An Adjunct’s Balancing Act Has Its Ups and Downs

Desiree Robertson leads an extraordinarily active life. A mother, part-time adjunct professor, and full-time manager at a nonprofit group, she often feels on the verge of losing control. It’s “like those circus acts where you have the plates,” she says, “and then you’re on the ball or on the tricycle, and I think at any moment something’s going to fall.”

Ms. Robertson enjoys the work despite the toll on her time. She is inspired by her sociology students at Southwest Tennessee Community College…

An Adjunct Wonders When It’s Time to Stop Chasing the Dream

Joe Fruscione has been trying for years to land a tenure-track faculty job, without success. Now he’s on the verge of giving up. “Enough is gonna be enough when I realize that my chances are sort of dried up to get a full-time position, and that’s when I know I’m done,” explains Mr. Fruscione, an adjunct professor who teaches English literature at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. He adds, “My feelings, if and when I leave, I can already tell they’re going to be bittersweet.” The…

An ‘Indefinite’ Adjunct Sees Progress, and Tensions, at His University


“A lot of adjuncts don’t know if, you know, they’ll have a job, if they’ll have income from one semester to another. That’s a big source of stress,” explains C.N. Le, a senior lecturer at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Mr. Le notes that his union, negotiating with the state, has created what he describes as a parallel system that creates greater job stability and an opportunity for advancement. “Structurally, it’s still an adjunct position,” he states. He adds that a tension exists…

An Adjunct Struggles to Get on the Tenure Track

“I’m one of the younger ones that seems stuck here,” explains Shannon Berry, an adjunct professor in the Washington, D.C., area who has been frustrated in her efforts to secure a tenure-track position. “It feels a bit like a glass ceiling. You can see these other full-time professor positions, and you’re qualified for them,” she says, but the rigors of teaching leave little time for her to finish her dissertation in systematic theology, much less publish articles that she is expected to produce …

An Adjunct, Unable to Make Tenure Track, Embraces Plan B

“I love to teach because that’s my stage,” explains Matt Thompson, an adjunct at Old Dominion University. But landing a teaching job—his Plan A—has been next to impossible. “Becoming a college professor at the tenure-track level is something like moving to New York City and trying to become a dancer on Broadway,” he says. “I gave it a shot. It didn’t work out, but it’s time to go on to the next thing.” His Plan B is “to transition out of a career as a professor and become an academic librarian.”…

An Optimistic Adjunct on the Economic Edge

Rob Balla teaches up to eight classes a semester on as many as four campuses in northeastern Ohio. “This is the best job I’ve had. I honestly like it,” he says. But Mr. Balla and his family live on the economic edge: “I can’t remember the last time I actually went and saw a doctor. We go to school sick, we go to school with the flu, we go to school with fevers. We go to school under any circumstances, really, ’cause you can’t afford to have your pay docked.” And yet he remains optimistic that he…

Speaking Out for Those Less Fortunate

Irene Schmidt’s pay barely covers her family’s electric bill, and she relies on her husband’s earnings to support her and her two children. An adjunct professor of Spanish at Johnson County Community College, in Overland Park, Kan., Ms. Schmidt can exist on meager pay because of her circumstances, yet she knows that may not be the case for other adjuncts. She has dedicated herself to speaking out for her less fortunate colleagues. “I don’t quit, because I think that there is a need for someone t…