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Pre-Post-Doc, Minimizing your Exit Wounds, and Finding the Cure for a Bad Case of Adjunctivitis

Pre-Post-Doc, Minimizing your Exit Wounds, and Finding the Cure for a Bad Case of Adjunctivitis

October is a long month, as you may agree, and so I’m popping in again this week before Dustin closes us off on the 27th with our final post about October career events and grant season.

I have a few sundry tips and reflections to share on our themes.

Campus optics in the fall.


I mentioned in my previous post that Tri-Council postdoc funding was the major source of funding for postdoctoral positions and that universities often do not advertise these deadlines the way they do with Master’s and Doctoral awards. If you’re not currently a postdoc but are looking ahead to postdoctoral work, you can stay up to date with relevant deadlines and events by joining the listserv for Queen’s postdocs. Contact Dr. Rebecca Hügler, Coordinator of the Office of Post-Doctoral Training at sgspostdoc@queensu.ca to join. Also, you can visit www.queensu.ca/postdoc for more information. You may be interested to know that Dr. Hügler’s position is a fairly recent addition to Queen’s School of Graduate Studies, so do take advantage of having a dedicated person—herself a PhD in an alt-ac role—to seek advice about your next steps.


Minimizing your Exit Wounds

From some graduate programs—I’m mostly thinking of professional programs—there is a clear path through the degree, out of the program, and into a career. For many of us, that’s not the case. If you’re currently enrolled in the early stages of a graduate program, the following advice may still be germane, but it will be even more important if you’re a prospective student. It’s something that was off my radar completely when I was deciding where to do my MA and PhD—I knew I wanted to do graduate work and there were so many immediate considerations that it didn’t seem relevant. Well, what is it that I’m talking about? The exit strategy.

What have previous graduates gone on to do after exiting your program? How many are employed outside of academia? In alt-ac? In academia? Are they tenure-track, or temporary labourers? Did you know that programs collect this data on their graduates? I’ve sat on the steering committee of my program (Cultural Studies) almost all the years of its short existence and this is the first year we must do what is called a Cyclical Program Review. It is in these program or departmental self-studies that graduate programs must, at regular intervals, collect such data on its former students. So ask your program administrators about this data if you are at all concerned about developing a strategy for transitioning out of graduate school at the end of your program and into something else.

The Cyclical Program Review collects data on the whereabouts of past graduate students. It's part of a quality assurance process--a much more involved one than this guy is about to embark on.

The Cyclical Program Review collects data on the whereabouts of past graduate students. It’s part of a quality assurance process–a much more involved one than this guy is about to embark on.

Finding the Cure for a Bad Case of Adjunctivitis

Speaking of temporary labour, any discussion of career planning would be incomplete without some acknowledgement that traditional academic careers won’t be an option for most graduate students.

This afternoon at Queen’s (Dunning Hall rm. 12, 3-4 pm) Professor Rachel Spronken-Smith (University of Otago, NZ) will be giving a talk on this issue. From the abstract: “Aspects of doctoral education have undergone substantial change in recent years, in response to the need to equip students with a broader skill set for jobs beyond academia, but assessment (written thesis/oral defence) has remained much the same.” She asks: “How can alignment of assessment and teaching methods be achieved?”

Dr. Rachel Spronken-Smith

Dr. Rachel Spronken-Smith

This is an important line of thinking for making PhD graduates more viable for alt-ac positions, but there is also action that must be taken to make academic positions viable, too. Inside Higher Ed recently published a short post about a planned walkout of adjuncts across America set to happen on February 25th in the new year. I came across this plan to answer the question “What would academe look like without adjuncts?” through an article on Chronicle Vitae that noted the median salary for adjuncts, according to the American Association of University Professors, is $2,700 per three-credit course.

The title of the Chronicle Vitae article is “The Adjunct Crisis is Everyone’s Problem” and as people who believe in research as a public good and know the sustained time and resources it takes to produce good research, maybe direct collective action like that suggested by our American colleagues shouldn’t be far from our minds, either. If you’re new to this issue, one way to start, at least, is by attending Dr. Spronken-Smith’s talk.



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