Post Academic

Academics Breeding *WITH* Academics, the People You’ll Meet

Posted in First Person,Surviving Grad School by Arnold Pan on June 22, 2010
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This is the last entry in our series on “Academics Breeding *WITH* Academics”, and we’re describing some of the kinds of people you’ll meet there.  We’ve touched on grad school personality types before here and here, but we’re being more specific about how the relate to grad school mating rituals.  These personality profiles explain a little why it’s not always so easy for academics to get together with one another–and why not many folks who aren’t aspiring professional nerds can put up with them!

"Speed dating annonce" by Jean-noël Lafargue (Free Art license)

Late Bloomers: This category is probably where many–if not most–academic lifers fall under.  I look at it this way: As the pool of people gets smaller in grad school, those of us who were eccentrically bookish in high school and college get promoted up the coolness rankings.  (Unless you are essentially nerdy, which can be breathtaking and awe-inspring itself.)  In grad school, where we’re taught to specialize in our own isolated interests and ephemera, being too into weird, quirky stuff can be a strength and an admirable quality, and not the shoulder-shrugging badge of weirdness it might be to the general population.  It’s easy and natural for academics to find those aspects appealing in their peers, especially when it’s hard to identify them anywhere else. And it’s all-too-exciting when you find out that you might share the same research interests or extracurricular activities.

More on the Late Bloomer and other grad school singles you might meet…


Academics Breeding *WITH* Academics, Where the Magic Happens

Posted in First Person,Surviving Grad School by Arnold Pan on June 15, 2010
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Last week, I came up with the only empirically proven thesis that academics breed with academics, following up on Caroline’s post testing whether the claim that academics breed academics was true.  Based on the very small sample sizes of our polls, my premise seems to hold (67% of academics did breed with other academics, though there are only 6 voters!), while responses to Caroline’s question seem to show that becoming an academic isn’t necessarily part of a family inheritance (only 20% of academics answering the poll are children of academics).  To expand a little more on my assertion that academics tend to breed with academics (at least in the humanities), I wanted to give you a peek into some of the situations and scenes where academic mating rituals happen, like the seminar room and the department party.  Of course, none of what I describe below has *ever* happened to me!  No, never…at least the creepy, stalker jr. parts!

The Seminar Room: Unless you’ve come to grad school already paired up, it’s likely the first time you’ll meet folks with similar interests and might appear vaguely attractive to you  at some point is in class.  Without the built-in social scene of a dorm to force you to meet others, the classroom might be the only place where you get to know people who aren’t your new random roommate–and when I say classroom, I don’t mean the ones where you’re teaching starry-eyed, easily impressionable undergrads!  So at the same time you’re sizing up who’s likely to be your intellectual competition offering jargony answers when the prof opens up her lecture for discussion, you might be keeping an eye out for someone with an appealing fashion sense, cool stationery, compatible books, or whatever floats your boat.  Of course, you probably glance past the more seasoned grad students, since they intimidate you, with that extra year of seminar papers under their belts.  And you also mentally cross off your list people who are interested in topics you have no idea about, particularly those freaky Medievalists or all those Renaissance types who remind you too much of high school and college overachievers.

More about the places where academic mating rituals take place, below


Academics Breeding *WITH* Academics, Part 1 (with poll)

Posted in First Person,Surviving Grad School by Arnold Pan on June 10, 2010
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"The Breeders in Dayton, Ohio" by Chrisglass (Creative Commons license)

Riffing on Caroline’s post yesterday asking whether or not academia is a closed gene pool and info loop, I was thinking about what might be the reasons for that.  I can’t tell you whether my own progeny will become an academic–provided that such a thing as academia still exists 20 years from now when she graduates from college–and the results from our poll so far suggest that the premise might be faulty anyway.  There are structural reasons why the idea seems to at least make sense, because it takes a certain cultural capital and class status (though not in all cases) to want to go into a profession where the odds are awful and the pay off not so lucrative.

Now to go off on an even more provocative tangent, I can say with at least empirical certainty that academics do breed with academics, whether or not that leads to breeding a next generation of academics.  Maybe it’s just the particular, peculiar situation of the particular, peculiar institution I attended, but I can safely calculate that a majority of my friends with partners of a committed sort met each other in grad school, without going into any creepily personal details–especially since a good number of those good folks are part of our readership!

So why should anyone wonder why grad school types meet their partners there any more than the conventional narratives of high school sweethearts or *those* people who paired up for the long run during orientation week of freshman year?  It’s probably because we’d rather not see ourselves that way and overthink these things a bit.

More overthinking about academics breeding with academics, below the fold…