I have noticed a lot of VAP positions getting posted at highly selective liberal arts colleges. These positions tend to have very manageable teaching loads and seem preferable to VAP positions at research universities. What do search committees want to see emphasized in these applications? What applicant profile is most likely to get offered one of these jobs?
Date: 12 Feb 2016 20:57
Number of posts: 4
RSS: New posts
I can't speak for search committees, but during my first academic job search I had offers from some of these - one was tempting with a 2/1 load and lab access (pay was pretty paltry, though). In my case, I had a balance between teaching and research. I just looked at my old letters and had a 50/50 blend of teaching and research emphasis, with some emphasis on mentoring undergrads in research. Being at a good (but not "highly selective") SLAC now, I'd imagine a candidate's fit will be of most importance. The committee may want to know 1) can you teach the courses they need, 2) will your research allow you to quickly engage undergrads (esp. with a 1-year position), and 3) do you fit with the department?
I did two of these, one for two years, one for one year, both elite places. And then I landed my current t-t position (in addition to being competitive for other t-t SLACs). The teaching experience I got in these positions was invaluable to landing my current job. I was able to publish, as well. I learned how SLACs operate. There was no service required, and any small amount I did was appreciated like crazy. I got a great letter of rec out of my first position (although that's not too feasible in a one-year gig). And, honestly, it was a cushy existence.
I've recommended these positions over postdocs to anyone who wants to be at a more teaching-focused school. The biggest pain is not being able to set down roots and having to cancel class for job interviews, but that's not much different than a postdoc.
Appealing things about me, I think, were:
- some prior teaching experience, particularly an ability to teach the necessary classes but also to offer something new
- being willing and able to mentor senior thesis projects (as most/all of these students have to do a thesis and supervising them is a lot of work)
- research that could easily translate to that environment
- something exciting and novel to students. If you give a job talk, it's important that the students are psyched up by you. They are cherished in these schools.
Former VAP's last comment about how liberal arts colleges value undergrads is really essential. At my current SLAC, we actually get feedback about our faculty candidates from students and consider that in the hiring process.