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Trevor Hedberg
Columbus, OH
Postdoctoral Scholar at The Ohio State University
Interests: Philosophy, Reading, Writing, Editing, Teaching, Website Design, Tennis, NBA, Anime, Video Games
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There's always the option to replace an acknowledgement footnote with something like "acknowledgement removed for blind review" if there's a concern about how it would be perceived by current reviewers, but I would definitely support acknowledgements for all referees if/when the paper makes it to publication.
Given that the ABD phase is the most likely place that graduate students will struggle and drop out of the program, I think it's best for them to be meeting with their dissertation advisor regularly. In my own case, I met with him about every two weeks on average during fall and spring semesters while I was working on it. This was true even if I produced no new content between sessions, and that happened a fair amount -- my week to week progress had high variance. Nowadays, with virtual meetings being easy and commonplace, this should not be too burdensome, and it's an excellent way to keep your advisor in the loop about how things are going.
I've generally thanked (by name) anyone who gave comments on a previous draft or with whom I had a long conversation or email exchange about the subject matter. I'll also thank my presentation audiences (in general terms) and, if applicable, my commentators at the event (by name). Obviously not all comments are of equal quality, but I view this as part of showing respect to the time and effort that others put forward to engage with my work. Also, while it might go without saying, acknowledge someone regardless of their career status or university affiliation. I still have bad memories of giving detailed comments on a paper at a conference in 2012 and discovering I was not in the acknowledgements when that paper was published a couple years later even though it was obvious the author had changed the paper to respond to my objections. Other people who were at that conference did get acknowledged, which made me wonder if I was excluded just because, say, I was a grad student or from a relatively undistinguished program.
Excellent post, Sam -- I think the most important general point (which I will add to 7 Years Later somewhere) is that time-saving teaching methods can sometimes also lead to better teaching. You illustrate this with some clear examples that may certainly be worth incorporating into some readers' courses. But even beyond using time-saving techniques, I think the more banal observation that increased prep time does not automatically lead to better teaching is also important. Some graduate students may think that prepping for their courses 20 hours a week will make their lectures, discussions, etc., better than if they only prepped for 10 hours a week. That doesn't follow: prep time usually follows a principle of diminishing returns. A few hours of prep will be loads better than none, but prep past 15 hours might well make no difference at all to the quality of your instruction.
Caligula's Goat -- The guide will be hosted online. Probably not in the format of a wiki but using an elaborate linked table of contents (where you click where you want to go). This guide isn't aimed exclusively (or even primarily) at undergrads, though it could be of use to them. I expect those currently in graduate school to be those who would be most interested in the material.
A few quick comments based on the exchange above. First, this guide isn't primarily about how to apply to graduate school or whether to apply to graduate school in the first place. That is covered briefly in an appendix, which could stand alone as its own document. The guide is about how to complete graduate school in philosophy while also accomplishing what's necessary to be competitive on the job market (to the extent that is possible with the way things currently are). The primary audience includes current graduate students -- not just prospective graduate students. Second, I have gotten email inquiries over the last year from undergraduate students (with whom I have no affiliation) who have stumbled upon my website asking when the guide will be completed. So there are at least some prospective graduate students who would be interested in a guide like this. Third, the particular sections are meant to be self-contained, so you wouldn't have to read the whole guide to understand a particular segment. To give one example, imagine you want some advice on teaching your own course for the first time. You could just read the section of the guide that addresses that issue. Or perhaps you're getting close to writing your dissertation and want to know what that experience will be like. Then you could just jump to that section. I highly doubt most people using this guide will read every word that's written, and it will be organized to facilitate that.
I have no idea how common the practice is, but if it is common, then it completely defeats the purpose of asking for letters of recommendation. I'd agree with "postdoc" above that letters are supposed to serve as independent confirmation from someone else -- ideally, an expert in the field who can assess the quality of your work -- that you do in fact have the credentials you claim elsewhere in your application materials and would be a good person to hire for the position. It may be true that you know your own work better than others, but you may also be biased about the quality of your work and think that it is better, more original, etc., than it actually is, and it's in your self-interest to suggest it is better than it really is (since this would give you a better chance of being competitive for jobs). This is why an evaluation of your work and character from a third party can be valuable. The book analogy referenced by "No letters in the first place" also doesn't make sense to me. Yes, you are typically responsible for writing the blurb that goes on the back cover of the book, but you don't write the endorsements that appear on the opening pages: those come from others who have read the manuscript (or at least large portions of it in advance). Endorsers for my book had to send their official statements to the publishers separately; I couldn't have submitted them on their behalf. You also don't write book reviews yourself, since those are meant to serve as independent evaluations of the book's quality. In my mind, that's the same role letters are supposed to play in the application process.
In a sample of about 20 1st round interviews, none of my best interviews (or what I'd consider my best interviews) have advanced me to the next stage of the search. Neither have any of my worst interviews. So I have my best results when I just have an average interview. I long ago learned to make no assumptions about what would happen following my job interview, regardless of how well (or poorly) I thought it went.
What constitutes a "good" PowerPoint design is going to depend a lot of what it's being used for. Sometimes, a lot of text on one slide is appropriate. If I'm presenting an author's core argument in numbered series of premises leading to the conclusion, I want the entire argument on one slide if possible so that it's clear how all the pieces of the argument lead to the conclusion. A lot of text may also be appropriate if you're highlighting a critical quote from the text and want the whole quote on screen at once. If you're showing a set of data or a graph (e.g., data on homicide rates in the context of a reading on gun control), then it's appropriate to have few words on a slide. Even so, there is one reason to not be super-text heavy in a teaching context: if your slides are too thorough, students will attempt to use them as a substitute for actually doing the course readings. This means some short-answer responses may be little more than copied portions of the PowerPoint slides. This rarely translates to strong answers, and it doesn't encourage the students to do the kind of independent thinking that philosophy courses typically require.
There's no question the postdoc would be the better choice. I struggle to think of a situation where it would be better to adjunct for a year instead of taking a postdoc, unless perhaps it was an overseas job where there were compelling non-academic reasons to stay closer to home. Plus, postdocs are generally pretty good jobs -- relatively light teaching loads, pretty good pay for the amount of work required, and time to pursue one's research. You will also usually get health insurance, a retirement plan, and other benefits associated with your university employment; adjuncts don't typically get these benefits.
Toggle Commented Oct 25, 2021 on Postdoc or adjunct? at The Philosophers' Cocoon
Michel -- That's a fair point, though I would find it hard to advise anyone to keep probing the academic job market year after year when their AOS usually has only a few job postings per year. That's such an unfavorable situation that even exemplary candidates will often see no meaningful results for many years even if they apply for positions every job cycle. I suspect they will often be better off seeking non-academic careers or building up a second AOS that is more marketable.
Regarding retirement savings, I think it's pretty tough for graduate students to prioritize that, but on the bright side, if you've been living successfully on a stipend of $15K-20K during graduate school, then you should be able to save a significant amount of money once your income doubles or triples when you are employed in your first "real" job. Even entry-level non-academic jobs usually pay much more than the typical stipend of a graduate student in philosophy. I'll also admit I hadn't considered the potential costs of having pets. My main reason for not having one was that I didn't have the space I thought was necessary to properly accommodate the type of companion I'd want (a dog of 60+ pounds). But I can imagine that the financial costs of veterinary care and such -- even for healthy pets -- would be a significant expense for most graduate students.
"For a Living Wage" -- I don't think either Emily or I say in the interview that having a proper financial mindset is a sufficient condition for saving money. In fact, at the end of the interview, I highlight several factors outside my control that made my savings possible, such as Knoxville's low cost of living and Tennessee's lack of a state income tax. But I think for most people a deliberate and conscientious approach to financial decision-making will help them manage their limited income better than they otherwise would. I'd certainly be in favor of raising graduate student income and generally making their circumstances more bearable. Unfortunately, most current and future graduate students will not have the power to affect large-scale policy changes of this sort. Some of them will have to make due with poverty-level wages while they complete their graduate studies, and I think it's worth considering what they can do to make their money go further. As you note, there is an intractable element of financial risk involved -- the main financial loss I took early in grad school was my car getting totaled in an anomalous hailstorm, something that was certainly outside my control. Still, some steps can be taken to reduce these risks or lower their impact when something like this happens. The financial challenges tied to graduate studies are also something that should be taken into account when people are deliberating about whether to go to graduate school in the first place. I often worry that they are not given adequate weight in the deliberative process of prospective grad students.
It sounds like the person in the situation has already made their decision, but for other readers, I think it's worth emphasizing this general rule: take what's assured; don't hold out for what's merely possible. There are contexts where holding out for the possibility of something better makes sense, but the academic job market in the humanities is not such a context and especially not in the pandemic-stricken circumstances of the present. The risk/reward payoff here is skewed such that the probability of the greater reward is WAY too low to justify the gamble.
I don't have any insight into course titles that work _well_ with students, but I do have insight into one case where a fanciful title has worked poorly. I teach a course in my current post about the ethics of human enhancement. (It's an applied ethics course covering topics like performance-enhancing drugs in sport, the use of anti-depressants, the prospects of anti-aging medicine, etc.) Unfortunately, the person who originally got the course approved via the registrar named it "Drugs, Human Enhancement, and the Mastery of Nature." Since the course title makes no mention of ethics, I routinely get students who enroll in the class expecting it to be a course in the pharmaceutical sciences: after all, it is taught via the College of Pharmacy. Yes, the course description on the registrar's website makes it clear that it's an ethics course, but most students do not read those course descriptions. I'm always able to get some of these students to enjoy the course anyway, but a fair number of them drop within the first week. So I think it's important to not title your course in a way that might mislead students with regard to their expectations regardless of how catchy or grand the title of the course is.
I think it's fine to listed papers under review on one's CV, but to reiterate a point made by the first commenter, they should be listed in the "Works in Progress" section. A paper should not be labeled as a publication until it is formally accepted for publication.
Toggle Commented Jan 22, 2021 on Listing R&Rs on your CV? at The Philosophers' Cocoon
It sounds to me like Marcus included roughly the same materials in his teaching portfolio that I did -- that is, on the occasions a full portfolio was requested. I can't imagine compiling a 50+ page portfolio: during the last cycle, mine was only 29 pages, and the first 4 were the most important. These contained my teaching statement and a 5-year numerical summary of my student evaluations. Echoing the comments of a few other people, I've not received any advice to include letters of recommendation from former undergrad students -- better to have one of you faculty letter-writers fill that role. I agree with Trystan that the whole process is much easier when search committees tell you straightforwardly what they want, but that doesn't always happen. In those cases, I think you have to submit the essentials (i.e., a teaching statement, a summary of teaching evaluations, and at least one sample syllabus) plus anything that's particularly relevant for the advertisement posted.
This process would be too time consuming to be useable in courses with my current number of students, but it is definitely worth at least having them submit an outline for a grade before they write their full papers no matter the class size. This provides an opportunity to steer students away from poor topics and dubious arguments before using these as centerpieces of their papers. Doing so can massively improve the average quality of the papers that are submitted and often makes the process of term paper grading less disheartening as a result.
It's certainly true that some academic websites are not well-designed, but as Prof L alludes to, it's now very easy to make a site with Wordpress, Weebly, Google sites, etc., without any knowledge of html code that looks reasonably presentable and modern, and it can be done with only a few hours of work. These sites do tend to appear formulaic -- it is often obvious that the person who designed it used a generic template -- but that's far better than having a crude html site that looks like it was made in 1998 or having no website at all. The important thing is to have relevant professional information on your site in a format that's presentable and easy-to-navigate so that people interested in you and your work can learn more about those subjects. As for the more specific issue of personal touches like pictures of pets, I think there will be a lot of person-to-person variance on whether that creates a positive impression or a negative one, but I'd generally lean toward the objective of doing things that make your work stand out rather than making your website stand out for other reasons. The ideal scenario would be that a person got interested in your website because they thought you had a cool research project you were working on or a unique approach to pedagogy rather than a nice picture of your dog.
Do you "need" a personal website? No. Should you have a personal website? Yes. A personal website gives you a degree of control over your online profile. If someone puts my name into a search engine, the first thing they'll find is my website. They'll then be directed to my papers, recent scholarly activity, etc. This way, they aren't directed to results for other people who share the same name (and believe it or not, there actually is another Trevor Hedberg with academic publications in a different field) and can easily find pertinent information about who I am and what I do. It's not a coincidence that my personal website has gotten much, much higher traffic when I've been on the job market. Plus, independent of job market factors, this is a great way to publicly promote your work and increase the likelihood that people will actually read those papers you spent years working on.
Not a search committee member, but I have been told on several occasions in the past that there can be benefits to having a "Works-in-Progress" section (that is separate from publications) to give an indication of what you're currently working on. I've no idea if that would give any indication of "promise", but it is one way to convey one's fit for the position if these WIPs are in an AOS or AOC tied to the job description.
It's definitely been harder to maintain motivation to get work done. I don't just think it's the pandemic: in the US, there's also a ton of political madness taking place and an all-too-real possibility that the election results will be challenged. It amounts to a very large distraction, and many of the things we'd normally do to alleviate stress (i.e., those involving large gatherings of people) are not happening right now. Additionally, I wasn't anticipating that we'd still be neck deep in this pandemic after more than 7 months -- and with no clear end in sight! It's hard to keep one's spirits up under the circumstances.
Two quick thoughts. First, it strikes me as odd that one could get a publication in a good journal -- even on a niche topic -- without developing close to AOC level competence in the subject. This would be especially true if the paper originated from a graduate seminar in a subject area. I wonder if the student in question is underselling their knowledge. Second, although it's rare, I have seen some CVs where people list, in addition to AOSs and AOCs, a third category like "Other Areas of Interest" or "Other Areas of Teaching Interest". I don't have any strong impressions of how that's perceived by hiring committees, but I suppose it's an option if the OP wants to acknowledge their work in these areas without labeling that as an AOC.
I agree with prior comments indicating that interested search committees are likely to dig up the paper in question, which means that leaving it off your CV could hurt far more than it helps. But I'd also add that I think the general concern of the OP is overstated. There are plenty of people who have excellent jobs and are well respected despite having unpopular views. In fact, I suspect most philosophers hold at least one view that isn't held by very many people.
I've done several book reviews, and I'd say they are worth doing in a few specific situations. (1) There's a book you want to read for your own research, but you don't have a personal copy of that book. (2) There's a book you're planning to read because you might assign it as a text in one of your own courses. (3) You've been asked to review a book that you have already read (either partially or fully). This is a rarer occurrence than the other two but can certainly happen if you, for instance, read papers that later become chapters in the book or have someone share a draft with you when it's still a WIP. In each of these cases, it's not going to be much extra work to put together a book review of the content, particularly since book reviews are rather short publications. Also, my own view of book reviews is that they are a service to the profession. Having benefited from reading many book reviews over the years, I think it's appropriate (if not obligatory) for me to contribute an occasional book review of my own so long as I remain a part of the scholarly profession and benefit from the book reviews others have done.