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Author Topic: My Struggles  (Read 5681 times)
Posts: 197

« Reply #45 on: January 07, 2013, 12:29:26 pm »

OP - I observe that you are suffering from crushing anxiety in the interpersonal aspects of discussing your work. Perhaps you could take stock in your successes and see what others clearly see in you? You are clearly successful as a researcher - two book contracts do not come to someone with nothing to say!

I really don't know any academics who stay current outside their field.  Fields are too big in themselves, and time is short.  I basically am current only on what I'm writing about (and not always even then). 
Thank you hegemony for this - The amount of information that we must manage to stay current in and around our fields has risen exponentially since 1990, and few really are "read up" exhaustively.

I also value my personal life and my relationship with nature, and I find that placing priority on eating well, breathing fresh air, and travel reinvigorate my work. Don't feel guilty doing these things - once you are rested and recharged you won't feel so stifled by the profession.
Conferences can be drudgery, or they can be convergences of like minded people sharing expansive thought, very stimulating.
True intellectuals do not posture, they think and speak their thoughts from a place of deep interest and sharing. Perhaps you have been around more insecure folk, or have been intimidated by others' seemingly complete knowledge?
Take some space, and own your successes. Academia should be a means to a life, not a life to a means.
Wishing you the best, ~lnw
Distinguished Senior Member
Posts: 18,502

Assistant Professor cum bricoleur

« Reply #46 on: January 07, 2013, 7:08:19 pm »

Honestly, what you are going through is what almost all of us have felt. We train at R1s, with the research heavyweights of our profession, then we get jobs further down the food chain--maybe a lot further down!

Is this an argument for going to a lesser grad school?

I don't think so--the "better" the perceived quality of the grad program the more options you have. Also the more illusions, so you may have a point...

I cannot speak about history or the humanities, but observations from my cohort* doesn't bear out increased academic options.  Instead, people who have excellent advisors who make sure that students/postdocs publish, go to conferences, and go to workshops tend to do very well, regardless of ranking of the program.  Totoro is right about an advisor who doesn't have time for students at the R1 versus someone who has time for you and makes sure you are doing the things that get you to the next step (good enough grad program to good postdoc to good TT position to better TT position).  What I've seen happen is lots of people who graduate from the top program, spend a couple years as a postdoc, and then go into industry because their expectations are too high and they don't match the qualifications for other positions.  

That's not a knock on industry, but most of the people in my cohort who ended up with non-tippy-top academic positions came from the "lesser" schools where teaching was part of graduate training and faculty encouraged students to take workshops in teaching as part of the experience.  A great research degree is not a solid qualification to teach a 3/3 in the boondocks while supporting undergraduate research, unlike a degree from that kind of institution and enough research experience to run a research group on a shoestring.  Tippy-top positions do require having been on the tippy-top path since birth, but far fewer of those positions exist than good enough positions with some teaching and some research.

*defined as people I interacted with at the top 5 program and people with whom I keep in touch mostly from my postdoc time and meeting at conferences/workshops at about my same academic age

Polly, my experience with education is the similar, but I think both of our fields are peculiar because: 1) they are professional in nature; and (relatedly, because of the specialized preparation) 2) the job market is considerably better than in the humanities and social sciences.

However, I did see from the vantage of my history master's program that--due in large part, I think, to the over-supply of candidates--elite status of the doctoral program became a proxy for the kinds of preparation that, just as you say, students can certainly get from a good advisor and program at a range of institutions. Unfortunately, as you also note, that kind of elite experience is often also very poor preparation for doing most of the jobs that actually exist.

"Once admit that the sole verifiable or fruitful object of knowledge is the particular set of changes that generate the object of study...and no intelligible question can be asked about what, by assumption, lies outside." John Dewey

"Be particular." Jill Conner Browne
New member
Posts: 1

« Reply #47 on: February 09, 2013, 9:35:54 pm »

I am a doctoral candidate, and I have been following this incredibly insightful thread. I identify with the sense of insecurity, anxiety, and professional pressure expressed by Narn. Thank you, Narm, and thank you to all the folks who have commented.
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