Post Academic

Top Grad Student: It’s a tie!

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on August 20, 2010

And the winner is….nobody!  There appears to be a deadlock between English and Media Studies that seems impossible to break, even with the extended deadline.  The fair thing would actually be to hire the Media Studies candidate, seeing as s/he had the most combined votes through all 5 Top Grad Student contests.   However, this being academia and all, who says anything is fair about anything?  So here’s the typically academic solution to the problem: Not to hire anyone, no matter how qualified s/he may be and how much the dept might want a new faculty member.  This is how we imagine the finale and the explanation of the decision…

"Historic neckties" from Noveau Larousse Ilustré (public domain)

It was a knock-down, drag-out search committee meeting at the end, with each side making its case for its candidate.  Of course, as time went on, the English folks dug in, and so did the Media Studies contingent.  But instead of thinking what might be best in the bigger picture, the animosity on each side only intensified to the point that hypothetical lead judge Henry Louis Gates wished he was back at the Beer Summit last summer and hypothetical host James Franco started wondering why he ever wanted to pursue a Ph.D.

With neither the English proponents or the Media Studies honks willing to give in, the stalemate ended with no agreement and no candidate hired.  As the process dragged on and on, the English voting bloc started imagining no scenario under which it could stomach the Media Studies candidate, who now seemed insufferable and could never become a good colleague in its collective imagination, and vice versa.  But in order to tie the whole botched search up with a bow, they needed to come down to a bureaucratic solution, which boiled down to some kind of financial excuse and something about needing to hold on to the tenure line and reopening the search next year.  Of course, they dithered about the decision and left our candidates hanging–oh yeah, there was that Sociology contestant too, who almost got the job as a compromise choice.

As for our brave Top Grad Student contestants, they were left not knowing where they stood for too long, because the search committee held onto everyone just in case.  Wouldn’t it be appropriate, considering the conditions of the real academic job market, that we went through this whole virtual process–more than 5 weeks, I think –but no one ended up with the job and the tenure line in limbo?  Thanks to the tied vote, I think the virtual/reality contest actually resulted in the best, most representative ending we could have possibly had.  Can’t you just imagine our contestants getting something like a “Dear Applicant” form email explaining how no one was ultimately hired, while encouraging them to apply again next year?

Thanks for voting and for playing along!

“Top Grad Student”, our imaginary virtual reality show

Posted in Absurdities by Arnold Pan on July 10, 2010
Tags: ,

"Tom Colicchio at the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival" by David Shankbone (Creative Commons license)

We usually use the weekends to scratch our pop culture itch, what with Caroline’s great Alcoholic Horndog Tenured Prof Stereotype film series and our Footnotes odds’n’ends that have featured the likes of Lady Gaga and James Franco.  We also mused way back when about what TV show resembles grad school the most, which is kind of the inspiration for today’s ridiculous post re-imagining grad school as a grueling series of reality show contests à la “Top Chef”–heck, if artists can get their own show (“Work of Art”), you best believe academics should!  Although it looks like our original poll had “Mad Men” winning as the best extended metaphor for academia, which means you better read the post about not antagonizing the admin and staff because the Joan Holloway of your dept might make or break your professional life.

Off the top of my head, let’s imagine we have Ph.D.-candidate contestants from various disciplines who compete for, say, a tenure-track position or equivalent at the University of Phoenix, which would totally be our sponsor.  We could have great settings for the show, like a seminar room and a bucolic campus.  Then, maybe all the contestants could be forced to live in university subsidized housing together, which could possibly lead to another reality show spin-off, like a nerdy “Bachelor/ette” or something–wait, didn’t they already have that show already (“Beauty and the Geek”)?  In any case, is this format so different from the stages between the convention interview, with about 12 or so candidates (at least in MLA fields), being whittled down to a handful of campus visits, before a chosen one is selected?  Our daydreamed TV show would be more entertaining and, who knows, maybe it would only capture the absurdities of a real-life job search, documentary film-like.

Maybe it’s because it’s too early in the morning while I’m writing this, but I’m a little punchy: Why don’t we do this thing online and call it a virtual fan-fiction reality show or something?  We’ll put a poll at the bottom of this post, and you can vote for whom you imagine would win any given contest.  And we’ll periodically return to this thing if folks actually vote.

Anyway, our first competition should be a get-to-know-you sort of thing, so let’s start with a feat-of-strength about writing a CV.  Who do you think would win this round, based on style, formatting, the number of accomplishments, length, reasonable embellishment?  The hypothetical student with the most votes gets immunity next round, while the contestant with the fewest votes is voted out!  And use the message board if you feel like justifying your vote–you can be your very own “Judges Table”!

And if there are any show developers lurking here, you know where to reach us!

The First Hundred Days of Post Academic

Posted in Housekeeping by postacademic on June 7, 2010
Tags: ,

Post Academic is marking our first hundred days with a self-congratulatory commemorative post, which mostly involves us delving into teary-eyed reminiscences and recapping some of our favorite and most popular items.  So please indulge us a little bit today, since it’s kind of a milestone for us–we’ve posted every single day and, more often than not, the both of us!  Of course, we’d like to thank anyone who has happened upon the blog for helping us get this far, whether you’re a loyal repeat customer or Facebook fan or random browser.  Hat tips, too, to everyone who has linked to Post Academic, from Twitter followers to kindred blogs to Inside Higher Ed to even MLA higher-ups.

Caroline Says…When Arnold and I started this blog 100 days ago, I was worried most of the content would be bleak. News of the crappiest job market ever, underpaid adjuncts, and rude search committees made me wonder what went wrong with the academic system.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the academy as a whole is becoming more pragmatic, even considering altering the dissertation process. The academy has a stodgy rep in the Hamster World, but the truth is that the economy has prompted professors, grad students and undergraduates to ask tough questions and search for answers. We’re learning that you can get a PhD or an MA and do something other than teaching, we’re proving that there is value in a liberal arts education and we’re learning how to take charge of our careers. In the long run, this experience may reinvigorate the academy.

Then again, I’m just a Hamster talking. So, whenever the ivory tower gets you down, remember that James Franco is hanging out in there … somewhere.

Arnold Says…Without Caroline taking the initiative to set up Post Academic after we sent a few daydreaming emails about starting a blog, there wouldn’t have been a Day 1, much less a Day 100.  Beyond being a forum that has enabled us to write and a platform to test out our mad-scientist online publishing schemes, Post Academic has been a great experience for us as an opportunity to think about and work through the obstacles–mental and structural–of being an academic, whether you’re fully entrenched in academia, marginally attached to it, or looking for a way out.  The blog has given us a chance to be practical, silly, wistful, mad, and really mad.  It has also given us a chance to be topical and to participate in professional discussions that we never had before.

Lest I get too mushy going down memory land, here’s a list of milestones and faves over the first hundred days:

1st post: “Raising Funds for the Post Academic Life”

1st post that made us realize people were reading the thing: “5 Annoying Personalities You Will Meet in Grad School Programs, and How to Cope with Them”

Most popular post: “Interview with Adam Ruben, Author of Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Graduate School

Most cathartic post (for Arnold, at least): “Academia, I wish I knew how to quit you!”

The post that helped me figure out that my predicament is just tiny, tiny part of the larger scheme of crappiness: “Academic job salaries: ‘Worst Salary Year’ meets ‘Worst. Job Market. Ever.'”

My favorite piece of practical advice: “Tips to Squelch Ivory Tower and Grad School Gossip”–hey, the principles apply outside of academia too!

This retrospective is also an opportunity to take stock in what the blog is doing and to ask you, our fabulous readers, what you’d like to see on Post Academic.  Drop us a line at our email address (see the right column) or offer your suggestions in the comments section.  It would be great to know who’s visiting the site as well as what we can do to give you more reasons to read and us more reasons to write!  Thanks!

Last week on Post Academic (5/2-5/8)

Posted in Housekeeping by Arnold Pan on May 9, 2010

Happy Mother’s Day!  At the end of one week and the beginning of another, we catch our collective breath on the blog and gather up links to some of the posts that have either cycled off the home page or might have been lost in the shuffle.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and thanks for reading!

* Caroline considers whether or not academia needs a better marketing team here and here.  (Hint: the answer seems to be yes…)

* It’s that time of year for Arnold: No, not the end of the school year as it is for most academics, but time for a little–and a little more–post-game analysis over this year’s job application cycle.

* And our most popular post of the week is…a report on James Franco’s quixotic mission to TA as a first-year grad student at Yale, which apparently doesn’t happen.  If we knew celeb education stories were so popular, we would’ve run this much less exciting piece about how Bobby Flay wants to attend Georgetown to get his B.A., too.


Since we’re on a streak of silly right now, I figure it would be a good time for the second installment of “Footnotes.”  Every once in a while, we’ll collect some stories out there on the Interwebs that might be very tangentially pertinent to our interests in academia and jobs, but centrally relevant to our websurfing.

1. We covered the phenomenon of Rate My Professors a few weeks ago, with this link to RMP’s “best” professors of 2009 list.  The Washington Post just tracked down the winner, Kimberly DuVall-Early of James Madison U.

2. This year’s most famous prospective grad student has to be James Franco, who has been accepted to Yale’s English Ph.D. program–have any prospectives crossed his path on any campus visits?  You can recommence with in-class sleeping jokes, which, aside from the admirable novelty factor, is what Franco’s forays into academia are best-known for.  (h/t to reader and amateur gossip blogger Patty)

3. This is an oldie-but-goodie about grad school from Stuff White People Like, which I came across as one of those WordPress randomly generated links.  It might be funny, but it’s also pretty dead on, especially how the cultural capital ascribed to critical theory has very few practical applications.

4. Huffington Post’s “College” section has another one of those fancy photo polls, this one of the most expensive schools in the country.  The “winner”: Sarah Lawrence College at $54,410(!)/year.

5. The music blog Stereogum has this great ongoing feature called “Quit Your Day Job”, which checks in with up-and-coming bands to see what they do to get by on the way to (hopefully) making it big.  Actually, the indie rock life doesn’t sound so different from grad school, in that aspiring rockers and students hafta work extra jobs to get to the big payoff that might never come.

“Palo Alto High School, CA, graduate James Franco visits Paly for a day of observation” by Amin Ronaghi from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

“Sign at Sarah Lawrence” by SadieLou from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under Creative Commons

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