Saturday, August 25, 2012

Adjunct-track professor

  I’m joining the army of adjuncts.
  But I’m doing it in a partial way. Instead of designing my own courses, I’m teaching labs for an established course with established lab modules. So in effect, I’m an adjunct TA, as I’ll be doing something very similar to my graduate school TA experience. I’m not complaining, because this is going to involve significantly less stress, but I do wonder how much it will help the ol’ C.V. In any case, it will definitely help the ol’ pocketbook.

  A couple days ago I attended the orientation for the small college where I’ll be teaching. It was for all new faculty, adjunct plus first-year tenure track professors. I was a bit surprised that this college was hiring adjuncts, as its feel and philosophy is similar to my undergraduate experience at a small liberal arts college, but then I realized that our adjuncts went by the friendly term ‘visiting professors’. I enjoyed talking with the new faculty – most of us were young, a good portion were ABD, but some were older folks who used it as an income supplement. Most were in the Communications department, which the assistant dean of the faculty told me was the fastest-growing major on campus. I asked him about the proportion of adjunct professors versus tenure-track; more adjuncts are definitely getting hired, but the college is also attempting to increase its enrollment. We heard one example of an adjunct ultimately hired as an assistant professor, and I wonder if any of those Communications adjuncts will be tapped for full-time positions. One non-communications hire told me that this was one of four institutions she’d be adjuncting at this semester alone. Although that sounds extreme, I doubt it’s that unusual, especially in a major metropolitan area. She offered to fill me in on how other area schools treat their adjuncts, given her wide experience. One difference I suspect exists between this small college and a community college or university adjunct position is the amount of teaching support they offer. We were told that we were not teaching alone, and everyone emphasized a positive, supporting community at the college. As an adjunct, I can request a senior faculty member mentor, an independent assessment of teaching, and participate in a teaching support group of my peers. In fact, there are more opportunities than I’ll probably be able to take advantage with my limited schedule (I’ll continue with my post-doc as well). All of this makes me more comfortable as a temporary staff member.
  In the meantime – have you had any experience an adjunct? Is it a necessary C.V. line at this point, even if you’re not interested in teaching?

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