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The Dissertation Business

February 3, 2006

The Dissertation Business

A little background may be in order.  I left graduate school in the summer of 98.  I had completed all of my coursework, and had recently passed the written qualifying exams.  At my school the oral defense was little more than a drilling into your proposed topic by some faculty, upon which you took suggestions and wrote the big paper.

At least I assume.  You see, by the time I passed the written exams, I was burnt out.  I had read for a year over each of their six lists (my PhD is to be in American Lit, but in order to pass I took a test over 6 different English periods—Old English, Renaissance, Victorian, Modern and Am. Lit I & II).  I skipped only the Restoration and Contemporary writers.  

So I walked away, taking a consulting gig at 40k that put me on a plane to a large Southern town.  I was expensing travel, living in a large city and making, what I considered, decent money.  My fellow grad students were looking to start in the low thirties, if they could find a position.  One fellow, Sir Published A Bunch, applied to just shy of triple digit number of schools only to get no offers to interview.  Harsh.

So, myself, with no publications, felt at ease with my decision.  ABD with a decent job, flying around the country delivering business training (ERP—SAP training, specifically), I didn’t look back.

At least for a while.  After the ERP slowdown of 2000 (remember the Y2K bug?), I was RIF-ed, but soon found another business teaching gig.  To supplement, and to keep my interesting in academic teaching alive, I started to adjunct.  

I felt I had the best of both worlds: the business teaching salary with the academic teaching foot in the college classroom.  It sure sounded good in theory.

Adjuncts don’t get the best classes.  Without the PhD, I could count on a steady stream of into-writing courses or, with my growing business experience, some business and/or technical writing classes.  Even then, one college only grudgingly waived a requirement to have had a grad-level course in business writing in order to teach the freshman level course.  Experience was only marginally considered.  It turns out that they were two weeks before semester and needed someone fast.  

So, I have spent the better part of this century scrapping from one institution to another, trying to fill in the adjunct courses as I could.  I have moved to three towns this century, and have hit colleges and universities in each.  I have also maintained an online adjunct presence.  All told I have taught at 8 institutions; have taught 23 different courses (some being variations of others); have taught 90 sections (the bulk in 6 week segments online).  
Yet, each semester I worry that I will not receive a course, or that the courses will number too few to help pay the bills, or that I will not be asked back (adjunct positions float in and out of life for a multitude of reasons: enrollment, hiring practices or institution, whim of the chair, etc.).  

My academic teaching has brought me no health insurance (even when teaching 5 courses for one on-ground site during a regular Fall semester), little to no recognition, and absolutely no sense of security.  

This type of life is getting old.  Hence my blog.  

I will let you know how things go.

BTW, my dissertation outline (a requirement before they will allow me to petition to get back into the program) has been with my advisor over a week ago with no reply (not even to acknowledge receipt).  

One Comment
  1. Inside the Philosophy Factory permalink
    March 13, 2006 3:04 pm

    Just FYI, if you are looking for someplace that is decent to adjunct — Minnesota’s community colleges are great — if you teach 5 classes you qualify for the same health insurance etc.. as the full-timers. The only difference is that you don’t have the job security like full-timers, the pay is even comparable.

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