Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Convention vs. Reality

Last year, some advice that I was given by others in graduate studies (and echoed by a couple of faculty members, I might add) is that you never want all your degrees to come from the same University.

The conventional wisdom behind this is that it indicates the student is complacent in the known and avoids spreading their wings, taking risks and the idea of change in general. I thought it was odd that this would be stated, especially since my observation is that a good research institution is going to challenge you no matter whether you've been there for your undergraduate and/or master's programs, because they want to foster good researchers. It wouldn't serve them well to get soft in the upper tiers.

So, this view, shared by more than a few people, is a large part of motivated me to seek out other schools. Honestly, if I didn't have a family to consider, GameTeen's unique needs or a garage and storage facility full of crappe de Jane, I'd be all over the idea of moving somewhere else on the East Coast. I like what I've seen of it and wouldn't mind landing in another town on this side of the country.

Another evening class and a discussion with a professor later, some 'conventional wisdom' has been shown the door, namely, when the University hires faculty, they don't look at someone with three degrees from XYZ U and say "nope, resistant to change." Instead, they're looking at what publications has he or she had and where, what research have they done/are they doing, and do they bring something new to the table? I'm sure where the prospective faculty went to school does come into the equation, but not a 'three strikes, you're out' approach.

The only negative he could offer is that it is extremely hard to get hired in to the University as faculty after getting a Ph.D from my alma mater. That's not to say that they wouldn't eventually, but the stars have to align in a smallish department for that to happen.

And while that would be a good thing if it happened, we were kind of prepared that I'd finish out my doctoral studies here (lalalala, I'm not listening, post doc research, lalalala) and get a job on faculty at some school that doesn't have snow, tornadoes, earthquakes, but does have a need for a faculty member versed in technology and the special education student.

Ed and I have used several date nights lately to talk about those possibilities and to prepare for them. We know that while we like Florida, we're not thrilled with this house and this town/county. If we had our druthers, we'd be a few miles west of here, back into a county I liked if we have to stay here post Ph.D.

It was nice to hear the reality of what happens in those faculty search committees, to know the real questions are about the work you've produced, not the name at the top of all the degrees that make you a qualified applicant.

In fact, I think this helped me to cut the application pile from six to four, maybe even three!

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