Expectations about PhD students

Posted: May 18, 2011 by Jender in Uncategorized

I am a female faculty member at a research university. My work is published in journals that are very highly regarded. I work in one of those areas of philosophy that is most heavily populated by men so it is not surprising that as a graduate student I was one of the only females at my institution working in my area of specialization. The males in my cohort of graduate students were groomed for research jobs. They were encouraged to expect positions at reputable research institutions and prestigious post-docs. It was evident that the expectations for me were different. I was encouraged to expect to get a job as a teacher of philosophy. One professor encouraged me to apply for positions at community colleges. Another professor tried to convince me that I would find a teaching position at a small regional college in the rural midwest very fulfilling. The male graduate students were steered away from these same jobs. I overheard one male being encouraged to turn such jobs down as it might make it difficult for him to move to a research job. I took this to mean that these jobs were deemed by them to be less desirable. Moreover, when I was putting together my dossier I was advised to really emphasize my teaching in the cover letter and supporting materials. “You are one of the best teachers among our graduate students”, I remember one faculty telling me. During these various conversations with my professors I smiled politely and thought to myself, this is bullsh@#. I realize that good teaching is valued at most institutions and I do think its important, but I know that I am not a particularly good teacher. I also realize that competition for research jobs in metropolitan areas is fierce. I have nothing against the midwest. I have nothing against small towns. I think that small colleges and community colleges are fine places to work. But some jobs and some locations are widely perceived to be more desirable than others. I just want to point out the difference in expectations that were conveyed by my professors of me and my male colleagues and the differences in career paths we were encouraged to pursue. I also wonder to what extent our professors expectations led to differences in their efforts in helping us to secure academic jobs.

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