Archive for April 29th, 2009

Nearly everybody with a Ph.D. in sociology earned that degree at a Research 1 institution (RU/H and RU/VH just don’t have the same ring to them).  As a result, nearly all of the faculty members we interact with in our graduate programs can tell us about publication expectations at an R1, hiring practices at an R1, tenure and promotion at an R1, teaching at an R1, etc., but most of them don’t have much experience with other types of schools.  Thankfully, many faculty members have recognized that different types of institutions reward different types of letters and applications.  Unfortunately, this recognition is often viewed as a dichotomy – do you want a research job (at an R1) or a teaching job (at a liberal arts school)?

Between these extremes lies another type of school:  the masters-granting institution.  In athletics, many of these schools fall into the “mid-major” category.  In academics, large numbers of professors work happily at these schools and large numbers of students earn degrees and go on to successful careers.  Some go on to earn Ph.D.s at R1s and then get jobs at liberal arts schools in order to cover as many types of institutions as possible.

Perhaps their location in the middle of the academic continuum is the reason that these schools do not receive the attention that seems to be warranted by the numbers of faculty they employ.  Because they fall in the middle, faculty need to be better at balancing research and teaching, as demands for both can be high relative to schools with a narrower focus.  In general, it seems that teaching loads are higher at mid-majors than at R1s and class sizes are larger than at liberal arts schools.  While there are sometimes graduate programs, faculty members are less likely to have graduate assistants to help with grading.  Fewer graduate students also means that faculty have fewer chances to coauthor with others who can do a large share of the work, despite having higher publication expectations than their peers at liberal arts schools.

I have often thought of a career at a mid-major as the worst of both worlds.  Higher expectations for publishing coupled with higher teaching loads and higher class sizes seem less than ideal.  It is possible that my attitudes toward life at a mid-major would be different if I had had the opportunity to learn more about working at one during conference panels and did not have to rely on my observations as an undergraduate.  Hopefully those who accept positions at these schools are able to find out enough about them while visiting campuses for interviews to make informed choices about job offers.  For those in graduate school, however, it would be nice if there were more opportunities to learn about the full range of academic jobs.

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