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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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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.
You're not going to compile the index until the very end of the publishing process since you need your page numbers to be final and accurate. Because of that, I think the best time to put the index together is in conjunction with your final proofreading. As you comb through the manuscript for those pesky typos and formatting errors, takes notes regarding index terms and page numbers. That makes for a very busy few days, but it's pretty efficient. I know from experience that Routledge also has their own indexing guidelines, so I suspect every publisher has a document of that sort. Use their guidelines to create a template before you start your work and then just plug in the relevant terms and page numbers. Compared to the herculean effort required to write and revise a book-length manuscript, this process should be pretty easy.
I don't think it's wise, even under idealized conditions, to go into debt to pursue a graduate degree in philosophy. It's just not a favorable wager. Beyond the points already mentioned in the post and subsequent comments, the reader may also be assuming that getting an MA from an elite program will enable them to get into a top PhD program with a better placement record. But even that assumption does not always hold. For example, one of my grad school peers obtained an MA from NYU (the top-ranked program in the world) before starting the PhD program at the University of Tennessee (an unranked program). So he accumulated about $100,000 in debt to live in New York and spend two years in that program, but this did not translate into being competitive for admission at top-ranked programs. (He eventually quit the PhD program to pursue a law degree; I have no idea whether he is out of debt at this point or not.)
I've always been successful with R&Rs and have always included a point-by-point breakdown of each major change I made (and what the requested change was). But it's definitely possible to do this and still be concise. I view the purpose of this document to enable the editor to identify where the changes in your paper are and what reviewer concern they address, so it's mostly just summary and sign-posting. They don't need to be super-long to fulfill this purpose.
I think taking a longer time to obtain the PhD will usually only be a negative if there's no corresponding achievement or professional development that takes place during the "extra" time. If you take 8 years to get a PhD instead of 7 but tack on a couple extra publications and solo teaching semesters as a result, your dossier will probably be stronger overall than if you graduated in only 7 years. If you take an extra year but don't add much to your credentials, then it might be a negative overall. The bottom line is that if you stay in the program another year, make sure you use that time to continue trying to publish and gain valuable teaching experience (as Michel said above). Given the current situation, it would also be a good idea to spend some of the upcoming academic year formulating a Plan B in case academic employment proves unobtainable in the long run.
Ohio State is compiling their information about fall reopening here: https://president.osu.edu/leadership-and-committees/post-pandemic-operations-task-force At this point, we know for certain that there will be no in-person teaching after Thanksgiving. Finals and any other instruction will be done online during that period. In-person instruction will be more limited in the fall, but it appears (on my understanding) that the details are being worked out by individual colleges and will be finalized on July 1st. Faculty in my college had to submit a short form indicating how they intended to teach in the fall. I suspect we'll know a lot more within the next week or two.
Honestly, based on a mere 5 evaluations from one semester, I'd advise doing absolutely nothing. There's no reason to believe that this small sample reflects anything meaningful about your teaching unless they occur again in later semesters. If it persists, then maybe you try to add a reading or two that present more conservative stances on whatever issues you're discussing if you think your choice of course content should be politically balanced.
@Mike -- Just to follow up briefly, the distinction I'm pointing out might seem obvious to us, but the target audience for Brennan's book is prospective graduate students. (It's also not aimed exclusively at philosophy grad students.) And I think it's clear that many first-year graduate students begin their graduate studies without a clear picture of what they really need to do to be competitive for academic jobs. This can vary among programs, but at mine, more than half of those who obtained a PhD in the last 10 years had 0 publications, even though faculty members were generally rather transparent about what's needed to be competitive on the market. Most of the students in your program may have been different, but that might just indicate that they mostly aren't part of Brennan's target audience.
I actually ordered this book and read it all a couple weeks ago. I'm not sure these short snippets in the interview entirely capture the distinction he's really after. At a quick glance through, I couldn't find a quote that mirrored exactly what he said in the interview, although there is an explanation of the Olympics analogy early in chapter 2. I interpreted him as saying that graduate students generally either prioritize professional development throughout their graduate career or they don't. If they don't, then their chances of landing a permanent job are very close to zero; if they do, then they have a legitimate chance of landing a good job (but of course there is no guarantee). The heart of the book is an explanation of what it means to prioritize your professional development during graduate school. (A lot of that revolves around creating and publishing work.) Maybe that broad distinction still doesn't work, but at least in my experience, I thought it was easy to identify graduate students who were serious about building their CVs, going to conferences, developing an online presence in the field, and publishing their work compared to those who pursued these things either halfheartedly or not at all.
Citing yourself in the third person is definitely the way to go. Speaking in part as a reviewer, it's definitely the best way to maintain blind review because your work appears the same as any other citation. In this manner, your self-citation is effectively concealed in plain sight. Redacted references, as others have mentioned, only serve to draw undue attention to what's being omitted and can inadvertently give away one's career status (or at least create assumptions about it).
To echo what others have said, it varies depending on the HR system. At the University of South Florida, I didn't get my first check until mid-September because my August 6th official start date was after the deadline to receive paychecks in August. At Ohio State (which pays monthly rather than every 2 weeks), I officially started on July 1st and received my paycheck on July 31st. So Amanda's estimate of 2-6 weeks past the start date seems right.
I don't have a solution to this quandary, but I do want to clarify one thing about my prior post: I don't think any of the reasons for rejection that I mentioned are incompatible with adopting the "Does this add to the discussion?" standard. I think that all of the concerns I raise point toward ways in which a paper would fail to meaningfully add to the discussion around the issue. Most of my concerns involve presenting one's argument clearly, taking proper account of other people's research on the subject, and not misrepresenting your own conclusions or the views of the authors you're engaging with. Those seem like prerequisites to making a worthwhile contribution to the ongoing discussion (although I can imagine that not everyone will agree with my assessment on that point). It's also possible for a paper to avoid all those problems and still leave me quite unconvinced that its conclusion is true. But in that case, the judgment should be "This is a good paper that I disagree with" -- not "I disagree with this paper so I'm going to reject it." I wouldn't advise rejecting a paper merely for the reason that you disagree with the paper's central conclusions.