The Growing Adjunct Crisis

Most of you have probably seen this chart floating around on facebook or elsewhere.  It was recently released by a site called Online-PhD-Programs.  When my husband forwarded it to me, I sat in shock reading through it.  I don’t know if I’d classify it as a full on crisis…but there is certainly a lot of work to be done in the US to change this sad and strange situation.

The stats are mind-boggling, not to mention depressing.  What do you make of it?  I’m not sure how accurate they are.  Do you think this is really the case in most areas of PhDs?  Have you encountered this in your own ‘beyond grad school’ search?  Any insights or thoughts to share?

-M.C.

The Adjunct Crisis

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Love, Written on My Heart

mandy pic

Last week, I completed the graduate life.

Chaotic excitement are the only words I can use to describe our current lives; we are living out of boxes and suitcases – life sort of half in, half out. I never know what’s in the fridge, what we’re having for dinner, if there are enough cups to go around when guests visit, and where did I leave x? We drink wine out of plastic cups, eat off paper plates, and yet it’s a small price to pay for the next season of life ahead of us, one well worth the present disorder.

As our family moves into the next chapter being written for us, and as my husband moves into the next season of academia for him (teaching, researching, writing), frankly, for me, it’s been a lot to process. As we’ve been handling the millions of details for moving and moving on, in parallel, I’ve also been thinking through the last nine years of graduate life, and what it has meant to me. I have lived and learned so much, have taken none of it for granted, and all of it for granted. I have lived in plenty and want; blessings and disappointments; happiness and anger; running and waiting. In some ways, I am the same, but different. There is no doubt that this journey has changed me, my husband, our family.

In all of that living, that processing, that thinking, a theme of the last nine years started developing. I can trace it from the moment we packed up our Atlanta house to move, to where I sit now, surrounded by boxes in our tiny Oxford flat. If I had to pick one word to describe the last nine years, I would choose “love”.

I grew up in a very loving family, so I thought I knew a little bit about what it means to love. Turns out, I didn’t really, and I continue to learn more about it everyday. As I’m sure every season of life teaches us something, I can attest that this season, in the midst of all the difficulties, taught me to look at love in a completely different way.

I learned that putting aside my own dreams to make my husband’s happen was sacrificial love.

I learned that homemade lasagne and chocolate chip cookies given to friends returning from travels or having a difficult time was caring love.

I learned that love means loving things about other people, cultures, religions, that are different from my own. I can have a differing opinion, but I can still love.

I learned that making myself vulnerable by letting people into my life (no matter where I was at) gave them the opportunity to love me, and in return, gave me the opportunity to love them.

I learned that a hug could mean the world to someone who just needed to feel loved.

I leave this graduate journey knowing what it means to love and be loved. I am filled with heart-stopping gratitude, and look forward to the delightful life moments that await us in the next chapter.

Each one of you will take away something different from the graduate journey. You’ll take away a different theme that you’ll use to describe this season of life. I hope that whatever the theme, that you will take it, savour it, and remember that no matter how good or how difficult, it was there to make you a stronger individual.

What word would you use to describe your graduate journey?

-Mandy

Mama PhD

If you are a mama and you are working on a thesis, then you must check out this great little section called Mama PhD on the blog: Inside Higher Ed.  Well, even if you aren’t the student and even if you aren’t a momma, the topics and articles covered are really insightful and interesting.  I was particularly inspired by this one describing a life full of ‘works in progress’.  I can relate with so many ‘projects’ here and there, with some in full swing and some on the back-burner, and some that might never come to fruition.

“But a project can also bring satisfaction, enjoyment, accomplishment in the process of working on it, in ways that others may not appreciate because there is no final product to show.  As long as the process is still appealing and interesting to me, these projects will stay on my list, not dismissed as failures – and I hope to return to enjoying them again (and again).  And maybe finishing some.”

Check out the full list of Mama PhD articles on the site and enjoy exploring and connecting!

The graduate life…through the eyes of a child

Written by Kat – a former graduate wife’s daughter

I write, not as a graduate wife, but as the daughter of a graduate wife mom and a philosophy professor dad.   When MC asked me to write for the Graduate Wife Blog, I wasn’t quite sure what I could share.  But as I thought back over my life as a kid growing in academia (this is truly all I really knew until I got out of college and got a job in the business world), I realized how many wonderful memories of fun and sweet times I have! It wasn’t necessarily a glamorous existence for us by the world’s standards, but there was an abundance of joy that carried us through the tough times.  I’d love to share some of my memories with you.

Just a few of the ‘historical’ facts to start: My dad started studying philosophy at Oxford in 1979, he met my mom in Vienna over Christmas, and they married in June of 1980.  Two years later, I was born, and we moved back to the States when I was 3 months old. My dad taught for a year, and then he entered a PhD program, which he graduated from in 1987.  He couldn’t find a job, so we stayed an extra year while he did a post-doc, my brother was born, and then we moved to the east coast where my dad got a job (he was 35, my mom was 38) at a private, liberal-arts college…and my parents are still there today.

Some of my first memories are from the PhD years when we lived in the married student housing apartments.  At the time, we were basically broke, but my parents decided that it was more important for my mom to stay home with me, than to have more money, so she ended up running a small daycare of sorts out of our matchbox-sized apartment.  As legend has it (it’s probably reality too!), we ate mackerel casserole 3 times a week because it was cheap.  While I can’t claim to have developed a love for mackerel casserole, something that I surely felt as a child and can express now as an adult because it did make a lasting impression on me, was how my parents were willing to sacrifice luxuries and things they wanted in order to spend time together and save for the future.  As a child, I never noticed that we had nothing; I had my parents present with me, and I was happy as a lark!

Even years later, when I was a teenager (and therefore much more aware of our circumstances), I would regularly ask my mom and dad, “Are we poor or rich this month?”  We laugh at it now, but something I admire them for greatly is how disciplined they were to make sure they spent time with us—even if that meant sacrificing financially—and to not live above their means.

Speaking of spending time and discipline, my dad made some amazing choices when my brother and I were kids about when and where he worked.  As we know, grad students and new professors have just tons of freetime…yeah right, don’t we all wish.  I am sure that when I was an infant, my dad often brought work home to do in the evenings.  However, as I got older and was able to play more with daddy, and then especially when my brother was born and there were two kiddos at home, my dad made a point of trying to do his work in the office/library so that when he was home, he was HOME and fully present to us and to my mom.  That meant that when daddy showed up on the scene, he was ours!!! Sometimes he’d come home early and then go back late to do more work (so that he could see us); but we knew that when he was home, we didn’t have to worry that we’d be interrupting or distracting him, we could just play and hang all over him. Oh how we loved those times!

Life of course wasn’t always sunshine and happiness.  I do not have a clear recollection of this one particular evening, but there is a drawing of mine to commemorate what happened.  This was back when my dad was in his PhD program, and I was likely about 4 or 5 years old.  He came home in the evening, sat down at the table and started crying.  As my mom tells it, he was so worn out, we were (as usual) broke, and he had taken a number of hard hits that day from his advisor regarding his thesis. The Lord has gifted my mom with wells of great strength and resolution, my mom is my dad’s biggest fan, so I am sure she listened to him, put her arms around him and encouraged him to press on. In the meantime, I drew a picture: daddy was crying, and mommy and I were standing next to him holding his hands.  I gave it to him to make him feel better, but all it did was make sweet daddy cry again J  My mom says there were many tough and disheartening days when they wondered if they could go on. 

My parents always put their relationship above my brother and me.  It’s so funny what you notice, but don’t quite understand when you’re a child…and then how when you’re older, the pieces start to fall into place.  A case study: the “Don’t bother us after 9:00” nights.  At least once or twice a week, my mom or my dad would say, “Tonight is a 9:00 night.”  Yup, we knew right away what this meant. Mommy and Daddy were NOT to be bothered: no knocking on the door, no hollering for them, no fighting so that they needed to be called—unless you were seriously injured, you had better keep away. What were they up to?  We didn’t know!  We thought: probably mommy and daddy talk, or maybe they were sleeping, or maybe they were playing UNO, but it was like a club and kids weren’t allowed.  Well, being now older and wiser, I’m doubtful that they were asleep…maybe they were playing, but it certainly wasn’t UNO.  What I now realize is that these evenings were some of the biggest blessings for my brother and me.  My parents made sure that, even though date nights financially weren’t possible, and despite all the busyness, the worry, the stress, the crazy kids, they took time to be alone with each other.  This allowed them time to pray, and to communicate and connect, which kept them on the same page made them hopeful and strong together.

Both my dad and my mom deeply love the Lord, and by His mercy and grace they made it through those years of grad school and the crazy years right out of grad school when he started teaching.  My mom was such a rock through everything and as a team they journeyed together.  Despite all the challenges, I have so so many wonderful memories of my childhood.  Looking back, I never noticed that we struggled financially, or how hard it was for my dad to continue and for my mom to keep encouraging him.  What I remember and still sticks with me is the love and the physical presence of my parents in my life and in one another’s lives.

 

On your graduate wife journey, do you have any fears about raising your children during this season?  Any advice?  Any encouragement?

This is my Story: Part II

The below is the conclusion to Carolyn’s post from Tuesday.  You can view her first post here

When our daughter turned two, we were excited to be trying for a second child.  The next several months were painful for me especially, since every new month brought no pregnancy and I was very discouraged.  Our first child had come without any planning, so why was I having trouble this time?  When once we sought help, our doctor discovered that my system was killing off the sperm that entered my body.  I struggled with this new information.  We had one wonderful child; we simply wanted another to join her.  Though it took a while, I came to be very grateful for the daughter we had been given, and accepted that I might never get pregnant again.  We discussed the possibility of adoption.

While dealing with this issue and taking care of children daily, I came down with bronchitis that led to pneumonia.  Care-giving stopped immediately; I could not even take care of our daughter because my fever was so persistent.  It was very lonely in our apartment as she left for more than a week with my mother-in-law, and it took 6-8 weeks for me to feel 100% again.

In Joe’s third year, a major philosopher came to campus for a series of Philosophy Department lectures that were well-attended.  At the end of the afternoon talk, he answered several questions, one in particular from a professor familiar with Joe’s work.  The specific purpose of the question was intended to signal the death-knell of Joe’s line of reasoning.  The philosopher responded, ‘I no longer hold to what I used to write in this area and I think [such-and-such] (Joe’s stance) is the correct way to go on this issue.’  The glance between my husband and his thesis advisor across the room was electric.  After seven years of work, both in England and the US, Joe’s philosophical ideas had finally been given an official seal of approval.

We received a very special gift from God at the end of Joe’s graduate career, while he was employed as an adjunct for a year at the university and applying for a teaching job — a son was born. We never found out medically what had happened, but we were extremely thankful!   Despite my confidence as a mother, my knowledge of the depression condition and a hopeful attitude, once again my PPD two-month-endless-tears blues returned.  A month before our son turned one (our daughter was six), we moved to the location of Joe’s college teaching job, which is where we are today.

My husband remains in academia, and we remain happily married.  I’m grateful that he never gave up his calling despite the stresses in our graduate career on both sides of the Atlantic.

Staying in academia has allowed us to:

  • 1) live near the college where my husband teaches and have access to all the facilities;
  • 2) spend a lot of time with the children, time that most (in our case) fathers might never have because of jobs that keep them away from home;
  • 3) travel to interesting places as a family because of academic opportunities that were made available to my husband;
  • 4) enjoy a lot of time together as husband and wife, because of my husband’s more flexible schedule;
  • 5) expose our children to the world of ideas, which helped them enter worlds of employment that they might not have entered otherwise.

Looking back, in our graduate career, money was always scarce and there was little recognition for Joe’s hard work.   

Was all the sacrifice worth it?

Absolutely.

 

Wherever you find yourself on your graduate wife journey…maybe it is somewhere in Carolyn’s story or somewhere deep inside your own, we hope you can find comfort and courage in knowing that this journey is for a season.  It is indeed going to be challenging, but also amazing. It’s our hope that through sharing our stories and supporting each other that we will become stronger and more beautiful women in the process. 

 

What part of Carolyn’s story spoke the most to you and why? 

This is my Story: Part I

Written by Carolyn – a former graduate wife

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The below story is shared with us from a former graduate wife.  Her story has been challenging, encouraging and intriguing for us to read, as we have realized just how powerful and difficult it would be to try and capture our own graduate wife stories in words. Clearly her entire story couldn’t be written out…or that have taken weeks to share, but she has summarized her graduate wife journey below as best she could.  We hope her testimony and chronological journey speaks hope and courage as you look to your future (as it did to us) as many pages lay before each of us yet unwritten…

NOTE:  I fell in love with my husband because he hung around libraries, loved laughing and had a heart for God.  Our story could be filled with all the wonderful and zany times we had during our graduate life, but the below focuses on other issues.

Joe and I met in Vienna, Austria, where I worked, and married in Massachusetts, where I grew up.  Then we moved to Oxford, England, where Joe’s graduate career was already in progress.  England and Oxford were beautiful and we enjoyed taking walks around the city, visiting small villages where cream teas were heavenly and soaking up the atmosphere and architecture.

Joe’s adjustment to marriage in his already established routine seemed minimal; mealtimes definitely were upgraded from a regular bowl of tomato soup to meat, vegetables and dessert.  My adjustment took longer, understandable in part to having been an independent woman until I was 30+.  ( In the first few months, I took some walks by myself and wondered where I could stay for a night…)

Joe’s area of interest was philosophy and while we were courting in Vienna, he had talked of his academic desires and struggles, which stemmed from having been persuaded by one of his tutors that the topic that he originally had chosen to pursue was not really worthwhile.  He moved on to another area and soon discovered that he held views radically at odds with positions espoused by the academic establishment.  It was a time of extreme loneliness intellectually and yet incredibly stimulating mentally.

While this was happening in Joe’s academic life, I unexpectedly became pregnant.  I had a great job at a company that produced risk-assessment studies for multi-national corporations and my paycheck was the sole income for our existence.  Joe quickly realized that he would have to finish earlier than expected, and it put tremendous pressure on him.

We were blessed with many friends and well-supplied older mothers with all kinds of baby clothes and equipment, all of which we borrowed.  Our wonderful baby girl was born at the end of February, and we looked forward to Joe’s defense of his thesis for a degree at the end of the academic year and to returning to the United States soon after.

On two fronts, things quickly fell apart.  Blissfully happy to be pregnant, I hadn’t read the literature carefully about postpartum depression (PPD), which took up residence in my life.  Tears were ever-present for two long months while my hormones seesawed back to normal.

At the same time, Joe’s thesis draft was extensively marked up by his advisor and Joe had to race to revise the manuscript in time for the defense date.  While requiring an inordinate amount of work in the short term, this critique proved to be the beginning of a sharper, simpler writing style.  Joe received his M. Litt. degree and we prepared to leave England with a beautiful baby girl.

In mid-June when our worldly goods were packed into tea crates, we said goodbye to Oxford and friends and flew to Boston, MA.  My parents housed us for one month to enjoy their grand-daughter while we waited for the tea crates to arrive.  We expected to move on to Joe’s parents’ city to look for work later in the summer.  One day, my mother received a telephone call, and the man calling asked to speak with Joe.  As they talked, my mother realized that her son-in-law would have a teaching job at a small liberal-arts college.

Joe was offered a one-year adjunct teaching job of two philosophy courses per semester.  To say we were grateful to God is an understatement.  Through friends in that area, we found a free semi-furnished place to stay ninety minutes away from the college and moved our small amount of worldly goods there.  We unpacked the tea crates, threw them away and settled in.  Within three weeks, the owner of the property decided to sell the place and asked us to move out, effective immediately.  We moved to within ten minutes of the college, but had no furniture until my parents and others locally donated a generous amount of necessary items – double bed, dining room table and chairs, a couch, extra chairs, etc. (We had baby furniture already provided.)  In order to survive, Joe worked 2 other jobs (cleaning services in the evenings) while I stayed home with our daughter.  I don’t remember eating out at a restaurant during this time, and buying a pizza for $5.00 one night was quite a treat.

It took me six months to adjust to being back in the US; I was so homesick for England and the familiarity of friends and shops.  In that time, Joe applied and was accepted for Ph.D. work at a university in another state.  Again we moved – I was an expert by now with packing!   Thank God for married student housing.  One can live under the government poverty level and still have a life.  After working in the university library for a few months and two weeks in a State Farm office, I settled on being a care-giver for our daughter and other people’s children and enjoyed being a second mother to many children.

Joe was looking forward to the rigor of full academic study again, but without the adversarial environment that he had experienced at Oxford.  However, he was greatly disappointed when he was unable to find anyone among fellow grad students and faculty members who were sympathetic with his views.  After being at the university for two years and hearing how another grad student had been recognized in some way for his work, we came home from campus and Joe broke down at lunchtime, sobbing.  It frightened our daughter and she immediately drew a picture for Daddy to cheer him up.  When recognition doesn’t come, after hours spent diligently reading, studying, thinking, writing, discussing, showing up for department events and spending time on endless department requirements, where does one find the will to go on?