Graduate, adjunct, or VAP?

The Tenured Radical, as part of a post on cv-polishing for the secondary (i.e., adjuncting / visiting assistant professor) market, gets to the nub:

It is a real question whether you should get a full time visiting teaching gig; or whether you should stay away from teaching for a year, delay submission of your dissertation until April, and get some articles out to journals. If you can teach and write at the same time, fantastic. But also know that full time teaching is often consuming, even for a veteran teacher, and it is also really interesting, which means that you will want to spend time on and with your students that should probably be spent on your writing at this stage of your career. If you do not yet have publications and/or a polished dissertation, writing is a better use of your time in the long run, as long as you can find some other way to feed, house and clothe yourself, and as long as your committee will agree to keep you on the books for another year.

Because honestly? Showing that you are a mature scholar who can see an article through to publication and a person who has a clear sense of how the dissertation will become a book is going to help you far more than a year of teaching when, in the fall, you pull out your c.v., dust it off again, and go back on the market.

In general, this is right: taking the time to work on your writing is incredibly valuable, and it’s an experience you’re unlikely to get for a long time once you’ve gotten a real job.  If your committee’s still willing to read your work, then staying can be quite advantageous.  Having said that, I’m not sure there’s one-size-fits-all advice here; I think the best thing to do is to use TR’s post as the basis for a conversation with your committee and with your program’s director of graduate studies, who probably has a good feel for how people are doing on the market. (And also for how alumni are doing as they move into second jobs.)

There might be one bit of universal advice: Don’t even think about moving a long distance for a one-year appointment unless there’s a *very* good external reason to do so.  (You’ll be closer to your sick mother.  Your meth dealer is relocating, and you want to follow.)  By the time you get unpacked, it’ll be time to get job applications out, and you’ll feel behind the whole year.  You probably won’t be all that much better off as an internal candidate, either.

Fair play demands that I acknowledge, yet again, that I had a full-time teaching gig–a Brittain Fellowship at Georgia Tech–between my Ph.D. and my current job.  At the time, I took it for these reasons:

  • It was right down the road from Emory, and so I didn’t have to move.
  • I wanted to preserve some flexibility about timing, since A was also finishing her degree, and about to start her own search
  • My dissertation director was no longer at Emory, so it seemed useful to be done.
  • The post-doctoral certificate in digital pedagogy seemed appealing.

And I can also say this: The job that I have is (obviously) a teaching-heavy job, with a 4/4 load.  The Brittain Fellowship was 3/3, but it was all comp, and the class sizes at Tech were bigger than they are at CCSU.  I’ve been told by a couple of different members of the committee that hired me that that experience was an important positive factor, because, as they put it, “well, we know the load won’t kill him.”  (But research was still important–I had a piece in one high-profile collection and an article in this journal when I went on the market.  If either of those had been a *Victorian* article, of course, they probably would’ve stood me in greater stead, since I was on the market as a Victorianist . . . )

As is always the case in these situations, though, your mileage may well vary.

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