In 1988, I was an almost college dropout. After being put on academic probation my freshman year, I decided to take a break and explore life as a gas station attendant for a couple of years. I did go back to college and worked my way into a BA honors program at the University of Alberta. I became hooked on learning about the more obscure eastern Mediterranean languages like Moabite and Phoenician and would geek out on paleo-Hebrew inscriptions. I received my first TA assignment as a discussion facilitator for Eva Dargyay’s Women in World Religions course the following year. Now, with this teaching experience I knew I wanted to get my Ph.D. and become a professor. Nine languages later, with good advising, persistence and luck, I graduated with a doctorate comparing inscriptions and texts of local temples from Babylon to Egypt, from Asia Minor to Arabia over two centuries of Persian occupation. The thing is, I was not the fastest doctoral student on the block. Along the way I needed to find ways to support myself. I was fortunate to land jobs within the university that both paid my rent and proved useful for years to come.
I found placements in different administrative support positions, first working in a freshman composition program and later joining a faculty professional development center. Neither were directly related to my discipline or my goal to be a professor of the ancient Mediterranean world. Still, these positions ‘future proofed’ my Ph.D. In 2003 I graduated from a highly ranked Ph.D. program and took on a tenure track position at a research-intensive state university. Being an assistant professor was a good experience; my colleagues were great, I felt like I was contributing to my university and to the discipline. After a few years, I realized my passion was elsewhere in the academy and that was one scary realization. Still, I knew I needed to make a shift and started to look for the job that would suit me best. I am convinced that because I could leverage the skills I gained as a graduate student and faculty member, I was able to leave the professoriate and move into an administrative position at another research intensive university. It was here in this new role that I really began to thrive and I’ve not looked back.
So, that all being said, this is what I hope to do here in Alt Academix. I want to contribute to a dialog that helps graduate students, graduate advisors, people seeking to leave the professoriate, and people in a “two-body” situation. To help people realize how a doctoral program prepares one for wider variety of positions within the academy other than full-time research and teaching positions. It is not a zero-sum game where one finds a tenure-track job or finds work elsewhere. For all of its quirks, I love the academy and I am glad that I am able to live a life of the mind (whatever that might mean), work with smart, dedicated, amazing people over the past twenty some years. At the same time, I want to help graduate students take ownership of their careers as early as possible so that they can aim for the ever-tightening tenure track job market, but be prepared for the vast array of opportunities within universities and colleges where smart, dedicated, amazing people are still needed.