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Alumni Spotlight

June 26, 2020
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My post-graduation story started before I graduated from the Ph.D. program. Guided by my supervisor, Dr. Dragicevic, I began applying for faculty positions around the world. This was a busy time as a graduate student, between completing my dissertation, publishing, and teaching. The application process varied from institution to institution, but in general required the submission of a CV, a research statement, a teaching statement, and sometimes a diversity statement. Writing these statements was an opportunity for me to reflect on my future research plan, my academic achievements, and my teaching philosophy. In some cases, a full teaching portfolio was requested, complete with a summary of student evaluations, syllabi, and assignment examples. One of my applications was fifteen pages and another – nearly seventy. During the application process, I leveraged guidance from advisors, colleagues who have taken on the faculty position application process in the past, and of course, the internet. I found a wealth of information online that guided my application process and helped me to tailor each application in a way that demonstrated that I was a good fit.

So, my applications were in. What came next? The interview process, of course! Interested universities invited me to online interviews. These interviews ranged from twenty minutes to an hour. Sometimes I was provided with a clear objective. For example, “The committee would like you to prepare an answer for the following question: What would be the focus of your first research grant and where would you apply for funding?”. Sometimes, I was provided with very few details apart from the length of the interview and the names of the committee members. In this process, I learned how to read the room. One of my interviews felt awkward and cold. I was sitting online in front of a panel of ten individuals. Each one read their question for me and few made eye contact. My application did not go further. Another was warm, welcoming, and comfortable. They expressed genuine interest in myself, how I navigated challenging teaching situations, my research plans, and my understanding of their institution and department.

I was invited for an in-person interview at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. I was told that I should prepare a 45-minute research talk. I memorized the names of those in the department and at the college level, I explored their research interests and collaborations, I prepared answers to potential questions, I practiced my talk in front of colleagues and listened carefully to their advice. The actual interview was a whirlwind experience. It started the minute I landed in Washington, D.C. I was picked up from the airport by a member of the hiring committee, dropped off at the hotel to freshen up, and immediately taken for dinner. It was is a high-pressure and stressful situation, but I was made to feel as comfortable as possible. In the next 48-hours, I gave a research talk, had back-to-back meetings with members of the faculty, met with the Dean, the grad students, the chair of the department, and then I was back on the plane. Overall, it was a very rewarding experience and I was grateful that my first in-person interview experience was so positive, regardless of the outcome. A week later, Mason gave me an offer.

The faculty position application process is long and overwhelming, but I must say the work started once I got an offer from Mason! Post-job offer, I juggled defending my dissertation, contract negotiations (one of the hardest parts of the process in my opinion), preparing for new courses, publishing existing work, and not to mention taking on the visa process. All of these come with their own set of challenges. My advice for those who are considering applying for faculty positions? Start thinking about your future research plans now. This is hard when you are amid a dissertation. Network outside of SFU! Who you know can matter in the job search. Take a sessional position and develop your own course if you get the opportunity. It is a great learning experience. Furthermore, take a teaching workshop. Even though teaching is a core part of our graduate life, we rarely find ourselves focusing on pedagogy. Engage in service: join hiring committees, review for journals, mentor undergrad students, and join the GGA! Apply for awards. Publish your hard work. Most importantly, leverage the support from your supervisor, advisors and mentors, colleagues, and friends and family.

- Taylor Anderson, MSc (2015), PhD (2019)