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Why do you want to be a professor?

EFS FABRIJUNK at ukans.edu
Thu Dec 17 11:41:13 EST 1998


In article <36743D62.CA1E5324 at salk.edu>, nospamforsburg at salk.edu wrote:

>I always ask students that I'm interviewing for grad school admission
>where they want to be in 10 years.  To a one, they all say "I want to be 
>a professor".  I'm curious--what does "being a professor" mean to EFS 
>and other students and why do they want to be one?  

Do you want the short answer or the long one?  Here's the long one:

If you asked me this time last year, I would have given the same career
choice, but I wouldn't have been able to defend it.  In the last year,
however, I have taught my first course, served on more departmental
committees than ever, developed a good relationship with my advisor,
watched my mother retire and my father die.  There are a million reasons.
I grew up in a University town, and most of my friends' parents and
parents' friends were professors.  My dad was a professor; it seems like a
very natural career to me.  I have his love of Knowing Stuff and my
mother's love of Helping People (she was a nurse).  Unfortunately I don't
have all of my his mathematical ability or my her social ease, but I will
make do.  I have a truly unhealthy love of committee work; I'll volunteer
for practically anything that supports my idealistic view of the world. 
To some degree, I enjoy working under pressure.  I am a weirdo who I can't
imagine wearing makeup, wearing a suit to work, working 8 to 5 on other
people's ideas, or having to leave my work at work.  I can't imagine not
having 'summers off.'   If nobody will pay me to be a professor, I'll get
a tiresome money-making job and wangle an adjunct position somewhere, or
get some other kind of University job.  I like the community; I can't
imagine not having a lovely research library and nice concert hall 5
minutes away, and a great Shakespeare historian, great computer
programmer, great economist or you-name-it just a phone call away.  I now
realize that I love interacting with students.  I like to see that light
of understanding come over them.  I like to talk to them about what they
want to do with *their* lives.  I like learning stuff from them and being
asked questions that I can't answer.  I do worry about politics; I'm prone
to speaking my mind and I'm not very good at hiding my feelings.  I'm also
terrified at the thought of teaching a lecture class to hundreds, and I
know that when the day comes, that will be difficult for me.  On
pessimistic days, I wonder whether my current research will blossom into a
long-term research program or will just one day lose all its possibilities
and all my interest.  But on the balance, I must say, I still want to be a
professor.  I hate to make it sound like I haven't seriously "considered
other options." In fact, I have considered a few; but I have dismissed
them for the time being.  Part of the problem is that if you DO think you
want to be a professor, you need to pursue it more or less relentlessly
until you find out whether it's going to happen or not.  The system
doesn't give you a lot of time off to 'explore your options.'  If five
years go by and I decide I don't love academia anymore (or it doesn't love
me), then I will consider doing something else.  But until and unless that
time comes, I don't see how it will help much to diversify.  What do you
think?
EFS  
'

-- 
To reply to me by e-mail, take out the junk!




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