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Author Topic: R1 or SLAC: advice needed.  (Read 18163 times)
cypresstree
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« on: October 05, 2012, 5:29:17 PM »

I'm in a situation where it is highly likely that I can get an R1 job, but it would mean uprooting my family out of state.  I also have an unofficial offer to take a position at a Christian SLAC, the same one where my husband currently teaches at and has their version of tenure.  If I pursue the SLAC, I can start next year while in the final year of my PhD program and do a fairly straightforward dissertation based on work I'm already doing.  If I decide to go the R1 route, I'd apply for a grant and do something pretty ambitious and would stay an extra year in grad school.  I have a project basically handcrafted for me and have lots of great mentorship for it by experts in the field.  Anyway, here are the pros and cons of each:

R1 Pros: Prestige, better pay, lighter teaching load, more opportunities for research
R1 Cons: Husband would have to find a new job, move away from my extended family, don't like the idea of starting over- especially with friendships, raise kids without my mom's help, more pressure, longer hours

SLAC Pros: Be at the same place as my husband, I already know it's a great and collegial department with growth potential, very family friendly with other young moms in the department, better work-life balance, low research pressure, reasonable teaching load (3-3 with duplicate courses), close to my community
SLAC Cons: lower prestige and pay.  A part of me thinks, have I really worked this hard all these years only to make such a huge compromise?

What would you do?
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aandsdean
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« Reply #1 on: October 05, 2012, 5:37:52 PM »

I'd take the SLAC job, unless prestige and pay are more important to you than family, community, and the other aspects of your life outside of your profession.

You can move into a situation that is the DREAM of many people--job at same place as spouse, community you like, collegial program, support for your kids, etc.

High pay is nice, for sure.  But prestige--MEH.  You can sleep with it but it doesn't cuddle back.
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mended_drum
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« Reply #2 on: October 05, 2012, 5:38:50 PM »

Well, I'd choose the SLAC, since I work at one now and love it.  Of course, I've no particular interest in prestige.
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lyndonparker
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« Reply #3 on: October 05, 2012, 5:38:57 PM »

Which would make you happier? This is a question no one can answer but you. Maintaining a long-distance relationship is often a terrible strain, especially with children. Having a spouse who is unemployed or underemployed is often difficult as well. That being said, some would jump for the R1 in a heartbeat. It all comes down to what you want.
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Lyndon always has such a nice succinct way of putting things.
cypresstree
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« Reply #4 on: October 05, 2012, 5:54:56 PM »

Yes, I had a feeling that most people would go the SLAC route.  It's just hard because nearly everyone in my program ends up with pretty impressive R1 careers.  It's a great time for my field.  I definitely value family and community over prestige and pay, but I don't know why this decision is so difficult for me.  I guess I'm looking for some final confirmation to really push me over to the SLAC side.  My husband ended up taking the SLAC job so that we wouldn't have to live apart.  We assumed we'd go on the job search together once I finished but it's turned out that he's way happier at his SLAC than any of his friends at their R1s and R2s.  This is just not the life we envisioned...but I guess that's life.
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aandsdean
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« Reply #5 on: October 05, 2012, 6:00:30 PM »

Yes, I had a feeling that most people would go the SLAC route.  It's just hard because nearly everyone in my program ends up with pretty impressive R1 careers.  It's a great time for my field.  I definitely value family and community over prestige and pay, but I don't know why this decision is so difficult for me.  I guess I'm looking for some final confirmation to really push me over to the SLAC side.  My husband ended up taking the SLAC job so that we wouldn't have to live apart.  We assumed we'd go on the job search together once I finished but it's turned out that he's way happier at his SLAC than any of his friends at their R1s and R2s.  This is just not the life we envisioned...but I guess that's life.

It's certainly true that it's hard to let go of prestige.  My first job was at a top-100 SLAC (in other words, a pretty decent job), and I felt like I'd fallen off the turnip truck.  However, in the intervening 22 years, I've learned that loving your work is a lot more important than having people be impressed by your institution.

Please see your penultimate sentence:  your husband is "way happier at his SLAC than any of his friends at their R1s and R2s."  You've answered your own question, haven't you?
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totoro
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« Reply #6 on: October 05, 2012, 7:49:00 PM »

I would ignore the prestige thing and ask whether you can do the research you want to do at the SLAC. This will partly depend on your field etc.
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niceday
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« Reply #7 on: October 05, 2012, 9:33:59 PM »

I'd probably be miserable at a small, religious SLAC. But whaddya care what anyone thinks? It's your life. It sounds like you'd be happier at the SLAC. You might even be able to publish more because you are happier (unless you need resources for your research like labs or grad students).

The other consideration here is that your family is putting all its eggs into this particular SLAC. How good are its finances? How good is this tenure equivalent? The problem with the SLAC route is it is pretty hard to get back to the R1 track. It's not a problem if you are happy and the SLAC is financially sound but it can leave you high and dry if something goes wrong. It's especially a problem for you since both you and your spouse would be on the same boat.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #8 on: October 05, 2012, 10:06:07 PM »

I'd probably be miserable at a small, religious SLAC.

I thought that at one point, too, but so far, so good.  Religious doesn't have to mean fire-breathing preachers looking for any evidence of sin.
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cypresstree
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« Reply #9 on: October 06, 2012, 12:28:46 AM »

The other consideration here is that your family is putting all its eggs into this particular SLAC. How good are its finances? How good is this tenure equivalent? The problem with the SLAC route is it is pretty hard to get back to the R1 track. It's not a problem if you are happy and the SLAC is financially sound but it can leave you high and dry if something goes wrong. It's especially a problem for you since both you and your spouse would be on the same boat.

The SLAC is actually doing very well financially.  They gave my husband a considerable raise this year.  We're not worried about stability at all.  Unless we are involved in some major ethical scandal or leave the faith, our jobs are going nowhere. 

The SLAC position is looking rosy and all but that's because we know all the variables.  Dropping everything for an R1 could potentially be really great, too, even better, but it's just such a HUGE risk.  That is one of the reasons I am wavering.
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lyndonparker
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« Reply #10 on: October 06, 2012, 7:01:40 AM »

The other consideration here is that your family is putting all its eggs into this particular SLAC. How good are its finances? How good is this tenure equivalent? The problem with the SLAC route is it is pretty hard to get back to the R1 track. It's not a problem if you are happy and the SLAC is financially sound but it can leave you high and dry if something goes wrong. It's especially a problem for you since both you and your spouse would be on the same boat.

The SLAC is actually doing very well financially.  They gave my husband a considerable raise this year.  We're not worried about stability at all.  Unless we are involved in some major ethical scandal or leave the faith, our jobs are going nowhere. 

The SLAC position is looking rosy and all but that's because we know all the variables.  Dropping everything for an R1 could potentially be really great, too, even better, but it's just such a HUGE risk.  That is one of the reasons I am wavering.

I went to a SLAC, and teach at one, and am a huge proponent of SLACs both as a learning and working environment. It doesn't sound, however, as though you are sold. I would take the SLAC offer in a heartbeat, but that's me. I have had enough colleagues in the past who were absolutely miserable at my very good SLAC to realize this is not the fit for everyone. You need to decide what you want for you.

What do you want? It sounds to me as though you want to go to the R1, but haven't discussed this thoroughly with your husband. You need to do that now. And listen to what he has to say and make sure he understands (and acknowledges) your position.

FWIW, I think prestige is a very unreliable means by which to select one's job. To me it involves being much too concerned with what others think. I have also found it to be the case that, regardless of how prestigious one's post, there is always someone/somewhere who is arguably better off. Teaching and writing in a supportive and positive environment, near one's spouse and family, have a great appeal to me, and are more certain than "prestige." But you need to make your own choice, which it sounds to me that you have, and now need to share that with your husband.
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fraa_jad
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« Reply #11 on: October 06, 2012, 8:59:04 AM »

I would ignore the prestige thing and ask whether you can do the research you want to do at the SLAC. This will partly depend on your field etc.

Seconded - lots of responses have run with the "prestige" comment, but from the original post it sounds like there is a pretty amazing ("ambitious," "hand-crafted for me") research opportunity at the R1 that the SLAC has no equivalent for. There are of course lots of reasons security-wise to choose the SLAC, but you might want to try to project into the future whether you might regret sacrificing this research opportunity and the trajectory it might give your career.

It sounds like you have two great options - I'm sure you'll be happy either way, but do give serious thought to how important great research is to you, whether you can do that great research at the SLAC if it does turn out to be important, and whether you're likely to have a twinge of regret later at letting this particular opportunity slip through your fingers.
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tortugaphd
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« Reply #12 on: October 06, 2012, 9:46:43 AM »

You mentioned that the offer from the SLAC is unofficial.  Will this offer be in writing anytime soon?  It's always a good thing to have something in writing before making a major decision... such as what you will write your dissertation on.  Make sure the offer is a "tenure-track equivalent" rather than an adjunct or a lecturer position.

The other thing to consider is this equivalence of tenure at the SLAC.  I realize that in this economy, where departments can be eliminated at a moment's notice, traditional tenure is no longer a guarantee of lifetime employment.  However, you might want to do some fact-finding on just how equivalent this tenure equivalent is.  To your knowledge, have people who have been "tenured" let go?  When?  In what departments?  For what reason?

I'm not contradicting the advice you've already received--just pointing out some things you might want to think about before making your final decision.
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mazerunner
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« Reply #13 on: October 06, 2012, 12:24:17 PM »

I'd imagine it's a lot easier to go from an R1 to a SLAC than it is to go from a SLAC to an R1.  You might not get this opportunity again.  I'd personally take the SLAC job because it seems to be a better fit for you and your family.  "Prestige" is something that is a function more of your own research productivity, and not the reputation of the school where you work--IMHO.  Yes, I understand your teaching load at the SLAC might interfere with your research productivity.  But the collegiality of the SLAC and how compatible the area is for you and your family might actually make you more productive.

Take the SLAC job.
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altim
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« Reply #14 on: October 06, 2012, 12:46:15 PM »

"it is highly likely that I can get an R1 job"

If I understand the situation, the OP is only just ABD and still quite a ways from finishing her graduate program (at least two years); she says the above on the basis that particular program that she is in has apparently had a track record of placing graduates in R1 jobs. The actual getting of the R1 job is still sometime in the future.

If she chooses the SLAC route, she can start there ABD and finish her existing dissertation project while starting her teaching career (good luck with that!). But really there is no job offer (yet). An unofficial offer is not an (official) offer.

If she chooses the R1 route, she apparently has an opportunity to start over on a new exciting dissertation project, taking an additional year to finish (3 more years of graduate study), before she would really be on the job market (unless you consider being a grad student at an R1 as being a job, although it sounds like a soft-money job as she would have to write her own grant (proposal)....)

I could certainly be wrong, but the impression I am getting is that her graduate advisor is moving to a new institution, and that she has an opportunity to go with the advisor to this new place, which is very exciting and (potentially) professionally rewarding.

It just seems to me that there are a lot of eggs that haven't hatched yet, and everybody is getting ahead of the game counting chickens.
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