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ERIC Number: EJ973683
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Jan-15
Pages: N/A
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-1931-1362
At the MLA, a Ph.D. Candidate Navigates the Jobs Gantlet
Patton, Stacey
Chronicle of Higher Education, Jan 2012
It's the night before one of Javier Jimenez's big job interviews at the Modern Language Association (MLA) meeting. The 35-year-old graduate student, who is scheduled to earn his Ph.D. in comparative literature this spring from the University of California at Berkeley, is trying to ward off anxiety and abdominal pains. The mystique of the MLA, the biggest and most prominent literary-studies conference in the United States, heightens his anxiety. Not to mention, there are hundreds of people vying for the limited number of jobs in his field. The MLA recently projected that about 2,400 jobs in English and foreign-language instruction would be advertised with the association this academic year, a 5-percent increase over last year. But the overall number of positions remains near the historic low for the disciplines, and the uptick in openings is too modest to make much of a dent in the backlog of people with Ph.D.'s looking to land a tenured or tenure-track job. Mr. Jimenez is one of the few who have arrived at the conference with a job offer already in hand; just two days earlier, he was offered a tenure-track position at a liberal-arts college in a small Midwestern town. In today's market, many people struggle to even land an interview. Yet here, Mr. Jimenez has won interviews with two other small liberal-arts colleges, one for a tenure-track position in the Chicago metropolitan area and the other for a two-year position at an elite college in the Northeast. Mr. Jimenez faces a conundrum. He has only a few days to let the search committee know if he'll take the job. He could say no and risk being turned down by the other colleges. Or he might see if he can prolong negotiations while the other colleges decide if they'll invite him to the next round of campus interviews. Mr. Jimenez faces tough decisions in the next few days. He wonders about his future in academe, if he'll "thicken up and become a person recognizable" to other people in his field, eventually flourishing at one of the colleges where he has interviewed. He worries that if he makes the wrong decision, he'll start his career down a wrong path and "fade away into the background completely." He could end up in the wrong place, working as an adjunct, or without a teaching job at all, joining thousands of other hopeful, often desperate, graduate students who weren't fortunate enough to even get an interview at the MLA.
Chronicle of Higher Education. 1255 23rd Street NW Suite 700, Washington, DC 20037. Tel: 800-728-2803; Tel: 202-466-1000; Fax: 202-452-1033; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: California; United States