Monday, April 21, 2014

Tenure books in German Studies, 2009-2013

German Studies is a book field. Ignore the wild-eyed preaching of the Digital Humanities apostle across the hall. Our discipline still makes its most important statements in book form, expects book-like dissertations, and demands—at least of those who hope to be tenured in departments that take research seriously—publication of a single-author monograph from an academic press. Of the 132 promotions to associate professor reported in “Personalia” since 2009, 82 appear to have had a book in their tenure file, if not already published then likely in press or under contract. On average, the books were published seven years after the Ph.D. had been earned, while promotion came 8.7 years afterwards on average.

Presses are not all the same, however. Many university presses  don’t publish books in German Studies. Of those who do, their reputations range from gold-plated to radioactive. Then there are the German academic presses, and a few presses whose role in German Studies is unlike their role in any other field.

If you are shopping around a manuscript or planning to do so, you need to understand profiles: your university’s profile, a press’s profile, your own profile as a scholar. You need to know which presses have published books that have been part of successful tenure applications at schools like yours or like the ones where you hope to work. The exercise is simple: Look at the last five years of “Personalia,” and see which presses have published books by those who are listed as new associate professors each year, and draw your own conclusions.

Or to save time, just keep reading this data-based guide to who’s who in German academic publishing.

The Nones. Almost half of those promoted to associate (50 out of 132 in our sample) didn’t need a monograph for tenure. The Nones actually include two distinct subgroups:
  • Linguists. If you’re a linguist, you can stop worrying. Of the 17 linguists (including SLA and historical linguistics) who were promoted in the last five years, only three had tenure books (two of them published with John Benjamins), and only one of those was at a Ph.D.-granting department. Linguistics can earn tenure anywhere without books. Go crank out more articles, and stop acting so smug.
  • Teachers. It’s not uncommon for schools not to require a book for promotion, and maybe yours is one of them. Of the non-linguists, 36 of 115, or 31%, were promoted without single-author monographs. While they may have published articles, translations, editions, or edited volumes, they did not need a traditional academic book. If your department only offers a BA (or maybe even an MA) and is housed at a non-selective SLAC (like Calvin College), a regional comprehensive (like Eastern Illinois), an R2 (like Kent State) or even a few lower-tier state flagships (like the University of Montana), it may be similar to others where German professors were promoted without a tenure book (see the complete list for details).
Die Emigrierten. If you are a native German, probably holding a Ph.D. from a German university, and you mostly publish your academic work in German, and especially if you’re employed by a Ph.D.-granting department or in Canada, then things work differently for you. Academics who fit this profile published their tenure books in German with a variety of German academic publishers, including Böhlau, De Gruyter, Königshausen und Neumann, Niemeyer, Rombach, S. Fischer, Schöningh, Wilhelm Fink, and Winter. With the exception of De Gruyter, English-language tenure books weren’t published by these presses in the last five years. Twelve of the promoted associate professors fit this profile. While books published in German have limited distribution (typically 50-100 copies reported by WorldCat), these authors not infrequently have multiple books on their CVs.

Any book will do. Sometimes known as “We judge each book by its scholarly contribution, not the prestige of its publisher.” The schools that aren’t picky about presses are not obviously different than the schools that didn’t require a book for promotion, including the same range of SLACs, schools with an undergraduate focus, and universities that emphasize both teaching and research. If your department awards a BA (or maybe even an MA) and fits this profile, you might be tenured with a book from one of these presses.
  • Peter Lang: the German press that American academics publish with, but don’t brag about. The most frequent outlet for tenure books, with 12 titles, is Peter Lang. It isn’t a highly prestigious press, but we’ve all cited its books at some point. It’s not embarrassing to list it in your bibliography, but it doesn’t really add much sparkle to a CV. Still, a book from Peter Lang was good enough to be promoted at a SLAC like Colby, a regional comprehensive like Central Michigan, and aspirational research schools like Ohio University or Wayne State.
  • Those other presses that we don’t talk about. Somewhat lower in reputation than Peter Lang are presses like Edwin Mellen, University Press of America, or Lambert. These presses are controversial, and some scholars view a book from these presses as weakening rather than strengthening a CV. Still, a book from one of these presses was sufficient for promotion in five cases at schools you’ve heard of, including Colardo State, Georgia Tech, and the University of Arkansas.
Going commercial. Respected academic work in English does get published by commercial houses. These aren’t the highest prestige presses, but a book from one of them might be good enough for tenure at some decent schools.
  • Corporate America: Routledge, Berghahn, Continuum, Palgrave Macmillan. There are other presses that fit this group that have published tenure books in German Studies, but don’t show up in the last five years. Books from these presses were written by thirteen people now tenured at highly-ranked SLACs (Pomona), MA-granting programs (Kentucky, South Carolina, and U Wisconsin-Milwaukee), and Ph.D. programs (Oregon and Ohio State). The two Continuum books were published by Pomona and Ohio State faculty, suggesting that Continuum may have an edge in the prestige factor.
  • Our European cousins: De Gruyter, Rodopi, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. Other presses in this category might include Brill or Ashgate. Your colleagues in other departments have probably heard of these presses and consider them somewhat respectable. Books from these presses published in English contributed to tenure for five faculty members at some well-known Ph.D. programs, including UC Irvine and Vanderbilt (De Gruyter) and the University of Illinois (Rodopi).
  • Camden House: Our very own Peter Lang. Camden House, now an imprint of Boydell and Brewer, is an entire press devoted to German Studies. You probably skimmed one of their handbooks while cramming for quals in grad school, you probably cite chapters published in their books, and you probably know someone who has published with them. In the last five years, Camden House has published the tenure books of five faculty members at two BA programs and three MA-granting programs  (Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Mississippi State), although these programs are all located in universities whose Carnegie classification is RU/H rather than the highest RU/VH level.
University presses: the gold standard. If you teach at a research-intensive university in a Ph.D.-granting department, maybe you’ll be OK with a book from De Gruyter, Rodopi, or Continuum, but the safe route—as demonstrated by where most of your peers who earn tenure have published their books—is with a university press. These presses also achieve the best distribution to academic libraries, with just over 300 copies reported by WorldCat on average, slightly higher than the European commercial processes and substantially higher than all other categories. Among the hundred-odd university presses in North America, however, not many publish in German Studies, and a relative handful stand out as the home for successful tenure books. Where you do turn first?
  • Ivy envy. There’s only one actual Ivy League press on the list of university presses associated with private universities, but plenty of envy: Northwestern (six books, with authors from UC Irvine, North Carolina, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, and Berkeley); Cornell (four books, from Vassar, Bowdoin, Notre Dame, and Penn); Stanford (four books, from Brown, Berkeley, Indiana, and Michigan); Chicago (three books, including faculty promoted to associate at Columbia and Stanford); and Fordham (three books, from Illinois, Yale, and Northwestern; who knew?). In addition, one book appeared from MIT (for a Princeton author). Some notable presses are not on this list: Cambridge, Oxford, the University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard come to mind. While they have printed books in German Studies, they do not show up in our sample. This isn’t to say that your book might be the one to turn Jerome Singermann’s head at Penn, or shake up the syndics at Cambridge. If you think your book is a good fit for their lists, then add them to your query list. But lately, the successful tenure books haven’t come from there.
  • Public wall-climbing vines who are not defensive about it at all. State university presses that have published tenure books in German Studies recently include Penn State (three books, with authors from Ph.D. programs at McGill and the University of Tennessee) and Michigan (two books, including one for promotion at Washington University). In addition, Minnesota and Rutgers published one tenure book each (with authors from the University of Colorado and Wayne State).
  • North of the border. The University of Toronto Press published two tenure books, with the authors in both cases employed in Canadian doctoral programs. Probably just a coincidence.
Don’t forget that the author’s subfield plays a role as well. Medievalists might target a different set of presses than film studies people do. But the analysis is clear: If you need a book for tenure at a school that strongly emphasizes research—or if you just want to get the search committee’s attention—then you may want to put Cornell, Fordham, Michigan, Northwestern, Penn State, Stanford, and Toronto at or near the top of your list. The best options among the commercial houses look like De Gruyter, Continuum, and Rodopi. There are no guarantees—you won’t spend more than a few years in our field without hearing of someone who didn’t get tenure despite having a book from one of these presses, but you want to give yourself the best chance possible.

Let’s close with lists and graphs. First, note how the list of presses that published successful tenure books becomes much more restrictive once we limit the authors to those in Ph.D.-granting programs.

Figure 1: Tenure books in German Studies, 2009-2013, overall (left, showing only presses with two or more books, and excluding linguists) and Ph.D.-granting departments only (right, all presses, and excluding linguists)

We can see something similar, but in color, by comparing where different types of presses find their authors, at least the ones who are promoted to associate professor in German Studies. If we look again at what kind of degree the author’s program grants, then we see that most of the “nones” are from BA-granting programs, which is also true of Peter Lang authors. MA and Ph.D.-granting programs are the home to just over half the authors who published books with commercial presses. For university presses, on the other hand, nearly 80% of authors came from Ph.D.-granting programs.

Figure 2: Publishers of tenure books in German Studies, 2009-13, according to the degree granted of the tenuring department

If we look instead at the Carnegie classifications of the author’s university (simplified to put all Master’s-level institutions in one category, and lumping the few DRU schools along with the RU/H schools), we see a similar picture. (As before, we’re excluding linguistics and German-language books, but now we’re also excluding Canadian schools, since they aren’t included in the Carnegie classifications.) Apart from a few exceptions at highly-ranked SLACS, those who published their tenure books with university presses were promoted to associate at RU/VH schools.

Figure 3: Publishers of tenure books in German Studies, 2009-13, according to the simplified Carnegie classification of the tenuring university

Friday, April 4, 2014

MLA job information list classics #8: Meet the old MOOC

From the February 1972 MLA Job Information List, Foreign Language Edition:

UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN, Waukesha Campus, Waukesha, Wis. 53186

Jan. 19, 1972     Opening for one French or Spanish instructor at the Baraboo Campus. Must be experienced in the use of electronic teaching media (telephone, television, cassette programs etc.) For fall semester of '72.
Sara Toenes, Chairman, Departments of Fr. & Sp.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

How the job market in German really works. Part three (b): VAP Purgatory

Within the next few weeks, the streams will cross—for the fourth time in the last five years, the number of non-tenure-track jobs in German advertised in the MLA Job Information List will surpass the number of tenure-track jobs. The number of non-TT jobs on the wiki is already higher. Will being hired into one of those positions give you the inside track to a tenure-track position? Does the experience gained in a full-time temporary academic position make you a stronger candidate for tenure-track positions?

The short answer appears to be no. The slightly longer answer is that it may make you a more compelling applicant next year than you would be if you didn’t have a VAP position, so accepting the VAP position may raise your chances of landing a TT job compared to not accepting it, but it won’t make you much stronger as a candidate than you are right now. Or to put it into concrete terms, let’s say that you just defended your dissertation and applied for TT jobs in German Studies last fall. You had some interviews, but none of them resulted in an offer. Now you’ve been offered a VAP position. Should you take it? If you take it, you’ll probably do about as well on the job market when you apply in the fall as you did this last year; if you don’t take it, you’ll probably do worse. A VAP position will keep your qualifications current, but it won’t make you a stronger applicant than next year’s crop of new Ph.D.s. In our profession, experience only makes you as good as a fresh Ph.D., not better.

There are a few ways we can measure the effect of holding a VAP position. One way is to start with all the Ph.D.s from a range of years, in this case the 257 people who earned Ph.D.s in German between 2007 and 2010. Of those, 121 (or 47%) were hired into nationally advertised jobs of some sort by 2013. Of that number, 78 (or 30%) were hired into nationally-advertised tenure-track positions at least once; 64 (or 25%, including some of who were later hired into TT jobs and therefore also included in the previous figure) were hired into nationally-advertised non-tenure-track jobs at least once (in two cases, as many as four times) without having previously held a tenure-track job. Of the 64 who were first hired into NTT positions, 21 (33%) were later hired into tenure-track positions, 6 of them as the inside candidates at the school where they already held VAP positions.) So those hired into VAP positions through a nationally advertised search have a later rate of hire into TT positions little better than the entire group of Ph.D. earners. The former VAPs hired were on average around one year farther out from degree completion at the time of hire than the total group, however.

Another way to look at it is to compare people holding VAPs at a given time with the outcomes of new Ph.D.s who are facing the same years on the job market as the more experienced VAP holders. Let’s start with the people who were hired into nationally-advertised VAP positions that were advertised in 2008-9, 2009-10, or 2010-11, all post-crash job market years. Of the 89 individuals who were hired and who completed their Ph.D.s between 2000 and the present, 23 (or 26%) have subsequently been hired into TT positions to date.  As there have been three complete TT job cycles since then (2011, 2012, 2013), that figure is unlikely to change significantly. Notably, 7 of the 23 were hired into TT positions at the same school that had hired them initially. Of the original 89, therefore, 8% were hired as inside candidates, while 18% found TT jobs at other schools. The rest have not yet found TT employment through competitive national searches (although some may have been hired onto the TT as spousal hires or other non-competitive processes). Of the 23 hired following VAP experience, 6 were hired into Ph.D.-granting departments, none as inside candidates.

We can compare the outcomes for those 89 individuals with the outcomes of the (partially overlapping) 245 individuals earning PhDs in 2009, 2010, and 2011, who have had access to approximately the same TT job cycles as VAPs hired in the 2008-10 job cycles. Of those 245, 52 (21%) have been hired into nationally-advertised tenure-track positions by now. Considering that 2011 is the latest degree date under consideration, that figure is unlikely to change significantly.

So again, the likelihood of being hired onto the tenure track is not substantially higher for those who are hired into VAP positions through a competitive search process than it is for the overall population of those earning Ph.D.s in German studies. This is surprising, and not just because it runs counter to the assumption that professional experience makes one a stronger job applicant. The larger group includes Ph.D. holders who did not actively seek academic employment or made only a token effort to do so, while the smaller group of VAP holders by definition includes only those who actively sought academic jobs. (The size of the group that doesn’t seek academic employment after earning a Ph.D. is not known, but it may be large enough to explain the difference in TT hiring by itself. Around 5% of new grad students aren’t sure they want to be professors, and faculty jobs are listed as the top future career by only 75% of new grad students; see Fig. 12-13 over at the blog of the MLA Office for Research.) So the small difference (26% vs. 21%) between outcomes for the two groups again suggests that VAP experience is not an overriding factor when TT search committees are evaluating candidates.

Another strong possibility is that the post-Ph.D. teaching profiles may not look all that different for those who were hired as VAPs and those who weren’t. It is possible that many or most of the non-VAPs did have some non-TT teaching experience through the large number of unadvertised non-TT positions, whether adjunct or full time. (The large segment of unadvertised non-TT positions makes it all but impossible to determine the non-TT teaching experience of TT hires, or to establish a sample composed only of those without any non-TT experience.) Since job titles are not standardized between universities, it may be impossible to tell the difference between a part-time lecturer who picks up a few courses each semester and a full-time visiting faculty member with the same title who was hired into a highly competitive non-TT job that comes with benefits, a respectable salary, an office, and a 2-2 teaching load. Search committees evaluating these two applicants may not see any difference between their CVs.

So it appears that holding a VAP position (and, presumably, adding additional items to one's publication list) only keeps a candidate’s credentials current so that he or she remains a viable candidate, but with little or no advantage over applicants who have not had such positions. As a qualification for TT employment, part-time or unadvertised non-TT teaching may be the equivalent of being hired into a VAP position, or perhaps it does not matter at all. Rather than seeing a VAP position as the first step towards an academic career, applicants should see it as only providing what is in the contract: one or two years of full-time participation in the profession of German Studies, with job market prospects at the end that are, for better or worse, close to those of a new Ph.D.