recommendation letters/alternate careers

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at
Tue Nov 26 10:44:12 EST 1996

In article <329A1FD0.7F4 at>, Valerie Cardenas Nicolson
<valerie at> wrote:

> Sarah Boomer wrote:

> > want you do to... because your NOT pursuing an academic career is somehow
> > an EMBARRASSMENT to them.  I think a lot of these gray cases fall into
> Maybe it shouldn't be this way, but it is definitely a huge disappointment,
> if not actually an embarrassment.  As far as I can tell (I do not have
> a faculty position, so I can't speak from experience) the academic 
> success of your advisees has an enormous impact on tenure and promotion
> decisions.

Well, this is a plausible explanation.  It also seems like something
rather easily fixed, if tenure committees could broaden the definition of
"success" of advisees to include successful non-academic careers (I know,
is this asking the impossible?  Maybe, but at this point, it really seems
like the answer is  "OF COURSE the definition of success of advisees
should be broadened.  Duh!") 

Last year I was applying for a AAAS Congressional Fellowship (128
applicants for 2 positions.  Come decision time, I found myself grouped
with the 126, not with the 2).  When I told my boss about it, he told me
that my doing this fellowship (if I were to get it and do it for a year)
would reflect negatively on how search committees would perceive my
"commitment to science" if I came back and looked for academic jobs, even
if I did one or two more years of postdocing before going on the job
market.  I believe my boss was truly concerned about my career and had my
best interests at heart, and he probably did me a favor telling me what
the attitudes of search committees actually are (as opposed to what I wish
they were).  

I don't think we're going to get very far as long as narrowness of
interests and "commitment to science" are held to be synonymous by the
powers that be.


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