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August 22, 2008

Free career guidance?

August 21. Day 52.

For reasons completely unrelated to my graduate studies, yesterday I found myself in the office of two professors at San Diego City College, learning about a book fair they're organizing and the tiny press they run. I'm going to be helping them get the word out about this event, so they were telling me about the authors scheduled to give readings, how many people came last year, that sort of thing.

At the end -- or what seemed like the end at the time -- of our chat, I mentioned that I'm also a grad student, not just a freelance book fair promoter (ok, not my real job, but close enough in this case), and added, "Not that I'm soliciting free career advice, but how do you like teaching here?"

That's how I learned about the differences between community college and four year universities from the perspective of two young literature professors who are clearly making an impact in their institution.

Community college: No research, crazy teaching load (five courses per term), students with interesting life experience (in a class about Che, a student put up his hand and mentioned, "Yeah, I worked with him"), repetitive intro survey classes, but... no departmental politics! They claim they are actually friends with their peers and the college president stops by their house for an occasional beer.

University: Time to research, pressure or freedom to publish, interesting grad seminars and course topics, access to great libraries, but hideous politics. I've never been on the receiving end of an academic's scheme, but from what's been murmured around the hallowed hallways of my own academic institution (hint: East Coast, old, storied), a few professors put the famed frenemiships (not a word, but what's the noun associated with frenemy?) of Lindsay, Nicole, and Paris to shame.

We even ended up trading ideas about what I could do after graduation -- teaching, reporting, going the corporate route.

In all, it was an unexpected and totally refreshing way to spend the afternoon. Not to mention that they're bringing many great authors to San Diego for a week of readings. You guys are awesome!

Gained: Some insights about how I could start spending my days as of June 4, 2009 (Commencement!)

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