Friday, March 1, 2013

What Does It Mean to Be Postacademic? A #postac Manifesto

Currer Bell and I collaborated to write this. We welcome your feedback.

Recently, the crises in higher education have sparked numerous discussions regarding academic institutional reform. Many of these conversations have been started by the various stakeholders in academic cultures -- Deans, Regents, tenured and contingent faculty, and current and former graduate students (among others). Also in conversation are those individuals more tangentially related to the academy in alt-ac positions that are affiliated with but peripheral to traditional academic disciplinary structures and organizations.

But what about those who have left the “academy,” literally or psychologically/philosophically? For these individuals, we have taken up the term, “post-ac” or “postacademic.” We feel that there is an important distinction to be made between post-ac and alt-ac, and wish to account for that difference here. In our experience, post-ac is more than just being outside of academia or past one’s academic career: it’s a set of values about, and way of relating to, academia. We envision “postacademic”/”post-ac”/the “postacademic movement” as a separate (but related) phenomenon from alt-ac with its own history and its own momentum. If alt-ac is the good daughter of academe, post-ac is the family’s black sheep--ready to air the dirty laundry in the hopes of shaking up the (damaging and corrupt) status quo.

What Is Alt-ac?

First, we think it's important to articulate our understanding of "alt-ac." We draw primarily on resources linked from the Alt-Academy website, mostly written by Beth Nowviskie. This seems to be the clearinghouse for alt-ac conversations, although we know that some might disagree with or dispute our interpretation of this term. In "Alt-ac in context," Nowviskie writes of alt-ac:
... it's really about an alternative academia, a new imagination for the systems in which we operate.

Nowviskie coined the phrase alt-ac to disrupt the binary thinking in academia, in which there are only two options: valid, academic careers, and invalid "non-academic" careers. She writes in "Two and a Half Cheers for the Lunaticks:"
Too much of the discourse suggested that, beyond tenure-eligible employment, you may either be an adjunct in Limbo (presumed to be seeking a “real” academic job) or someone who has moved beyond the Pale, to a “non-academic” career. “Academic-as-fulltime-faculty” or a “non-academic” everything-else. That was it, that was the message we were giving our grad students. But my own experience was very different — first as a member of UVa’s research faculty (my final title in that role was Senior Research Scientist – perhaps the only one ever with an English PhD) and later in leadership roles in a library, a digital humanities lab, a university-based think-tank, and a number of professional societies – all of which certainly felt to me like academic employment. So, a couple of years ago, I began to see a clear need for a banner (a temporary one, I’ll emphasize) under which to host conversations about the special challenges and opportunities facing humanities scholars who choose to keep their talents within the academy but who work outside the narrow zone for which grad school prepared them.

But Nowviskie goes on to elaborate that in her mind, alt-ac is more than merely about where you find work. It's also about practices and relations to the academic institution. She describes alt-acers as "hybrid humanities scholars" for whom "service was never a dirty word" and collaboration, sometimes messy collaboration, is standard (versus the lone genius in the tower with a candle) ("Alt-ac in context"). Currer and I note the importance of this open source attitude, evidenced by the Alt-academy website, which is a "grassroots, publish-then-filter approach to networked scholarly communication" ("How It Works"). William Pannapacker believes this fresh and flexible approach to academic training is the reason that "alt-ac is the future of the academy."  It should be noted that alt-ac is not synonymous with the Digital Humanities. As Michael Berube has written, the two share similar values and mission and have become the repositories of hope for folks in academia: “The alt-ac discussion also tends to be conflated (reductively and mistakenly) with the DH discussion—that is, the emergence of the digital humanities, onto which, in recent years, we have deposited so many of our hopes and anxieties. Somehow we expect the digital humanities to revolutionize scholarly communication, save university presses, crowdsource peer review, and provide humanities Ph.D.'s with good jobs in libraries, institutes, nonprofits, and innovative start-ups.” (“The Humanities, Unraveled”)

See here and here for more lengthy definitional excursions about what alt-ac means. You may also be interested in this Storify conversation, in which I ask a number of alt and post-academic folks to articulate the difference between alt and post-ac.

Currer and I note that alt-ac is at heart scholarly. It is interested in research, publication, and disciplinary conversation. “Academic” is an active and meaningful identity to an altac person. Alt-acers call themselves “Dr. So and So” and/or identify as academics. Alt-ac has people who identify as “independent scholars.” They maintain CVs. Alt-acers often maintain a research (or R&D) and publication profile, and bring their disciplinary training to bear every day on problem sets of great importance to higher education. ("Alt-ac in context") We also noted that alt-ac conversations often encourage people to finish graduate school and thrive in academia, and to maintain academic activity even if not working on the tenure track. Alt-ac sites/bloggers also invite others to openly share their tips/tricks and “hack” institutional life (e.g. Gradhacker, Profhacker). This seems to be part of the service/open source ethos of alt-ac. To cut through, to a certain extent, the BS.

Alt-acers want to “do academia on their own terms” (Brenda, comment on “Are Post-Ac Bloggers...” at Mama Nervosa). Alt-ac is minimally concerned with the “wholly non-academic (what-color-is-your-parachute, maybe-should-have-gotten-an-MBA) job” (Nowviskie on Prof Hacker). Yet there is an emerging interest in academic entrepreneurship, which expands the definition of “academic” in an interesting way, but also calls into question the parameters that bound alt-ac. (See here as well.) What about people employed at for-profit schools? Are they alt-ac? What if you write novels after leaving grad school, like Barbara Kingsolver: is she alt-ac because she draws on her science graduate work when she crafts fiction? Where does alt-ac end and post-ac begin?

Currer and I feel like there are some problematic hierarchies at work within alt-ac that might reproduce the same marginalization and inequality that already plagues traditional relations in the academy. This is especially concerning when we consider that alt-ac conversations take place in graduate departments across the country, as frustrated faculty frantically try to find places for their graduates to go after the degree. Often, alt-ac careers -- Special Collections librarian, grant writing, adjuncting -- are the only alternatives to faculty work mentioned to graduate students by their advisors and mentors who do not know/understand life outside the academy.

Who is Alt Ac?

And here we mean more than just who "counts" as an alternative academic, but who is doing the talking about Alt-ac. Who are the alt-ac pros?

Alt-ac includes people with academic backgrounds who now work in “alternative” academic careers (Alt-academy says “off the tenure track but within the academic orbit”). Many proponents of the alt-ac mission hold advanced degrees and have prestigious appointments in traditional academic departments (e.g. Beth Nowviskie, Director of Digital Scholarship), in unique centers or projects housed in traditional institutions of higher learning and affiliated cultural institutions; but many are also adjuncts, grad students, or part-timers.

Alt-Ac is peopled with current graduate students who plan to finish their degrees and seek vocations in institutions of higher learning, or other legitimate and related cultural institutions, but do not plan to apply for or work as tenure-track faculty.

Where is Alt Ac?

And by this we are wondering where these conversations are occurring and how people access the alt-ac world. As we perused articles and websites devoted to alt-ac, we noticed that it is primarily in the academy. It is in universities and sanctioned satellite cultural institutions, such as libraries and museums, but it is primarily in institutions of higher education. Alt-ac conversations take place on websites hosted by institutions of higher education. Alt-ac conversations take place at conventions hosted by traditional academic entities, e.g. MLA 2013 featured panels about alt-ac careers for humanities scholars.

Alt-ac conversations take place on the internet in the form of career path advice websites such as Versatile PhD and #Alt-academy, both of which originated as institutionally sponsored projects (VersatilePhD originated as WRK4US, a listserv affiliated with the Woodrow Wilson Foundation and hosted by Duke U, and#Alt-academy is affiliated with a think tank and hosted by NYU’s Digital Library). Both are open to the public (except some parts of Versatile PhD, which require institutional affiliation and subscription). Alt-ac is all over twitter as well.

What Reform Does Alt-Ac Seek?

From our reading, we created this list of reform actions that we feel the alt-ac community generally supports. Reform that:

  • Improves the working conditions of adjuncts as an issue of pressing importance to the future of higher ed, and as an issue that addresses troubling class/labor divisions among tenured faculty, contingent faculty, and staff/service “alternative” academics.

  • Transforms graduate education to prepare grad students with more skills for work beyond tenured professorhood. (see for example)
    Opens up the academy, breaks down barriers between the ivory tower and the real world, encourages cross-disciplinary collaboration and conversation. Interested in democratizing knowledge. See for example Visible Margin, a publication of Alt-academy. Alt-ac is willing to acknowledge messy process and the pain of transformation.

  • Transforms disciplinary conversations to broaden the application of their theories and concepts beyond traditional academic genres and roles. Alt-acers maintain a strong grounding in their home disciplines and seek to expand what is legitimately embraced in academic conversations (example: “The National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Digital Humanities currently features projects that employ mapping, transcription, and augmented reality technologies to make research in textual fields like history and literature more accessible to researchers and non-researchers alike.  Also see “Who We Are” at Alt-academy.

As already noted, Alt-ac is seen by some as the “future” of the academy. The academy will become alt-ac.

In contrast, we offer the following working explication of post-ac as distinct from alt-ac in definition, population, and practice.


What is Post-Ac?
At its most basic, post-ac is departure from the academy, either by choice or force. This is the most common definition of post-ac, the most literal take on what it means.   But we think post-ac is more complex than this. Post-ac is a separate movement, perhaps developing from, alt-ac discussions. See here for a rough timeline of these movements.

Post-ac can be both a refusal or an inability to engage with the academy. Post-acs opt out or get shut out. Post-ac is at heart a state of disillusionment.

Post-ac is an identity or way of identifying in relation to the institution of academia, and a belief that the current system is flawed, cruel, unsustainable, and therefore impossible to directly engage with (probably other adjectives could be included here). Lauren once wrote:

I see alt-ac mostly for grad students who plan to stay, selling them the notion that staying is wise and there are options that they can learn to love as much as they loved the fantasy of being a professor. This feels markedly different from the conversations in the post-ac blogging world, which are about breaking with the academy. Our pain is disjuncture from the identity that I think alt-ac is trying to maintain and expand. Our topics and methods feel similar, but our projects feel different.

For many post-acers, post-ac means being “over” academia. It is an identity characterized by completely divorcing oneself and one’s identity as an adult away from academia, as a thinker/writer/worker, away from the academy. (see Jen Polk, Amanda Krauss) Life eventually goes on for post-acers, although the academic experience is indelibly a part of who we are now. However, we claim/practice our academic identity differently than alt-acers. Post-ac makes clear that academia or higher ed is a place of work just like every other place of work. It shouldn't be exalted as a special place, as a place devoid of conflict or problems, or as an ideal. When the academy is demystified, leaving it or staying in it become less charged choices.

Post-ac is primarily interested in helping the academically disenfranchised move on with life. Post-ac is focused on vocation inasmuch as you need an income to have shelter and food. Post-ac is interested in helping people find any job that can help them be healthy and financially solvent, and eventually a career path (whatever it may be, we don’t judge) that might even be fulfilling. That a post-acer may end up working in an alt-ac capacity is incidental to that person’s particular skillset and desires; we believe that it is possible to work in alt-ac but “be” post-ac. (Lauren, for example, does not consider herself alt-ac although she does work in an alt-ac capacity.) Post-ac is interested in issues of personal life and identity as well as vocational prospects. Post-ac is less concerned with “refashioning academic identity” as it is in helping people move on from their academic experience and build a new life and identity that is not centered around vocation or institutional affiliation. This is a hard process, and we acknowledge a lot of pain. Post-ac acknowledges the enormity of the crisis of un- and underemployment for grad students. Post-ac places a higher premium on being able to pay your bills than on CV lines. Post-ac is interested in survival. Post-ac has no shame about corporate employment, welfare, “selling out,” or the need to talk about dollars and cents when it comes to jobs and debt. Post-ac does not care if you finish grad school or not, and does not share productivity tips or talk about surviving the dissertation. Post-ac is a critique of the academy, its mythology, and its structure.

Post-ac discourages people from pursuing graduate work.

Post-ac no longer feels that school is an answer to many of life’s problems. We are skeptical that institutions will be able to fully address the reform needs of students.

We have a hunch that the future of rich, intellectual conversations might exist outside of institutions or conventions that cost hundreds of dollars. Maybe the future exists on some kind of information superhighway filled with smart people. Maybe.

And we're kinda hoping to reduce application and enrollment in graduate study a la Pannapacker. (Is Pannapacker post-ac? We think so. Is Berube? Maybe!)

Like alt-ac, post-ac wants to demystify the workings of academia and debunk myths about academic life. We hope to expose the flaws and negativity that exist within current academic insitutions, genres, processes, and relations, and opens the conversation about academia to include negative, dissatisfying, discouraging, sobering, emotional topics.

Where Do Post-Ac Conversations Take Place? Where does Post-Ac exist?
Post-ac is primarily ex (outside) the institutions of academia. It is on personal blogs of people who have left academia. It does not have access to institutional journals. Post-ac did not have a panel at MLA.

Who Is Post-Ac?
Grad school quittas.
People who hold advanced degrees but have not pursued academic employment.
People who hold advanced degrees and tried to secure academic employment but were unable to.
People who adjuncted and then quit.
VAPs and profs who bailed on academic life.

Some individuals who are currently in the academy -- administrators, faculty, and graduate students -- but dissatisfied with its current state and are actively seeking reform might consider themselves post-ac.

Post-acers may or may not maintain a strong allegiance to their home disciplines, and may not feel a strong need to talk about their fields of former study much once they’ve abandoned them. Although obviously all post-acers draw on their graduate education to find employment, and in their daily lives, they are not preoccupied with the synergy between academia and the real world, or their regular jobs.

Post-acers do not typically  identify as academics, use their official designations (PhD, Dr.), or call themselves “independent scholars.” They may go on to craft an identity (not just a career) that is completely removed from their former life as an academic. Some may call themselves “recovering” or “ex-academics.” If you’re recovering from academia, you’re probably post-ac.

Post-Ac is Interested In Reform That:

  • Encourages people to look beyond the tenure track, but also beyond institutions of learning, for meaningful work.

  • Is practical and serves the needs of graduate students, not the needs of faculty, departments, or schools.

  • Improves working conditions for adjuncts but also encourages people to quit adjuncting.

Because we're writing this history as it happens, we know this may change over time, that these movements might merge or diverge more than they do now. But we think it's important to note that post-ac and alt-ac are not completely synonymous. We hope folks will chime in and add their perspective to this conversation!


  1. Excellent article! I've only recently begun to grasp the distinction between alt-ac and post-ac. I've used them interchangeably in the past. I would say, though, from your taxonomy that I lean more toward the post-ac camp for practical purposes. I'm basically a pragmatist who's quite willing to 'sell-out' to pay the bills. However, part of my message, if I can put in such grandiose terms, is that you can love your discipline even if you reject the way it's currently institutionalized. But I'm open to philosophy, to take my discipline, finding a new and better home. In that respect, I find the alt-ac idea of reforming and expanding the academy attractive and hope they succeed.

    However, this raises some questions. In your opinion, have alt-acs not demythologized the academy to the extent that post-acs have? And is that a drawback of the alt-ac movement? Of the post-ac movement? Does this distinction split along personality lines, i.e. optimists vs. pessimists? Or does it break along political lines? For example, do alt-acs lean more left, like the mainstream academy, i.e. suspicious of business and for-profits, whereas post-acs lean more right, at least in fiscal matters? I don't know the answers to these questions, but I'd be interested in others' thoughts. Thanks again for a though-provoking post!

  2. This has to be the most thorough and useful explanation I've seen of the differences between alt-ac and post-ac. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  3. Dan,
    These are great questions and my answers come from my personal perspective. I'm sure there are alt-acers who will disagree with me, or may be more informed about their community ethos. It's my opinion that alt-ac is transformative but maintains some of the hierarchies of academia that they claim to resist. I think a lot of alt-ac is written by folks in privileged positions who are having lovely theoretical conversations about the academy and heteroglossia and stuff, but that strikes me as steeped in academia and divorced from the painful realities that many grad students and recent grads live with. I think it may limit alt-ac's effectiveness in the long run because I see it as invested in maintaining pretty traditional structures in academia (Berube kind of hints at this in his latest article). Ultimately, alt-ac needs the ac, you know? Alt-ac needs panels at MLA and institutional homes for its media projects and so forth. That limits, IMO, its ability to critique and reform. IMO post-ac is less invested in the academy and therefore better able to critique it or to be more radical; at the same time, post-ac could at some point have no valid place in conversations about reform. For now, since the majority of grad students/PhDs are post-ac whether they want to be or not, post-ac should have a seat at the reform table. When post-ac becomes an option, not a forced reality, then we can go on and let the alt-ac folks run the show. But for now, I think anyone talking about reform HAS to think about post-ac reality.

    I don't think it's about optimist versus pessimist, but more about your orientation to the institution of academia as it is. It's probably more of a spectrum than a binary. I couldn't say if its political or not: most of my most brilliant, broke, and desperate post-ac friends are deep blue liberal feminists post-colonialist geniuses. I think post-ac just wants to put food on the table. I'm not sure if that belies a political stance or not. I wouldn't say I "support" corporations but I'd work at one if the job was right, and I think it's silly to not include profit modeled enterprises in the range of post-ac options available to people.

    Thanks for your questions!

  4. [...] differences were in any detail. Fortunately for me, Lauren Nervosa and Currer Bell have written a very thorough, and quite academic, taxonomy of the main differences between alt-ac and post-ac. Although there’s still some looseness and [...]

  5. Thanks for the response, Lauren. This article has been a great help to me in clarifying the terminology. Yes, it seems that alt-ac needs the ac, as you say. I share your suspicion that its status as an insider movement may inhibit its capacity to reform the academy. I'm a post-ac in the sense you and Currer define it.

    Yeah, optimist vs. pessimist is probably too simplistic a way of putting it. I was just throwing it out there. Maybe idealist vs pragmatist is better, although it would need to be unpacked. The political question occurred to me because I freely admit to being more conservative than the academic mainstream (although 'conservative' up here in Canada doesn't carry with it the same connotations wrt social conservatism that it does in the US). That's part of the reason I didn't fit in academia. I wouldn't say I 'support' corporations either, but I've talked to academics (and this isn't strawman fallacy, but real conversations) whose view of business can only be described as conspiratorial, i.e. a secret and powerful cabal of bankers and businesses controlling the world. It's that attitude that I think post-acs need to get over to be successful in the non-academic world. It's an important part of grad school deprogramming IMO.

    Thanks again!

  6. Oops my longer comment at the top (March 2, 2013 at 10:48 pm) was supposed to be here. That was all user error!

  7. Thanks for this great and very clear post! I do think there's a distinction, but it's one that taken me a few months of blog reading, etc., to start to perceive. I don't know if I'll eventually end up more post-ac than alt-ac, or vice-versa. At this juncture, I find both conversations or terms helpful for clarifying where I'll eventually end up. I do think that the overall process of shifting expectations from tenure track to something else, and figuring out how to fit those changed expectations into one's budget, life, goals, family, etc., has crossover between both terms. In my case, I'm pissed off enough at academia to consider post-ac, but unfamiliar with the "world outside" to think that really I might just need to be an alt-ac. Time will tell.

  8. First, thanks for writing a great article that really helps to clarify two quite different outcomes for grad students!

    I personally identify strongly with the post-ac camp, with the reservation that I don't hold any negative judgements or feelings about my own PhD and post-doc career. I had a very positive experience, and while things didn't work out with a permanent academic post, that's life and I've put my talents to good use elsewhere with no regrets or bad feeling. Maybe that's easier in the UK model where PhDs take 3-4 years and employers are positive about the qualification.

    It seems to me that there is a third identity that we should recognise, one that combines an academic inheritance with a powerful sense of personal mission in one's non-academic career. This isn't disillusionment with the academy - this is remembering that academia empowered us. At 19 years old it gave us a language and models for understanding the world in a different way to the world we found in the words of the media or politicians. Academia gave us space and a platform to develop our ideas, arguments and skills so that we could push forward our disciplinary boundaries through our PhDs. Many of us in the humanities have sought to use our disciplines to make the world a better place, through writing, criticism, history and art that is more socially and politically aware.

    But ultimately, by accident or design, some of us now work directly alongside or in the service of the people whose lives we were striving to improve from a distance. We aren't in the academy or even the alternative academy any longer. We work in green or ethical companies and consultancies, in government posts, in non-profits, doing our best to tackle injustice and promote greater equality, sustainability, self-realisation and inclusivity.

    Every day we are translating our intellectual principles into concrete actions, to do good, to do work that matters, to make the world a better place.

    I don't yet have a label for this kind of person. They are certainly post-ac. But they don't forget or disrespect the academy and what they learned there; rather they use their graduate skills and the best bits of their learning in the service of others. The closest I've come to capturing this identity is in the sense of the 'organic intellectual'; the thinker who nonetheless works on behalf of the people, for the greater good.

    It would be very interesting to hear others' thoughts on what it means to push 'beyond post-ac'?

  9. This is a wonderful post that introduces lots of questions that I will need to ask myself as I have been identifying as a 'post-ac' since wanting to transition out of the academy over the last year or so, as well as an 'alt-ac' since settling into work within the university context as support staff. What I'm enjoying about my work is its capacity to allow me to actually put to use my research and analytical skills that I gained over the course of my postgrad studies. So I often feel, this is good, my postgrads studies weren't a 'waste' of time. At the same time, my focus is actually on investigating the postgrad student experience and trying to think about ways to make it better and more positive. Some of the findings of the research initiatives I will be leading on may certainly make me a bit unpopular with academic staff. The post-ac skeptical side of me also still believes that there must be other alternatives for potential postgrads seeking intellectual challenges - the open learning sources and intellectual communities on the net surely offer many possiblities for those who have a thirst for participation in knowledge communities. I might also feel tempted to exit the alt-ac career is something else came my way that appeared to be a better offer. While I feel a certain affiliation with my current post and the university setting as an alt-ac, I can't honestly say that I have got over feelings of inadequacy when liaising with other academics, particularly those in the Arts and Humanities - those who 'made it'. So, while I have found myself, in some cases attaching the Dr. in front of my name in some of my work correspondences, it feels a bit silly, as though I'm setting off in a position of defense. These alt-ac and post-ac identities for me, do not feel like they can be easily separated in the binary 'for' or 'against' academia. I had been thinking that perhaps my difficulties and insecurities (about professional academic failure? or the loss of a 'pure' academic identity?) would just go away after a while. But now I'm beginning to think that maybe they won't ever disappear and that the issue will simply be that I will find ways to live with a bit of fuzziness...Can some of us fit into a more complex 'dual' identity?

  10. I like "organic intellectual." I am wondering if the current iteration of post-ac has to do with the freshness of this issue and the huge number of us out there. The fact that so many current grads will become, for better of worse, postac. I wonder if, as time passes and things stabilize a bit, postac will become a more consciously chosen identity that matches up more with your version. I can see it heading in that direction as the sting comes out of the job market and so on.

  11. Maybe it's more of a continuum?

  12. [...] than alt-ac.  In a recent helpful blog post, the editors at How to Leave Academia have created a helpful distinction between the phrases post-ac and alt-ac. Their lengthy post suggests that post-ac is further removed [...]

  13. [...] (glossary: simply, alt-ac is PhDs with campus or combo staff/research gigs and un-simply it’s complex, while post-ac, c‘est moi, a PhD whose degree helps her professionally inasmuch as it [...]

  14. This manifesto has offered me much succor! Thank you! A few other factors:

    Many alt-accers I have personally known have been deeply, emotionally drawn to the university environment. In part, university staff get hot perks: library access, perhaps a teaching gig here and there, work with students. But there's also, for many nerds, a general comfy feeling in the university environment.

    While this manifesto's assertions about hierarchies and privilege ring true to me, I wouldn't want to say that alt-acs are chumps.

    On the other hand, there is sometimes a tang of "what else could I do? Where else could I be?" in some of the alt-acs I've known. As for me, sure, I'd take that gig! But those jobs are just as competitive as anything else. Student Affairs? You have to have already done student affairs work. What literary theory scholar did that? I didn't. Plenty did, of course. But it's a tight labor market for all. I'd love library access and the chance to teach my research without relying on SNAP. But it's not happening anytime in this world.

    In that sense, then, the same hierarchies and labor problems that drove many post-acs away riddle the alt-ac world too.

  15. Words can not convey the joy I feel reading about this. Seriously. I am dancing in front of my computer. I am such a postac and I did not have the language for it or the basic awareness of this community of creative thinkers. I like 'organic intellectual' and I so claim scholar for myself in one zone. I may even get a job in the altac world to feed the offspring but to know you are out here writing this...well, words fail me. Thank you from my brilliantly beating heart!

  16. Jodi, our pleasure -- glad it works for you!

  17. Yes, you're right. It's not cut and dry at all. I appreciate your response!

  18. This whole discussion - while fascinating - proves one major hypothesis; you can take the student out of grad school, but you can't take the grad school out of the student.

    Proudly post-ac.

  19. [...] behind them, are many of the hallmarks that define alt-ac. As Lauren and Currer Bell note in their recent post-ac manifesto, for [...]

  20. Mary Kristen ClarkApril 24, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    To show you how post-ac I am, I will simply thank you for writing a post that helps me identify with myself. Thank you.

  21. Thank you so much for this post! I'm in the middle of my first Postdoc position and really struggling, so finding this website came at the right time. I'm caught between my academic friends who tell me there is no life outside the University and my non-academic friends who tell me that it's too late and I'll never be able to find work/a life outside of the University. This post has shown me that there is a community that I can identify with and that I'm not the first "recovering academic" nor will I be the last. That's actually quite comforting :)

  22. This post just changed my world. I've read about alt-ac and wondered why I just couldn't participate -- this post has given me language to understand my dilemma. I think I have post-ac values, even though I have an alt-ac job. Lately, I've been feeling like I'm dying in academe: just being within it, and seeing how desperately deep reform is needed, tightens my chest. I have to go consider this --> "When the academy is demystified, leaving it or staying in it become less charged choices." Yes, yes, yes. Thank you.

  23. Kat -- So glad this speaks to you! If you ever feel a guest post brewing in you, share it with us! GOOD LUCK!

  24. It's never too late, and you're not alone. Good luck, Jo!

  25. Welcome to the club, MK!

  26. What a well-written, insightful article! I certainly take tremendous comfort in knowing that I am not alone. I am one of the Grad School Quittas and while it was certainly the most difficult decision of my adult-life that came with enough tears to fill a few gallon containers, it was also the RIGHT and BEST decision for me!

    I went to grad school to gain knowledge and tools for the tool-belt, I didn't really care about the degree which to me was just an over-priced piece of paper. It was the "education" that I wanted. And the most valuable lesson that I can say that I have learned is that education can be garnered outside a classroom with genuine mentorship accessible (minus the politics that seems to plague academia). Bravor for your article... I am so happy a friend mentioned your website!

  27. [...] about the alt-ac and post-ac movements, though, I’m coming to think that’s not the best way. “My research” [...]

  28. [...] going to do it with a PostAc attitude (want to know more about what it means to be PostAc? Read this. I don’t agree with 100% of it, but it’s close enough to my stance on academia that [...]

  29. Found this post really interesting. Don't know if I'm post-ac or alt-ac. Have been told there's no work for me next semester so looks as tho' my ac career is over (three years worth) and now am looking for work anywhere - there's the post-ac. But maybe they (others in the Faculty) sensed I wasn't really one of the group and couldn't help but critique the goals - the focus on publish or perish when most of the written words won't be read,the need to manage large student cohorts and pass nearly all regardless of ability, the need to network with government agencies and gain research grants (telling government people what they already know) and then claiming to be advisors/experts to the government - that's post-ac. But I like the research and writing (when it's relevant) so still want to stay in touch - that's the alt-ac.

  30. I think post-ac has to do with how you relate to the institution of academia more than whether or not you like the work of academics. I love researching and writing, but have no interest in doing it in the context of higher education. I am stauchly post-ac. To each his own! Try to see this change as a newfound freedom from the tyranny and the bullshit. Take care.


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