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Is R1 the right path for me?


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UPDATE: As of today, I have sent out 10 applications to TT positions at R1s and R2s (just because those are the types of universities that tend to have faculty positions in my field) and 1 application to a Non-Profit. My stats:

NP: phone interview / reject because I wasn't a good fit (which I found out later and which wasn't clear in the job announcement)

R1: no response yet from 3 of them; 1 Skype interview / reject.

R2: no response yet from 1 of them; Skype interview with 1 / no campus visit (so I'm assuming reject); 1 upcoming phone interview; and, 4 campus visit invites (2 completed already).

So, my original question in this thread was about whether R1 was the right path for me. I tried the NP very early on and wasn't a good fit for them (although they are still in my field, even as potential collaborators, so I've kept good connections with them). And, it seems that the universities that MOST want someone like me (from an R1 institution) are R2s. I think this is perhaps the tightest spot to be in because the R2s want to become R1s, but they don't have the resources or staff, and it would take a long time and lots of investment in securing high-quality faculty, etc. And yet there is still the expectation of high-quality teaching and service. My read of my particular field (Education) is that most people like me will start out our careers at R2s and, if we do well, may then move up to R1, but that means starting out at the R2 with an R1 mindset. It's not impossible, like others have said on this thread, and I agree that it is difficult. A senior faculty member in my field did this, and he has suggested starting out as an Assistant Professor with an R1 mindset no matter where you go (rather than take a post-doc for two years) and then moving up when the opportunity arises. In Education, people do move around quite a bit, including up if they've done good research.

For me, it's not the prestige factor, but the fact that R1s will attract higher-quality graduate students, who can then help with research (and the type of qualitative research I do involves intense data collection and analysis). On my two campus visits so far, the doctoral students tend to be local part-timers or international students (which, in the field of education can be a disadvantage if they want to eventually find a position in the U.S. because US schools/colleges of education tend to favor U.S. K-12 teaching experience).

So, I share all this to help others see what the process has been like for me so far. In short, as an Assistant Professor in my field, I will have to work as if I'm at an R1 even if I'm at an R2. Reading between the lines, I can see that the publishing expectation is 2 articles per year (with at least some in highest ranked journals in field and a mixture of author order) with a 3-2 teaching load... BUT, more is always better. At one university, the dept head talked specifically about earning merit for above and beyond expectations. Everyone wants to increase their status... and the question I'm still kind of pondering is, am I willing to take on that role?

Edited by wildviolet
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So, I'm more like Eigen in that I knew after the first year of my PhD that I didn't want a job at a R1. For me, it was the realization that I didn't want to have to work 50-70 hours

Wait a second here. If I am understanding you correctly, you applied for a position at one nonprofit, and weren't a great fit there, so now you have completely given up on nonprofits altogether and de

OK, in my response to this, I want to make clear that I am not trying to convince you to apply to nonprofits, @wildviolet, nor am I trying to dissuade you from applying to faculty positions. I complet

8 minutes ago, wildviolet said:

So, I share all this to help others see what the process has been like for me so far. In short, as an Assistant Professor in my field, I will have to work as if I'm at an R1 even if I'm at an R2. Reading between the lines, I can see that the publishing expectation is 2 articles per year (with at least some in highest ranked journals in field and a mixture of author order) with a 3-2 teaching load... BUT, more is always better. 

This isn't only in your field. This is the norm for people across the social and natural sciences who want to move up in rank. To show the R1s that you belong, you have to show them that you are already producing the R1 amount of research with less support and more teaching, ergo you'll be an even more productive researcher once you get a reduction in teaching load. And, even then depending on the field, it may not be possible. I have multiple friends with history PhDs and books published (as in, book went into production during their third or fourth year on the TT) and they cannot move up from directional state or R2 schools because 1) there aren't a lot of options and 2) there are sooo many people trying to make the same move with an equivalent or better publication and research background. It's one of the problems created by the replacement of TT jobs with adjunct positions across the academy.

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3 hours ago, rising_star said:

This isn't only in your field. This is the norm for people across the social and natural sciences who want to move up in rank. To show the R1s that you belong, you have to show them that you are already producing the R1 amount of research with less support and more teaching, ergo you'll be an even more productive researcher once you get a reduction in teaching load. And, even then depending on the field, it may not be possible. I have multiple friends with history PhDs and books published (as in, book went into production during their third or fourth year on the TT) and they cannot move up from directional state or R2 schools because 1) there aren't a lot of options and 2) there are sooo many people trying to make the same move with an equivalent or better publication and research background. It's one of the problems created by the replacement of TT jobs with adjunct positions across the academy.

Yes, definitely! That's why I think there's such pressure for R2s to strive for R1 status even as they all know it's nearly impossible. It's much easier for strong programs to attract the superstars and keep their momentum going.

I think a lot of people have accepted their place within the ranks and focus on regional or local impact rather than national/international reputation. I think I would be happy to start my career at these R2s (especially my top choice right now because it's located close to my family and has potential for interesting research). But I would also want to do R1 work to make a strong case for tenure because it seems that they will want external letter writers from equivalent or slightly higher reputation schools. So, if you want to earn tenure at an R2, you still need to do R1 level work to get tenure at an R2. It's so crazy!

My friend, who started at an R1, was not re-appointed after midterm review. So, people can shift down, too. I mean, s/he's looking for any job right now and hopefully can find one, but it probably won't be at an R1.

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2 hours ago, wildviolet said:

But I would also want to do R1 work to make a strong case for tenure because it seems that they will want external letter writers from equivalent or slightly higher reputation schools. So, if you want to earn tenure at an R2, you still need to do R1 level work to get tenure at an R2. It's so crazy!

So in my experience this part is really institutionally specific. That is, there's no expectation that you'll be producing the amount of research that you would if you were at a R1. And, it's on you/your institution to tell your external letter writers about the type of institution you work at, the typical teaching load, the expectations about the involvement of undergrads in research, etc. Without that, then yes, you may find yourself being criticized in those external letters for not doing enough. But, I know from talking to my PhD advisor that he takes the person's institution as well as their teaching and service load into consideration when writing his letters as an external evaluator. YMMV obviously but it's definitely something to be talking to institutional mentors about how to handle once you're in the job.

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