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For many Ph.D. students nearing graduation, the task of landing a job at a top-tier institution may seem daunting. Finding a tenure-track position at a top research university might seem out of bounds initially, and many students may be unaware of alternative teaching opportunities.

The Fourth Annual Ph.D. Colloquium: Expanded Pathways to Teaching Careers on September 2 addressed concerns about finding a job after graduation by providing insider information on attaining a teaching position in a liberal arts or community college.

Organized by the Visiting Scholar and Postdoc Affairs Program, The Career Center, and The Humanities and Social Sciences Associationthe colloquium was the first of a three part series that explores teaching opportunities. The colloquium will continue in October with a series focusing on teaching at community colleges and will end in November with a panel centered on teaching in private industry and government.

“Many of the Ph.D. students that we see are excited about teaching,” says Debra Behrens, a Ph.D. Career Counselor in the Career Center. “They want to have careers that involve teaching, and this colloquium offers career paths along a wide range of sectors,” says Behrens, who helped organized the event.

The colloquium held in the International House, featured four panelists: Sarah Taylor, assistant professor in the Department of Social Work at California State University, East Bay; Makiko Imamura, assistant professor in the Department of Communication at St. Mary’s College of California; Patrick Zulkowski, professor in the Department of Mathematics at Berkeley City College; and Kim Geron, professor in the Department of Political Science at California State University, East Bay. After the panel, students enjoyed a complimentary lunch while learning about 25 tenure-track openings, ranging from Art History to Accounting, at CSU East Bay.

Panelists advised candidates to tailor their resume for each job and to attain relevant skills prior to applying. They also shared their personal experiences. “Get teaching experience if you’re at all interested in getting a teaching position,” said Professor Geron.

Kim Geron and Sarah Taylor, faculty members at California State University, East Bay, speak on the panel at the Fourth Annual PhD Colloquium
Kim Geron and Sarah Taylor speak on the panel at the Fourth Annual PhD Colloquium.

Professor Zulkowski, an alumnus of UC Berkeley, noted that his experience as a Graduate Student Instructor while a Ph.D. student helped him realize his passion for teaching. He initially thought that he needed to teach at a top research facility, or “you were worthless,” Zulkowski said. But through his GSI position, he discovered that many of his students went to community colleges before transferring to UC Berkeley. He believes that his prior teaching experience prepared him for his current job as a math professor.

Although the interview process varies depending on the school, the panelists agreed that it was important to be patient, because application and interview processes can take more than a year. Assistant Professor Imamura, advised that applications should be concise and well-researched to stand out among the hundreds of applications that staff reviews for any given position. Questions for staff members should be “student-centered” and “should show the candidate’s commitment to student progress,” Imamura added.

For students who are still completing their Ph.D., the colloquium offered perspectives on additional career pathways. “It helped me figure out what I need to do,” Farzana Ansari, a Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering commented. “There are paths that are teaching-specific in the East Bay that are not just at Stanford or Berkeley.”

Terri Tanaka, an alumna who completed her Ph.D. in Near Eastern Studies last December and has begun the job search, says that the colloquium opened up the door for other avenues where she could seek jobs. “The reality is that there aren’t that many tenure-track jobs available, so we have to look for other alternatives,” Tanaka said. “People only talk about Tier 1 facilities, so it’s encouraging to see that there are other options.”

Next Up in the Series

Students interested in learning about additional career pathways can attend the next parts of the colloquium:

Program details and registration information will be announced soon on the Career Center website.