Undisciplined Research

The following research overview was part of a job talk that I gave in December 2010 for a tenure-track job in women’s studies. I was one of 4 (I think?) finalists for the position. In contrast to past job talks, in which I read a paper, I decided to use my own blog as a platform for my discussion. And I attempted to spell out my own undisciplined approach to being a scholar and an educator. I remember really enjoying meeting the faculty members; they were fun and seemed to like each other. The energy was much different than in my department. But, I also recall that the process was grueling and last-minute. They contacted me on Thanksgiving day for a campus visit starting the next Monday. 

Here’s the schedule for my visit.

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I’m sure other scholars have experienced more grueling schedules than this one, but I remember being so exhausted Tuesday night. I also remember that I stayed up pretty late polishing up my job talk. 

I don’t know if my job talk was a key reason why I didn’t get the job (they never let you know why you aren’t hired), but I’m sure it didn’t help. They couldn’t seem to understand the bigger purpose of my research or how it might fit with other faculty members’ work. And I wasn’t successful in explaining it to them. What big claims was I trying to make? What was the usefulness of it all? I’ve found that I have difficulty selling myself and my ideas. I think it’s partly because my ideas can be too unusual or undisciplined for others. As a result, they are unintelligible.  

This job came at an unusual time. Instead of starting in the fall of the next year, the person hired would begin in January, a month after the interview. I was tentatively scheduled to teach three classes that spring, including the big one that I was dreading (and the one that forced me to confront the limits of the academy). As I waited to hear back about the job, over the first three weeks of December, I wasn’t sure whether or not to prep for my scheduled classes at the U that I might not be teaching or the classes at the new institution that I might. I felt uncomfortable talking to students or my teaching assistant about the spring semester, when I didn’t know if I’d be there or not. And I felt bad emailing the chair of my department every week to tell her that I still didn’t know if she needed to hire someone else to teach my assigned classes. 

Document: Part One of Presentation (blog post)