

    Is it impossible for a white man to get a job in the humanities? No. I'd like to think that the academy has moved beyond knee-jerk political correctness, but maybe not all places.

    Is is unethical to encourage graduate students to pursue degrees? Yes, and No.

    Grad students should be able to figure our the realities of the market for themselves. Many (myself included) began grad school with a dreamy and horribly inaccurate conception of the professorial career. Our disappointment is our own fault really.

    On the other hand, many depts take on grad students for their own amusement. Yup. They will teach the 100-level stuff; they break up the monotony of teaching the same two or three undergrad courses year in and year out. And, (gasp) maybe they will even contribute to our own research in unanticipated ways.

    But, again, grad students should not wait for a professor to tell them what they can figure out by attending one conference, or just by reading a lot of blogs.

    Now that I am a professor with doctoral students of my own, I am very frank about the realities of the academic career. I try to encourage them to think of their grad school experiences as very marketable in the world off campus, and have even introduced them to successful PhDs in our field who have made successful transitions to business. But, I suspect they think that I am simply testing their resolve.

    Monday, May 08, 2006  
    Blogger Piss Poor Prof said...

    APP Crit says: I try to encourage them to think of their grad school experiences as very marketable in the world off campus, and have even introduced them to successful PhDs in our field who have made successful transitions to business. But, I suspect they think that I am simply testing their resolve.

    I remember writing an undergrad report (I had inheeded intimations even then) about the career choices of a liberal arts degree (lad). I waxed eloquent with facts of how a large percentage of CEOs come from a liberal degree and how many opportunities there are in business. What I failed to discover then, though, is that the CEOs come almost exclusively from Ivy colleges where a lad goes much further, and then the bulk went on to get an MBA or the like.

    Getting a History, English, Art, etc. degree from a small college sets you up well for teaching...teaching high school (only with more schooling--i.e. certification), cc, or lower-tier college than the one which gave you the degree.

    Publish your way to the promised land if you can...all others, "do you want fries with that?"

    Thursday, May 11, 2006  
    Blogger Sushi out of Water said...

    I'm an adjunct, soon to be grad student again to finally get my PhD.

    I don't think I'd discourage grad students, but I would let them know that there are far more adjunct positions out there than tenure track positions, and that if you have to have a tenure track position straight out of grad school to be happy then you really shouldn't bother. I enjoy adjunct life myself, but I don't want to be teaching 7 classes a term for the rest of my life because I know I'd go crazy. But if I have to come back to it someday (and I'm keeping it up during grad school, just to a far lesser 1-2 class degree) I know I can and may--and I'll make more money doing it too.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006  
    Blogger App Crit said...

    You're right, Piss Poor. There are a lot of Ivy League types in business. But many more who are from other types of schools. (There are too many businesses in the private sector to hire and promote only Ivy League grads.) Those successful in business, regardless of academic pedigree, are all there by choice, not by default or happenstance. And in the age of the "new multinational," a Dartmouth degree will hardly impress the Zurich gnomes (or whomever) as much as your ability to speak, research, understand, and relate to, well, anyone.

    My point is that there are a lot of people who have pursued humanities education to advanced degrees and have chosen the business world and have done well. To be honest, it's not something I've ruled out either. I think we'd both agree that the academic world isn't quite what it seemed when filling out those grad school apps.

    The broader point, I suppose, remains in how one sees humanities education. I do see it as empowerment. It will equip one to go as far as one wants. I don't see it as a provision, i.e. something that provides opportunity. I never expected my education to guarantee me anything and I don't guarantee anything for my students.

    A close friend of mine from grad school, who is doing very well for herself in a multinational overseas, says that anyone who completes a dissertation in a timely manner is well capable of being a project manager and leading in the corporate world. You don't approach an employer saying that you spent three years researching "Skaldic poetry and the other," but rather that you "identified a need in the field that you worked to address through original research that earned the approval and praise of senior experts in the discipline." That's not just resume-crap. That's exactly what a dissertation is.

    I love the debate, Piss Poor. But, assumptions and ad hominem rejoinders are not too cool, unless truly warranted. I am a "liberal arts snob." I think a liberal education is a truly powerful experience for young people, one that can change the minds of those who will change the world, and I don't apologize for holding those views. Perhaps we can argue that instead of "lesser minds" and "thinking machines."


    Wednesday, May 17, 2006  

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