Not All English Majors Like Marketing

Out of the Frying Pan

The second interview from the “How I Got Out” series about adjuncts who escape bad situations was published last week at Vitae. This piece is about Kate Weber, a professor in her last term as an adjunct at Monterey Peninsula College in California.

It’s her last term as an adjunct because Kate will be starting a full-time, contracted, lecturer position in the fall at California State University’s Stanislaus campus. Moving on up!

Kate’s story is a little bit different from Alyson Indrunas’s, whom I interviewed for the first “How I Got Out” piece. Alyson had a more definite plan and stuck with it, but Kate’s story involves a windier road to success.

After being forced into a crushing teaching load by the need to become self-sufficient due to a divorce in 2011, Kate did some soul-searching and tried her hand at one of those marketing jobs that English majors are all supposed to be good at.

The marketing route ended up being a dead end for Kate, so she decided to go back to teaching. As she puts it, “escaping being an adjunct isn’t always a step up.”

But Kate made a smart move as she re-entered the academic job market. She took an online course in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). This class opened new doors for her and, when the job opened at CSU-Stanislaus, her TESOL training made her the best candidate for the position.

Kate offers some interesting observations on her foray into marketing and she also has advice for other adjuncts in her position who are looking to “get out.”

Read the full story at:

How I Got Out: Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Fire.

New Series About Adjuncts Who Change Careers

How to get out

I’ve just launched a new series at Vitae called “How I Got Out” in which I tell the stories of former adjuncts who have reinvented themselves and escaped their bad situations.

Whether they’ve returned to school, switched careers, or picked up some kind of new certification, all the adjuncts I’ve interviewed for this series have made changes that allowed them to leave behind adjunct hell.

I’ve been particularly interested in this topic lately because I’m in the process of doing the very same thing myself. This past semester was my last as an adjunct (I hope). So I’ve been trying to learn all I can about how other adjuncts have succeeded in escaping. And I’m passing along everything I learn to my readers, many of whom are also adjuncts contemplating a career change.

Earlier this week, I published Brian Flota’s alt-ac narrative about how he switched gears after his tenure-track job search stalled. Flota also saw that things weren’t working for him and decided to make a change.

For the first piece of the “How I Got Out” series, I talked to a former adjunct from the Seattle area who is now the e-Learning Director at the school where she used to teach part-time.

Alyson Indrunas did her research, went back to grad school for a second master’s degree, and hit the job market from a new angle. Her hard work paid off, and her life looks much different now than it did a couple of years ago.

Read more about Alyson’s story and how she made the change:

How I Got Out: One Adjunct’s Journey From Freeway Flyer to e-Learning Director 

Congressman George Miller Challenges University Presidents on Adjuncts

Congressman George Miller

Last year, Congressman George Miller of California took up the cause of adjunct labor. Miller, who is the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education in the Workforce, opened a public forum last year where adjuncts and other contingent faculty members could share stories about their working conditions.

The open forum generated hundreds of responses from adjuncts across the country. Miller said he was reading each one. According to an interview conducted by Vitae‘s Sydni Dunn, Miller was hoping to “have the opportunity to have a full-committee hearing in the education and workforce committee” regarding the findings of the forum.

I admit to being a little skeptical of Congressman Miller’s interest in this topic. For all I knew, he saw an opportunity to reach thousands of new constituents in one swipe. Maybe that was the case, but Miller has proven more than once that he hasn’t forgotten about the pledge he made to adjuncts.

For starters, he publicly discussed the 800+ responses he received to his open call, and he co-authored a report on the findings. This report was known as the “Just-in-Time Professor: A Staff Report Summarizing eForum Responses on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education,” and it’s a 36-page exploration of the adjunct responses to the public forum complete with charts and graphs.

And then today, over at The Chronicle of Higher Education, Rep. Miller published an open letter to college presidents wherein he discusses some of what he has learned about the working conditions of adjuncts and also student athletes. In the letter, entitled “Presidents, Do Right By Athletes and Adjuncts,” Miller calls out college presidents for their treatment of these two exploited groups on college campuses.

The Congressman challenges the rhetoric of university administrations, who often discourage union activity and promise compromise, but then turn right around and maintain the status quo.

He writes:

You can’t have it both ways; you can’t insist that you are unable to make things better for athletes or adjuncts, and simultaneously insist that they should not try to make things better on their own, through collective bargaining.

You own these working conditions. You can keep defending the status quo and trying to excuse shabby workplace practices, but I respectfully suggest you change them instead.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. As for whether this advice will be heeded, well, we shall see. At least the cause is continuing to receive attention—and it’s going further up the ladder than ever before.

Why Are Adjuncts Joining Unions?

Join the Union

In a new post at Vitae, I argue that adjuncts and other university professors have something in common with pilots at JetBlue airlines who have recently voted to unionize after two previous failed attempts to do so.

The question I attempt to answer in the piece is why have these pilots just now decided to organize, when just a couple years ago they were adamantly anti-union? I believe the answer to this question will shed light on why adjunct professors have also just recently begun to unionize in large numbers.

Both groups traditionally believed that a union was unnecessary. As I point out in the article, both groups have also been regularly fed a diet of propaganda by management that attempts to convince labor they’re better off without the help of a union.

As the past year has proven, that argument has worn thin. Adjuncts, like the JetBlue pilots, have begun to stand up for themselves and call out management for its unfulfilled promises.

Read more: We’re All Labor Now.

New Adjunct Discussion Group on Vitae

Adjunct Life Group

Over at Vitae, we’ve been creating discussion groups based on some of the primary categories of people using the site. Our most recent group is called Adjunct Life and it’s designed to be a place where adjuncts can share stories and advice with each other.

LinkedIn has a couple of pretty active adjunct groups that focus a little more on career advice and discussions, so I’m thinking there’s clearly a demand for this kind of online gathering place for adjuncts.

The problem I’ve had with LinkedIn, as Jonathon Rees has also pointed out, is that the site isn’t exactly an ideal networking platform for academics. I’ve been a member for awhile now–more out of social obligation than anything else–and I still haven’t really done anything worthwhile on the site.

I’m hoping Vitae can pick up where LinkedIn has fallen short for us. Vitae is specifically set up for academics and allows us to display elements of our professional lives that LinkedIn leaves out.

Anyway, that’s why I created the adjunct group at Vitae. We’ll see if anyone decides to use it. I know I will, and I hope other adjuncts will join me.

I’ve got a thread going over there now about how I’m coping with my “adjunct recovery” now that I’m officially post-ac. If you get a hankerin’, you should join the group and the discussion.