August 26, 2008
Something for Everyone
By Rich, Grant J
Something for Everyone The Academic's Handbook, 3rd ed. A. Leigh Deneef and Craufurd D. Goodwin, eds. Durham, N. C: Duke University Press, 2008 REVIEWED BY GRANT J. RIDH
How-to manuals of the sort one frequently encounters in creative writing courses or for dissertation writers are often disappointing. One sometimes leaves such volumes with the sense that time would have been better spent reading great fiction rather than second- rate primers about how to write great fiction, or that time spent at the lab or actually working on the dissertation would have produced greater dividends than equivalent time spent immersed in Dissertation for Dummies- style handbooks. Thus the title and stated purpose of the present volume may discourage some potential readers from finding and perusing this helpful book. This decision would be unfortunate, as there is much of value in The Academic's Handbook and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, even experienced academics and senior scholars will find many sections of this book thought provoking and engaging.
Some twenty years have passed since the publication of the first edition of The Academic's Handbook, and the editors have done an admirable job of carefully crafting a revised edition that reflects the trends and changes in higher education. While many edited books seem disjointed and too hastily or too clumsily pasted together, the present volume succeeds as a comprehensive resource manual, where everything may be found conveniently and sensibly organized all in one place. A. Leigh Deneef, an English professor, and Craufurd D. Goodwin, an economist, both of Duke University, have ensured their book covers a broad range of relevant topics that should be of interest to all in academe, regardless of differences in field, training, or institutional setting. They have selected thirty-three contributors who represent a wide range of disciplines, from the sciences to the humanities, and who hail from institutions ranging from small liberal arts colleges to Big Ten universities. These contributors include both faculty and administrators, thus ensuring a variety of perspectives on a range of issues, including academic freedom, the job market and tenure, salary, research support, and governance.
The first section of the book, "The Academy and the Academic," offers several chapters that set the stage for what follows by describing, among other things, taxonomies of institutions and issues facing women and minority faculty members. Those readers who enjoy the witty and insightful banter of the Ms. Mentor columns in the Chronicle of Higher Education will be pleased to find that the chapter on women's issues here is written by Emily Toth, a professor of English and women's studies at Louisiana State University who opts not to use her pseudonym for this occasion.
The second section of the book focuses on several issues of importance to the modern academy. Craufurd Goodwin discusses interdisciplinarity and internationalization. English professor Ronald Butters reexamines controversial issues surrounding free speech and academic freedom. Judith White, who has served as a sexual-harassment prevention coordinator at Duke, offers some helpful hints in her chapter, "Anticipating and Avoiding Misperceptions of Harassment." P. Aarne Vesiland, an engineering professor at Bucknell University, closes the section with thoughtful reflections on the ethical conduct of academic research.
Graduate students, sabbatical replacement faculty, and adjuncts will probably skip immediately to section three of the book, which comprises a half-dozen chapters on academic employment. University of Virginia biologist Henry Wilbur offers some practical and sage advice on getting a job, and John Cross and Edie Goldenberg of the University of Michigan weigh in on the advantages and disadvantages of academic positions off the tenure track. Their chapter should be required reading both for graduate students desperate to make ends meet and their mentors who may need a refresher course on recent market changes. Sudhir Shetty of the World Bank offers an intriguing glimpse of the job market through the lens of the annual American Economic Association meeting interview sessions. While the article is focused on positions in economics, the issues and lessons here will apply broadly to many other job seekers. The final three chapters in this section describe the history and purpose of the tenure system, offer practical tips on earning tenure, and provide some statistics and resources concerning academic salaries and benefits. In addition to researching the relevant facts in the AAUP's annual report on the economic status of the profession and the Chronicle of Higher Education archives, the prudent scholar preparing for salary negotiations will want to be familiar with the material in A. Leigh Deneef's chapter on this popular topic.
The book's next section focuses on issues related to teaching and advising. While entire books have been written on the topic of teaching and whole disciplines have been devoted to this issue, Duke biologist Norman Christensen's chapter on running lecture courses and historian Anne Scott's contribution on teaching by discussion are thoughtful and helpful firsthand accounts that will make most readers reflect on their own teaching in ways that may facilitate teaching excellence.
Sections four and five of The Academic's Handbook focus on research issues, with chapters devoted to corporate relations and foundation fundraising, securing funds from both federal and private sources, and scholarly publication of books and articles. Finally, the last section of the book is devoted to issues such as college and university governance and the role of the department. This section may be especially valuable to beginning faculty members, who may accept their first postdoctoral job already in possession of extensive experience teaching and conducting research for the dissertation, but who are less likely to have experience negotiating with administrators or participating in faculty governance.
An excellent audience for this book would be graduate students or perhaps even undergraduates who are making decisions about career plans. One could easily see the book as the basis of a graduate seminar called "Everything You Wanted to Know about Academe but Were Afraid to Ask." While this book covers many topics that students will learn about through the informal socialization process in graduate school, these essays fill in many gaps, point to additional resources, and provide specific, detailed infonnation and recent statistics on a range of topics that are relevant regardless of whether a student ends up teaching at a community college or a Research I university. Many misconceptions about the profession and about what professors do could be avoided were graduate programs to give each student a copy of this book. The book should also be on the shelves of college and university libraries of all sizes. While it is sometimes said that there is no one busier than a first-year faculty member, this is one book that just such a person will find hard to put down.
GRANT U. RICH
Something for Everyone
Grant J. Rich is assistant professor of psychology at the University of Alaska Southeast.
Copyright American Association of University Professors Jul/Aug 2008
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