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maxhgns last won the day on May 14 2018

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  1. maxhgns

    Choosing between SFU and Tufts: MA Phil

    I've known several graduates of the MA programs at both GSU and SFU, and not only were they great, but they only had good things to say about those programs. I don't know that this should sway you at all, but I can also say that Kathleen Akins (who works in areas related to your interests) is a brilliant philosopher. I've been to Atlanta several times, although I've never lived there. I've heard it said it's a pretty good place to be queer, actually, although I wouldn't be at all surprised if Vancouver is still much better on that score. It's definitely a lot prettier (in terms of scenery, not architecture; Atlanta wins the latter). It's definitely worth bearing in mind that the cost of living in Vancouver is extremely high, so you should probably contact current MA students to ask how they're managing on their stipends. (Like: if you want to live with a partner in an apartment that's more than just a studio, in one year you'll be paying a PhD student's stipend in rent--even quite far out. It's absolutely possible to spend much less, but you have to be prepared to spend quite some time looking, and take on roommates.) In many ways Vancouver's more of a sprawling series of suburbs than a city proper, so you should be prepared to spend an hour or so on the bus/SkyTrain to get around (that said, the public transportation is very good, except when it snows). If memory serves, GSU's faculty cover a wider range of areas of philosophy, and I think GSU has more faculty who share your interests. GSU also has many more faculty members than SFU, so I wouldn't worry much about the number of graduate students. 25:21 isn't really any worse than 13:13.
  2. maxhgns

    Choosing between MA and PhD

    It's a bit of a paradox. You'll be best placed to determine that once you're well into the PhD process, because that's the point at which you'll have already done a lot of research and have a better idea of the lay of your subfield, as well as that of other subfields. In the meantime, the Leiter subfield rankings are a good place to start. is your target department ranked in the first or second group for that subfield? If so, that's a really good indication (but neither a necessary nor a sufficient one!) that the people working in that area in that department are considered top-notch by their peers. You can also ask others (your profs, or people here, etc.) who they think of as the top established people in a given subfield, who are the up-and-comers, etc. When you're figuring it out for yourself, just remember that you're looking for the people who are shaping the discourse in a given subfield. So: who gets cited a lot in the literature? Who's getting all the colloquium and keynote invitations, or presenting at all the conferences? Who's publishing up a storm, and has a CV with dozens or even hundreds of pubs? Who's publishing regularly in the top subfield journals (which, of course, requires you to know which those are)? Who's presenting big new ideas, rather than just adding another epicycle to the same tired old literature? The more you read in the subfield, the better your sense of these things will be. But you should also be looking around at the CVs of people in your subfield, and seeing how they compare. Because you're looking for movers and shakers, you're mostly looking for people who are full profs (for the up-and-comers, you're looking mostly at associates). And you can look at conference programs for the main conferences in your subfield, to see who's being invited to give the keynotes.
  3. maxhgns

    Choosing between MA and PhD

    An MA won't make you any less competitive. What it will do is give you a chance to get a feel for what graduate work in philosophy is like, and whether it's worth pursuing. And it'll give you a chance to apply more carefully next time, with better-developed interests. Also, it's very hard to switch PhD programs, and if you decide to leave partway through, there's no guarantee they'll give you an MA on the way out. To my mind, it's better to maximize your chances at happiness and minimize your opportunities to second-guess your decisions, and given what you describe, it sounds to me like an MA is the way to achieve that. But if you're dead-certain about your intended AOS, and your prospective supervisors at the PhD programs are top-flight in that AOS, then that might change the calculus. So, e.g., if I were working in philosophy of biology and had an offer to work with Millikan at UConn, I'd take that (yes, I know she's emerita). But if your PhD programs and prospective advisors aren't fantasmic in your proposed area, or you're not wholly sold on that area, then it's a different story. Frankly, I think everyone should do a Master's degree before starting a PhD. But that's just me, and I know it's not the norm in the US.
  4. maxhgns

    Waitlist Department Visits

    I doubt it. If they've offered to let you visit too, and are paying for your visit, then you should definitely do that. But don't do it in the expectation that it'll help your chances, because it probably won't.
  5. maxhgns

    Gaps between MA and PhD?

    I don't think it matters at all. If anything, it'll help to show that you're more serious about the PhD, because you'll have taken some time to do something else first. Plus, if you get funding for it, that looks even better all the way down the line to postdoc and grant applications.
  6. maxhgns

    Choosing between SFU and Tufts: MA Phil

    This is exactly right: follow the money. SFU's MA program is fantastic, and you'll come out just as prepared as you would from Tufts. Frankly, I think that SFU has one of the strongest MA programs out there. It's worth noting, however, that the cost of living in Vancouver (including Burnaby) is very, very high. It's one of the most expensive places to live on the continent, especially relative to people's income. So just be prepared to pay a lot in rent, and not get a whole lot in return. Also prepare to be one of a hundred or so visiting your apartment, often dozens at a time. Start your search early, and work hard at it. The public transportation is good, but it's very common for people to live about an hour away from the university campuses.
  7. maxhgns

    Western Ontario?

    Like I said, I was talking in terms of absolute numbers. Western does well because it graduates so many students, and has done so for a long time, and that kind of frequency helps to trigger the mere exposure effect and enhance departmental halo. (The data I'm basing my own claims on is here; there's no question that the APDA data is better and more current, and measures a more helpful metric; but it's a different metric.) As of 2015, Toronto (which came fourth overall) had 89 placements into ranked MA- and PhD-granting programs, and Western (17th overall) had 33. The next Canadian department on the list was the Université de Montréal (25th overall) with 14, followed by Ottawa (37th) with 8. For placements at PhD- and MA-granting institutions within Canada alone, Western is tied for second place with Oxford (after Toronto, which has, like, 2.5x the placements), and nobody else comes even close to putting up their numbers. Where the APDA placement data is concerned, it's worth noting that Western's overall placement rate is comparable to that of the other major Canadian institutions measured by the APDA, apart from Toronto, Calgary, and UBC. But it's also worth sounding a note of caution about the APDA's Canadian data: it's not entirely accurate (e.g. it frequently lists some permanent placements as 'temporary', due to institutional, provincial, and national differences in job titles/kinds; some of the data is also incomplete, although I'm sure that's an issue with a lot more than just Canadian departments). I can see those problems reflected in the data for my own PhD program, and others. If you compare the APDA data for Western with Western's published placement record, you'll even find a few omissions. None of that is to say they've a stellar placement record, or to knock the APDA data, which is far and away the best and most comprehensive we have; It's just to say that you shouldn't dismiss Western too quickly, and that you have to look past the APDA summaries and at the actual data points. The OP should also remember that Western is a Canadian institution, and that the majority of its students are Canadian, but that the majority of the TT jobs are in the US (only a handful are advertised in Canada each year). And, of course, it's much harder for non-Americans to get work in the US, where most of the jobs are. This is especially true of jobs at smaller schools and community colleges, which aren't equipped to deal with the VISA issues (which aren't actually a big deal for Canadians, but most HR departments and hiring committees don't actually know that). So a lower overall placement rate is to be expected to begin with, and it may well be that the OP's chances are better, if they're American or have a Green Card. So, yes, the overall placement rate isn't great, although I think it's fair to say that it's about what you expect from a non-Toronto Canadian institution (which is to say, an institution at the bottom of the Leiter rankings). The department has had particular success with certain kinds of placement, however, and that's worth considering, because it's a difference that gets erased in the overall record (e.g. compare McGill, which has just 7 placements in the same kinds of programs, only one of which is at a ranked department).
  8. I did see something like this somewhere online recently (maybe one of the main blogs?), although my vague recollection is that they were reducing the size of the incoming class to something like 4, or maybe by half. But I wouldn't trust my memory very far.
  9. maxhgns

    Western Ontario?

    Western actually has one of the best placement records of any Canadian program when it comes to placing graduates into MA- and PhD-granting departments (it's second after Toronto, and in the T20 overall). This is partly because it's long had a very large student body, but also because the department decided long ago that it would focus its energies on a couple of subfields, and hire and train exceptional philosophers in those areas. Solo teaching experience is hard to come by in Canada. It's good, because the PhD programs don't tend to be too exploitative (several US programs require students to teach 2-2 after their second year!), but it's bad insofar as it means that you're not going to be able to compete with other graduates on that front. Funding is also tricky; Canadian departments have a spotty record when it comes to funding their students past their fourth year (and believe me, nobody actually finishes in four; very, very few even finish in five). If you don't have a guarantee in writing, you can't count on it. Given your interests, I wonder why you're attracted to Western; it's pretty weak in applied ethics and femtheory. In Canada, Queen's is much, much stronger on those counts (McGill bioethics, too--it's a separate department). Toronto too, although I'd rate Queen's above it in those areas. I should also mention that Western has been going through something of a climate crisis these last couple years, with all kinds of unpleasantness (including assault). Talk to the female grad students before accepting an offer there, and ask some pointed questions. Or PM me when the time comes, and I can be more specific/direct you to someone in the know.
  10. maxhgns

    To MA or nah?

    What's another MA, this time in philosophy of religion, going to do for you? What's it going to do for your CV? I suspect the answer is 'not much'. It's hard to make a case for needing to earn a third very similar degree. If you really want a PhD in one of these subjects, then I think that your best bet is to apply again, and more broadly.
  11. maxhgns

    Some Questions from a Phil Outsider

    The Theory market in PoliSci is not very good at all these days, although it's probably still better than the philosophy market (even in continental/continental SocPot). From what I gather, it's pretty rough out there (in the US market) for PoliSci PhDs who don't have a strong background in quant. FWIW, I've seen several philosophers move into political science/theory departments (I'm not saying it's easy or likely, just that it's done), but I've not seen the reverse move; I suspect it's practically impossible, due to disciplinary prestige issues (viz., philosophers have little respect for theorists from other disciplines). I don't think a philosophy MA would be any kind of obstacle to pursuing a PhD in polisci afterwards. If anything, it would probably be an asset, but I don't know whether LMU's the place to do it. Honestly, it mostly depends on the funding. You shouldn't be taking on debt for any kind of MA (or PhD, for that matter). If it were me, I'd have a good look at Queen's (Kingston), which is a top philosophy department when it comes to political philosophy and applied ethics, and which, although primarily analytic, recently hired Lisa Guenther. If you can get funding there, you might also gain access to training and opportunities which would be helpful for your move back to Theory, and which might be harder to come by elsewhere. I'd also have a good look at Vanderbilt, and maybe GSU or DePaul. (But I don't know!) Whatever you do, stay away from the New School. And from what I've heard and seen, if you're not white, Villanova may not be a good place for you.
  12. maxhgns

    How many schools is “too many schools”?

    Absolutely, applicants aren't in a great position to know, especially for subfields that are well-represented in a lot of departments.
  13. Well, kinda. Very, very often--especially at the tippy-top schools, but also further down the ladder--you get hired for your "promise" rather than your actual accomplishments, and you have the chance to develop your craft and expertise as a result of having won a decent job. Being affiliated with a tippy-top department gets you all kinds of trickle-down benefits which are entirely inaccessible to those further down the pyramid, because the prestige hierarchy is so ingrained in us. It's incredibly hard to even just get an interview if you're not coming from the right school(s) and working in the right subfield(s), even if you have a stellar publication record for your career stage. Oh, it goes way further down than that. Plenty of MA-granting programs have faculty who'd not be out of place in a top PhD-granting department, as do plenty of SLACs, etc.44 You'd think that was true, and most people do seem to believe that. The reality on the ground, however, is that you need teaching experience to get a job (though not necessarily at the very top of the hierarchy), and one or two courses just doesn't cut it. The programs that exploit their students and have them solo-teach 2-2 from their second year onwards do very well at placing those students, because they come out with so much brute teaching experience. That's not especially good or desirable, however, and it causes real problems for completion rates. That said, TAing counts for nothing, no matter how much of it you've done. So if the program has less TAing but more solo-teaching available, then that's better, but it's not usually the case at programs that aren't especially exploitative. Plenty of people in philosophy believe this (I think most do, actually), but I'd be very surprised if it's true, especially at the intake level. There's probably more truth to the idea that the best students go to the schools ranked highest in their subfields, but I think even that claim is suspect (especially at the intake level, before they've benefited from 7 years of top supervision and resources). You'll find a lot of superb students and philosophers coming out of all sorts of departments, but outside the tippy top, they have access to many fewer opportunities to showcase that skill. Even leaving aside sociological factors (which exert a lot of influence), it's just easier to publish with a 2-1 or 2-2 load than with a 4-4 load. A big part of why the topmost programs are so successful, and enjoy such a reputation, is the sheer quantity of graduates they churn out. A smaller program that graduates 1-2 students (like Brown) a year is just going to have a much smaller presence on the market, on the conference circuit, in major journals, in subfield associations, etc. than a program that graduates 7-10+ a year (like Oxford or Toronto). In that respect, the age of the program also makes a big difference. Having said what I said, it's worth adding that who your advisor is makes a big difference at both the official and unofficial levels. Officially, for obvious reasons. Unofficially, because they'll be introducing you to their research networks, which is to say, they'll be introducing you to everyone in your subfield. If they're not very active in that community, then they can't introduce you, and that means that you'll have a harder time meeting people--especially senior people--in your field, and a harder time taking advantage of the opportunities that might come your way as a result (e.g. external letters, postdoc support, publication and book review invitations, editorial positions, etc.). Also, the money is a big deal, and makes a huge difference to your experience of grad school, time to completion, conference participation, etc. So: it's a perfectly good call, if that's what you decide to do.
  14. maxhgns

    How many schools is “too many schools”?

    I think 8-12 is reasonable, and more than that is too many. There aren't that many programs for which one is a good fit, and which one should attend. That said, for the last decade it's been entirely normal for students to apply to 20 or more. I'd guess the average number is probably 16-18. That's just the way it is, now. FWIW I applied to 5 and was accepted to the three good fits, and rejected from the two bad fits. I'd aim for 8 if I was trying again (but then, the number of good places for my subfield is pretty low).
  15. maxhgns

    safety schools

    Search committee members often admit to doing this in hiring decisions, where the stakes are much higher. Check out just about any thread on the subject on one of the blogs--Leiter, DN, Cocoon, Philosophy Smoker. I have, in the past, seen admissions committee members say the same thing, although it was years ago, and I couldn't point you to it now. It's more common for programs to have long waitlists (or large admissions pools) instead, on the assumption that most of the students they admit outright will turn them down. But it does sometimes happen the other way, too. In both cases, it strikes me as a bad decision (though it's especially out of touch with the realities of the job market, where anybody is lucky to get even a single offer). But there it is.

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