Friday, April 09, 2010

Twitter of GATS2010

Here it is:

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Alternative Careers for PhDs in non Academic Fields

First, the traditional route . . .

What to Do When You’re Looking For A Job, Part 1
By Gina Barreca in The Chronicle of Higher Education

This gently tweaks the usual advice for following an academic career path. Also see the CHE's jobs section for advice on being on the market the first time:

Remember, even if you find the academic market hard to get into, and that Thomas Benton is right  or you simply change your mind about your career, and what to do something different, your time has not been wasted, and the PhD, as Matt Feeney notes, doesn't have to be a trap.

Second, how to keep open alternative doors . . . from an e-mail I posted to a discussion list . . .
I went through a variation of it, though more wisely, you've got your PhD done and have more options, along the lines that Roger laid out -- you can more easily step out of the academy and back in later.

But I prefer teaching part-time to full, like doing creative things (with people who are smarter than me), enjoy (small manageable) projects I can do on my own, and care about and enjoy working around the issues and people in teaching online or with computer technologies.

I also found for a variety of reasons that full-time tenure track would not work, and I had a great place to try that life, with innovative supportive colleagues at the time, a teaching load that left room for projects, and a publishing requirement that made room for other than scholarly press book length work (though they liked that too).

I ended up in a good place.

When I realized I would have to leave, I started by visiting the CHE's job site,, which had some practical advice on converting CVs to resumes, articles that articulated what I knew but needed to read and hear for morale -- that a lot of what I did and learned in my academic life gave me skills that would work in the business world: I could research, write, plan, manage, teach, think. And that was without scratching the surface. I could technical and educational writing, had some project management experience from working on complex web projects, understood budgets from being cut out of some or from being responsible for some.

So I made two things:

One was a list of all the skills I'd had and the job verbs I could apply to them The other was a map of everyone I knew who worked outside the academy, organized around circles with me in the center, and the closer the person to me, the nearer in the map. It was a visual sense of who I could reach out to and talk to and how close I was to them.

Then I wrote about four or five different resumes, variations of my skills with different things emphasize. I started again with CHE's listing of jobs outside of education (, more as an exercise in reading job ads and practice in matching my skill set.

I also started to look for freelance and small contract work to build up resume where it was weak. I did small manuals, little bits of consulting and such. Anything to build experience. I knew I wasn't staying, by the way, and had a semester of full time work to do this in and around.

During the same period, I began getting in touch with people I knew, including textbook publishers where I'd done review work and had one book out. I chatted informally with a bunch of folk and kept up a running conversation with Kristin Bowen and then Denise Wydra at Bedford/St. Martin's. A conversation that began as getting increased review work and projects eventually turned into a discussion about a potential full time job.

At the same time, however, I began sending targeted resumes out to other entities. One was a web start up that needed a director of document management and technical documentation. Another was with a head hunter who interviewed me as possible client to place. When I went to Boston to interview w/ Bedford/St. Martin's, I had several other interviews with different companies also lined up.

I took the B/SM gig and ended up with a very good job. It allowed me to keep a foot in the academic things I enjoyed, the practitioner side of things where most of my research is reading a lot and talking to instructors a lot about classroom practices and issues, but also its creative because the job involves looking to see what's emerging and where things are going and at what pace, and it lets me teach part time and still do workshops and such. 

So while it's .com and not .edu, a lot edu-ing goes on because it's so closely related to the issues and people I lived in my academic life.

All of which is to say, you're smarter than me; you've done more academically than I did when I reached, by a different road, the place you're at. You have your degree; you have a varied set of experiences.

I remember being both glad that I was leaving and terrified at what would happen next. I found that setting lots of small goals and breaking the search down into manageable steps that gave me a plan, and for me, that began with reading and writing, with plenty of practice at writing bad resumes before I got them to be good ones, with practice at doing some poor interviews before I got comfortable with doing them, and so on helped.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rebutter in Chief

This post by Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly blog features excerpts from a New Hampshire Town Hall conducted by President Obama.

It occurs to me, on reading Benen's summary, and having listened to some of Obama's press conferences and speeches, that his legal training combined with his writing ability make him a master of rebutting, through explicit counter-arguments, the critiques of his policies and positions, no matter -- as in the case of the illogical and demagogic claim that the health plan under debate in Congress calls for "death camps" -- how disingenuous and dishonest the criticism is.

Compare, for example, Obama's response to the "death panel" claim to one of the most prominent assertions of that claim, Sarah Palin's.

Palin wrote in Facebook:
The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course. The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s “death panel” so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their “level of productivity in society,” whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

Health care by definition involves life and death decisions. Human rights and human dignity must be at the center of any health care discussion.
What is the logic of her paragraph? What is the train of thought? Can it be mapped by students? Are her claims fair? Is there a "death panel" clause in any of the proposed bills now in Congress?
What is the purpose of the final two sentences? They are statements no one will disagree with; is she using them to assert that the plans in Congress don't care about dignity?

With those questions in mind, now look at Obama's explicit rebuttal of this argument as represented by Palin. Obama said in New Hampshire:
"The rumor that's been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for 'death panels' that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we've decided that we don't -- it's too expensive to let her live anymore. And there are various -- there are some variations on this theme. It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, et cetera. So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they're ready, on their own terms. It wasn't forcing anybody to do anything. This is I guess where the rumor came from.

"The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican -- then House member, now senator, named Johnny Isakson from Georgia -- who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people's options. And somehow it's gotten spun into this idea of 'death panels.' I am not in favor of that. So just I want to clear the air here."

Obama first categorically rejects the charge that he wants "death panels," and then looks to the bill in question, to the item in the bill his opponents have distorted, and explains its origins.

How does the use of logic and evidence in the two arguments compare? Which statement is more factually accurate?

Questions such as these make the current debate on health care in our country a useful one for studying and analyzing argument and rhetoric. It might also lead to a good discussion of civil discourse, how to tell it from inflammatory discourse and violent discourse.