Saturday, January 23, 2010

To Interviews... and Beyond

Early Monday I leave for my first on-campus interview. Others are being scheduled, so the next month might be busy. This is a great thing in the face of weak job market. Multiple interviews are rare when so many institutions have hiring freezes or would prefer adjunct to tenure-track hiring.

I've prepared the slide show, the career portfolio, and gathered other materials I might need. The clothes are planned, TSA-approved hygiene products purchased (small travel sizes), and all seems to be ready for the adventure.

As I head off this week, I do so with some comfort that I likely have an offer from another university. The challenge then becomes deciding which places "feel right" when I visit.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Job Market

I am on track to receive my Ph.D formally this April or May, depending on university paperwork processing. The dissertation is done, approved by my adviser, and only minor edits remain. The university bureaucracy is certainly navigable, though it is essential to have extra copies of every form on file.

Now, I am on the job market as a "Ph.D Pending" (dissertation submitted).

As I have previously stated, I am exiting most autism-related research after this academic year. I will continue to write and express my own views, but I have no interest in focusing the next 20 or more years of my life on autism. The debates, mistrust, and even hatred are too much for me to tolerate.

The universities with which I have interviewed are hiring writing, new media, and visual design professors. One post includes the potential of teaching a graphical novel seminar, while another is primarily theatre and "rhetoric of performance" in media studies.

In a tough, competitive job market, it is good to have interviews with universities willing to consider me for something beyond autism and cognitive development. I realize how difficult it can be to change specialties in academic settings. Thankfully, I have a history of creative writing and media experiences, outside universities.

I'm learning that what you do is as important as a degree. Work experience can be equal to a degree specialty. That's good news, at least for me.

In a few weeks, hopefully by the end of January, I'll have any in-person interviews scheduled. If I do land at a teaching post I'll be sure to explain where and what I will be doing in the future.

When I speak to students, teachers, and parents, I emphasize that we should not let any disability define us. We are shaped by our limits, but we do not have to embrace them as crutches or badges of honor. I do not want to be known as the "high-functioning" literacy expert. I want to be known as a writer and professor apart from my physical traits.

That's one reason to broaden my academic role beyond autism. It was starting to define me.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The End and The Beginning

I turned my dissertation draft in to my adviser shortly before Christmas. I am now waiting for suggestions, which will then allow me to finish the dissertation in January. If all goes according to plan, I will be done with my doctorate by April. The journey through graduate school will finally be over.

There were false starts in the past. Failed attempts at M.Ed programs, when I hoped to return to teaching high school. One failed attempt at a journalism degree, which simply proved to be bad timing for me physically. Now, though, I have completed my M.A. in English and my Ph.D work in Rhetoric. It was a long, long journey.

I count at least four attempts at a master's before I finally finished a program. Finishing was important because it finally meant I could teach full-time, at the community college level. My wife and my academic adviser were both equally responsible for my success. I needed her to keep me working through the rough times when I wanted to quit. I needed an adviser with faith in my abilities to do the work.

The four years I have spent at my current institution have not been pleasant. The institution was not the best place for me, but I learned how much I need someone like my wife. She kept me functioning, yet again, when I wasn't sure I could fight through the maze.

I consider myself a good scholar, a decent teacher, and intellectually qualified to be a professor. What I am not is emotionally suited to some of the ignorance and stupidity of the world. Such is life. At least I survived.

Gladly, I can focus on writing this year.