Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where Are They Now? A Big Thirsty on Grad School Pals.

Got a call from an old grad school pal, not a close one, who I've not spoken to in 15 years. Somehow - I could not ever guess why - he's been looking up all of my classmates. He found me through a Google search, and in keeping with my low grad school profile, I was one of the last people he found.

We had a pleasant enough chat and he filled me in on a number of folks who I've lost touch with over the years:

First String Frank: He was the king of grad school. He got a t-t job after the PhD, got denied tenure at his first school, never got another t-t spot. Works in editing now.

Lothario Larry: Banged nearly every other grad student in our class. Is married with kids, teaching at a juco in Florida.

Serene Sandy: She was briefly someone I dated. She was above my station. She had a zen thing going which always turned me on. She taught part-time, co-edited a textbook/anthology. Stopped teaching about 10 years ago. Is a divorced mom who works at a library.

Druggie Dean: A harmless pothead when I knew him, Dean died of cancer, and did a couple of stints in prison according to his brother.

Missy Mousey: I swear I didn't remember her, but I was sort of a wallflower, too. She's the chair of a department at a rising R2 in Georgia.

Katherine the Kook: Is a franchise owner (Chick Fil A) in New Mexico. Got tenure 6 years after grad school, but got divorced (was married to a Dean), and checked out of the academic world.

Mitch Moneybags: On the faculty at our grad school. He was an annoying jerkface when I knew him. That's a trait I find is hard for folks to lose.

Peggy Pekignese: Great dog lover who brought "Slider" to the shared grad student office in a giant Hansel and Gretel style picnic basket. I remember we also smuggled wine into the building in the basket. I loved Peggy back then. She's now happily married and a co-owner of her husbands landscaping business in Topeka, Kansas.

Wise Ol' Wilson: The one grad school buddy I still know. Wilson was 10 years our senior. He came to grad school after a failed business career. Now he does non-profit fundraising for a national organization. He lives in my town and we're still pals.


Q: What ever happened to your grad school pals? Did they "make it," "flake it," or just fade away? How many of them are you still in touch with?


  1. First off, thanks to Terry P for letting me turn his post into a Big Thirsty.

    I guess I would count my grad school cohort at about 25 people, people I actually knew, drank with, slept with, envied, etc.

    I know where 2 of them firsthand, and maybe the general whereabouts and resulting life paths of about 3 more.

    I just searched 5 of them whose full names I could remember and can't find ANY of them. Depressing.

  2. A couple of my grad school pals have respectable jobs and we stay in touch sporadically, and then there's the one who is a FB who posts the stupidest and most inane crap it makes me boggle.

  3. I see some now and again. Many haven't fared too well on the job market. Some adjunct around, some have found non academic work, one became a high school teacher, one works in the writing center at that same university. A couple are baby-having age, so they're doing that, which doesn't leave a lot of room for job searching.

  4. Grad school was like high school--except somehow more sophisticated (and less mature).

  5. Of those who stayed in academe, four of us landed TT slots, two in town, two far away. Three of the four are at community colleges; the fourth got a SLAC gig. One person works as an academic archivist.

    Of the non-academics, one is a feature writer for a fluffy magazine in which her work is often the only substance. One married, had kids, and stays at home. Our lone international student went back to China and works for the government there doing I know not what. We also had a married couple with dual American/Canadian citizenship (they were both Americans first, so I don't consider them international). They moved to Canada where they run a business together.

    There were a few others who were already in religious orders and stayed there after finishing, but I don't really know what their jobs were. And we also had some who were high school teachers doing the night school/part-time option who stayed at the high school level.

  6. I keep in very close contact with the people I was closest to in grad school. We're all late forties-early fifties by now, because I started grad school 25 years ago.

    I'd say probably that three of my dearest friends are friends I made in grad school, two of whom I spoke to within the past two days. Other grad school pals I don't speak to as often, but may be FB friends. I've sort of grown apart from certain friends I was very close to, but that's sort of normal.

    Some are academics, some never got past ABD and are working in editing, consulting, etc.

  7. Of my friends at the Master's level, I'm in sporadic, mainly FB-based, contact with four members of my cohort. Two got married and now live in the Great Dreary American Dampness, where they both use their degrees in our shared field of hamster fur weaving. Another teaches Intro to Hamster Fur Weaving at a Texas CC, and I heard through the grapevine that her good friend is also employed as a hamster fur weaver somewhere in TX. The fourth member, a lit major, went back to school and just got her PhD in hamster fur weaving.

    At the PhD level, hrm... Again, contact is mostly FB-based, except for my good friend. Call it 12 people.

    As far as jobs go, my program has a good rep, so most everybody who graduated landed TT jobs related to hamster fur weaving. Four folks from my program ended up at the same university in one of the banjo-pickin' states; two bailed on academia (one to have babies, one to chase consulting dollars), and two are still there.

    One couple from grad school lives in one of the"aggressively rural" former Confederate states, he with a TT job related to hamsters and she essentially unemployable with a straight-up English Lit doctorate. Another couple lives in Central American Flatland, he with a comp/rhet TT job and she lecturing on hamster fur weaving, with a promised-but-still-illusory TT slot in the future.

    Of the singletons or couples with only one member in grad school, one woman ended up as TT in a rural-but-rising university in Missouri, where she's doubtless spreading misery among her colleagues. Another woman scored a TT in Wisconsin, where she now exists in a permanent state of high dudgeon about the governor. A fellow I used to dogsit for is TT at a High Plains/Rocky Mountain state university. One guy scored a sweeeeeet TT job with a 1-0 load at a flagship university in our field, and another got a pretty cushy 2-2 TT job at another prominent university. At least five folks from the program have TT jobs in Texas, and one decided to have babies and holds down an adjunct job there.

  8. These are all in Humanities:

    Males: of seven, one left after the MA and became a lawyer; five are employed with tenure at universities across the US; one's a rising star VPAc.

    Females: of seven, one left after the MA and went into computers; one left after the MA to get married and have kids; one left a t-t job to have kids; one left post-PhD and went into computers; four of us are employed with tenure at universities scattered across the continent.

    Of the males who stayed in academe, all but one has children (and he may too, I'm just not sure). Of the females who stayed in academe, I am the only one who has children. Why yes, that is a choice that men are not required to make.

    I am still in occasional FB touch with a couple of them, but it's been a long time and we're not close.

  9. Of my cohort, six of us are tenured at institutions ranging from an ivy to a land grant in a western state. One of us is a named chair somewhere famous. Two dropped out, got PhDs elsewhere and then left academia altogether--one of those is a blogger/alt journalist, the other is working in local politics in her new city. Of the others who finished, two are political hacks--one in the great white north and one in a state with a fat obnoxious governor--one is now a romance novelist, and one returned to the job in her own country from which she had taken a leave of absence to do a PhD. One guy did a concurrent JD and is now a fat, rich partner in a big-city law firm. Three didn't finish: the guy who got thrown out of the program for threatening to put a bomb in the department office is surely in jail, and the last two non-completers are MIA with names far too generic to google.

    Of the people not in my cohort with whom I was close, they are all tenured--one at an ivy, one at a SLAC, four at R1s and one at a regional R2.

  10. "Three didn't finish: the guy who got thrown out of the program for threatening to put a bomb in the department office is surely in jail...."

    Dammit! We need bomb makers in the FSB*; was he planning on a simple pipe-bomb filled with nails and cut-open shotgun shell powder, or something more complex and Unabomber-like?

    Please respond ASAP.


    *It's for Chechnya, and never you mind.

  11. @Strel Planning never seemed like his strong suit, so I'm guessing he hadn't made it that far. Plus he had a big fucking mouth, which would not serve your boys well, I suspect.

  12. A bit of background information first: my entering class wasn't tremendously cohesive (lots of different backgrounds, marital/kid statuses, ages at entry, etc.; at 23, I think I was the youngest by several years), and fell apart even more when my department fell apart the year we passed generals (a bunch of proffie resignations, for reasons ranging from serious wrongdoing; to frustration with the university for not dealing more quickly with the serious wrongdoing, hiring, and other vital issues; to serious burnout from serving as the token minority on too many committees). Some people did, indeed, successfully pursue the path they planned (I know of one couple with 2 TT jobs at a pretty well-known if geographically somewhat undesirable flagship U, and a couple more who are TT -- tenured by now, I assume -- at other flagship public Us). But when I defended, 15 years after entering the program (the last to do so, I think), that still may not have brought us to a 50% completion rate (the official statistics would say otherwise, but let's just say there was some very odd math involved; as far as I can tell, you defended within 5 or 6 years -- the program was officially 4 -- or you dropped out of the statistics entirely. By some definitions, I was never there; fortunately, the registrar doesn't reside in that universe). One person (an international student with an odd obsession with the CIA -- you don't want him, either, Strelnikov) didn't make it past generals; another made an active decision to become a (very conservative Anglican) priest c. 3-4 years in. The rest, like me, spent years apparently intending to finish, but, at least to my knowledge (which may well be faulty), didn't. I've only kept up with one of them, and that sporadically; she's a once-international student, now a US citizen, working in an administrative position at a state U not far from our grad institution.

    Out of those I palled around with, mostly from other departments, one is tenured at a private university with a national reputation. Of three of us who had fellowships designed to supply a projected need for humanities proffies, one (me) has a non-TT full-time job at a state U, one is an adjunct at a community college, and one is a potter (not his original field -- that was, in fact, Archie's field). Most of the other males were in the sciences, and went into industry or government jobs. A female social scientist has hopped between government and think-tanks.

    All in all, I'd say everybody is reasonably happy, though, among those in my closest circle of friends, those who stayed in the academy are somewhat to seriously unhappy with their salaries (all of us) and/or working conditions (those of us not on the TT). A couple of the scientists would probably have liked to stay in pure research, but government funding for their field fizzled just as we were finishing, and they've become more applied -- not their dream, but they seem to be coping (and bringing in much more money than the humanists).

    Nobody's in jail or addicted to anything (though several make responsible use of prescription drugs to deal with chronic conditions, some of which manifest physically and some psychologically). The one divorce, though it didn't stay as amicable as originally intended, didn't turn into WWIII either (whether WWIII actually began during the years since we left grad school, and we just haven't acknowledged it yet, is another question). The kids who have appeared along the way all seem to be thriving and well-adjusted (but haven't hit their teenage years yet).

    Overall, I'd say that our resilience has served us at least as well as our intelligence, or our "prestigious" degrees, though the latter certainly haven't hurt.

  13. Of 14 PhD students, who were good friends, from a science department:

    3 w/ t-t jobs at a university
    4 private sector jobs, all in executive or management positions
    4 government jobs, in permanent research positions
    3 NGO jobs, in contract research positions

    of the 11 in non-academia jobs, 7 started out looking for an academic position, only 1 is dissatisfied with where they eventually ended up [a contract position at an NGO].

  14. @Angry Archie
    Talking does not matter; he would not be making the device "in freedom", as the old hands say. It doesn't matter however, the issue resolved itself when certain factions met other certain factions....

  15. My cohort had 11 (including me). I don't keep in touch with most of them -- we were friends because of circumstances, nothing else. We graduated in 2008, when the economy was doing oh-so-well.

    I teach online.

    My closest friend adjuncts online and for a local CC. Her goal was to work at a CC, and she is an awesome educator, credentials up the wazoo, and can't beyond adjuncting.

    My next closest friend just finished a one-year VAP at a CC and is back to looking for a job.

    Another is adjuncting for several local CCs.

    Two I lost track of.

    One is working as a literacy coordinator at a high school.

    Another just started a PhD program.

    One finally gave up teaching, despite loving it, and is working as a crisis counselor (also loves it, luckily).

    And one is doing the mommy thing, and the last member of my cohort does marketing for online companies; his wife was in the year behind us, and she's teaching at a high school.

    We were a successful group in that everyone has been pretty consistently employed, but unsuccessful in that no one has made it beyond adjunct (who wanted to).

  16. We actually had a reunion a few weeks ago (one of the reasons I've been offline, it involved travel and I actually left my laptop at home by mistake).

    Not all were there, but we came up with 12 tenured, of which one (jerkface) is under investigation for bribery (he didn't show for some reason). The women (except me) quit to have lots of babies. Others are high-level managers, so as a very large research group, we did a pretty good job.


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