I can’t be bothered to invent a clever post title tonight. Oh well.
Some thoughts on our first candidate visit. Well, more about the process than the candidate, because it wouldn’t really be apropos to say anything about the candidate (who will remain anonymous here), especially since at least one of the other candidates coming through has been known to peek at scribblings here. In that case, the process and the itinerary comments might be revealing, but since I don’t think I’m writing anything that gives anyone an advantage (or disadvantage) I should be okay.
Here is roughly what the itinerary was like for Candidate I; our other two candidates will have similar (but not identical) itineraries:
9:00 am: Composition Selection Committee interview
The candidate has an interview with the CSC, meaning select members of the rhet-comp faculty and myself, the grad representative on the committee. I was interested to hear the kinds of questions and reponses in this interview. I already knew that the academic job interview wasn’t exactly the same as a private-sector interview, but this was my first chance to see one in action. It was much more of a conversation than private-sector interviews are (at least in my experience) and I found myself noting not just what kinds of questions were being asked but also what stategies the candidate used to respond. Here is where I learned the most, I think, for in listening to Candidate I’s answers I found myself finding places where I might respond differently, given my different research and pedagogical interests. I won’t reveal here particular questions (although from the question-drafting meeting early in the week I think maybe they are not questions unprecedented in the history of academia) but I will observe that, although my answers would probably be a bit rougher than our Candidate’s, I think I could probably at least hold my own with the majority of the questions being raised.
10:30 am: Meeting with dean of CLAS
I wasn’t privy to the meeting with Dean Thomas, so I sat in the lobby area and read some magazines. Anyone know why Wayne State’s CLAS offices have such a large backlog of the Stanford alumni magazine?
11:15 am: Campus tour with yours truly
The meeting with the dean ran long, so my half-hour tour was crammed in to 15 minutes. I gave Candidate I a quick tour of State Hall, the Gullen Mall area, and back to Barnes & Noble at Candidate’s request so that coffee could be purchased from Starbucks. Sadly, the line was rather long and we were by that point running late for the meeting with the Interim Dept Chair.
11:30 am: Meeting with dept chair
Also not privy. I think I slammed a Pepsi during this break and then started roaming the halls to rustle up wayward grads for the . . .
12:00 pm: Lunch with grad students
A nice little deli spread (I was glad we were spared the dreaded mini-quiches). We had a decent number of grads show up for the lunch, I think maybe a dozen or so. I was pleased that this included at least a solid number of those of who I think of as the “core” body of rhet-comp students (myself, of course, Clay, Cara, Jared, Mary) and several lit or film/media studies folks. the Candidate was quite kind and asked each of us about our current research and we also had a discussion about the differences between the Candidate’s grad program and our own. Ken Jackson stopped by toward the end of it and regaled us with stories of his pre-academic life working in a hospital. After lunch, I walked with Candidate to the B&N where the line proved more feasible this time. We got back to the dept with a small amount of time for the dept-level interview.
1:30 pm: Appointments Committee interview
By far, seeing (and participating in) the two interviews has been the most revealing part of my involvement so far. (Well, the initial selection process, in which we read through various applicants CVs and writing samples and other docs, is a close second, since it offered some practical exposure to the genre of the job letter and I got to see some various teaching portfolios and things.) Here, much of what I wrote about the earlier interview remains true, but I will also note that I particularly enjoyed hearing questions about the rhet-comp field from those faculty members whose work is outside the field. Something to remember for my own eventual interviews, then, is to practice answering questions from such scholars in a way that explains not just my answers and the context of those answers in the field but also how those answers might be of interest to broader concerns to scholars outside the field as well. In this, I might find I have a tiny advantage over candidates whose grad work has been in writing and rhetoric depts over more traditional English depts as I encounter more work outside of rhet-comp than other candidates might (for this I also have to thank JR, especially, for insisting on the relevance of Derrida and Barthes among others to rhetoricians). I am also thankful for the members of the Appointments Committee who (in the little time we chatted before the interview started) made plain to me (at least I thought they did) that my presence was not a mere sop to Dept bylaws but that I was a valued participant in the day’s precedings. The interview ran an hour, which left the Candidate roughly a half hour to prepare for . . .
3:00 pm: Job talk
If I were not serving on the committee and thus had no role in deciding which candidate would be offered a post, I would say more here about the actual talk itself. As it is, I am hyper-aware of my responsibilities to the committee and to the department so I don’t want to bias the process in any way–I am very greatful to be asked to serve in this role by Dr. Barton and Dr. Jackson, and I don’t want them to have any reason to think their trust in me was misplaced. So I won’t say anything about the talk, other than that it was better attended than I thought a rhetcomp talk was going to be, and I was pleased to see so many of colleagues (meaning both grads and faculty) in attendance. But dang does the 10th floor conference room get hot when it is crowded. After the talk, a small reception followed in the faculty lounge–I’d spent much of the day with the Candidate already so I didn’t say much to the Candidate as other members of the department used the opportunity to get to know a possible future colleague.
In all, a considerably busy day – – something Candidate and I talked about a little during our campus tour. Candidate said that although the process was the source of some anxiety, it was also an exciting experience to meet people outside of the candidate’s program and to see what colleagues in other institutions were working on. I endorse that sentiment heartily and look forward to meeting with Candidates II and III.