Some Thoughts on the Ph.D. and M.F.A. Debate

I had the opportunity to write about my experience getting a Ph.D. after an M.F.A. The article was published in The Write Life, a publication that is part of Wilkes University’s M.F.A. program. More and more, I have friends with an M.F.A. pondering whether or not they should get a Ph.D. in order to get out of adjunct limbo. My article goes into the pros and cons, including the tough job market for the Humanities. That said, getting my Ph.D. at Binghamton University was one of the most rewarding, enriching experiences of my life. It challenged me intellectually and allowed me to befriend other writers and academics that will probably be life-long friends and colleagues. With that said, there are serious considerations for anyone thinking about a Ph.D., including the job market. There are so few tenure-track positions, and openings attract hundreds of applicants. I feel fortunate for the job I have, but I always adjuncted at the institution prior to landing the job. I had other teaching experience, too. ¬†For anyone considering a Ph.D., I want to stress the importance of getting work experience, including as a teaching assistant. I don’t advise anyone to take out debt to complete the degree because finishing it doesn’t necessarily mean a tenure-track job afterwards.

Inside Higher Ed’s Tips for Summer

Inside Higher Ed just posted this helpful article for educators regarding how to make the most of summer vacation. I am already taking stock in some of what is proposed in the article, namely to do most of the prep work for the fall in the early part of the summer, including syllabus revisions or new course development. The article theorizes that doing this in the beginning of the summer will declutter the mind and leave more time for writing and research during the rest of the summer. In addition, the article also suggests keeping a shadow syllabus throughout the semester to write down what worked and didn’t work in a class, so changes can be made early in the summer, while the comments are still fresh. I have never kept a shadow syllabus, but I do take notes regarding what worked and didn’t work, especially if I need to change an exam or change some of the readings, based on student response.

Lastly, the article stresses the importance of setting realistic goals for writing and publishing and ensuring to plan vacation time to reset and recharge the batteries. It’s worth a read! Anyone else have any helpful suggestions regarding how to make the best use of summer?

AWP Seeks Proposals on the Adjunct Plight

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs Conference¬† (AWP) is seeking panel proposals on the topics of interest to adjuncts and non-tenure track faculty, including adjunct unionization. Here’s a link with more information on what they’re looking for and the proposal guidelines. I commend AWP for seeking out proposals like this and the organization’s willingness to address this issue. However, it may be difficult to acquire a number of panel proposals from adjuncts because anyone trying to cobble together a paycheck on an adjunct salary will not be able to afford the conference registration, costs of travel, or costs of a hotel. I hope, though, that adjuncts teaching in Minneapolis, with easier access to the conference, will consider sending in a proposal. I also hope that AWP accepts some panel proposals on the issue of cuts to education, which in turn leads to the creation of more adjuncts and less full-time faculty. I’ve been to the AWP Conference three times, in Chicago, Denver, and Boston, and I’ve never seen any panels that address these issues, so kudos to AWP for actively seeking out such proposals now.

Meanwhile, The New York Times just published an article this week about an adjunct professor in NY who took direct action to raise awareness about the low cost of living adjuncts face. Check out the article here.