Friday, September 14, 2007

Old Boys--clarification

Greg posted a comment to an earlier post, challenging in part the image I painted of an old boys' network. As he pointed out, fields differ (and I might add, I think schools differ in their culture as well). For clarification (since my own reading is likely biased) here's a redacted version of the email from my ex-step-dad, who's been chair of his own program for years. In Greg's defense, my mother's take (she was CC'd on the email from [ex-step-dad]) was quite different from my own. She describes the professoriate at that school (it's in the city where she lives) as rather quirky, and anything but entrenched.
Dear Articulate,

Well, that would be a kick, to see you at [Respected Eastern Tech] as a colleague! Very cool.

I know [department chair] and like her; very smart, dynamic...

The way they undoubtedly do the search is to go through all the applications to form a short list, then go on from there. The trick is to get that far, and I just don't know enough, in detail, about your background, credentials, thesis, etc. to know whether you've got a shot. But hell, it's worth it. Give it your all. I could say something to [dept. chair], that she ought to be expecting your application, that maybe she could give it an additional look-see, but I honestly don't know whether that would do any good. I've had people approach me on behalf of applicants on searches I've conducted and it didn't get them anywhere. Not because I didn't respect the person, just because a tenure appointment is so terribly important to the life of the university that I can't imagine anyone being influential that way -- unless it was someone who was really big in the field, which I'm obviously not.

Because this is a tenure track job at [RET], I'd say that your cover letter ought not to get to preoccupied with the teaching (though of course mention it) but as substantively and strongly as possible with the intellectual meat of what you've done in your thesis and since. You've got to make it easy for them to imagine you as a colleague. You should want them to come out of perusing your CV and cover letter thinking, "OK, I could see going to lunch with him. He'd have a good chance at gaining tenure. He's an [RET] sort of a guy." You want to come across as solid, substantive, deep, interesting. Which of course you are, but you want to make sure you come across that way in anything that reaches the committee.

As for the business that you've been running, I don't know exactly what it is, to tell you the truth, but [RET] is by no means averse to business, innovation, entrepreneurship, etc. But you may want to avoid over-selling it. ... So you'll want to be careful on this score. But that you have a business dimension I don't think ought to get in the way, the more substantive, of course, the better.

That's about all I can say. If it gets to the point that you give a job talk here, let me know!

Good luck,


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