Non-traditional route to full-time professorship

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by chrisjm18, Feb 3, 2020.

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  1. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    When I was in school, kids would say Lil Wayne dropped out and he did fine, so they should be okay.

    And the retort was that just because Lil Wayne dropped out doesn't mean dropping out makes you Lil Wayne. (Or replace Lil Wayne with Zuckerberg, Gates, Dell, et al.)
  2. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    How is a trend here discerned? Are there actually more instances? Or are we finding more because we're looking more?

    Personally, I don't know. I think no one else does, either. This could very well be "wish fulfillment." Or it might actually be a "trend." We don't know. It's not measured.

    But let's stipulate that it is happening, that more holders of DL doctorates are getting traditional academic jobs. That piece of information isn't anywhere near as valuable to others as would be:

    1. How this is happening, and
    2. To whom.

    Are these grads with little experience competing with their brethren from traditional schools? Or, are they nontraditional applicants? Say, people with substantial practical experience who are moving to academia? And how are they doing it? Are they applying through traditional pathways? Or, are they finding positions the way most professionals do, through contacts, referrals, etc., where someone wants to hire them and pulls them through the process?

    We can't even safely say this is a thing. And we have absolutely no idea the magnitude, nor the dynamics of the phenomenon. The reason I'm hot about this issue is that I find a lot of self-delusion when it comes to earning college degrees nontraditionally. Some people tell themselves some pretty fanciful things. This is particularly true with the "I want a doctorate so I can teach" crowd. But we all know that a quid pro quo like that doesn't exist; that things are more complicated, more messy than that. (Same with the "I need 18 graduate credits so I can teach" bunch. But I digress.) It's that kind of thinking--and the sloppy thinking that feeds into it--that sets off my B.S. detector.

    I've been an advocate for nontraditional higher education for more than 40 years. I cheered DETC when it filled a void ignored (briefly) by the RAs. I'm for the little guy in all of this. A large part of my personal, professional, and academic lives are tied up in it. Heck, I designed, executed, and graduated from a PhD specializing in this stuff. And I very much want this to be true and the way to do it be known. But we don't know that it's true and we know even less about how it happens. Why does this matter? Because of what I described earlier about self-delusion and quid pro quo.

    A little confirmation bias can go a long way, but it doesn't help anyone.
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  3. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

  4. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    Liberty University's Ph.D. in Criminal Justice has produced another tenure-track assistant professor. He completed the program earlier this year. Interestingly, he earned all three of his degrees at Liberty while working as a police officer in one of the nation's top 3 largest police departments. He's been an online adjunct for some time. In addition, he worked this past year as a full-time faculty at a 2-year college in the south after retiring from law enforcement. Now, he received a tenure-track position at a Catholic university in the midwest!
  5. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    This guy earned his DBA at Argosy in 2012. He earned tenure at TAMU-Texarkana. Screenshot_20220703-095023_LinkedIn.jpg
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  6. JoshD

    JoshD Well-Known Member

    Very nice!
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  7. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I wonder if he was appointed to a tenure-track position--with his Argosy DBA--initially, or if his track record at the school caused them to put him on track? This distinction matters.

    If he was able to compete for a tenure track position with an Argosy DBA and no prior history with that school, that would be a heckuva endorsement for nontraditional doctoral graduates joining academia.

    But, if he was originally hired, say, as a non-tenure adjunct and worked his way into a tenure track (and, eventually, tenure), then I am far less surprised. That would still be a fantastic accomplishment, but much more in line with my hypothesis that having an existing relationship with a school makes your nontraditional doctorate much more likely to be acceptable--square-filling, even.

    Either way, good for him. But it would be enlightening to know.
  8. JoshD

    JoshD Well-Known Member

    I would be lying if I said I knew for certain but aren't all tenure track positions requiring a doctorate? If so, I would say it was both his performance and his DBA.
  9. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    A terminal degree. These days, that almost always means a doctorate.

    But your comment misses the point. It's not the degree, it's the process. I'll re-state.

    The process for earning a doctorate nontraditionally doesn't naturally feed into the recruiting process for academic careers. So, degrees from nontraditional schools (which Argosy was) or degrees from traditional schools earned nontraditionally tend not to lend themselves to entering academia. This is so for a variety of reasons. Graduates tend to be mid-career anyway, they don't have an academic track record, their schools are not on the radar of traditional academic recruiters, the degree earned is often a professional (not scholarly) doctorate, and others.

    What Chris has been doing is showing us examples where holders of these degrees still managed to get traditional academic positions. It's been enlightening. But the question still remains: How? How did these people get their positions? Did they go through the traditional recruiting process and competition like graduates of traditional schools and traditional programs? Or did they make this leap in some other way.

    This area really is poorly researched. Lots of literature about leaving academia and entering industry (and government). But almost nothing on going the other way.

    I contend that these doctorates--earned from nontraditional schools or earned nontraditionally from traditional schools (and I have one of each)--do not function well in the traditional recruiting process.

    I also contend that one way to overcome this is to have an existing relationship with a school, graduate, and then accept an academic position they want you for. I have a colleague who recently did just that. He was a business manager for a traditional university for more than a decade. He recently finished his doctorate at a very nontraditional university. The school then made him a department chair. Why? Because they knew his work and wanted him in that role. But he had to get the degree before they could do it. He did. They did.

    In the latest example, we still don't know. Did the DBA from Argosy carry the candidate through a traditional recruiting process to earn the tenure-track position? Or did the candidate have an existing relationship with the school, which was the basis for their trust in offering him the tenure-track position, with the doctorate functioning as a "square-checker"? His LinkedIn page provides a clue. He's been with the school for nearly 6 years as an assistant professor and was recently selected for promotion to associate professor (with tenure). This seems to indicate he built his relationship with the school first, and then they promoted him. But perhaps his assistant professorship was a tenure-track position from the start? It's hard to say. It would be very interesting to know.

    No matter which way this developed, it in no way diminishes Dr Matthews' accomplishment. But how he did it--considering the source of his doctorate--would be enlightening.
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  10. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    He was Visiting AP from Fall 2016 to Summer 2017. He started his TT position in Fall 2017.

    Why would that be a heck of an accomplishment anyway? I did it not once but 3 times (offered a total of 3 TT positions with no prior relationships with the schools).

    My colleague from Liberty just did too. Schools are interested in people who have the potential to teach and research. The source of one's degree (based on my experience) is mostly irrelevant.
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  11. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    I'm clueless as to the recruitment process you're talking about, Rich. Maybe you don't actually understand the process of obtaining a position in academia. You apply with your supporting document like anyone else. If your documents are impressive, you get an interview and you compete like anyone else. Nobody is out there pitying those with non-traditional doctorates and handing them tenure-track positions.
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  12. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Maybe it is routine. Or maybe it's because you're a heckuva guy.

    I don't think I said or implied anything related to pity.

    If getting a doctorate from a nontraditional university is not a barrier, fine. That's great. Woo hoo!
  13. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Even with traditional degrees, people often have to start as lecturers or visiting professors before landing a TT position. In the sciences, they often get stuck in what's called post-doc hell because of the competition for TT positions.

    Also, no one wants to live in Texarkana. Beggars can't be choosers.
  14. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    They don't?

    Home of:

    Jesse Belvin:
    Harmonica Slim :
    Scott Joplin:
    Otis Williams:

    If it's good enough for them - it's probably way too good for me. :) Scott Joplin's time was long ago, though. There may have been some changes, I dunno.
    They tell me the nicest part of town is Pleasant Grove. That right?
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2022
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  15. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    36k Texans disagree. Beggars? Haha. In my case, the two schools I turned down were begging me to reconsider. The reality is that some of you on here are just jealous of the achievement of others. There's always some kind of lousy rationale as to why the person earned the position. Instead of hating, some of us should focus on not being an ABD for 10 years. Everyone highlighted on this thread is, you know, Drs.
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Texarkana would not be my first choice in Texas, nor in my top 5. But I'll take east Texas over the panhandle and that desolate stretch between the I35 and El Paso any day. Abilene, Midland, Odessa, yeesh. My choices:

    1. San Antonio
    2. Austin (and the corridor between Austin and San Antonio)
    3. Dallas
    4. Corpus Christi
    5. Houston

    See a connection? It's I35 (except Houston).
  17. chrisjm18

    chrisjm18 Well-Known Member

    When I was job hunting for Fall 2022 positions, I saw a position at TAMU-Texarkana. I chose not to apply because I would never want to live there. The Houston area and the Dallas/Fort Worth area are the only places I'd live in Texas.
  18. Stanislav

    Stanislav Well-Known Member

    You know what I think? If you would do what traditional graduates do - apply broadly - you would land a position. Nontrad graduates tend to be older and less geographically mobile - which would explain the difference in outcomes to a large degree.
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  19. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    "You" as in me? Personally? No, thanks. It's not about me; I've never sought to do that. I've never applied for a position in academia.

    On this board, we hear a lot of, "I want to get a doctorate so I can teach." That has been largely treated as a fallacy and I'm trying to figure out what's changed.
  20. JoshD

    JoshD Well-Known Member

    One thing I have noticed, and it could just be the academics I pursue, is that there are more and more Professors of the Practice showing up... especially in technical fields. I personally prefer these professors to your typical BS -> PhD -> Academic.

    A professor that is capable of speaking theory into practice instead of just theory is one I prefer to learn from.

    So, to get to your question, I could not care less if my professor has a PhD or a MS, if they are able to teach effectively. One of my professors at at Duke had his MS in Statistical Science from Duke but is employed as a Senior Data Scientist. Talk about a great course. :)
    Rich Douglas likes this.
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