Thursday, May 24, 2012

Workin' and Schoolin' Together ... A Good Idea?

In the comments at one of her terrific recent posts about the economics of graduate school, Lauren and I got into a bit of a discussion about money and academia. Lauren's post was about the tendency among grad students (including the two of us!) to take on more and more student loan debt as they progress through school, simply to help pay for life's necessities. In her post, she notes that this seems to be an accepted part of grad school for many students ... and she thinks this is a really big problem.

I agree on both counts. Taking on additional debt isn't seen as an irresponsible thing to do among most grad students, and there is little concern about how much we're accruing or how we're actually going to pay all of it back. That's ridiculous. And this is all done with the full blessing of our advisors and departments, who are either deluded about or deliberately ignoring the bleak academic job market that lies ahead for us. That's bordering on criminal. (I'm exaggerating, but only slightly).

So in the end (as I've alluded to in my series on privilege in academia) you wind up with a bunch of students who graduate with massive piles of debt ... many of whom will be unable to find jobs that will pay enough to allow them to pay off the debt before they retire. In other words, a whole lot of graduating Ph.D. students are starting their careers off in dire financial straits and saddling themselves with debt loads in the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, with no idea of what job prospects await them (hint: not good ones).

So this is a problem that requires a solution, because this system is unsustainable. With the collapsing job market, students cannot keep taking on more and more debt as their job prospects become more and more bleak. Something needs to change.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another New Postacademic Blog

Man, do I ever love when my traffic stats alert me to a new postacademic blog. I loooooove it. I can't even describe how happy it makes me to see someone else blogging about this whole process. While it's awful that we're all struggling with this transition with the associated guilt and sadness and anger and lack of support from our departments, it's great that we're all out here communicating with each other and supporting each other.

And hopefully, when some grad student or adjunct who is feeling hopeless about their life runs a Google search that leads them to one of our blogs, they get some comfort from finding that there are so many of us out here who are feeling the same way ... but have gotten ourselves out and have moved (or are moving) onto new jobs and new careers.

Today, I introduce University of Lies to the postacademic blogging community.

The blog author is a Ph.D. student in the humanities who is on hir way out. It's not clear whether zie is a Type 1 or Type 2 leaver (if zie would even classify hirself as one or the other), but it's clear from the early posts that zie is fed up with the culture of academia and the lies about what the job is actually like (hint: your intro to literature course will NOT look like a deleted scene from Dead Poets Society).

Unlike many of us who were fed nothing but idealistic nonsense about grad school and academia, it sounds like UOL was actually warned by their favorite undergraduate professor that grad school was not as wonderful as advertised. It really sounds like hir advisor tried his best to convince hir not to head to school, but like many aspiring grad students, UOL ignored the advice.

(This is no knock on UOL, of course. As we've discussed in the postac blogosphere before, most of us agree that we would never have listened if we'd been adequately warned of what was ahead of us. And plenty of people we talk to now don't listen or don't understand what we're saying).

But UOL has seen the forest for the trees now, and is getting out, and writing some great (and funny) stuff along the way. Go check it out!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

On Relationships in Postacademia

A commenter on my post from last week asked me to write a little bit about how my partner and I were able to make our relationship work while I transitioned out of academia. Zie writes that the transitional process has been tough for hir relationship, and is looking for tips on how those of us who have left have made it work while keeping a relationship intact.

Before I get started, I'd like to mention that it might be helpful for some of the postacademic bloggers who have kids (Jet? Jen? Lauren?) to write about how this transition can be navigated with kids in tow. I can't speak to this issue at all, obviously, but I think it might be helpful for others.

Anyway, Currer already posted some great thoughts on this, so I urge everyone to check out her post. I don't think I can add much to what she wrote, although I'll ramble on for awhile anyway. :)

Obviously ... I am not a counselor or relationship expert. Take my advice with a grain of salt.

Also, keep in mind that my situation is a bit different than other postacademics. I had a job immediately upon leaving academia, which is a very unusual situation for most academic leavers. (See - ignoring your department's rules and getting a part-time job while you're in school can pay off!!) So my partner and I never had to deal with the stress of unemployment, and rather than facing financial strain when I left academia, we've actually benefited financially. So I can't offer much advice about how to negotiate the concrete pressures of unemployment or financial strain. I can, however, offer advice about making a relationship work while you're dealing with the emotional process of leaving academia.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Drama at Work ... Nonacademic Style

I keep meaning to write a longer post in which I talk about how the "new" job is going ... but haven't really had much to say. I have a managerial role and higher pay in exchange for not much more work than I was previously doing ... so that's good. There was a little bit of minor drama when my promotion was still announced, due to the fact that some of my coworkers had their egos bruised because I'd been given the promotion over them.

But the drama has blown over by now ... the coworkers see that I'm not some crazed tyrant now that I have some managerial power, and they see that I'm still the same old JC that I always was - I still joke around with them and come to them for advice and brainstorming, and in general am still an okay person. It seems to be all back to normal, and it's all good.

(One of these days, by the way, I'll write up a post about job-hunting and job-seeking in this industry, with some information about how I got this job, what I do, and how we go about looking for new hires - which we're doing right now. Just give me a little bit of time to collect my thoughts.)

But for today, I just wanted to post this little tidbit of humor...

When my promotion was first announced a couple of weeks ago and a few of my coworkers got a little testy about everything, my first reaction was to get kind of angry. "Why did I take this stupid promotion? Why did I decide to keep working here with these catty people? Why did I ever leave grad school?"

Then I calmed down and thought about it a little more, and started to, you know, actually remember grad school. And remembered how academics can be some of the cattiest people in the world.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

On Sadness

The most recent post at Currer's place got me thinking a little bit about the emotional process that we postacademics go through when we decide to leave, and left me inspired to write a little bit about sadness.

Whether you're a Type 1 or Type 2 leaver, you'll most likely go through some distinct cycles of emotion when to leave. You can see these cycles reflected in the blogs of those of us who were/are blogging as we go through the process of leaving ... one week, we'll be elated about the fact that we can take a day off for a roadtrip or in awe of the normalcy of a nonacademic workplace. Just elated! Life is wonderful! There's no one pressuring you to work constantly!!! You are freeeeee!!!

Then on the next week, you'll find us fuming at academia ... either ranting at the unfairness of the whole system or complain about the rampant and pointless optimism of our advisors when there are no jobs to be had. And if we aren't ranting about academia, we're ranting about other people who tell us not to rant about academia. Really, anger is probably the biggest emotion that most of us feel ... and most definitely the one that hangs on the longest.

But something that you also need to prepare yourself for, if you leave, is the sadness.

Currer wrote about it this week, and others have written about sad spells in the past. I don't think I wrote about sadness very much on this blog ... probably because, like most people, I want to put the best face forward at all times. It can be hard to admit to having sad moments, especially when you know, deep down, that you're making the right decision and want to encourage other people to not be afraid to follow your lead.

But that doesn't mean that I didn't experience sadness and grief when I left. Believe me, I did.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Just In Case Anyone's Wondering...

...Seventeen months. That's how long it took anyone at my department to notice I was gone.

Well, anyone who hadn't run into me out on the town, that is. In the interest of full disclosure, I've seen a few faculty members out and about and have given them updates on my situation. But I still haven't heard from my advisor since December 2010, and at no point in the past 17 months has anyone from my department contacted me to see if I was still working on my dissertation, if I needed anything, whether I had found a job, etc. Nothing.

I purposely waited to officially notify them that I was dropping out, by the way. Since my advisor was not communicative and I still wanted to stay "enrolled" for this academic year to defer my student loans, I figured I had nothing to gain by announcing to anyone that I was leaving before this academic year. And after a few more months passed and no one had checked up on me (other than to ask me to teach, of course), I decided that I wanted to see how long it would take them to notice I was gone. Or if they ever would.

And now I have my answer. Seventeen months. It took them seventeen months to drop me a quick email to see how/what I was doing.

Let's put that in perspective: I could have carried and birthed two children during this time frame.

My department is clearly not illustrative of every department in the world, but I urge you to think about this. If your advisor wasn't checking up on you, how long would it take your department to actually notice your absence?

If I stopped showing up at my current job, it probably wouldn't take a full day for my boss and coworkers to check on me. If I didn't show up for a second day? They'd probably drive by my house. Three days? They'd probably call the cops.

Now, of course, graduate school is different than my current job ... you're not on campus every day, and you don't see everyone every day. But still ..... seventeen months??? From a department that is supposed to be mentoring you and advising you and helping you out every step of the way until you find a real job?

I mean, I know I was nothing more than teaching fodder for them, but still.......

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Ph.D.s on Food Stamps

The Chronicle posts an expose about adjuncts and temporary faculty who are on food stamps.

From a quick glance, the piece seems well-researched and well-written. I'm happy to see them quoting folks from the New Faculty Majority and referencing the Adjunct Project.

And while I'll have to take some time over the next few days to give it a closer read before I have more to say about it, I'll just say for now that I'm thrilled to see the Chronicle bringing this "dirty little secret" of higher education staffing to light.

As the adjuncts in the story report, this is an embarrassing reality for them that they don't like to talk about. And indeed, it seems that the reality that adjuncts are on food stamps is an embarrassing reality that the higher education system in this country would like to keep under wraps. So good on the Chronicle for bringing this issue to the very public forefront. The situation for adjuncts isn't going to improve overnight, but at least shedding some public light on it increases the likelihood that something will change at some point in the future.

After all ... if parents around the country begin to realize that the "impressive faculty" that they are spending tens of thousands of dollars to send their children to study under are actually adjuncts who are jetting around between four campuses and therefore aren't around to meet with and advise their children on their studies and their career goals? I can't imagine they'd be very enthusiastic about continuing to support those schools with all of their hard-earned money.

And if those same parents learn that their tens of thousands of tuition dollars are being used to build shiny new buildings and give a massive raise to the Assistant Vice President of Getting More Money for the University while their children's professors are lining up at food banks? I don't think the parents would have to be card-carrying Occupy Movement members to get pretty upset about something like that.

So a hearty "good job" to the Chronicle. I encourage my readers to share this article far and wide.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Another Postacademic Blog for You!

Guys and gals ... I'm having writers' block again. I've started and stopped about 6 substantive posts this week, but can't make anything come together coherently. Blargghhh.

Of course, what's awesome with my life now is that these annoying bouts of writers' block are just that - annoying. My life and career are not riding on my ability to pump out X pages of high-quality written work each day anymore. If I can't force out a coherent post on any given day? No big deal. I save my draft and move onto something else. No one's pressing me to meet a blogging deadline, and I'm not worried about how my inability to write X posts per week means that I am and always will be a failure at life and in my career. And when I apply for my next job, no one is going to look through my blog and try to determine whether I've written enough posts here to convince them that I will be a productive and worthwhile employee for them in the future.

In other words, it's awesome to be free of academia. 

However, I do try to post something at least once per week ... so here's something to tide you over until my writers' block breaks this week ... a new postacademic blog!

The blog is Mama Nervosa, and it's actually more of a lifestyle blog than strictly a postacademic blog. It's run by two women - one being a part-time professor and the other (Lauren) being a "recovering academic." (I love that term, by the way). They write about a variety of topics - parenting, growing up in flyover country, etc. But as it turns out, since Lauren has recently decided to quit grad school, there is quite a bit about the transition out of academia as well. And it's terrific! In fact, rather than just linking to the blog I'm going to expand a bit on her ideas. (Hey, look - a new way to try to push through a bout of writers' block ... riff of of someone else's posts! :)

EDITED 5/7/12: Now that I have clicked over and looked at more posts, it appears that both Jen and Lauren are grad school leavers. Oops! Apologies for not including Jen initially, and slow clap for both of these smart ladies for realizing what they did and did not want and for getting out!!