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

Monday, October 15, 2012

From Somewhere in Essex County, MA

I've never been on a workplace "retreat" before -- or any kind for that matter. New concept. But Expanding Habitats, being a new program and all and having more than a few internal and external tensions, the powers that be decided it was worth the effort and expense to get everybody together outside of civilization for a few days. I think the general idea is to brainstorm and bond.

So, here we are. It's raining lightly, and the air coming through my open window smells like pine and fall leaves and the bonfire we just put out.

I actually got into Boston yesterday -- spent the night in Cambridge, somewhere between MIT and Harvard. And then everyone met up for lunch today and drove out here to Essex.

We spent the afternoon talking in-house work stuff -- how to get Expanding Habitats to play better with the other programs at the Petting Zoo. And then we had dinner and drank a bunch of wine and strategized about how we're going to approach the absolutely immense task we've set for ourselves of getting the public and policymakers to take science more seriously.

The problem isn't more or better information communicated in more or better ways. That's been the communications failure of the past. The challenge is engaging the public on its learning curve more effectively, getting them to discuss and consider the choices --  a specific set of them -- for action with their consequences and implications clearly set forth.

That's Dan Yankelovich, liberally borrowed from. Go read him if this problem interests you.

Tomorrow morning, some of us are getting up early to meet up with the Big Dolphin, who will be taking hir dogs for a walk out by the water. The Big Dolphin knows a lot about the water and the creatures that inhabit it -- and the ecosystem it's part of and the people who live within it and influence it. Ze has promised to tell us more about these things as the sun rises and the dogs do what dogs do.

Then we will return and eat breakfast and reconvene our discussions of strategy ... and maybe we'll all have a better idea what we're doing for the next 6 months to a year when it's done.

I guess this is how retreats go.

I fly back to DC tomorrow evening - just as the debate is getting underway.


  1. Sounds like a pretty decent company function, all around. I head to Denver for a work training/bonding tomorrow-Saturday. Our days are 7:00-7:00 in seminars, followed by evenings of drinking, drinking, and more drinking. And this time, I think, bowling. I am looking forward to Sunday already.

  2. Yeah, retreats have their unpleasantness. I should add that re your current post and comment at Mama Nervosa on some of us seeming to have our shit together -- well, one mistake I made when first starting this blog was telling certain people about it. That is, it's not totally anonymous. People read this blog who sometimes appear as characters in the posts, and, well, let's just say that there are things I've felt constrained in writing about, particularly in those early days at Think Tank.

    Also, in my current position at the Petting Zoo, there are some contingencies I'm not writing about, largely because I don't want to deal with them right now, but they are going to need to be confronted at some point. First and foremost is that there's a very real chance my current position, due to circumstances I don't want to write about and largely can't do anything about, may end in the next two years. Dammit, yes, it's good for now but I don't want to have to go through this whole ordeal again so soon.! I want stability as much as I want exciting and interesting and it just seems my fate not to be able to have both.

    So, in other words, don't feel bad about where you are right now. You're only a few months into you post-ac journey. You still have a long way to go -- as do all of us. I'm approaching my two-year post-ac anniversary, and it feels like an eternity so much has happened! And yet there's still a long way to go before I feel totally comfortable out here. I don't have any regrets anymore about leaving and don't harbor any delusions -- as I did even just a year ago -- about remaining marginally connected to academe as an independent scholar or whatever, but I'm far behind other people my age as far as building a nonacademic career. An that's a source of a lot of bitterness and resentment that, really, I just have to push aside in the interest of continuing to move forward.

    1. Thanks, recent PhD. I am comforted to know that people aren't reading my blog and thinking "gee, what a fucking loser." :)

      I didn't really put two-and-two together to realize you were nearly two years out of academe. Congrats!

      I am experiencing the bitterness and resentment you mention too, so I am glad to hear it's all normal and part of the transition.

  3. Yep, my last semester of teaching was fall 2010. Defended in spring 2010, went on the market for the second time in fall 2010 while teaching 3 classes and realized finally what a joke it was. Everyone had said it would be "different" with PhD in hand, but that was a load of crap.

    When I didn't get any MLA interviews, I started getting panicky because I really hadn't thought through what I was going to do next. Scheduler of Adjuncts had promised me at least 3 classes for spring 2011, but by the end of November, I still couldn't get hir to give me anything in writing (not that it matters when you're an adjunct ... but still). So I started applying sort of willy nilly to all sorts of nonacademic jobs throughout December, without a plan, without any sort of goal -- just the desperation that was coming with the uncertainty of my adjunct status. I had a couple of interviews right before Christmas, just as I was wrapping up the semester, but nothing came of them.

    Then, the first week in January 2011, I hear from Scheduler of Adjuncts who tells me that, due to enrollments, I can only have 2 classes, not 3, and both of those are totally new preps, way outside my area of specialization. I freaked out, knowing just how much work would have to go into those classes in so little time for so little money! I decided I HAD to find something else before the semester started at the end of the month.

    And so, I answered an ad on Craigslist for a "Think Tank Secretary" (literally, that was the job title posted) and the rest is history. They offered me double what my annual salary would be if I were adjuncting 3/3 (but, in the grand scheme of things, it was still a pretty pathetic salary, which tells you something about how ashamed academe should be of the way it treats adjuncts), and I told Scheduler of Adjucts ze could go fuck hirself a week before classes started. Ze found another desperate adjunct to take those classes within days.

    I started the blog in January 2011 right when all of this was happening (you can read about it if you go back to some of the early posts), but I think the story of my leaving has come out somewhat in bits and pieces. Maybe I should do a post that chronicles how that all went down, now that I have some perspective ...