Thursday, April 27, 2017

Alt-Academia and Beyond

Contributed by: Marisella Rodriguez

One of the most difficult challenges in graduate school – and there are many – is acknowledging the reality of our career opportunities: tenure-track faculty jobs are not only extremely competitive, but largely unavailable. Data from the University of California 2015 Accountability Report show a limited increase in hiring junior faculty tenure-track positions after suffering a fiscal shock in 2010. Graduate students are now facing a job market that is only beginning to recover from a nearly systematic hiring freeze. Where can graduate students turn to when we are trained for professorships that simply do not exist? I am writing to tell those graduate students (myself included) not to panic; there is an entire world of academic positions that involve many of the same skills we have already developed and nurtured. These positions encompass the “alt-ac” community.

Alternative academia describes full-time non-teaching and non-research positions within higher education (Bethman and Longstreet 2013). Although it is important to note that many of these positions include teaching and research components. For example, university staff and administrative positions are alt-ac, but so are off-campus positions like museum curators, professional writers, and consultants. For those that prioritize scholarly teaching and research, the educational development field is perhaps best suited for you. Educational development is a growing field that works to enhance teaching and learning communities (Felten, Kalish, Pingree, & Plank 2007). Such positions include faculty/graduate student development, instructional development, and organizational development ("What is Educational Development?"). Likely in response to the draining pool of tenured faculty positions, educational development positions have increased 160% over the past 15 years (Bartholomew 2016).

Graduate student persistence to the tenured-faculty image is motivated at two levels. First, most departments neglect to acknowledge the accomplishments of alumni who leave academia or enter into non-faculty positions. Kelly (2016) encourages departments to seek out and provide placement information on alumni in alt-ac positions in order to de-stigmatize and inform continuing graduate students of alternative career pathways. Second, graduate students worry that we are poorly trained for employment outside of the classroom or research lab. However, Rogers (2013) provides evidence to suggest that the skills we have gained in graduate school are in fact highly transferable to alt academia. Rogers (2013) surveyed employees and employers in alt-ac fields, finding that the “most important competencies” in alt-ac positions, such as writing, communication, and analytical skills, are commonly acquired in graduate school programs, regardless of discipline.

If you are interested in learning more or applying to alt-academic positions, head on over to the UC Davis Internship and Career Center website to find resources for career exploration and helpful steps to begin your job search. Additional resources can be found on the POD Network website, including information on how to register for the 2017 POD Network conference for New Faculty Developers. After you have successfully entered the alt-ac workforce, be sure to add your contact information to the growing alt-ac network administered by Katina Rogers.

Bartholomew, T. 2016. “Analysis of educational development position advertisements.” POD Network News.

Bethman, Brenda and C. Shaun Longstreet. May 22, 2013. “Defining Terms.” Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 24, 2017.

Felten, P., A. Kalish, A. Pingree, & K. M. Plank. 2007. “Toward a scholarship of teaching and learning in educational development.” In To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional and Organizational Development, Vol. 25: pg. 93-108. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Kelly, Christine. July 7, 2016. “Stop Resisting Nonfaculty Careers.” Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved April 24, 2017.

Rogers, Katina. 2013. “Humanities Unbound: Supporting Careers and Scholarship Beyond the Tenure Track.” Retrieved April 24, 2017.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Teaching Beyond Graduate School: Community Colleges

Contributed by: Easton White

This quarter’s theme is “Teaching Beyond Grad School”. Our plan is to compare and contrast different jobs that involve teaching. Our first session focused on teaching in community colleges. We discussed the role of community colleges in the US, typical student demography, why a community college may be an attractive place to work, how to get a community college job, and what a typical day might entail for a faculty member at a community college.

First, a bit of background on community colleges in the US. There are around 1,200 community colleges today. There are regional differences with different names including: comprehensive community colleges, technical colleges, two-year branch colleges, and state colleges. Each of these may entail more or less emphasis on academic versus technical programs. Comprehensive community colleges are by far the most common. They offer both two year degrees, often emphasizing transfer to a university, and technical or professional programs.

Perhaps surprisingly, in Fall 2015 around 38% of all undergraduates in the US were attending community colleges [1]. Further, 46% of students who graduated from a four-year college had attended community college at some point [1]. Typically, community colleges allow open enrollment, meaning there are no admission requirements, although placement tests may be required. This factor, combined with the lower cost of community colleges, leads to a different student body than might be found at a four-year university.

For example, the cost (just tuition) of attending Woodland Community College is around $1,100 per year. The cost of attending the University of California, Davis is approximately $14,000 per year.

Students at community colleges tend to be non-traditional students compared to typical students at four-year institutions. Community college students are often older (28 on average compared to 24), more likely to be a first generation student, be from a minority group, attend part-time, and tend to work part-time or full-time jobs outside of school.

So, is a community college job a good choice for your career? Here are some important attributes of a community college professor.

1) You love teaching

Typically, community college professors are required to teach a 5/5 schedule, that is 5 classes in the fall and 5 in the spring. This can vary between institutions and 4/4, 5/4, or 3/3 schedules are also possible. Five courses implies 15 hours of time teaching in the classroom. Therefore, it may not be exactly five courses depending on the number of units per course. In addition to teaching a heavy load, there are typically no graders. However, class sizes are also usually limited to 20-50 students depending on the subject.

2) You like working with under-prepared students

There are many bright students at community college. Many bright enough to realize they could save money and attend an institution focused on teaching that provides small class sizes. However, the range (or variance) of students that attend community colleges can be larger than other institutions. This can create teaching challenges, and opportunities, with students that have such varied backgrounds.

3) You are fine with not conducting research

A professor at a community college is expected to teach, perform administrative duties, and attend professional development activities. Expectations of research do not exist. This does not mean research is not possible. In fact, it is possible to have a research career at a community college, but it will probably be on your own time. Your college will likely applaud you for the work, but will not be able to provide additional incentives. A research program with a team of undergraduates is also possible. This type of program involves a lot of guidance and mentoring, but it can be a great way to engage undergraduates. Further, this type of training can help prepare undergraduates for opportunities if they transfer to a four-year school.

If you agree with the above statements, a community college career might be appropriate for you. The next question is how do you land a job? The minimum qualifications are typically a master’s degree and 18 graduate-level credits in the field you wish to teach. However, a PhD is often common. Most importantly, you need teaching experience, a lot of teaching experience. It is especially important to move beyond only a teaching assistant role. Experience as an instructor on record or teaching a course as an adjunct can be particularly advantageous. Training in pedagogy, either formal classwork or informal workshops, can also be helpful.

Working at a community college certainly presents challenges. However, a community college job can be an extremely rewarding experience. Students really want to be there and are eager to learn. Here are a number of articles and blog posts on this topic:


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Our theme this spring is "Teaching Beyond Graduate School", designed to explore what a career in teaching can look like and how to incorporate teaching in non-academic careers. We hope you can join us!

Spring 2017 Calendar

· April 13 (in room 1353) – Introductions and planning

· April 20 (in room 1353) – Community Colleges

· April 27 (in room 1360) – Education Support and Administrative Positions

· May 4 (in room 1353) – Teaching and Mentorship in Industry

· May 11 (in room 1353) – Teaching Support Structures at UC Davis

· May 18 (in room 1360) – Adjunct Faculty and Labor Issues

· May 25 (in room 1353) – Teaching-focused (R2) Universities

· June 1 (in room 1353) – Research-focused (R1) Universities

· June 8 (in room 1353) – End-of-Quarter Luncheon