Post Academic

Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Graduate School: Video 1

Posted in Housekeeping,Surviving Grad School by Caroline Roberts on April 20, 2010
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Did you know there’s a book out there called “Surviving Your Stupid Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School”? Adam Ruben, who earned a PhD in molecular biology from Johns Hopkins University, has written a funny guide to applying and then actually earning your degree within a reasonable amount of time.

We had the opportunity to interview Adam, and we’ll be posting the interview as a two-part series starting this Thursday, April 22. Amidst all the jokes, he has some concrete advice that can keep you sane when you’re in school. Until then, here’s a video that provides a peek into the book’s advice:

Academia as TV (with poll)

Posted in Absurdities,Surviving Grad School by Arnold Pan on April 2, 2010
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I just came upon this article from a few years ago by Marc Bousquet titled, “Like ‘The Wire’?  You’re Living It”, which compares the operations of university administration to the bureaucratic cynicism of municipal government, law enforcement, education, and media depicted in The Wire.  (h/t to my friend Sam’s Facebook wall for the link)  Pretty much any structural argument you want to make about any institution could be analogized to The Wire and its rich account of the interconnectedness of many seemingly disconnected social spheres, so Bousquet stands on solid ground.  He makes a scathing indictment of academic administration and the culture it perpetuates via the comparison:

“There’s plenty to say about this in relation to campus administration — the way that managerial control of institutional mission has shifted toward vocational training over education, as Stanley Aronowitz has long observed, and toward direct corporate influence over research and curriculum, as Jennifer Washburn has made abundantly clear.”

And his conclusion is ever more scathing:

“Only a very unusual person can do what the sleaziest small contractor does — pick up day labor, pay them less than the minimum wage to rebuild a suburban kitchen, collect fifty grand, and then dump the workers back on the street corner.

The task of academic quality management is to find those rare people and make them deans, provosts, and presidents.”

I’ll buy Bousquet’s argument that The Wire is an extended analogy for academia, as long as Post Academic gets to be Omar, the shotgun wielding Robin Hood of the ‘hood.

It’s a total non-sequitur, but reading the post reminded me of those drunken party conversations about how we could turn grad school into a TV show, though The Wire was never an obvious pick (and none of us had HBO).  Maybe it’s just a wish fulfillment of being a screenwriter, but we would even start casting these things. Setting aside the obvious soap opera analogies, what we would be the most compelling dramatic or reality TV reinterpretation of academia?

Check out the nominees below the fold…


Broke-Ass Schools: Justifying Your Existence in Academia

Posted in Ask an Academic,Broke-Ass Schools,The Education Industry by Caroline Roberts on March 15, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionMore and more broke-ass schools are evaluating their grad programs to determine which ones are worth it, and some programs are getting cut completely. In order for programs to survive, the professors, grad students, and undergrad students must do a better job justifying what they do, especially if there aren’t many majors in the program.

Why should you have to justify yourself to a bunch of MBAs who are only interested in money? It’s not fair. And not all disciplines can be monetized, but, in order for your department to survive, you need to prove that your discipline is generating students who are well-rounded, no matter what their major is.

Harry at Crooked Timber has a lengthy post answering the question “What’s the point of having a Philosophy Department in an American university?” and one of his statements stuck:

I like having students who are thrilled about doing Philosophy, and the handful that I have helped on their way to graduate school have been among the students I have valued teaching most. But so have students who became, or are becoming, social workers, nurses, teachers, and who took one of my classes simply to fulfill a requirement or on a whim or because some counselor strongly suggested it (the most insulting—because the student fancied the counselor who suggested it). When I think about justifying the existence of my department and what we should be doing, it is those students, and the value we can produce for them, that I think of first.

Focus on what your department and your classes bring to the core curriculum. It might sting that you cannot talk about your specific field of study, but narrow fields of study aren’t going to generate the kind of cash that will keep your department alive. Indicate that no matter how obscure your subject might seem to an administrator, it offers students a buffet of options so they can fulfill their core requirement so they can earn a deeper education and become more valuable employees or entrepreneurs.

What’s the point of having a Philosophy Department in an American university? [Crooked Timber]

Image from the German Federal Archive on Wikimedia Commons.

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