Different Flavors of Academia

Graduate students may be undecided about going into academia after graduation or they might be outright adamant about not wanting an academic job. But not all academic positions are created equal, and they might be narrowing their job search too early by ruling out academia. Job responsibilities vary widely between institutions of higher education and usually fall on a gradient between research- and teaching-intensive. Research 1 institutions, like UConn, have high research expectations and faculty are responsible for maintaining an externally funded research program. However, Research 1 institutions make up less than 13% of the institutions classified by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education.

Teaching-intensive institutions make up a larger percentage of this classification system. These institutions may have limited to no expectations for research. Instead, acquiring these jobs and subsequent job advancement is dependent on faculty members demonstrating strong teaching abilities. The most teaching-intensive jobs are found at community colleges, regional comprehensive universities, and liberal arts colleges, but schools can have varying degrees of emphasis between research and teaching. Most institutions still encourage their faculty member to maintain research involvement, but tenure and job advancement may or may not be dependent on these activities.

I attended the 2017 Teaching at Teaching Intensive Institutions Conference to learn more about teaching intensive academic jobs. More workshop than conference, the free, all-day event provided me multiple opportunities to engage with faculty and administrators from these types of institutions. There were a series of talks, panel presentations, and networking opportunities, including a plenary panel that was asked to reflect on why they found their jobs rewarding. Their responses were strikingly positive and refreshing, particularly given the discouraging and bleak view of academia that I have heard from faculty at larger institutions. Throughout the day, I was able to ask faculty from New England teaching intensive institutions what their work was like and what they looked for when they hired new faculty members. This year’s event was hosted by Westfield State University in Massachusetts and the agenda can be found at: https://www.umass.edu/gradschool/sites/default/files/OPD_TTII_Agenda_2017.pdf.

For students actively seeking academic jobs, understanding your preferences along the research-teaching gradient will help you find academic jobs with the best fit. For others, knowing that there are alternative flavors to academic jobs may open career opportunities they have been overlooking!

About the guest author: Mauri Liberati is a fourth-year PhD Candidate in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Connecticut. Her dream job is an academic position that allows her to pursue her love of teaching and her research interests in wildlife ecology, landscape ecology, and conservation planning. For more about Mauri, which out her website mauriliberati.weebly.com or follow her on Twitter @MRLiberati.

By Kay Gruder
Kay Gruder Assistant Director of Graduate Student Career Programs and Services Kay Gruder