In order to provide a fuller sense of the strength of our graduate programs, we asked some recent graduates of our Ph.D. program to provide first-hand accounts of their job market experiences and of the value of their degree for their current careers.
One thing I learned about the English major is that it makes you into a well-rounded individual who can go in any of a number of directions. During my studies at UCSB, I was fortunate enough to work as a research assistant in the Literature.Culture.Media Center, which got me connected to many tech-related areas and activities on campus. That’s how I discovered the field of instructional technology, which is what I have been doing since going ABD in 2010.
Completing the Ph.D. in 2012 has opened many more doors for me. I am working on a career in academic administration, to which a Ph.D. provides an excellent introduction. At UCSB English, however, I went beyond the typical doctoral experience of study, teaching, and research. I was involved with several local and national conferences, both as a presenter and as a co-organizer. Opportunities to lead and innovate were everywhere, and the faculty encouraged me and my classmates to take advantage of them. The university’s doctoral emphases – I completed the Technology and Society emphasis – enhanced all aspects of the graduate school experience and got me into interdisciplinary work all across campus. Our faculty were also supportive when I decided that I preferred a career in administration over teaching.
In addition to an outstanding educational experience, UCSB English strengthened my confidence and allowed me to explore skills and experiences outside the academic mainstream. I have a job that I love and an exciting future ahead of me.
Kim A. Knight
Assistant Professor of Emerging Media and Communication
University of Texas at Dallas
The UCSB Department of English PhD program gave me the opportunity to gain many different kinds of experience. In addition to teaching and my own research, I took part in conference planning, funded research projects, working groups and more, all of which enriched my c.v. and set me apart from other applicants on the job market. Throughout my time there, the faculty encouraged me to pursue many different models of scholarly work including learning tech skills and engaging in productive collaboration to support my research goals.
The decision regarding when to go on the job market is a tough one that I did not make lightly. I knew that it is an incredible amount of work and if one does well, the process can extend through much of the academic year. The decision was made easier knowing that the Department of English has such a robust support system in place for job searchers. The placement committee worked with me on everything from how to highlight my atypical experience, to how to write compelling materials, to how to interview and give job talks. Working with the placement committee gave me a lot more confidence when it was time to face each new stage of the job search.
I went on the market for the first time with zero expectations. However, with the support of my advisors and the placement committee, I was offered a job that was a really good fit during my first search. I am now an Assistant Professor of Emerging Media and Communication, which is part of the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. I teach courses on theories of emerging media, digital textuality, viral media, and race, class, gender, and sexuality in digital environments. My research projects include traditional publications, collaborative research, the production of critically-informed media objects, and running programs that interface with the public. The diversity of research and teaching experience I gained at UCSB has served me well in my position in EMAC.
Assistant Professor of English
University of West Georgia
When I first went on the academic job market, it was fall of 2008, the year that the Global Financial Crisis affected academic hiring at all levels. It ultimately took me three years to land a tenure-track position in my subfield. Many of the jobs my colleagues and I were applying for during that first year evaporated due to radical budget cuts across higher education. The following year, 2009-2010, jobs were sparse again. I think there were twelve positions in my subfield of eighteenth-century British literature. It was scary to file and receive my degree in 2010 with no guaranteed employment, but I was finished writing and it was time to move on, whatever the future had in store. Fortunately for me, the number of positions in my subfield picked up during my third year on the job market, and I secured the job I have today at the University of West Georgia. I am teaching at a well-regarded regional university in the South that has a collegial English department with many active scholars, and even an MA program in English. I have a 3/3 course load of mostly literature classes, (sometimes a 3/2 load depending on the courses taught.) I enjoy my job, my university, and my colleagues.
Members of UCSB’s English Department were exceptionally helpful at every stage of the academic job search process. I don’t mean that to sound as banal as it does. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that I have never encountered a group of exceptional scholars who were more generous with their time than I have experienced at UCSB. My advisers, William B. Warner and E. Heckendorn Cook, were always available to me at each stage of the job search process, as were other faculty members who in the capacity of Job Placement Director helped students with job materials. Enda Duffy and Rita Raley read writing samples, job letters, and drafts of the CV, and offered detailed feedback even though both are exceptionally busy scholars and neither was my adviser or on my committee. I am not some extraordinary person who received special consideration; that’s just what the department community is like. Faculty members know that the market is tough and although they cannot change the market, they can help you feel prepared for an academic job. This preparation also included mock interviews and practice job talks: a practice job talk I gave at UCSB had more faculty and graduate students in attendance than are present at some actual job talks. Now that I have a tenure-track job I understand how special a department I was in at UCSB; it makes me especially committed to being generous with my own time, mentoring and supporting students and alumni who need help in pursuing their career goals.
Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, MIT
Assistant Professor of English, Weber State University
There is no getting around the fact that the academic job market is a gamble. When I went on the market, my advisors at UCSB were frank and realistic about the difficulties of finding tenure-track employment. It feels both precarious and liberating to know that the only thing you can control in the process is your self-presentation as a candidate. I knew I had a strong network of support at UCSB, and, while I steeled myself to the likelihood of not finding a position my first time on the market, I also felt confident that I was well prepared for the application and interview process. My dissertation committee had vetted my research meticulously. Having taught many classes and taken oral qualifying examinations, I knew that I could field unanticipated questions with poise. Most of all, I was buoyed by the support and encouragement I received from the English department. Friends who had gone on the market in previous years shared job letters with me; faculty job advisors provided detailed feedback as I drafted (and re-drafted) application materials; and my fellow graduate students conducted mock-interviews and gave me an audience for practicing my job talk.
My experience on the market was unusual in that I received offers for a postdoctoral fellowship and a tenure-track job my first time out. I feel especially fortunate to have been able to accept both offers: I am currently an Andrew W. Mellon postdoctoral fellow in Literature at MIT, and I will begin a position as assistant professor of literature and new media at Weber State University in 2014. Being at MIT has been a wonderful opportunity to work on my book manuscript, connect with other scholars in my field, and develop new courses. The training I received at UCSB served me well in the job application process, and it has certainly prepared me for this next stage of my career. I am continually grateful to have attended a doctoral program that was both highly rigorous and deeply collegial – a rare, and ideal, combination.