Are you considering a position at an elite SLAC? They're the worst of both worlds. You're expected to do research worthy of an R1 with comparatively limited resources, you don't have TAs to help with grading or with sections, and student evaluations matter hugely. And you need to teach your ass off. Unless you want to spend the next 7 years stretched so thin you're transparent, RUN! from an offer from an elite SLAC. I should have taken a postdoc instead…
Date: 15 Dec 2014 15:10
Number of posts: 45
RSS: New posts
I'll take your job if you want. We can switch. I'm at a regional SLAC. The load is 3:3 and the research expectations are there, but minimal. Just get ready for even fewer resources and a punishing salary. Also the class sizes are probably bigger than yours and still no TAs. There's no pre-tenure sabbatical, and you're expected to teach an arsenal of 5-10 courses, so there are years of new preps to do. Also, in terms of research, our students aren't as strong as yours, so you're on your own for certain aspects of the research process.
Personally I love teaching and I love doing research with students, and I wish I had more time (fewer classes) to do it. I've been told that I am doing much more research than needed, so I do think that I'd belong better at a more elite SLAC.
I'm very SLAC-biased, but I think that an elite SLAC is the BEST of all worlds. You have flexibility of research topic/program much more so than an R1 and while grants are often encouraged they aren't required like at R1s. Your students are strong and undergraduates are a ton of fun to work with because they're creative and fresh. You get to actually do the research yourself rather than having graduate students and postdocs do all of it. There are no giant courses (so you also get to do the teaching yourself), and everyone around you cares about both teaching and research. I totally love my current job, but I'd kill for an upgrade to a more elite SLAC.
Maybe you're just trolling to try to get someone to turn down the elite SLAC offer you want? If so, good luck! ;-)
I'm not at an elite SLAC but am at a good SLAC. I have a load similar to what asstprof notes, though only have about 25 students in each course. Most of the students are strong, too, which makes teaching easier. I tend to not have many new preps now. As for research, I'm encouraged and supported to do my studies and usually have 1 or 2 students to assist me with data collection and data entry. Then, I can also go to conferences with no worries about funding - my SLAC covers the bill.
During my academic job search, I avoided R1 positions because I didn't want to have the publish/grant award anvil hovering over my head. I've seen faculty at my grad institution have productive careers and fail to get tenure. There's no way I'd want to face that. To me, a SLAC is the best of all worlds. You can do research you enjoy, but the pressure is far less intense than at an R1. Now, elite SLACs might be different, but I have no regrets with my career choice.
I think a friendly reminder that everyone prefers something a little bit different might be appropriate here. I'm in my third year of working at an elite SLAC, and I absolutely love it. The undergrads working on my research with me make it all the more enjoyable and, if we are talking about time trade-offs, there are no grad students to supervise at an elite SLAC, thus allowing more time for undergraduate research supervision and teaching in addition to whatever projects you have going on. I don't feel stretched super thin, and I love what what I'm doing in all respects.
Asstprof, how nice that your SLAC doesn't require grants. Mine does expect grants. I'm looking to switch to a good SLAC so that I can have a social/family life outside of work, because between students, committees (so many committees since there are fewer faculty overall), research, grants, etc., it's all-consuming. I expect that a good SLAC will still have a few great students every year, without the general chip on the shoulder that all of my students and colleagues seem to have—everybody seems to think that they belong at an Ivy. Ugh.
Angry SLAC, I'm more or less sensing the end of semester stress/craziness, and hopefully you'll feel better after the holidays. I think it's important to get your frustrations out in a safe place, but also to have colleagues at your institution who you can talk to about work-life balance and the immense pressure that your institution is putting on you. It's not unreasonable for a SLAC to expect R1 quality research, but it is unreasonable to expect it at an R1 pace, as we just don't have the grad student labor to crank out the papers, and we spend so much time in the classroom, in committee and in office hours that it just can't happen as fast.
I think good advice for people who are looking into liberal arts colleges is to ask about the balance between teaching and research, support for faculty to avoid resentment and burnout. I also think it's important to expel the myth that professors at liberal arts colleges have a smaller workload than those at R1's. In most cases it's a lot more work for a lot less pay. People should definitely know this before taking on such a position. However, I think despite Angry SLAC, most of us who teach at SLACs love our jobs, and love working with undergrads, and have little or no desire to work with grad students.
Another SLAC person here, and I love my job. Angry SLAC has raised some valid issues, but I think it's important for anyone reading this who is considering a career at a SLAC that these issues are not true of every SLAC position (for comparison, my position is a 2:3 load, high research expectations [though grants are not required for tenure], and pretty decent pay). I enjoy teaching my classes, and truly value the time I spend with my undergraduate students, particularly the students working in my lab. It is a lot of work, and sometimes that work can go uncompensated, but I and many of my peers find it rewarding. So, it's not a life/career for everyone, but I think it's the only path for some of us—you just need to decide where your priorities are and hopefully before you accept a position.
Here is one caveat I will add, because I haven't seen it come up much on the forum: if you are considering a career at a SLAC, pay very careful attention to the personalities and intergroup dynamics of the faculty in the department. You will likely be working very closely with 8-12 people for a long time, and it's very easy in a small department for personal issues to develop and it can have a significant effect on your happiness/success in your position—I think moreso than in an R1 type position. So that's just something to keep an eye out for.
I'm at a SLAC, and I love my job. I recently moved from a regional public SLAC to a private well-endowed SLAC, and it's great. Yes, there are research and teaching expectations. No, they are not unreasonable. Classes are small, students are bright and motivated, and my colleagues are amazing. We're well paid (at least in the sciences…I don't know that it's true for all areas), and the work load is really whatever you make of it.
We're running a search right now, so definitely don't shy away from those SLAC postings….Unless you don't like students or teaching or helping manage a small department. Then you should stick to something else.
It is entirely possible to be at an elite SLAC and love your job. I am, and I do. In the current climate, my sense is that very few elite SLACs expect substantial federal grant funding, but they do hire people who are invested enough in their research to seek it out. (I would guess about 1/3 of my colleagues in the sciences have received NIH, NSF, HHMI, or DOD, funding, and most of us have received funding from smaller external places.)
I get to teach bright, highly motivated students and work with colleagues who care deeply about pedagogy and students' experiences. Because we are small, I've had a chance to make the kind of differences in structure and curriculum (yes, I've carried a heavy service load) that would have taken me 20 years at larger place. My research is funded by NSF grants for primarily undergraduate institutions - the pace is slow but I'd like to think the quality is high, and I adore working with undergrads on research.