From Student to Scholar

I know there are more pressing matters in the world today, but I want to spread the word about a little book I just read, having picked it up from the Columbia University Press table at the SPEP meeting last week.  (That’s the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy — doesn’t exactly slip off the tongue like “SPEP”.)  The book is From Student to Scholar: A Candid Guide to Becoming a Professor.  I think it’s safe to say that I’ve already traversed this path, but I still tend to wonder whether I missed anything along the road.  Having finished the book, I can say “no,” nothing new here.  But that is only because I had a lot of excellent advice along the way, and I was outgoing enough to network a lot, and had enough hubris to try to publish with great publishing houses (like Columbia).  I think a lot of others never learned these lessons, or learned them too late, and many graduate students are just beginning on the road.  For all those just beginning or still at the early stages prior to tenure, I highly recommend Cahn’s book. For those who mentor graduate students and junior faculty, I recommend that they read this as well.

It’s a pleasant, short read at under 100 pages. The ten chapters are these:

1. Graduate School

2. The Dissertation

3. Networking

4. The First Interview

5. Dramatis Personae

6. The Second Interview

7. Tenure

8. Teaching

9. Service

10. Research

and then a finale and an epilogue.

It’s a good read, chalk full of sage advice on how to navigate the journey successfully from someone who made it all the way to being provost at CUNY.

This blog of mine gets lots of hits from people curious about the rankings of philosophy departments. If you are a student worried about your future, hell bent on picking the right graduate school that will ease your path, I suggest that you worry less about the rankings, focus more on finding the place that will prepare you to do what you love, look for faculty members whose work you admire, and buy and consult regularly Steven Cahn’s fabulous little book.

Perplexing Percentages: Women, Philosophy Faculties, and the Rankings

Last summer Julie Van Camp put up a list of the percentage of women tenured/tenure-track faculty in 98 U.S. doctoral programs. The range is from 50 percent at Penn State and the University of Georgia (brava!) down to six percent at the University of Florida and the University of Texas, five percent at the University of Michigan, and zero percent at the University of Dallas. Dallas has only eight people on the faculty so maybe it is just going through a bad spell. But Florida, Michigan, and Texas have no such excuse. Only one out of 17 faculty at Florida are women, only one out of 22 at Michigan, and an appalling two out of 32 at Texas. Shame, shame, shame. On top of it all, the 90 percent-male evaluators of the Leiter report ranked Michigan 3d and Texas 13th among Ph.D. granting universities, while the five universities with the most women on their faculty don’t even make the list. Surprised?

[Correction: I’ve learned that Julie Van Camp first started tracking the percentage of tenured/tenure track women in Ph.D. granting philosophy programs beginning in 2004 and updates the list a couple of times a year.]