I received my PhD in Comparative Literature in December, 2005 and have since worked as an adjunct at a small private liberal arts college… until last week. The few years following the defense were a blur of teaching new courses, sending out applications, continuing to conference and work on articles, and trying in vain to make myself full-time attractive to said college. I made it to finalist for one position, took over courses for colleagues in emergency situations, and got a one-year full-time visiting prof gig along the way.
It seems like, each time I’d had enough of the thankless world of adjunct penury, some shimmering mirage of opportunity kept me heading down academia road. Then about a year ago, as I made plans to get several publications out and shine my old act to give it another go, I noticed more and more of my contract, even tenured, colleagues bemoaning the current assault of neoliberal corporate accountability jerks. The college where I taught (and I must say that past tense feels rather wonderful), was hiring more highly paid head-hunted administration types with “disruption” fetishes. The marketing department exploded. Glossy magazines and jargony VPs multiplied like tribbles. Meanwhile fewer and fewer full-time salary lines were approved. Road kill everywhere.
This sustained attack is of course happening throughout academia and the humanities are bearing its brunt of academic de-professionalization. That full-time job I once coveted looked less and less like a career I wanted to pursue. Add to that increasingly hostile, entitled, and ill-prepared students who think of themselves as customers to be waited on. I decided I had to get out.
What to do, what to do…. I’d been contemplating a break for years but could never really land on something that I thought I might love, or least not hate, to do. I’d seen some of my colleagues get into freelance writing but it just seemed too depressingly similar to the situation I was already in. I wanted to make a bigger break, take on a more meaningful challenge. And then one day it suddenly occurred to me just like that proverbial light switch click.
What was it that I been reading more of lately? What was it that my fiancée and I spent even more time talking about than my annoying students and condescending colleagues? What conversations and ideas really animated me? Well those articles and conversations centered around his job more than mine. I had developed, almost unconsciously, a genuine interest in planning. After further reading around and bouncing ideas of trusted friends, I decided back to school to pursue an MS in Community and Regional Planning at UT Austin’s School of Architecture.
This blog will tell the story of my journey from English Professor to Planner. But, as much as it will serve as a way to record my professional path, it will also be a place to engage with and think critically about the material I’m reading and learning both in school and extracurricularly. It’ll be part my story and part general-interest planning. I hope to offer a unique perspective on this transition and my new career.