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Top 10 state school in public health vs. Top 20 private in anthro-but a brand new program UGH


annwyn
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Help?  Seriously just want some ideas/a place to work out my own ideas.

 

Here is my problem.  I have an acceptance to the University of Minnesota in their public health PhD program, which ranks about #8 right now. 

I have been waitlisted at Notre Dame for their brand new Anthropology PhD (and not ranked) program, and according to some conversations with them, seems likely I will get an offer, but it might literally come on the afternoon of April 15th, so I pretty much need to have made my decision by then.  Hence my problem.

Assuming (maybe a big assumption) I get off the waitlist at Notre Dame, I might not have a lot of time to consider this choice, and trying to do it now I'm realizing I can't figure this out and would LOVE some help! 

 

I also have acceptances to two other programs: Portland State and Case Western.  Portland State is not deciding funding until May, so I'm not interested.  Case Western is hoping to have their funding decision done before the deadline.  My luck is they'll offer something awesome at the last minute so I can truly lose my mind. 

TLDR/ OP has issues with a theoretical problem that might become reality on April 15th.  Send jokes to alleviate stress.

Pros to MN:

  • Top ten school in a competitive field
  • Great POI with very similar research interests
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Public health job market is EXTREMELY more stable and lucrative than Anthropology market
  • They WANT me.  They have gone out of their way to make sure I know it.  There is something to be said for the program that is excited to have you.
  • Everyone I have talked to has been very amiable, professors, staff, and other students

Cons to MN:

  • My MA is in Anthro and Public Health is a big theoretical shift, I would be starting behind most of the other students academically, which might make it harder to achieve/stand out among a very competitive cohort.
  • I do qualitative analysis and among this group that is rare. A "flying-fish" is how it was described while I was visiting.  It's the hard vs. soft science debate.  Everybody has always been very respectful and I expect it wouldn't be horribly problematic, but the field in its entirety is based in quantitative analysis at its core. One professor did express some concern for me in making the switch (he has a PhD in sociology).
  • I didn't just click with this cohort immediately.  They were great, but I just didn't feel it. 
  • Funding is assured, but not guaranteed passed the second year, and second year might be RA instead of fellowship.  I talked with the students, and they really do not seem to have a problem funding students, but these RAs are BUSY.  INSANELY busy.  Multiple projects, presentations, etc., and if I'm already going to be playing catch-up...that's a lot, especially if I am doing it while taking classes my second year.

 

Pros to Notre Dame:

  • I literally wanted to attend this program BEFORE it existed.  I first contacted my POI in hopes he could tell me where to look since they didn't have a program...and BAM, they get a program.
  • 5 full years of funding, no teaching requirement in the first year, and a possible post-doc when you are done. Plus some summer funding.  Basically, they have money and want to give it to their students.  When visiting they made it clear they don't want finances to be a concern for their students.
  • I already have an Anthro MA, so the course load doesn't stress me at all, and I've taught Anthro classes so the TA doesn't stress me either.
  • My POI is the guy in my area of interest.  The second guy, who is closely associated, is also at Notre Dame.
  • I clicked with this cohort.  Like on a silly level.  I really like these people.

 

Cons to Notre Dame:

  • Anthropology jobs are not exactly lucrative or plentiful.  That isn't why I want the PhD, but if I have an option for lucrative AND plentiful, I have to consider this.
  • This is a brand new program. There is no way to know if they will be successful at graduating students, or placing them after.  They have built a solid program, but...
  • South Bend
  • My POI is THE GUY in my field, but he is looking to retire.  He has assured me that if I were to come that he would see me through to the end of my program, but a POI at the end of their career has different focus and drive than one at the beginning.
  • This program isn't nearly as excited about me specifically, and with reason.  My area of interest concerns populations and cultures in the United States, and historically those topics aren't as well received in the Anthropology community. 
  • AND I technically don't even have the acceptance. 

 

Sorry for such a huge long post, especially since I am waitlisted at one of these schools!  If anybody has anything great they can see that I should consider, I would love to hear it.  Thanks all, in advance!

 

 


 

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Hello!

You made it this far with Notre Dame! Assuming you get the acceptance on April 15, you still dont have to decide on MN right away. From what I understand, April 15 is the deadline for sending admissions decisions from all the graduate schools (it's'a consortium of sorts) in the U.S., and that deadline does not mean students must submit offers by that date. How could you make an informed decision when funding might not come until May? Unless UMinn gave you a deadline by which to decide your offer, you can wait a bit.

I finished my MPH a few years ago and I'm starting a PhD program in med anthro this fall. From taking med anthro coursework during my public health program (and having no prior anthropology experience), I know that preparation for the coursework was not an issue. Much of the courses in pub hlth (at Brown, the masters and phd students had much of the same courses) were quantitative with most students learning topics for the first time. Don't worry too much about being "behind" your peers at UMinn. Besides, you'll be a beast in your qualitative methods courses. UMinn should have that, and if you need to take some qual coursework in the anthro or sociology depts, I doubt that will be a problem (it's'a shame that you're an outlier for being interested in qualitative research at a public health institution).

Notre Dame sounds like you'd'have the opportunity to build something new there, but I understand your hesitation in committing to that sort of undertaking.

If you want an academic job, you are right to highly consider program prestige. If you are interested in a non-academic career path, your degree type will correspond to the type of career you want. You can pursue non-academic jobs with a PhD in pub hlth or anthro (NGOs, policy work, foundations, think tanks, news services, domestic and foreign govt, etc). Your training will differ between the two disciplines, but you can strengthen your focus in an area that will suit your intended career path from either discipline. I'm pursuing a non-academic career path with an anthro PhD and I am confident that I can succesfully compete with public health PhD-holders and Anthropology PhD-holders for jobs.

It is true that there are traditional "anthropology jobs" and "public health jobs" but the parameters that comprise those traditional job-types do not include many of the non-academic jobs I highlighted earlier. Getting a PhD in anthropology will not hinder you in the job search, especially if it sets you apart from the rest.

Congratulations on your acceptances thus far.

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According to Council of Graduate Schools, the April 15 Resolution only applies to offers of financial support, not admission. This means that you can accept your offer on April 16, provided that your offer letter did not contain any funding committments.

Since UMinn offered you funding, you must accept or decline by April 15 in lieu of an extension, so disregard the beginning of my previous post, as it was incorrect. Sorry about that.

www.cgsnet.org/april-15-resolution

Your choice comes down to whether or not you feel UMinn (with funding but little interest in your regional focus) or ND (a new program with funding to come later but the BOSS in your interest area) is better for your career prospects.

Edited by PurpleZephyr
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In theory, that's what the CGS agreement means. In practice, most graduate schools expect a decision from their applicants by April 15 (regardless of whether they offered you funding) unless they specify otherwise. It's the uncommon program that won't expect a decision by then, as they need to make enrollment decisions and start planning for next year's intake. So I think the OP is right to expect that Minnesota is going to want a decision by April 15.

 

My PhD is in public health and trust me when I say you won't really be starting out behind most of the other students. Most of public health theory in the social and behavioral sciences is drawn from anthropology and sociology, and some of the most prominent public health theorists are anthropologists. I'm a psychologist who did mental health research before I started my PhD and *I* actually felt a little behind my classmates because I didn't know how to read sociological theory yet. The intro biostatistics and epidemiology courses are taught at a beginner level, pitched to people who have little or no experience in biostatistics and epi. In fact, I managed to waive out of mine because of undergraduate statistics courses and took a more advanced class at my university during my PhD, but I saw what my roommate was learning, and it was stuff we covered in psychological statistics 201 in college. I did take epidemiology and if you know how to do basic algebra, you'll be all right.

 

I was a quantitative analyst amongst qualitative analysts. It didn't really bug me that much. As long as you have mentors who can guide you and advise your dissertation research, you should be fine. (It's not true that public health is based on quant analysis at its core - many public health researchers use qual analysis and a considerable number do mixed-methods. My top 10 public health department was primarily made up of qualitative researchers, and many of them are quite well-known!) Also, the cohort you met isn't going to be your cohort...your cohort isn't there yet. But they will be in your department, so it's important to get along with them. You don't need to "click" immediately, though!

 

You want to be busy. Busy means publications and presentations - and lines on your CV! You will be busy no matter what PhD program you go.

 

I guess the question is - what do you want to do post-graduation, and where do you want to teach (if academia is your goal)? Public health programs are popping up like moles everywhere, and there are positions, but these positions are VERY different from traditional anthropology ones. Many of them are in schools of public health or medicine, and you teach mainly graduate students, and they tend to be more heavily soft money than anthro jobs - meaning you will have to secure up to 100% of your salary in grants (sweet spot seems to be between 50 and 80 percent). You'll also be teaching more interdisciplinary classes. Do you dream of teaching intro anthropological theory and classes on ethnography, or advising undergraduates? Then an anthro program might be better suited for you.

 

If academia is not your goal, and you want to work for a nonprofit or NGO or think tank or something, then I think the public health degree will be somewhat more flexible, although you can get a job with either - what really matters more is the training and skills you bring. In the non-academic world, too, the prestige of your university might matter more than your specific program. In that case, Notre Dame does have a better-known name than Minnesota.

 

​One thing I will say, though, is that your career goals might change significantly. When I first started my PhD program, I wanted to be firmly in a non-academic position in the federal government. Near the end of my PhD program, I decided that I might want an academic job, but at a place that balances teaching and research and maybe even fell more heavily on the teaching side. Now I'm finishing the first year of a postdoc and I actually want to be at an R1 (sucked in!!). So you want to pick a program that's best for your current goals but also gives you some flexibility. (I think both programs will provide that.)

 

Honestly, you sound way more excited about Notre Dame, and that excitement is important. It is what will sustain during the hard, long nights :D So to me it sounds like if Notre Dame comes back to you with an offer that you should go there. Just focus on acquiring some skills that might assist you in finding post-graduation positions (like grant writing, maybe some quant analysis...)

 

Also

 

My POI is THE GUY in my field, but he is looking to retire.  He has assured me that if I were to come that he would see me through to the end of my program, but a POI at the end of their career has different focus and drive than one at the beginning.

 

True...but PIs at the end of their career know tons of people, have lots of connections, and are more focused on the generative stage of their career. A PI at the beginning of their career needs tons of publications - but they also need lots of time to build their tenure file and tons of first-authored publications. A PI near the end of his career is already confirmed in his position, and is going to be more focused on mentoring junior scholars and guide them through the program into good jobs.

 

One more thing...just by my own observation, new programs at elite schools tend to be pretty successful early on. The key factors to look for are top people in the field and the ability to attract a range of scholars - from assistant to associate to full. Some new PhD programs at mid-range or lower-ranked schools might only be able to get new people at first, and that can be a detriment - you don't want a department full of newbies who are trying to figure out how to be scholars, run a department and develop a new curriculum all at once. But if you have a variety of stages and the clout to attract some big names, that bodes well. One example I use all the time is Brown's new PhD program in the social and behavioral sciences in public health. Brown's SPH is pretty new and that PhD is just starting this year, but they've already attracted some big names (including someone pretty huge in my own area) as faculty and they have a well-established medical campus and school. So I'm fairly certain they'll be successful.

 

That's what you need to look for. Notre Dame is a big name; they seem to have already gotten a big PI in your sub-area; do they have strong adjunct departments (like sociology, political science...?) Those are key.

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In theory, that's what the CGS agreement means. In practice, most graduate schools expect a decision from their applicants by April 15 (regardless of whether they offered you funding) unless they specify otherwise. It's the uncommon program that won't expect a decision by then, as they need to make enrollment decisions and start planning for next year's intake. So I think the OP is right to expect that Minnesota is going to want a decision by April 15.

My PhD is in public health and trust me when I say you won't really be starting out behind most of the other students. Most of public health theory in the social and behavioral sciences is drawn from anthropology and sociology, and some of the most prominent public health theorists are anthropologists. I'm a psychologist who did mental health research before I started my PhD and *I* actually felt a little behind my classmates because I didn't know how to read sociological theory yet. The intro biostatistics and epidemiology courses are taught at a beginner level, pitched to people who have little or no experience in biostatistics and epi. In fact, I managed to waive out of mine because of undergraduate statistics courses and took a more advanced class at my university during my PhD, but I saw what my roommate was learning, and it was stuff we covered in psychological statistics 201 in college. I did take epidemiology and if you know how to do basic algebra, you'll be all right.

I was a quantitative analyst amongst qualitative analysts. It didn't really bug me that much. As long as you have mentors who can guide you and advise your dissertation research, you should be fine. (It's not true that public health is based on quant analysis at its core - many public health researchers use qual analysis and a considerable number do mixed-methods. My top 10 public health department was primarily made up of qualitative researchers, and many of them are quite well-known!) Also, the cohort you met isn't going to be your cohort...your cohort isn't there yet. But they will be in your department, so it's important to get along with them. You don't need to "click" immediately, though!

You want to be busy. Busy means publications and presentations - and lines on your CV! You will be busy no matter what PhD program you go.

I guess the question is - what do you want to do post-graduation, and where do you want to teach (if academia is your goal)? Public health programs are popping up like moles everywhere, and there are positions, but these positions are VERY different from traditional anthropology ones. Many of them are in schools of public health or medicine, and you teach mainly graduate students, and they tend to be more heavily soft money than anthro jobs - meaning you will have to secure up to 100% of your salary in grants (sweet spot seems to be between 50 and 80 percent). You'll also be teaching more interdisciplinary classes. Do you dream of teaching intro anthropological theory and classes on ethnography, or advising undergraduates? Then an anthro program might be better suited for you.

If academia is not your goal, and you want to work for a nonprofit or NGO or think tank or something, then I think the public health degree will be somewhat more flexible, although you can get a job with either - what really matters more is the training and skills you bring. In the non-academic world, too, the prestige of your university might matter more than your specific program. In that case, Notre Dame does have a better-known name than Minnesota.

​One thing I will say, though, is that your career goals might change significantly. When I first started my PhD program, I wanted to be firmly in a non-academic position in the federal government. Near the end of my PhD program, I decided that I might want an academic job, but at a place that balances teaching and research and maybe even fell more heavily on the teaching side. Now I'm finishing the first year of a postdoc and I actually want to be at an R1 (sucked in!!). So you want to pick a program that's best for your current goals but also gives you some flexibility. (I think both programs will provide that.)

Honestly, you sound way more excited about Notre Dame, and that excitement is important. It is what will sustain during the hard, long nights :D So to me it sounds like if Notre Dame comes back to you with an offer that you should go there. Just focus on acquiring some skills that might assist you in finding post-graduation positions (like grant writing, maybe some quant analysis...)

Also

My POI is THE GUY in my field, but he is looking to retire. He has assured me that if I were to come that he would see me through to the end of my program, but a POI at the end of their career has different focus and drive than one at the beginning.

True...but PIs at the end of their career know tons of people, have lots of connections, and are more focused on the generative stage of their career. A PI at the beginning of their career needs tons of publications - but they also need lots of time to build their tenure file and tons of first-authored publications. A PI near the end of his career is already confirmed in his position, and is going to be more focused on mentoring junior scholars and guide them through the program into good jobs.

One more thing...just by my own observation, new programs at elite schools tend to be pretty successful early on. The key factors to look for are top people in the field and the ability to attract a range of scholars - from assistant to associate to full. Some new PhD programs at mid-range or lower-ranked schools might only be able to get new people at first, and that can be a detriment - you don't want a department full of newbies who are trying to figure out how to be scholars, run a department and develop a new curriculum all at once. But if you have a variety of stages and the clout to attract some big names, that bodes well. One example I use all the time is Brown's new PhD program in the social and behavioral sciences in public health. Brown's SPH is pretty new and that PhD is just starting this year, but they've already attracted some big names (including someone pretty huge in my own area) as faculty and they have a well-established medical campus and school. So I'm fairly certain they'll be successful.

That's what you need to look for. Notre Dame is a big name; they seem to have already gotten a big PI in your sub-area; do they have strong adjunct departments (like sociology, political science...?) Those are key.

Ditto to all of that! The perspective on Brown's new school of public health is accurate. When I was a student, public health was just a program out of the school of medicine and didn't become a school until the year after I graduated. It was still one of the best programs in the country and was just as strong as the older more established "schools" of public health as well. Consider this when deciding on whether you should attend Notre Dame or not.

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Thank you so much guys!  It is really helpful to hear from folks who are on the public health side.  It's good to know that I won't be as far behind as I thought.  I had the chance to discuss my specific problem with a panel of Anthropologists working in public health at SFAA, and they pretty much said exactly the same thing.  Diversify, and it won't matter which degree you get.  This makes me feel each program is even closer to the other in comparison, but this actually makes me feel a little less stressed about my final decision. I guess I'll wait for the 15th  and see what, if anything, pops...then make a choice.  

My advisor told me to just go with my gut, and whatever way I choose, don't look back, "for that way lies madness."  I imagine he is exactly right.

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