"In many disciplines, for the majority of graduates, the Ph.D. indicates the logical conclusion of an academic career." Marc Bousquet

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Another Postacademic Blog

While the author of Songwriters on Process does not expressly identify himself as a postacademic, he is, in fact, just that. Here's someone with a Ph.D. in English, someone who actually had a tenure-track job which he left several years ago, someone who currently has a nonacademic job he likes that lets him use skills he developed as an academic, and a blog where he writes about the art of writing. What more could a former English prof, who gave up academe to live in a vibrant city and make a decent income, ask for?

So, go on over there and check out the blog. The substance of the blog posts may not be of special interest to postacademics who aren't into music or songwriting, but, given the memes of encouragement and looking ahead that have been going around lately, it might be valuable to take a peek into the life of someone who's a few years ahead of us in this postacademic adventure. Here's someone who left academe gladly and willingly. Even though he was "one of the lucky ones" like Amanda Kraus with a tenure-track job, he saw through the bullshit and got the hell out. Here's someone who is now a happy and successful postacademic. In a few years -- hopefully sooner! (and some of us already!!) -- we will be, too.


  1. Hi,

    Thanks for the post. I'm Ben Opipari, the author of the Songwriters on Process blog mentioned here. I'd like to point out that my reasons for leaving academe are not quite as expressed above. I enjoyed my time at Colgate, so it's not really accurate to say I "saw through the bullshit and got the hell out." Granted, one of my reasons was purely financial: I also have an Master of Arts in Teaching, and I could have made more money had I stayed a public school teacher instead getting a PhD and starting on the college level.

    But our main reason for leaving academe was that we missed DC, where my wife and I are both from. We wanted to be back home around family and friends as we raised our children. And despite the romanticism attached to it, we hated hated hated small town life (Hamilton, where Colgate is located, has a population of 2000). Finally, the winters there are soul-crushing, with nonstop snow and brutal cold. That climate absolutely affected our psyche. These three factors led us, after four years, to realize that we had no sane future there. To be sure, it's a beautiful school and a beautiful part of the country. It just wasn't for us.

    Our experience at Colgate the institution was a good one. We left because we valued the above three quality of life factors more than anything else, even more than a career in higher education, and not because we (my wife worked in student life at Colgate) didn't like the institution. Moving back to DC was of paramount importance to us, and the decision was easy: we both preferred leaving academia and living in DC to staying in academia and living somewhere else.

    If you have access to the Chronicle of Higher Ed site, I wrote an article in 2008 detailing my decision to leave higher ed. It's called "From Global Lit(erature) to Global Lit(igation)" Here's the link: http://bit.ly/vhIQyZ

    Ben Opipari

  2. Thanks for stopping by, Ben! I found your blog some time ago from the link on the blog of a mutual acquaintance and have been enjoying your interviews with songwriters for a while now.

    Sorry for misrepresenting your reasons for leaving. The issue of location often does come up as a "bullshit" factor on the postacademic blogs that have started up within the last year or so (some linked to on the right). My language reflects how I've come to see it, though I understand why you might have a different perspective.

    For me, the prospect of having to leave the major metropolitan area where I live and which I like for a "real" job as a professor somewhere remote and undesirable, somewhere my partner (not an academic) would likely be unemployed, is inseparable from the problem of adjunct exploitation. In this city and its surroundings, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people with and without PhDs teaching in my field alone on semester-by-ssemester, course-by-coursse contracts for salaries that are unsustainable for the long-term. Like me, many end up leaving out of necessity, only to be replaced by the next crop of bright-eyed, bushy-tailed graduate students who think they have a future in this profession. It's a longstanding systemic failure that's gotten worse since the 2008 recession and been a particular source of anger and frustration for those of us who've gone on the market for the first time in the last year or two.

    The old advice graduate students used to get that you would land a "real" job if you were willing to go "anywhere and everywhere" is holding up less and less well with each passing year. Believing it keeps a lot of people on the adjunct track year after year, which, in turn, keeps their salaries artificially low and working conditions unreasonably terrible. That's why this was my third and final year on the market. At this point, I've become so jaded that even if I were offered a tenure-track job someplace desirable, I'm not sure I would take it.

    As you can see from the blog, I've been working at reinventing myself for almost a year, but it's only been within the last month or two that I've become fully convinced I've left academe for good. I admire how you successfully transitioned out and would love to hear more about how you initially got started at your law firm job. If you wouldn't mind, I may drop you an email sometime with a few questions.

  3. Sure, by all means email me.