Website FAQs

This website is a companion to The PhDictionary, where I’ll add commentary about academic life and academic careers, answer questions, and possibly add new glossary terms as the need arises. Here’s an FAQ…

Will you review my CV/cover letter/application/dissertation draft?

No. For three reasons. First, I don’t know your discipline, and so I’m probably not the best guide to the specifics of the genre as it applies to biochemistry or Southeast Asian history. Second, you need to get used to asking your colleagues and faculty members for this kind of support, and they should get used to providing it. And third is sheer workload. If I review one CV, that’s fine, a couple of hours. But if I review ten, that’s half a work week. And you can carry the magic of exponential growth from there…

Will you write me a letter of recommendation?

Oh dear. Your letters of recommendation are some of the most valuable currency you will ever own. They need to be specific about your accomplishments and enthused about your prospects. None of that can come from anyone but your closest advisors. I’m likely not one of them.

Why aren’t there comments on the blog posts?

Trust me, this is not about you. You’re a lovely, reasonable person who cogently states a point and is more than willing to consider new ideas. But the genre of online comments just engenders misunderstanding and the resultant disparagement and anger and injured feelings that we see rampant in online forums. If I can offer one piece of advice to soothe a hurting world, it would be this: Never read the comments.

That said, I’m more than happy to take your ideas in the contact field at right, and if you have a thought or a question that seems like it would be of broad benefit, I’ll develop a blog post in response and happily give you all the credit.

Who should we elect? Are you going to buy a Tesla? What’s wrong with our immigration policy?

I am not an all-purpose pundit in the mode of a Brooks or a Dowd. Although I have opinions about a ton of things, as do we all, I don’t pretend that you should need to endure them. The commentary on this website is addressed directly toward the career development of scholars and prospective scholars. If you want to talk about that other stuff, have a coffee with your friends.

What should we do about “the crisis of higher education?”

I have never wanted to be a college president or a Secretary of Education. There are innumerable things about higher education that are difficult, but those difficulties simultaneously are its strengths; it is unlikely that there are singular right answers to be had. If you’re interested in The PhDictionary, then you’ve likely already decided that a home in higher education has significant appeal. Let’s start from there, and try to make that home as happy as it can be.

I hear you write fiction as well.

Why, yes, I do, thanks for asking. For the most part, it’s in a genre that I’ve coined, called men’s romance—dedicated to the idea that we can at least try to be better than we are, and that those efforts sometimes come to good. No gunfights or magic powers, no billionaire sociopaths or vampires in need of redemption, just guys trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances.

As yet, it’s a genre that has not found its partner. As with interdisciplinary degrees, you make your prospects a little harder when your work doesn’t correspond with a known label. That’s okay. The work is the work.