Careers, Interrupted

When universities close entire programs, professors are forced to hit reset

Careers, Interrupted 2

Sebastien Bozon, AFP, for The Chronicle

Margaret Marshall arrives at the Strasbourg train station while traveling in France. She lost her job as a French professor last year when Southeastern Louisiana U. closed two programs.

Most were midcareer or senior professors. Some had spent dozens of years crafting a legacy in their departments. And then, with little warning, the professional life they had built came to an end.

Washington State University, like many other cash-strapped institutions in recent years, decided to cut back. In 2009 the university eliminated two departments and one of its foreign-language majors. Professors were stunned. Some felt intense pressure to chart a new career. Others simply