Aim High…?

jobtalkI was at one of the field’s doctoral schools a while back, to give a talk, and heard from a couple sources — both grad students repeating what they’d been told as well as from a faculty member — that the primary purpose for students to be enrolled in graduate school (or perhaps at that particular one) was “to write a field-changing dissertation.” Sure, being professionalized as a grad student, such as accumulated publications of your own and gaining teaching experience, can be important but, or so it was claimed, that can distract from your primary purpose: to write a field-changing dissertation.

I admit that I found this rationale a little odd. Even risky. Continue reading

Scholars or Colleagues?

craftI had the good fortune the other day to go up to the University of Chicago to lead a workshop in their Divinity School’s The Craft of Teaching series. While there I met with some old friends, schemed on a project tor two, and presented a paper and participated in a discussion with about 25 people on teaching the introductory course (almost all of whom were current MA or PhD students). Of course I had to eat too and so I went out to some nice dinners with a couple different groups of people and it was there that some of the really interesting conversations took place.

Among the questions that I was asked one evening was one concerning whether early career scholars, who are about the go onto the job market, should have an active social media presence, whether that means being on Twitter or blogging…?

I’ve been a Department chair for 10 years now and have been in on the hiring of many people, so I’ve seen lots of C.V.s over the years, and — like a lot of topics — I’ve got an opinion on that one. Continue reading

More than Just Ironic

forbesDid you catch this Forbes online post?

They’re so frustrating for so many different reasons (I commented on one a while back), but for now, just consider the name in the bottom right corner of the photo: Mark Scott is a professional photographer whose stock image was licensed from Getty Images by Forbes for this webpage. Continue reading

Get Ready to Run

driftwood

While working on a Masters degree, I recall an early-career professor in whose office a friend and I would regularly meet for one of our classes. As I recall, he was still working on finishing his own Ph.D. at the time and on his wall he had nicely mounted a large piece of interesting-looking driftwood, all gnarly and weathered, which had been signed by a bunch of people. One day we asked what it was. He replied with a story that, as I recall it now, went something like this: Continue reading

The Proclaimers

proclaimingI’ve seen a lot of early career people teaching — of course, I was once one of them, like us all, back when, at the University of Tennessee in the early 1990s, I would write out entire lectures the day or night before and then read them each class, sticking closely to my text — and they unfortunately share a trait with some of their older, supposedly experienced colleagues: they’re proclaimers. Sitting at the back of a classroom, during the typical practice teaching moment for a job interview (something we require in our Department, along with a research presentation and a variety of other steps that comprise the typical on-campus job interview today), I’ve heard my share of candidates talk about methodological this and ontological that, hierophanies abound as do ideologies, and liminalities, and transcendental epistemologies, not to mention some post-structuralist ennui. But in the midst of the technical vocabulary I often find people who do not yet know how to teach but who, instead, are equipped only to tell people what they themselves already happen to know.

In a word, they’re proclaimers. Continue reading

It’s Not Always About Credentials

googleofficesOne of our faculty posted this article the other day — “Why Google doesn’t care about hiring top college graduates” — and I thought it worth re-posting here. In the article, Google’s head of people operations, Laszlo Bock, discussed the qualities that the company seeks in people they hire: “And increasingly, it’s not about credentials.” Continue reading

Not Just for a Job…

Our new University President, Dr. Guy Bailey–who, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, earned his own B.A. and M.A. at the University of Alabama (in English)–arrived on campus about a month or so ago, and in a recent interview, had this to say in reply to the following question:

Q. What did UA give to you as a student that you want current students to receive?

A. Our students should have the highest quality education at the best possible value. Their degree and education should equip them not just for a job, but for any career the future might hold for them. UA gave me the ability to write well and think critically. This is what the core curriculum provides and its importance shouldn’t be underestimated today.”

What do you think the relationship is between job training and education? Which do you think the contemporary university is all about? Why do we have a core curriculum? And what’s the liberal arts got to do with it?