Thursday, October 7, 2021

Jobs: Poet, Pastor, Professor

A few weeks ago, I attended my synchronous New Testament class on my computer in one room, with my spouse in another room.  After it was over, my spouse said, "Your professor reminds me of you.  She sounds very enthusiastic, but not in a bad way."

As I've watched her both in live streaming classes and in the videos she's recorded for us, I've felt this urge to do what she's doing.  What would it take to be a seminary professor?

I've had this urge before.  I majored in English and went on to grad school in no small part because I loved my undergraduate professors and wanted to be like them.  I'm not upset about that; there are worse ways to make life decisions, and I have been happy teaching English to undergrads.  

Along the way, I've yearned for a different type of teaching job.  I thought about that this morning when I saw an ad for a poetry job.  I have to remind myself it's not a poetry job.  It's a tenure track Assistant Professor in an MFA program job at North Carolina State University:  "This hire will enable us to maintain the high quality of our competitive MFA program and our popular, growing creative writing concentration in the English major. The new Assistant Professor will develop and maintain relationships with writers who contribute to our visiting writers program; will attract and recruit candidates into our MFA program; will direct poetry theses and serve on thesis committees; will mentor MFA students in writing and teaching; and will teach classes at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Likely courses include Intermediate and Advanced Poetry Writing, Studies in Poetry, the graduate Workshop in Poetry, and ENG 590, a craft seminar offered to graduate MFA and MA students."

Twenty years ago, I would have applied.  But then I didn't have the credentials, and now, even with the publication of 3 chapbooks, I don't really have the credentials:  We are looking for a candidate with a strong publication record and literary reputation, including at least one published book, and successful university teaching experience. An MFA in creative writing is preferred. Additional publications or teaching expertise in one or more of the following areas would be a plus: creative nonfiction, African American literature, Latinx literature, Native American literature, Asian American literature, environmental writing, and/or hybrid literature and writing.

And then there's this language:  

The candidate should have an established reputation in poetry writing, with the potential for future growth.
Strong commitment to excellence in teaching is expected, as is a willingness to build and support the creative writing program at NC State.

In my younger years, I might have thought my 3 chapbooks would qualify.  Now I know that they will get a flood of applications from people with books with a spine published by a variety of presses.  That salary would attract my attention:  $70,000 - $75,000; dependent upon credentials.  Our local community colleges in S. Florida have a top salary level in the mid-50's for new, full-time teaching hires.  North Carolina State University is not UNC-Chapel Hill.  But again, neither is it a community college.

Long ago, I'd have seen this job ad and applied, even if I realized that I had very little chance.  And then I'd have doubled down on my efforts to get more qualified for jobs like these.

I do hope that I won't look back on this time in seminary, with my dreams of job possibilities beyond, and shake my head at how naive I was.

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