Decisions, Decisions

It’s about that time of the semester: in Senior Seminar, we’re talking about the fact we’re about to graduate, grad school, and PhDs. We also discussed the joys of being an adjunct and making no money, and we asked our professor questions about what we can expect in terms of looking for a job, what it’s like to be faculty, etc.

One of my big questions is the to PhD or not to PhD question. I have one friend/mentor/colleague telling me that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be, that jobs are scarce, and so forth. However, I ran into a former professor last week, Dr. Aldridge, who was one of my instructors 20 years ago at my first (and less than stellar) attempt at college. I have found that I respect his opinion quite a bit because he and I had a long talk last November about where I was 20 years ago versus where I am now. He didn’t remember me from before — not surprising, because I was almost never in class and pretty unremarkable and unmotivated. Instead of finding me a disappointment before, he seems absolutely pleased that I’ve come back, turned things around, and found what I love.

Though I haven’t been in any of Dr. Aldridge’s classes since then, it’s kind of become important to me to make him proud of me. I told him about recently accepting a GAship in the English department, and I found out that he and I have that in common — he was a literature major as well as a media studies major. He got his Masters in literature, then a PhD in media studies — a very similar path to the one I’ve been contemplating. I told Dr. Aldridge this, as well as what my colleague said about not being able to get a job even though he had a PhD.

What Dr. Aldridge said sounded so simple and right at the time: “But you can’t get a job without one.” It made so much sense…

…until I came to class and all the scary adjunct talk started. I mean, I don’t suffer from any delusions that I don’t need to pay my dues and start at the bottom or anything. I’m prepared for that. What I’m afraid of is being stuck there. I’m in my early 40s. It’s not like I have a lot of time.

The discussion is set to continue today, so expect another post on this very topic.



~ by Shanna Gilkeson on April 1, 2013.

One Response to “Decisions, Decisions”

  1. Thanks for this. I have found many conversations I’ve had about degrees, job prospects, and my age to be very depressing. I really love hearing you talk about your experiences in class, because I too am a returning student. You seem to have a very practical approach to things, as well as seeming to be the type of person who is a go-getter and gets things done. I think one of the advantages of being a returning student (I am one too after a similar first-time college experience) is that we are more focused, more practical, and we have a much more solid idea of what we want. We also have the advantage of being a bit more street-wise that others. We have been out in the “real world” we know how to navigate it, which makes navigating the world of academia less mystifying and confusing. I agree with you that the prospect of being a adjunct is depressing. How are we supposed to do research, write articles, teach multiple classes and multiple schools, and I also kind of want children. How the heck is that going to work. I don’t know either, but if we don’t try we’ll never know. Rock on to you and Live Long and Prosper!

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