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News: Talk about how to cope with chronic illness, disability, and other health issues in the academic workplace.
 
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Author Topic: Should I make a big deal of this?  (Read 3632 times)
bruceleroy
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« on: November 30, 2011, 12:10:17 AM »

I recently recieved my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and I am looking for a teaching position at small schools that focus on teaching. The big question has to do with my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I mention my disabilty in my application materials but I do not go into any sort of detail. My department has posted the following article now that I have completed everything.

http://www.me.utexas.edu/news/2011/1111_shimek.php

I do not want to focus on the past and the hardship's I've endured but the article does make me look pretty good. Should I include the URL in my cover letter? I also have the urge to send an email with the link to schools that I applied to before the article was published (today 11/29/2011). Thoughts?
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lasquires
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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2011, 12:11:45 AM »

I think what you've overcome is incredible, but are you sure this is the best place to be asking such a question? I would consult your advisors/mentors and see if they will (or already do) mention it in their letters of rec.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2011, 12:14:47 AM by lasquires » Logged

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lasquires
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« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2011, 12:18:09 AM »

Sorry for the double-post, but I felt that I should add that I've never served on an SC, but I have written about challenges my students have overcome (including disabilities and chronic illnesses) when requested to do so for scholarship letters and the like.
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bruceleroy
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« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2011, 12:36:12 AM »

Quote
I would consult your advisors/mentors and see if they will (or already do) mention it in their letters of rec.

The article came out today and I haven't had a chance to discuss it with my advisor yet. I am just hoping to hear opinions.
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larryc
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« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2011, 12:45:36 AM »

If you are a finalist the SCs will google you. And that article is already the fourth result for your fairly unusual name. There is no need to include a link, they will find it.
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the_honey_badger
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« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2011, 12:53:06 AM »

Jesus, that is quite a story. Good for you and your family for getting through this so strongly. I'd hire you in a heartbeat. That kind of work ethic can't be learned and is an asset. Don't ever give up.
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paulsa
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« Reply #6 on: November 30, 2011, 1:44:56 AM »

Do you have a personal website where you could feature this article? If not, perhaps you should have one, and include the web address of your personal website in the heading of the your cover letter. Then when SC members look at your website, they'll see the article.

Your life story is inspiring and shows tons of character. You obviously have a lot of those "intangible" qualities that could help in the final cut. I'd hesitate to feature it in cover letter though because the story itself isn't really among your qualifications for the jobs you're probably applying for  It might be different in certain humanities or social science fields, but overcoming TBI doesn't give a person (as far as I know) any unusual perspective on mechanical engineering. If it does, that would be your angle for mentioning it in a cover letter. Otherwise leave it out.
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helpful
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« Reply #7 on: November 30, 2011, 1:51:03 AM »

Quite a journey of accomplishment indeed. If you get interviews (and SC get access to the story) I would mention the good side of the adrenalin thing you talk about in the article (after all, risk taking to get things done or invent something is something people look for in academic researchers). Some employers might worry about the bad side, after all, though from the article it sounds like you have dealt with that well and your references will support you whole heartedly.
« Last Edit: November 30, 2011, 1:52:33 AM by helpful » Logged
betterslac
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« Reply #8 on: November 30, 2011, 2:01:19 AM »

Quote
I am looking for a teaching position at small schools that focus on teaching.

Are there many places that fit this description that would have mechanical engineering programs? I would think that you would be unduly limiting your search parameters if you stuck with this approach. Many slacs, for example, only have pre-engineering programs and partner with larger universities in some type of 2-2 program. I would check out the job lists to see how many applications you would be able to generate given this limitation.
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seniorscholar
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« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2011, 10:10:38 AM »

Quote
I am looking for a teaching position at small schools that focus on teaching.

Are there many places that fit this description that would have mechanical engineering programs? I would think that you would be unduly limiting your search parameters if you stuck with this approach. Many slacs, for example, only have pre-engineering programs and partner with larger universities in some type of 2-2 program. I would check out the job lists to see how many applications you would be able to generate given this limitation.

And in addition, I wonder if you have considered the 2-year colleges (including many that are called "technical college" as well as the community colleges with wider programs often including various pre-engineering sequences and certificates for various skilled trades)? Many such schools don't advertise programs until spring for fall hires, though some may be looking now.
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ruralguy
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« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2011, 10:27:25 AM »

OP has posted on this before.

(only tanegentially the TBI history, but definitely a long post on the SLAC thing).

I'll say what I said then:

A number of SLAC's have engineering programs (BS in Engiineering). More have pre-engineering, for which
a student would normally be a physics major, or maybe a comp sci or applied math major (BA or BS in Physics or Math).
Some of thse schools have 3-2 Bachelors/Masters, but many don't. Of those that do, many students chose
not to pursue that path anyway. I am personally in a dept. that concetrates on physical sciences, many of which relate to
mechanical engineering. If we ever have a next hire, its quite likely to be an engineer. And this is at a one of the older
SLACs there is.

Though this path MIGHT be limiting, its not as limiting as you might think.


As for addressing the TBI---I like the suggestion or routing people to a personal web page that includes this link.

Also, letter writers can address it.
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polly_mer
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« Reply #11 on: November 30, 2011, 2:11:45 PM »

A number of SLAC's have engineering programs (BS in Engiineering). More have pre-engineering, for which
a student would normally be a physics major, or maybe a comp sci or applied math major (BA or BS in Physics or Math).
Some of thse schools have 3-2 Bachelors/Masters, but many don't. Of those that do, many students chose
not to pursue that path anyway. I am personally in a dept. that concetrates on physical sciences, many of which relate to
mechanical engineering. If we ever have a next hire, its quite likely to be an engineer. And this is at a one of the older
SLACs there is.

Though this path MIGHT be limiting, its not as limiting as you might think.

This.  A mechanical engineering degree and wanting to teach at a smaller school is a reasonable career path.  I've seen probably 30-50 job openings in the past 6 months since that's one of the fields where I am looking.  People who can also teach physics, math, or chemistry will have a leg up, but the jobs exist in reasonable numbers compared to the people who want them.

As for the original query, you put a link on your homepage to the article and you have your letter writers address the situation in their letters.  When you get interviews and someone asks something like "What's the greatest challenge you've encountered?", give a two-minute spiel on your situation.
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proftowanda
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« Reply #12 on: November 30, 2011, 2:22:34 PM »

I recently recieved my Ph.D. in mechanical engineering and I am looking for a teaching position at small schools that focus on teaching. The big question has to do with my Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). I mention my disabilty in my application materials but I do not go into any sort of detail. My department has posted the following article now that I have completed everything.

http://www.me.utexas.edu/news/2011/1111_shimek.php

I do not want to focus on the past and the hardship's I've endured but the article does make me look pretty good. Should I include the URL in my cover letter? I also have the urge to send an email with the link to schools that I applied to before the article was published (today 11/29/2011). Thoughts?

Moss, my sympathies; I have a family member with TBI, from a similarly traumatic accident, although when a lot younger, and I know the battle that this has been.  In her case, it caused chronic seizure disorder, leading to a lot of meds, which made learning even harder, until that condition went into remission -- but only remission.  Of course, people really misunderstand seizures -- epilepsy -- so there is that difference.

However, I also know all too well that being open about her TBI, and about its consequences, has been used against her, again and again, in employment -- not openly by potential employers, of course, nor by actual employers when the family member later mentioned something about it, but the results were all too clear.  (By the way, educators:  We also saw actual illegal reactions repeatedly in K12 and in college, where the family member did disclose the condition to get assistance, by law; upon return to college recently, the family member had learned to not disclose the condition.)

Now, an admittedly quick skim of that article does not, to me, seem entirely helpful to you -- still an "adrenaline junkie" who could relapse; yikes!  You must also know by now that too many people misread too much in this life, as my family member has had to learn the hard way.

That family member finally is a semester away from looking for teaching positions, too, and after all that has happened in employment before, well, that family member is being more careful in this job market.  You are justly proud of conquering obstacles, but I worry that you may be doing yourself an injustice in an unjust world.
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aprilmay
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« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2011, 3:43:46 PM »

Congratulations on all you have accomplished and overcome. I do not think this article is going to help you. The article will not come off as 100% flattering to all people on a SC as the accident occurred during risky behavior (driving 70 in a 35mph zone) and says you are a "recovering adrenaline junkie." You have accomplished a lot in your academic career. You do not need to highlight this accident as part of an application and can get a job based on your credentials.
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spectacle
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« Reply #14 on: November 30, 2011, 4:08:44 PM »

Congratulations on all you have accomplished and overcome. I do not think this article is going to help you. The article will not come off as 100% flattering to all people on a SC as the accident occurred during risky behavior (driving 70 in a 35mph zone) and says you are a "recovering adrenaline junkie." You have accomplished a lot in your academic career. You do not need to highlight this accident as part of an application and can get a job based on your credentials.

I agree with aprilmay.  Let your advisor address your recovery and any possible limitations in work ability in his orher letter of recommendation.  I would NOT mention this article.

I admire everything that you've overcome, but the article is not very well-written and, as aprilmay points out, is not entirely flattering.  Not everyone is eager to work with a "recovering adrenaline junkie." 

Good luck to you. 
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