ScholarStudio Session: Interview with Jennifer Polk of Ph.D. to Life

I was thrilled to interview Jennifer Polk of From Ph.D. to Life on the question of preparing for multiple career paths before you graduate.

Jennifer is co-organizer of the BeyondProf Conference that will happen in May 2016. BeyondProf.com. This online conference will be a great way for grad students to explore alternative career paths and strategies. Consider attending or asking your institution to stream it for students.

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  1. As the traditional academic market shrinks, but universities keep producing a steady stream of Ph.D. degrees, exploring alternative career paths, like this blog does, becomes a valuable contribution to absorb and put to good use the skills of superbly trained people.

    At the same time, university departments (faculty and graduate students) need to address the shrinking market and the excess production by taking charge of why and how university administrations are distorting the meaning and function of the institution and changing it into a bureaucracy driven organization, where paper pushing begets more paperwork while teaching and research are conveniently farmed out to poorly paid temporary contract workers, a.k.a. adjunct faculty.

    Arguments such as, for example, increasing federal and state regulations are what drives much of the growth of the administrative ranks, don’t work, because much of the paperwork involved in dealing with compliance is precisely the kind of work that can and should be farmed out to outside providers, like law firms or software packages, which absolutely must cost much less than hiring permanent full time in-house bureaucrats with all the associated benefit expenses (health insurance, retirement, paid vacations, etc.,) which take away resources that otherwise could and ought to be devoted to hiring tenure track faculty.

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    • My friends who are department chairs and administrators tell me about the gawdawful burdens of compliance and accreditation and how they strip time and resources from the more important work of teaching and research. I once read a brilliant “Modest Proposal” about hiring adjunct administrators who travel from campus to campus, holding meetings in the backseats of their cars. All of us need to focus our energies on creating cultural and legislative support for greater higher education funding. Those of you who have institutional power (mostly tenure track faculty) need to challenge university funding priorities (infinity pool? climbing wall?). But we also need to support those who have to survive outside the university and stop telling them that they are fraudulent or a disappointment to their departments.

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