As I noted here, I’m calling it a day on academia. In my one-last-try at finding a job, I decided to ask one hundred or so department chairs for input on my CV and my research agenda/proposal. My thinking was that a chair is on every job search, so they’d have the best non-specialist, in all likelihood, insight on what looks good in a proposal in general terms. So I picked schools where I could imagine a schlub like me could, in fact, get lucky in a job search. Hence, no Harvard or Yale or any of the hoity toity places. I sent out a blind-submission email to the English department chairs of a mess of solid Directional University and Perfectly Fine Liberal Arts College type places. And a couple of American Studies or Film programs, depending on how they do their naming and organization. I’ve only sent out the first set – I’ll be sending out a second set when I get through the suggested changes from the first batch of responses. But, as I often do, I need to encourage good behaviour.

At the top of my cool list is John Ernest, the chair at Delaware. He was at UNH when I was an MA student, but there’s no reason he’d remember my name twelve years later. His reply was gracious and wonderfully detailed in its suggestions. Paul Gutjahr at Indiana University had a couple simple suggestions that certainly led to improvements. Wes Chapman at Illinois Wesleyan (where I was a college radio DJ, even though I didn’t go to school there) sent a great state-of-liberal-arts in terms of my questions email. Kathryn Temple at Georgetown had a couple good ideas for my proposal and sent it on to a specialist. That sounds like a medical diagnosis. Mark Lussier at Arizona State replied very quickly and very kindly – he had a couple of quick points that were easy to put into action. Finally, Deborah Kaplan at George Mason offered a new way to organize my research proposal that looks promising.

I will let the chairs who responded with, “we have enough adjuncts in our adjunct pool” remain nameless.