From R1 to CC: 3 Things I Wish I Had Known About Community College Careers

As of August 1, I am a gainfully employed Humanities PhD. There were many times in my 3-year job search when I doubted I could ever say those words, so I am thrilled to write my first post from a position of relative career stability. My graduate training, however, had little to do with the job I got, so I wanted to write on what I wish I had known while pursuing the disappearing career of English Literature Professor.

Just a few days ago, I was talking with an Art Historian at a nearby university and he was horrified that I had “given up” on the research career I set out to find. He kindly (and somewhat condescendingly) offered to look over my cover letter and CV. I did not tell him that my job materials have been vetted by top scholars in my field; that my job materials got me interviews at two ivy league schools and campus visits at two state research universities; or that my job materials include four publications in top journals. I merely told him no thank you, I am happy where I have landed. So this post is for that well-meaning professor and for those PhD students who think a Community College job will not honor their substantial talents and ambitions. Continue reading



Each year we welcome new faculty to campus. Some are beginning the tenure process, some are visiting (including postdocs, adjuncts and folks on sabbatical) while others are making a mid-career transition. Hopefully when you arrive, orientation helps you understand the culture of the place. The topics tell you what is important to the institution. Hopefully you can start to get a sense of what is expected of you by many different constituencies – the administration, the faculty, your department (and chair), the staff, your students (both in courses and those whose research you supervise) and your advisees.   Orientation also can help you understand what kind of support you can expect from these same people.

So what do you do if your institution does not have support structures in place that you think you might find helpful? Most institutions have someone designated to mentor faculty development.   It could be a vice-provost, dean, associate dean or head of a teaching and learning center. It might make sense to check in with this person and ask what is possible. Would you like a mentor outside your department? Would you like to set up weekly lunches with a group of junior faculty? Would you like to have a writing group that helps keep each other on task and productive?

Here are a couple of suggestions to start the teaching year, especially for those on the job market or tenure-track: (1) set up some peer observations and (2) make plans for formative assessment. Continue reading

Keeping the “part” in part-time

One of the main perks of working part time is, well… working part time.  My ideal schedule involves dropping the kids at school, working for a few hours, either prep-work at home or in-class time, maybe go for a run or work in the garden, and then pick my children up after school.

At a couple of institutions, this worked.  I went to campus, taught my class and came home.  Though…  this meant that I didn’t interact with other faculty and as a result I felt isolated from the rest of the department and a bit lonely professionally, and because my social network is made up primarily of non-scientists, something vital was missing for me.  At my current institution, I regularly interact with other faculty and a slew of support staff.  They are a dedicated and inspiring bunch, which means there is a lot of opportunity to get involved in community outreach events and co-developing new teaching modules or student research activities.

In terms of my area of research, I also fill a professional niche here that had been empty for several years, and students have caught on. Continue reading