Tonight I am home from interview #3. The best part of interview 3 was a brief visit with some faculty from another school in the area that are interested in me. I liked them; they were kind and helpful and welcoming.
The school I interviewed at had a number of people talk to me about collegiality. Yet they didn’t join me for breakfast or for dinner. Yet they didn’t have me sit with any faculty one-on-one to discuss life in the department or the possibility of collaborating on projects. I don’t think I talked to any other regular faculty without an administrator present. That didn’t sit right with me.
They also have a big emphasis on going to a project-based educational model. In baby steps. Baby steps are right for an emphasis like that. I’ve taught projects and mentored projects and developed projects. They take a ton of time. Developing a campus-wide initiative to incorporate projects in every course across the curriculum is going to take some serious faculty time. They have a high teaching load, and “for reasons of fairness”, they do not give course releases except for faculty with grants. I agree that course releases can be distributed unfairly, but developing projects can be a serious drain on faculty time and energy. Some will put a lot of energy and time into developing materials, and they should be rewarded for this. It shouldn’t be an unfunded mandate for the faculty to somehow provide.
Then, late today, I had a phone interview with yet another school. One aspect of the conversation is the tenure and promotion criteria, and how does what I do fit in with what they want? They are interested in my application for the work I do with undergraduates, they want to promote this, yet it is not really part of what they consider for tenure and promotion! (Yes, you read that right.) Work with undergraduates seems to be counted as a part of teaching or service (where I already excel) rather than as a part of scholarship or research, which is where I want to make sure I have enough points. In fact, what they want for scholarship and research is, specifically, math publications in quality math journals. Nothing wrong with that, but that’s not my main direction. I’d grab it if it came my way, but that’s not what I have planned out for myself.
I tried in every way to make it clear in my research statement that my research focus is on interdisciplinary projects that I can do with undergraduates. They specifically state that they want math publications. Since mine are interdisciplinary, this means they are likely not published in math journals, though mathematical in nature. Second, my real strength is in working with undergraduates and promoting undergraduate research, but they recommend I not do this for the first 2 or 3 years I am there to focus on my research publications (really?). Third, I write on on best practices in education, which is okay, in their book, but not the main thing they want to see.
I’m pretty sure my writing was easy to understand, and it is not clear to me what went wrong here. I spelled out what I am all about. Why did you pick my application out of the pile?
You win some and you lose some. My feeling is this school is also not for me. Tomorrow, or very soon, I will have to reply to their invitation to a campus interview. I am thinking not. I will leave the door open for them to come back and have a dialogue with me, but I don’t think I want to waste anyone’s money and time flying up for an interview with a department where I have serious questions about whether I’d get tenure.