Friday, December 12, 2008

A New "Regular." Katie From Kalamazoo On The Market.

I am not convinced I even want to do this. Katie is not my "real" name, nor is it my "blogger" name. It happens to be the name of my BFF from grad school, and she's letting me use it.

I'm not a big fan of this site, but recently I was turned on to a few posts that I thought showed some promise. So I've been checking it out. When you posted a few of my pieces - for which I was grateful until I saw the "funny" titles you gave them - I never imagined the vitriol with which my very modest suggestions and ideas were met by your following of depressed academic goons.

So, I'm surprised you're interested in my voice, and I decided to take you up on the offer purely to show the other side of things. Perhaps I'll learn something from the process. Perhaps you'll learn something from me, as long as you listen and not judge.

My first posting will be on the job market. It's a pet peeve of mine how poorly junior faculty are treated. Your abominable "gumdrop unicorn" dustup from last year showed a great deal of what's wrong in our profession. Talented young blood is forced to stagnate. The deadwood rules, and people like me hop to a new job as soon as we have the wherewithal. And then of course we're blamed for that as well.

But, that's too bad. The truth is that my generation of teachers IS the future of the academic profession, and we WILL be the powerbrokers of universities and colleges for the next 25 years or so. So what we do, how we handle ourselves, and the courses WE chart will make the American academy what it will be. You don't like it? You don't have to. Attrition is a wonderful tool. Step aside now or later. It makes no difference.

So, I'm on the market this year, despite the fact that I'm at a decent enough state university now. But I'm on some kind of treadmill-track nobody told me about. I strive and achieve - even publishing a book in my third year! - and I get little or no notice. If I weren't so kind, I'd say my colleagues are jealous of me. Oh no, not little ole me, the junior faculty member with the WORST OFFICE IN THE BUILDING.

Yet, that's how it's gone. So I've got my application in at several excellent SLACs nearer my home in the northeast. (Oh, I went to [a famous private uni in New England], in case you're wondering.) And getting back there or its environs are what I'm eager to do. My BFF got a job in counseling in [that city], and my mother and father still live nearby. But any school within a morning's drive will suffice, and at 30, I think I've got more than enough credentials to pick and choose a job. I suspect - and my dissertation advisor [an extremely famous British Lit scholar] confirms - that I'm doing exactly the right thing, searching for a department that will welcome me, my scholarship, and my leadership, not a department where I'm simply a cog in the wheel.

But the market is tough. When I took my current job, I applied to several nondescript schools just like it. Some were wowed by me, and some could care less. I knew then I was looking at the wrong academic homes. I didn't trust myself to shoot for the highest level of schools, and I kick myself to this day about that.

But I've thrived here. My student evaluations are higher than anyone else's in the department. (Don't ask me; I just know.) My students love me. I have four peer-reviewed articles, and of course my book, which was a quantum leap revision of my dissertation - which I was told was of publishable quality from the start.

But if you will allow, I'll chronicle the market this year, starting with my upcoming visit to San Francisco at this year's Modern Language Association meeting. I'm not only taking on interviews, I'm also presenting a paper on [a scholarly look at a current reality TV show]. It's sure to turn a few heads. From San Francisco I'll report on the conference activities, the networking, the schmoozing, the panels, and of course my job interviews.

Just for record keeping, I've applied to 12 asst. level jobs and 2 assoc. level jobs. I will push hard on any of the asst. level jobs for those positions to be converted to assoc. level, obviously, having the background I have. I only have one interview set so far, but it's a slow year - what with Thanksgiving being so late and all. This week all of us job market folks should hear the good news of those deadly (but sometimes fun) hotel interviews.

Thank you for this forum. I look forward to checking in regularly.