Tag Archives: jobs

Teaching-track positions at Washington University: a testimonial

My Ph.D. student Silas Johnson is teaching at Washington University in St. Louis. This is a kind of job that’s getting more and more popular; teaching-focused, non-tenurable but also not on a limited term. I’m pretty interested in the nuts and bolts of how these jobs work, so I asked Silas to explain it to me. Take it away, Silas! The rest of this post comes from him.

Washington University in St. Louis is hiring two new Lecturers this year: one in math, and one in statistics. These are long-term teaching-track positions, meaning they’re intended to be permanent but do not come with the possibility of tenure. I’m currently a Lecturer here, and I enjoy it a lot. I get to teach a lot of interesting courses; so far, my 3-3 load has usually included two sections of calculus and one upper-division course, with the latter including everything from probability to number theory. I also support the department’s broader undergraduate teaching mission. For example, since arriving, I’ve worked on a project to streamline the course requirements for our math major, tried out new ideas for calculus recitations, and conducted teaching interviews for postdoctoral candidates. Most importantly, my colleagues have been wonderfully supportive as I adjust to the university, try out new teaching methods and techniques in my courses, and work on departmental projects.

These teaching-track faculty positions seem to be increasingly popular, though the nature and details of such positions vary from department to department. While non-tenured, my position is on a parallel promotion ladder from Lecturer to Senior Lecturer to Teaching Professor. This structure is fairly typical, though the titles vary (Assistant/Associate/Full Professor of Instruction is also common). In our case, the promotions also come with increased guarantees of job security.

Teaching-focused positions are sometimes stereotyped as a lesser option, perhaps even a backup plan for those who can’t find a research postdoc or tenure-track job. I disagree; I see this as a good path for mathematicians who, like me, have a genuine interest in teaching and want to make it the focus of their careers. Our department and college are clear about the value they place on teaching-track faculty, too; we vote in department meetings, serve on important committees, and are treated as equals in just about every way. (The only thing we can’t do is vote on tenure-track hiring and promotion.)

Overall, I really like it here. I’m happy with my decision to pursue a teaching career, and I’m glad there are other mathematicians out there who are interested in doing the same. I would encourage such people to apply for our position and others like it. If you’re a grad student, by the way, there are teaching-focused postdoc positions too!

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Mathematicians becoming data scientists: Should you? How to?

I was talking the other day with a former student at UW, Sarah Rich, who’s done degrees in both math and CS and then went off to Twitter.  I asked her:  so what would you say to a math Ph.D. student who was wondering whether they would like being a data scientist in the tech industry?  How would you know whether you might find that kind of work enjoyable?  And if you did decide to pursue it, what’s the strategy for making yourself a good job candidate?

Sarah exceeded my expectations by miles and wrote the following extremely informative and thorough tip sheet, which she’s given me permission to share.  Take it away, Sarah!



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Sympathy for Scott Walker

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel suggests that the slow pace of job creation in Wisconsin, not recall campaign shenanigans, may be Scott Walker’s real enemy in his upcoming re-election campaign:

In each of Walker’s first three years, Wisconsin has added private-sector jobs more slowly than the nation as whole, and the gap is sizable. Wisconsin has averaged 1.3% in annual private-sector job growth since 2010; the national average has been 2.1%. Wisconsin’s ranking in private-sector job growth was 35 among the 50 states in 2011, 36 in 2012 and 37 in 2013.

Combining the first three years of Walker’s term, the state ranks behind all its closest and most comparable Midwest neighbors: Michigan (6 of 50), Indiana (15), Minnesota (20), Ohio (25), Iowa (28) and Illinois (33).

I think this is slightly unfair to Walker!  Part of the reason Michigan is doing so well in job growth since 2010 is that Michigan was hammered so very, very hard by the recession.  It had more room to grow.  Indiana’s unemployment rate was roughly similar to Wisconsin’s in the years leading up to the crash, but shot up to 10.8% as the economy bottomed out (WI never went over 9.2%.)  Now Indiana and Wisconsin are about even again.

But I do mean slightly unfair.  After all, Walker ran on a change platform, arguing that Jim Doyle’s administration had tanked the state’s economy.  In fact, Wisconsin weathered the recession much better than a lot of our neighbor states did.  (The last years Wisconsin was above the median for private-sector job growth?  2008 and 2010, both under Doyle.)   There’s some karmic fairness at play, should that fact come back to make Walker look like a weak job creator compared to his fellow governors.



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Update: At the request of third parties, and with the agreement of the people involved, I have anonymized this post to remove the name of the people and universities involved.

I don’t like to wander into controversy on the blog, but I do want to share what I know about our postdoc XXXXX’s job search this year, in order to counteract some incorrect impressions I’ve heard about.

  • XXXX interviewed at AAAA, and got an early offer of an assistant professorship, with a deadline in February.  She had other interviews already scheduled, and asked for an extension on the deadline.  They didn’t give her one.
  • XXXX accepted the AAAA  job, while on an interview visit to BBBB.
  • Later, XXXX was offered an assistant professorship at BBBB as well.  BBBB, understanding that XXXX had already accepted a position at AAAA, agreed to make the offer effective in Fall 2011 if she so chose.
  • XXXX  told AAAA about her situation, making clear that she had no intention of reneging on her acceptance of the position, and that she was honestly not sure which department was the better home for her.  She asked for a year of unpaid leave for 2011-2012 so that she could visit BBBB after one year at AAAA and make an informed decision.
  • This request, too, was denied.  At this point, the chair at AAAA told her that she had to make up her mind now which job she wanted to take; she was released from her commitment to AAAA  and told that she should immediately start whichever of the two positions she chose.  At this point, XXXX chose the job at BBBB.

As far as I can see, no one acted unethically here.  At every stage, XXXX was upfront with everyone involved, and never considered not showing up at AAAA until the chair there explicitly authorized it.  BBBB made an offer to someone who already had a job, yes:  but I see no difference between making her an offer in March 2010 for Fall 2011, and making her the same offer in October 2010, which would obviously be OK.  As for AAAA, they ran their hiring process in a somewhat nonstandard and maybe suboptimal way — in particular, by denying XXXX the unpaid leave and releasing her to go to BBBB next fall instead, it seems to me they denied themselves the opportunity to convince XXXX that AAAA was the right department for her.  (But I’m told that, at some departments, unpaid leave is not routinely granted as it is at UW.)

In case you hear someone say “XXXX accepted a job at AAAA and then reneged,” please let them know that the story is more complicated.

Update: Timeline above corrected to clarify that XXXX’s AAAA deadline coincided with her interview at BBBB; she didn’t interview at BBBB after already having accepted AAAA, as the original version suggested.

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For the last few weeks, I’ve been getting lots of visitors from people searching for “math jobs wiki” — that is, people who want to see the math job market rumor clearinghouse and inadvertently wind up at my blog instead.

Fortunately, I do have a math job market rumor to share — actually, a fact– which is that my first Ph.D. student has just accepted a tenure-track job at SUNY-Geneseo. Congratulations to Patrick. How pleasant for me to get to feel proud, when he did all the work!

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