General Q about transitioning. My interest is in research at an r1. Say I take a job at a masters or UG level institution because opportunity knocked. In the future am I stuck at this type of school or could I realistically move up to an R1? I understand that publishing/grant activities will matter but assume my research activity stays productive. Have people had experience with this?
Date: 08 Nov 2014 21:08
Number of posts: 12
RSS: New posts
It puts you on a different career trajectory. You can switch out but it will vastly increase the effort required. Post-doc, med school, research faculty seem to have an easier time.
It really depends on how much research you can knock-out.
During my job search I was undecided about whether I wanted a career at an R1 or a good SLAC. Opportunity did knock for me, and I took a very attractive offer at a SLAC. I used to think I could always move up to an R1 if I wanted, but with my teaching load and various commitments, it's just never going to happen. I can knock out only 1 or 2 publications per year realistically, and that's not likely to be enough for an R1. Now, if I pulled 50 or 60 hours of work per week, I probably could produce a ton more. But, I have no desire to move to high-stress R1 world now that I've experienced life at a SLAC.
If you plan to move to an R1, I'd be wary of taking a position with more than a 3/2 teaching load.
I don't think it is impossible- if you can keep up the productivity. I'm currently at a low level R2, and have kept the mindset of "work for the job I want, not the job I have" and think I'm pretty competitive for positions this year- especially because of my experience as a faculty member. It has been difficult, but even with a 2-2 I've managed a few pubs a year plus a foundation grant. I've had a number of phone interviews in the past week at least:)
I think a 2-2 at a low level R2 probably provides a much better chance of staying marketable than a SLAC position. My experience as a search committee member is that folks who are trying to move from a SLAC to an R1 often do not compare well at all to the new PhDs coming out. They often have very thoughtful research statements and it is clear these are smart people who are probably capable of success in an R1 environment. And they have many very very good reasons for their relative lack of research productivity. Nevertheless…
I don't mean to be offensive, I am a little surprised by annon's statement of "even with a 2-2" that suggests that 2-2 is pretty heavy teaching load. Learning from my past interviews, majority of the national universities have a 2-2 load or higher. We all know statistics well. Chance that we will get a job is extremely low in this market, let alone a teaching load lower than 2-2.
Answering InMotion's question, i think it is possible to move up, depending on where your starting point is. Also, it depends on how well you could separate yourself with the "once I am here, i just want tenure, and i am going to do nothing until the day i pass away in my office" kind of culture. I used to be in an institution like that where most people published just enough to get tenured. I was able to separate myself from this culture and kept publishing. Even with a 3-3 load (i am being egocentric here), i was able to publish 4 papers (mid-tier journal) per year. in my last round of job search, i received offers from two r2 places (doctoral granting department) that have reasonable teaching load (2-2 and possible lower) and located in attractive cities. . To be honest, i didn't get phone interviews from any R1 universities that is above mid-range institution (e.g., UW Madison, UT-Austin). bottom-line, it is possible, depending on many factors.
I'll agree with the most recent anon. A 2-2 load is quite light in the grand scheme of things, even if they are two "real" courses (no lab meetings, no lab courses, no double sections.) But especially if the 2-2 can be morphed into a 2-1 by having some courses count double, or by having things like journal club or lab meeting count as a course. So yes, from a 2-2 R2 or elite SLAC you can trade up to a 2-1 or 1-1 R1 if you are very productive. And you ought to be able to be very productive under those circumstances.
If you have a 3-2 you can trade up as well, but it might be hard to get into the top R1 range (though lower R1 you can definitely crack into). If you have a 3-3 then you will be lucky to trade up to an elite SLAC or R2 and probably can't do better than that realistically…sadly, even if your research is better than some of the other candidates who had a 0-0 course load in a postdoc. At that point you'll probably have a prestige knock against you. But putting that aside, publications and grants are currency. So whatever you can do to get those, you should do. I think that it's easier to get them in postdocs and research scientist roles than it is at an institution with a 3-2 or higher, not just because of your workload (though that is a huge part of it), but because of the "institutional score" that gets slapped onto any grant you submit.
I think you have two options. 1) stay in research-intensive positions and work your tail off, going R1-or-bust, or 2) take a SLAC job that you might end up enjoying to the extreme, like DocJ.
Agreed withprof. It is possible to be productive with a 2-2 load. But that's not the question. The question is whether you can be as productive as the people with 0-0 loads against whom you are competing.
So I think the take-away is that you shouldn't apply for a job that you don't think you'd want to have in the long term. Or, well, apply, but don't take it unless they surprise you. You can take a job that isn't your first choice of course, but it needs to be good enough that you could imagine being there forever happily, because you might not be able to move.
I wanted to mention that at some SLACs the numbers characterizing the teaching load (e.g., even a 2-2) are not comparable to other institutions. A 2-2 load at an R1 or R2 is simply not the same in terms of the level of effort that is expected for those courses. Students come to a SLAC (often) as paying customers and they are there specifically because of the great, attentive, brilliant and sometimes seemingly tireless instructors they will find there. I went to a SLAC as an undergraduate and I was shocked to hear that the teaching load was typically 2-2 and the courses were small (no more than 20 students). That might sound like a breeze. But these folks worked hard. The sheer amount of time spent with students in and out of the classroom, their availability, their compassion, and their dedication was just obvious. And awe-inspiring. And kind of scary to me now as a person at an R1 who teaches 1 course a year. (Also, the teaching load is not the only impediment to research: The lack of a subject pool, the lack of lab space and resources, etc…).
One tip for someone who is wanting to keep the R1 or R2 door open while working at a SLAC: There is the possibility of maintaining collaborations with colleagues at larger schools with the resources to carry out research. I have seen folks in some areas who have maintained really impressive scholarship while working at a SLAC. Also, there are some funding opportunities (I think NIH still has its R15 mechanism?; NSF definitely has a program targeting folks at primarily undergraduate institutions) that are targeted for undergraduates research involvement.