Especially for Mormon graduate students (or, why you should forget about BYU)

March 6, 2007 | 52 comments
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One of the most difficult stages of graduate school comes near the end, when the massive effort required to complete a dissertation collides with the existential crisis of finding a job, preferably one that justifies the last eight or so years of your life. In any field, there are more qualified candidates than jobs, and grad students have to compete against people with more experience and a longer list of publications. It’s a crummy situation that can cause a lot of angst, and doubt, and anger, and a host of other emotions, mostly bad ones. For Mormons on the academic job market, it’s important to focus on what’s most important and to ignore the voices that won’t help you. One voice that must be ignored is the one that says BYU will hire you.

The problem, briefly stated, is that a Mormon graduate student is much more likely to be hired by BYU than by any other single institution, but much less likely to be hired by BYU than by the national market as a whole. That is, you might have a 1-in-10 or 1-in-5 shot at a job opening in your discipline at BYU, compared to a 1-in-100 or 1-in-300 shot at, say, New Mexico State. It seems tempting to put your chips on the higher-percentage option and do whatever you can to make BYU like you. But that would be a mistake: you aren’t applying to only 2 schools, but to 20 or 40 or 80, and your chances of getting a job in the market as a whole are probably closer to 1 in 2–the sure bet is to make yourself attractive to lots of different employers, not just to BYU. And what you might think makes you attractive to BYU might not improve your chances with other schools. It might not even improve your chances with BYU.

For example: a year before I finished my dissertation, the BYU German department offered me the chance to teach two courses over the summer. Unfortunatley, it didn’t make sense for me financially, as there were no conveniently located grandparents to stay with or to park my family with. More importantly, that was the summer I needed to lock myself in my office and finish my dissertation. Having a completed dissertation is the single most important factor in finding an academic job. The BYU professors to whom I explained my situation all told me as much. (So, if your dissertation isn’t done yet, lock yourself in your office and get to work!) But still, there was a voice that said wait, no, you should go get to know the program at BYU, let the faculty there see who you are, this could be the start of something beautiful, if you don’t take the offer it will look like you’re snubbing them, after all, it’s just a summer… Two years later, I interviewed with BYU for a position somewhat outside my specialty. The professors who interviewed me were, like most search committees, smart and friendly people who were looking for a particular type of colleague. I have now met or know of four other people who were better qualified for the position than I am, one of whom BYU hired. There was nothing sinister about the process, and nothing (I think) deficient about me. Someone else was a better fit. That’s how most academic job searches work out. Having taught for a summer at BYU wouldn’t have changed that.

Don’t tell yourself that the only place you can imagine yourself working is BYU, or any variation on that theme. You do not want to sell your services in a self-imposed monopsony. Your graduate program is not in the business of supplying faculty only to BYU. Where else do students in your program find jobs? Maybe you feel like your dissertation is narrowly focused on a Mormon topic. I’ll tell you a secret: everybody’s dissertation is narrowly focused, but a job at the University of Medieval Arabic Thucydides Reception is not an option. The job market forces everybody to figure out how their narrow field of research can fit the broad institutional needs of a lot of different places.

Apart from a completed dissertation and teaching experience, the other thing that makes a difference–maybe a big difference–for recent or expectant graduates on the job market is publications. It’s a good idea to get something else on your CV once you have a complete dissertation. But what if the topic is a bit edgy for BYU? you might ask yourself. Wouldn’t it be better to wait and see how things are going to work out? First of all, get over yourself. Second, get over yourself, and I mean it this time; BYU probably has a course devoted to teaching undergrads all about your edgy topic. Third, BYU departments want the same thing in new hires that everyone else wants: effective teachers and productive scholars. The more attractive a candidate you are for the market in general, the more attractive you will be for BYU. (The hiring process at BYU also seems by all accounts to be longer and more complicated than elsewhere, and to operate on its own calendar. It’s hard to keep your head in the game if you’re focused on the particular process of one institution. )

If BYU really is where you want to teach more than anywhere else, it makes sense to keep in touch with your old professors, and to apply for any openings there. BYU will want to know about your standing in the church, of course, but they won’t read your articles and try to puzzle out your testimony from the footnotes. Instead, they’ll call up your bishop and ask him. So keep a temple recommend, and keep your bishop (and any other relevant people) informed of your intentions. But until BYU calls, if it ever does, you’ve got important things to be doing. Like finding a job.

* * *

It’s been over a year since I was last involved with the academic job market, and I still have over six months until I have to deal with it again. But I find it much on my mind these days, and I have a few more posts coming up about it. Those of you not involved or interested in academia may not find much to hold your attention, but you’re welcome to read and question and comment. (If you dislike the whole edifice of higher education and those who aspire to careers in it, please save your comments for another time.)

The 2006-2007 academic job market is still ongoing in many disciplines. The 2007-2008 market starts up in mid-summer or early fall. For Mormon grad students about to go on the market–and there are more than a few of you (see table 32 in this PDF, or see here just for history–now is the time to finish your dissertation, or pad your CV with an extra couple lines. More than that, it’s time to put on your game face. Do you have a Plan B in case your academic career plans don’t work out? Good. Now, bury it in the bottom of a drawer for the next 18 months. It will still be there if you need it. Right now, you need to focus on pushing the ball over the goal line. Listen to the voices that will help you get there. Ignore the voices that won’t.

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52 Responses to Especially for Mormon graduate students (or, why you should forget about BYU)

  1. Dan on March 6, 2007 at 10:44 am

    I think you shouldn’t work at BYU simply for the reason that your standing in church is tied to your field of work. I’m sorry, but why are the two related? It was bad enough as a student to be worrying about whether or not my stubble from forgetting to shave that particular morning was going to keep me from playing a quick game of basketball with my friends. What happens if one morning I go to work and I forgot to shave? Will someone at the door say, “nope, you can’t go in today.” Or maybe they’ve relaxed their stupid rules by now…..

  2. RayB on March 6, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I have no problem with Mormon college graduates wanting to work at BYU, but I do have a problem with so many Mormon youth who want to attend BYU. How much courage does it take to attend a school where almost everyone is of the same faith and the faculty must be current temple recommend holders? The Mormon youth I admire and respect the most are those who are choosing not to attend BYU and are instead heading toward Ivy League schools, major public universities, military academies and the like. These are the youth we should be applauding and emulating and hiring. Not only are they gaining their education in the lion’s den, so to speak, but they are giving many of these schools something they haven’t had much of, namely LDS youth with LDS values and standards.

  3. bbell on March 6, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    JG,

    What is the reaction by the secular progressive university professors on the hiring commitees outside of BYU to BYU grads?

  4. John Mansfield on March 6, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Brother Green’s post drew my attention to something sufficiently tangential that I’ve written about it at Millennial Star so as not to detract from the main topic here.

  5. Carl Youngblood on March 6, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    There are some really unique opportunities at BYU that you guys are forgetting about. BYU’s language departments are among the strongest (in some cases the strongest) in the country. BYU’s music department is excellent and gives you the chance to participate in top-notch ensembles performing sacred works that would be much fewer and farther between in most other universities. They have really focused on and mastered some aspects of choral music and other genres that are often neglected, and Mormons’ emphasis on developing musical talent means that the field is more competitive and better-funded than it is at many other universities. I have been consistently surprised when I visit other areas of the country to see how blessed we actually are in many ways. I haven’t seen as much of a general devotion to education and developing talents in other large university communities as I have in good ole Provo, UT. And that comes from someone having received a graduate degree at another top-notch university (the University of Washington in Seattle). There are undoubtedly elite academic circles in the country that surpass those found at BYU, but you would be hard-pressed to find another community with as much of a general devotion to education and developing talents as the Mormon culture. The bloggernacle is a perfect example of this devotion to learning and personal development.

  6. Rusty on March 6, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    I’ve had conversations with those who would determine if I could teach design at BYU and with my wife about teaching at BYU and have concluded that I have a better chance at getting the job than I would convincing my wife to live in Utah. I’m serious.

  7. Ivan Wolfe on March 6, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    BYU rocks, and I find most of the complaints about it to be rather trite and cliched.

    That said, I think I’ve become too attached to my goatee to work there. ; )

    I may apply there when I finally go on the job market in 1-2 years, but it definetely won’t be the only place I apply to, and it won’t necessarily be my first choice. I think, in the end, it all depends on where I can get a job. If BYU gives me a better offer than other schools, than of course I would work there. But I’ve never felt like it was the one place I had to get a job at.

  8. Peter on March 6, 2007 at 1:49 pm

    “If you dislike the whole edifice of higher education and those who aspire to careers in it, please save your comments for another time.”

    Ah, controlling the discourse, a useful skill for any would-be professor.

    Any road, I think another reason “why you should forget about [the] BYU” is that it’s not any warmer or fuzzier an institution than any other. It grinds down its (would-be) professors with as much aplomb as secular universities.

    PS–Game face? Pushing the ball over the line? Is there a stronger connection to coaching and academics than meets the eye?

  9. Mark IV on March 6, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Jonathan, I don’t dislike the edifice of higher education, but as you and others have described it, it sounds dehumanizing, and something I am glad to not be part of. I have worked for some pretty nasty businesses, but I don’t think ever in my career have I had to grovel as obsequiously as some of my friends who are either trying to get hired at a university or get tenure. Best of luck to them and you. And really, plans B, C, and D aren’t that bad.

  10. Kevin Barney on March 6, 2007 at 2:57 pm

    Sage advice, Jonathan.

    On people going to BYU as undergrads (mentioned in the comments), we must remember that there is also a social dimension to one’s university experience. I grew up in Illinois, and my dad, a professor of education, used to say that we have some of the finest universities in the world in our state, but I’m sending you to BYU to get married. That annoyed me no end at the time, but in fact I loved the BYU undergrad experience after having lived where there were so few Mormons around. Doing BYU undergrad and then going elsewhere for grad school (which is what I did with law school, going back to the University of Illinois after a Y undergrad degree) seems like a good option to me.

  11. Norbert on March 6, 2007 at 3:53 pm

    BYU was great for me, too, as an undergraduate. I had never been around LDS people I respected intellectually, especially peers. It wasn’t always easy, but in the end it was a good experience…and when I went to graduate school elsewhere, I found I had a more solid undergraduate experience than many of my classmates.

    Having said that, I applied for a non-academic job with BYU some years later, but I turned down the offer after considerable consideration. It was the fact that they called my bishop that scared me off. The ecclesiastical endorsement issue was always the toughest pill to swallow when I was an undergrad. Besides, I was not yet married and I felt odd about returning to Provo as a single guy over 30…probably unecessarily.

  12. Seraphine on March 6, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    I’ll be going on the job market for the first time this fall, and I do not plan on applying to BYU. People can correct me if I’m wrong, but something tells me that my academic training in feminism and the half of my dissertation that focuses on texts that negotiate same-sex romantic relationships (those crazy Modernists) will not go over well in a BYU application. :)

  13. Naismith on March 6, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    “In any field, there are more qualified candidates than jobs,”

    This simply isn’t true. I know of academic jobs that have been vacant for years for those with doctorates in physical therapy, health care finance, and nursing.

    In economics and statistics, there are always jobs available. I don’t think jobs are left open each year in those fields, but neither do I know anyone who hasn’t been able to find a job.

    If you want to talk about history degrees, okay. But please don’t try to discuss academics in general when the situation may not apply to all academics.

    Personally, I don’t know why anyone would want to teach at BYU because of the inflated housing costs and generally high cost of living. In my area, I know of a few mid-level professors who have been strongly recruited by BYU, but had no real interest because of the decline in quality of life they would experience.

  14. Eric Russell on March 6, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Seraphine, the impression I get from my experience is that you’re probably wrong. Jonathan addresses that issue in the above post and I think accurately so. If you’re a strong job candidate, in good standing with the church, and affirm that you’re not going to preach false doctrines, I don’t think it matters that much. BYU is no liberal Mecca to be sure, but I think some people would be surprised by some of its faculty.

    Jonathan, insightful post.

  15. kristine N on March 6, 2007 at 4:30 pm

    Last semester there was a visiting scientist from Texas A&M who did his PhD at BYU many years ago. He’s had an impressive career and, as far as I can see, is an amazing advisor who genuinely cares about his students (and even those who aren’t his students, like me!). He’s just a really nice guy. Wasn’t LDS, but I think gained a lot of respect for the faith during his tenure at BYU. I point him out as an example of someone who did his degree at BYU and went on to be hired by a highly respected research university and have a productive career.

    I suspect getting hired as a grad out of BYU is again, just like getting hired out of any other university. The quality and quantity of your publications, and the quality of your work are what will determine the quality of the job you end up with. The only potential drawback I could potentially see for BYU is the isolation (who you know and who you can get to write recommendations for you are also pretty important in the whole getting a job in acadamia, or so I’ve heard), but that’s more a function of BYU being a teaching school more than a research institution (I think–didn’t go to BYU so I only know its reputation).

  16. Chris Grant on March 6, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    Jonathan: In certain fields, if there are other Carnegie RU/H schools seriously interested in you and you’re active LDS and not a single male, then your odds of getting an offer from BYU are substantially better than 1 in 10. This is true of mathematics, for example.

    Dan: After you’ve been shaving for a while, you’re not much more likely to leave the house unshaved than without pants. Leave a 39 cent razor in your desk for when you miss a spot at home.

    RayB: Displaying courage is not the be-all, end-all of life. If it were, we’d spend more time playing chicken on train tracks.

    Ivan: If you’re attached enough to your goatee to avoid BYU, avoid living close to a temple as well, or signal your ecclesiastical leaders that you don’t want to be called as a temple worker.

    Mark IV: There’s politics to deal with in higher education, including at BYU. But I see no evidence that things are substantially better in other careers.

  17. Jonathan Green on March 6, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Bbell, I haven’t noticed that BYU grads do any worse than others, but that’s purely anecdotal. I’m curious if anybody has ever followed up on the Ph.D.s who identify BYU as their undergraduate institution in the survey of earned doctorates. Search committees are usually more interested in a candidate’s graduate program.

    Dan and RayB on one side, and Carl on the other, point to BYU’s peculiar dynamic. It certainly isn’t a place where everybody would be happy as a student or teacher, and I can understand why some people would decide, for wholly understandable reasons, that BYU was not for them. But at the end of the day it’s an entirely respectable school with a lot of strong programs. As Kevin points out, it’s a gread springboard for a lot of people to a professional or graduate degree from somewhere else. Ivan has pretty much the right attitude: if it ever becomes an issue, look at it like a cold-hearted economist.

    Peter: I’m glad you enjoyed my post. I considered using track&field metaphors, but somehow they didn’t work as well.

    Mark IV, you’re right that plans B, C, and D aren’t bad. Speaking of self-imposed monopsonies, it would help graduate education tremendously if everyone connected with it stopped looking at landing an academic job as the only successful outcome. Over the last couple decades, a lot of people have figured that out, if not everybody yet. For a long time part of my weekly job-search routine was to check out non-academic job ads as well, just to see what the options looked like. But eventually I realized that I needed to set it aside and concentrate on plan A. I understand how the academic job market can seem dehumanizing, because sometimes it is dehumanizing. But with a little experience, and the right attitude, it doesn’t have to be. A conference interview can either be an opportunity to grovel, or a chance to talk about research and teaching with colleagues. I find everyone is much happier with less groveling involved.

  18. endlessnegotiation on March 6, 2007 at 4:41 pm

    Johnathan wrote: “In any field, there are more qualified candidates than jobs…”

    This statement is wholly false. While academia is plagued by more qualified candidates than there are jobs (and I think that has been the case since the dawn of the academy) I can name more than a dozen fields right off the top of my head where there are more jobs than qualified candidates: nursing, finance/accounting, actuarial science, NFL quarterback (just to name a few).

    One of the main reasons to to avoid BYU as an employer is the implicit “Mormon” discount. Compared to other institutions of comparable size BYU tends to pay less because so many Mormon academics apply.

  19. Lamonte on March 6, 2007 at 4:53 pm

    endlessnegotiation said “Compared to other institutions of comparable size BYU tends to pay less because so many Mormon academics apply”

    So true! But that could be said of almost any professional position in Utah. Employers know that being close to family and friends (and church affiliation) are important to prospective employees and many are willing to accept lower pay for the benefit of living in Utah. It’s just a fact of life. So we shouldn’t necessarily fault BYU for taking the same advantage as every other employer in the state.

  20. Eugene V. Debs on March 6, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Jonathan–

    I loved your post and hop you get a job soon–I’m also in a field with more new PhDs than jobs, so I can relate. You advice is excellent, but let me add my own experience to give this thread a little nuance.

    I am a very active member and have served in a position that involved countersigning people’s temple reccomends. No major issues with the Church. I did not go to BYU ever–does the Provo MTC count?–largely because I thought that the rules would drive me crazy. Consequently, I was not planning to apply there after I defended my diss. But, family expectations are very real, so when a job at BYU in my area of specialization opened up, I sent my materials in. I love my mother–what can I say? The interview went very, very badly–not in a spectacular way, but I could feel that people weren’t impressed with me and I was shocked at how poorly the department got along. I left terrified that they would actually offer me the job since, to avoid hurting my extended family, I would have had to take it.

    I had five campus interviews over the course of my two forays into the job market (I’m in a second, better tenure-track job now). My record is this: three offers, one email that said I was their second choice and would be hired if their first choice turned them down, and one rejection letter that arrived so quickly I thought it came with me on the plane home. The rejection came from BYU, and I know they made the right decision. The moral for me is: don’t expect to be offered a job at a school you avoided when you were an undergrad just because you have the right religious credentials. The hiring committee was right and my 18-year-old self was right: I am a bad fit for the Y.

  21. Jonathan Green on March 6, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Seraphine, I suspect Eric’s right. Maybe you wouldn’t be happy at BYU, but your dissertation topic alone shouldn’t stop you from applying. It’s perfectably acceptable to take a look at a school, including BYU, and deciding that working there would be worse than not finding a job at all. On the other hand, there’s nothing unusual with BYU deciding that your research profile doesn’t match their needs; all schools will reach the same conclusion about nearly everyone who applies. There’s only one way to find out what the effect of your application would be, of course.

    Naismith, you are correct that a few fields and sub-fields have a lack of good candidates, like accounting, so I hear. In foreign languages, second language acquisition specialists seem to be in high demand. The trick is knowing what’s going to be in demand five or eight or ten years down the road at the end of a graduate education. It seems like economics as a whole does a better job of managing graduate enrollments and placement, but it’s the exception among the social sciences. Also, some fields offer obvious paths to althernate careers, while for other fields the path requires a certain amount of creativity. But academic hiring in most fields is more like history than accounting, including math and the physical sciences. I can’t tell that my experience over the last few years has been much different from post-docs in the natural sciences.

    Chris G, the number of qualified applicants for openings at BYU probably does approach 1 in some cases. For some positions, perhaps there isn’t anybody at all who’s a perfect fit. My impression is that 1 in 5 is is the ballpark for most departments, depending on how narrowly the job description is written, but I’m sure there’s someone out there with more experience in this than I have. (I think Ivan was being light-hearted, so telling him to avoid the temple comes across as an invitation for a facial-hair tangent, which I’d prefer to avoid, please.)

  22. Clark on March 6, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    RayB: (#2) How much courage does it take to attend a school where almost everyone is of the same faith and the faculty must be current temple recommend holders?

    Umm. Why should college be about “courage.” Exactly how does going to any college outside of say Beirut or Bagdad take courage? I transferred to BYU because up to that point my entire academic career had me being the only Mormon in any of my classes with few Mormon peers. I’m glad I went and could study Mormonism in a more academic setting as well as have freedom to discuss my religion more openly.

    It’s not for everyone and personally I think it would be nice if more Utah and Idaho folks went to non-Church schools. But it’s a good university and for all its negatives has a lot of pluses.

    Naismith: (#13) Personally, I don’t know why anyone would want to teach at BYU because of the inflated housing costs and generally high cost of living.

    It’s still cheaper than a lot of cities with lots of other benefits (skiing, climbing, biking, hiking, etc.) However Utah definitely is one of the few places in the country still with a housing boom and ever increasing prices. (My house has gone up $70,000 in value in the few short years I’ve lived here)

  23. Ivan Wolfe on March 6, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    yeah – I wasn’t being totally serious about the goatee (I do like it though…..)

    As for the topic of dissertations – heck, I’m doing a dissertation that deals heavily with socialism and Marxism (though I’m not taking a Marxist literary stance). I doubt BYU would have a problem, though, as I’m personally no fan of socialism (the time period and genre I’m dealing with was about pretty much nothing but, so it’s impossible to avoid) and there were a few dedicated Marxists on the English faculty when I was there anyway.

    BYU would likely be more concerned about the rigor and research than the content. Unless, of course, there’s a chapter in there on why the prophet is wrong about same sex marriage – then you might have a problem getting hired at BYU.

  24. TMD on March 6, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    I’ll be in the market next year, and to be honest, I’m not at all sure that BYU would interest me. One of the things that rather weirds me out is the sheer number of people on the faculty who were undergrads there (did not go there…). Sure, to a certain extent that’s understandable, but it seems like it would give rise to a certain intellectual and social inbreeding that just isn’t necessary. I’m not positive, but it seems like the unusually significant role of personal relationships in recruiting and hiring at BYU that I’ve heard about from time to time exacerbates this tendency.

  25. M on March 6, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    RayB –
    AMEN! I go on a rant about this at least twice a week…

    Okay, so this is a little tangential, but I’m on a one-woman crusade to get more strong LDS students going to school outside of BYU and Utah. Especially the qualified ones… I’m one of the ones that chose to go to another institution instead. And I’m so glad that I did.
    Personally, I think lumping all the good LDS students together at BYU (and I’m not trying to be offensive here) is bad for the church and can be bad for the students (although, admittedly, this depends on the person we’re talking about). My main reason for this is the whole self-segregation aspect. Mormons remove themselves from the rest of the world at a pretty high rate so they can go hang out with other Mormons. So many people go to school in Utah, and then have very church-oriented social circles, and so they don’t really get the full force of actually being a light unto the world.
    I think the same thing holds true with LDS professors. I think they should go to other campuses. Not for any real intellectual reasons (I’m not trying to get into BYU/intellectual freedom concerns) but because having LDS communities on other college campuses can only be a good thing. Besides, BYU pays poorly, which is kind of insulting.

  26. M on March 6, 2007 at 6:34 pm

    RayB –
    AMEN! I go on a rant about this at least twice a week…

    Okay, so this is a little tangential, but I’m on a one-woman crusade to get more strong LDS students going to school outside of BYU and Utah. Especially the qualified ones… I’m one of the ones that chose to go to another institution instead. And I’m so glad that I did.
    Personally, I think lumping all the good LDS students together at BYU (and I’m not trying to be offensive here) is bad for the church and can be bad for the students (although, admittedly, this depends on the person we’re talking about). My main reason for this is the whole self-segregation aspect. Mormons remove themselves from the rest of the world at a pretty high rate so they can go hang out with other Mormons. So many people go to school in Utah, and then have very church-oriented social circles, and so they don’t really get the full force of actually being a light unto the world.
    I think the same thing holds true with LDS professors. I think they should go to other campuses. Not for any real intellectual reasons (I’m not trying to get into BYU/intellectual freedom concerns) but because having LDS communities on other college campuses can only be a good thing. Besides, BYU pays poorly, which is kind of insulting.

  27. Ivan Wolfe on March 6, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    I should also say that I am posting these comments while locked in my “office” writing my dissertation. So I’m taking Jon’s advice (although, I’ve actually been doing this for quite awhile – well before his post. But it’s excellent advice anyway).

    Speaking of which, I’d better go back to writing it…..

  28. jose on March 6, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    I consider that BYU can be an excellent undergraduate choice (if the prospect doesn’t have a problem shaving, plucking out that second earring, etc.). However, in general, I don’t consider BYU to be a particularly good choice for graduate work–especially if it was your undergrad choice. The university is not a juggernaut (or even close) in pulling in research $$ like others. Professors take pay cut to teach at BYU. Granted BYU is not unique in this field, but better alternatives can be found for the good student. Additionally, the university is admittedly an undergraduate school focused on undergraduate work/research. One college wanted to build more research lab space, had found a donor to pony up the money, yet the Board rejected the proposal. The reason: why is more space needed if the enrollment ceiling has not changed? A valid point for an undergraduate university.

  29. Kevin Barney on March 6, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    If an academic has to consider plans B, C and D, one possibility would be to work in a law firm. At my last firm, one of our secretaries was a guy with a Ph.D. in medieval literature. He left for a year when he got a job at a school in Michigan. But he came back; they just had him teaching these crappy freshman composition classes, and he hated it. So he went into the word processing pool back at the law firm. He made way more money, had good benefits, and very little stress as a word processor. It’s a lot less money than an actual attorney would make at a big firm, but it is probably more than many professors at BYU make.

    I have another friend with a Ph.D. in classics from UCLA whose day job is at a law firm. It’s not a bad option.

  30. Costanza on March 6, 2007 at 7:41 pm

    Kevin, thanks for the tip. I may very well need it!

  31. Dan on March 6, 2007 at 7:52 pm

    Jonathan,

    But at the end of the day it’s an entirely respectable school with a lot of strong programs.

    No doubt. I enjoyed the education I got there, aside from their silly rules. And many of their programs are highly respectable. Indeed I did consider working professionally at the library (I know the head librarian, Randy Olsen, and in the academic library world, BYU has done very well). I just personally had a very very negative experience with a bishop regarding my ecclesiastical endorsement and have vowed since not to trust anything of my personal life to a future bishop. Working at BYU, for me at least, would open that wound back up. That’s just my personal thing. I do think, generally speaking however, that a person’s career should not be tied to their religious fervor.

  32. Jon in Austin on March 6, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Re 16,

    Thank you for reminding me how glad I am not be living in Provo.

  33. kristine N on March 6, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Jose–It’s almost never a good idea to stay at your undergrad institution for grad work. I know of people who do it, but they’re few and far between. Then again, I’m in science and there is quite a bit of benefit to being exposed to many departments with different research foci and instrumental approaches.

  34. Ben H on March 6, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    Seraphine, let me just echo: I think BYU is very interested in people who know the topics you mentioned well–they are pretty important in the wider scholarly discourse after all–who are faithful LDS. Will you be applying to English departments? From what I understand, while in general English has a glut of job candidates, strong candidates in English who are believing Mormons are kind of rare (surprise! how many believing Mormons want to write about queer theory?), and BYU would probably look very carefully at your application.

  35. Margaret Young on March 6, 2007 at 8:52 pm

    I tell my kids that BYU is a fine place for undergrad work. My impression is that ivy league schools tend to let grad students teach undergrads–which doesn’t happen all that much at BYU. I am impressed by my colleagues in BYU’s English department. All who I know well are extremely bright and also approachable. But for grad work, I’d recommend someplace other than the Y. And even though I teach at BYU, I really wish they’d do away with those dress codes. I’ve seen their evolution, and know that we are reflecting the anti-Hippi movement of the 1960’s by our required haircuts–which seems just silly. (I REMEMBER when the standards were put into place, so I’m not just guessing here.)
    I will say that I find my students delightful. And the teaching load is not impossible at BYU. When I hear about teaching loads at other universities, I’m really surprised the faculty manage to have any sort of life outside the office.

  36. Chad Too on March 6, 2007 at 9:12 pm

    Does taking time peek in here count against me as I study for my Masters Comps or do I get to count it since there’s an academic vibe going? What if the librarian sitting 10 feet away catches me diverting from my study?!?!? Eek!

    16 days and counting. Back to qualitative research methods… and communications theory… and media law… and computer-mediated communication processes and hypotheses… ad infinitum… ad nauseum… ad astrum.

    By the way, does anyone remember what my wife and son look like? ;-)
    Chad

  37. Ken on March 6, 2007 at 11:28 pm

    [LURK MODE OFF]Carl Youngblood (#5): “There are some really unique opportunities at BYU that you guys are forgetting about. BYU’s language departments are among the strongest (in some cases the strongest) in the country. BYU’s music department is excellent and gives you the chance to participate in top-notch ensembles performing sacred works that would be much fewer and farther between in most other universities. They have really focused on and mastered some aspects of choral music and other genres that are often neglected, and Mormons’ emphasis on developing musical talent means that the field is more competitive and better-funded than it is at many other universities. I have been consistently surprised when I visit other areas of the country to see how blessed we actually are in many ways. I haven’t seen as much of a general devotion to education and developing talents in other large university communities as I have in good ole Provo, UT. And that comes from someone having received a graduate degree at another top-notch university (the University of Washington in Seattle). There are undoubtedly elite academic circles in the country that surpass those found at BYU, but you would be hard-pressed to find another community with as much of a general devotion to education and developing talents as the Mormon culture. The bloggernacle is a perfect example of this devotion to learning and personal development.”

    Ken Now Sez: Tsk-tsk-tsk! Mr./(Dr.?) Youngblood, Mr./(Dr.?) Youngblood, Mr./(Dr.?) Youngblood! [Ken shakes head in sad condescension]. A lot YOU know!!! Plainly, your overextended stay in the “bubble” that is BYU (you know, “the campus is our world!” ;-) ) has warped your brain a bit—graduate credentials from a “real” school notwithstanding! If a fault line were to exist that divided BYU from the rest of the city of Provo, and if an earthquake occurred along that fault line that suddenly plunged BYU to the center of the earth, no one would miss it; the rest of the world’s inhabitants would continue on their merry way as if nothing had happened! BYU is an insular, backward, stifling, stilted part of the world in which those who are unlucky enough to spend extended periods of time there must, upon emerging, undergo extensive deprogramming in order to be able to function at all capably in the REAL world!

    [Ken pauses, toying with his class ring in order to turn it “stone-side down” on his finger so that no one will see the red garnet with the inlaid intertwined “U’s” while he types the disclaimer below… ;-D]

    (Pardon CAPS for emphasis; I only know UBB code). ATTENTION TO THE IRONY/HUMOR IMPAIRED: WHILE I AM A GRADUATE OF THE “SCHOOL TO THE NORTH,” IF YOU’RE NOT LAUGHING AFTER HAVING READ THE FOREGOING, YOU MISSED THE POINT! I grew up a BYU fan, but, alas, was rejected by the “One True School,” thus necessitating my “academic apostasy” ;-D in order to be able pursue a degree in my chosen field without being hit by hellacious out-of-state tuition. Truth be known, I harbor a weird mix of affection for both schools that makes me persona non grata all around.

    Norbert (#11): “I was not yet married and I felt odd about returning to Provo as a single guy over 30…probably unecessarily.”

    Unnecessarily?! Hah! A lot YOU know! Utah law requires unmarried males over the age of 30 to apply for a yearly permit to be allowed even to show their faces in public, and the fees for the permit are graded so that the older one gets, the steeper the fee. Jobless for some time now, I’ve had to move into a cardboard box (I list my address as “third box down the alley on the left”) just to be able to exist! ;-D[/LURK MODE ON]

  38. Seraphine on March 7, 2007 at 1:10 am

    Thanks for the suggestions to consider BYU. I may do so, though I do suspect I’ll be happier elsewhere (which is not to say that BYU is not a good school, etc.). I think my wariness to apply probably stems from the fact that I know that the English Dept fired a few feminist scholars awhile ago. And while I make no claims to know the ultimate reasons for the firings (it may have had nothing to do with their feminist scholarship), and while it did happen awhile ago (and not recently), it makes me slightly nervous. Especially since in my academic work I’m quite avowedly feminist (I take feminist positions rather than just study feminism). But thanks for the suggestions to consider BYU nonetheless. It’s given me something to consider.

    Ben H., I’m not actually doing queer theory. I do stuff on affect and sensation; but I’m going to have to address issues of gender and sexuality at some point in my dissertation because they are so prominent in my texts. And, yeah, it’s difficult to find believing Mormons who do what I do. There are Mormons in grad programs in English, but most of them aren’t critical theory majors.

  39. Sonnet on March 7, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Seraphine–

    This is a little bit off-topic (I have no comment about the BYU question at this point), but I wanted to let you know that I also do work on affect and sensation. It sounds like you are a Modernist; I’m focusing on Victorian fiction. Maybe we should find a way to correspond?!
    Best of luck to you in the job search!

  40. Chris Grant on March 7, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    Jon in Austin: Is it that you don’t want to be somewhere that people voice opinions you disagree with? Maybe Zoobies aren’t the only insular ones!

  41. Southern Mormon Convert on March 7, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    I\’m on the job market right now and I\’ve had three schools tell me, flat out–in writing, that they don\’t hire Mormons. Another school (not BYU), Mormon in nature, offered me an on-campus interview and then reneged claiming budgetary, etc. reasons, but I noticed that it was 10 minutes after someone there had read my blog. My blog is now private; I guess I\’m too liberal for Mormons and too conservative for others.

    I would love to teach at BYU, eventually. The competition in my field would be fierce, so I need to hone my skills and build my reputation before I would be a serious candidate.

  42. Mark IV on March 7, 2007 at 3:08 pm

    Southern Mormon Convert:

    If I had three rejection letters from potential employers telling me in writing that they won’t hire me on account of my religion, I would start shopping for the smartest, most experienced, and meanest legal counsel I could find. You ought to go into an office building that houses law offices and show those letters around. It would be like throwing bloody red meat into a shark tank.

  43. TMD on March 7, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    SMC:

    It’s a simple fact that schools like Baylor won’t hire mormons, because they see us as too far away from their faith tradition. I would encourage you to be aware of those kinds of policies going in. But any school that would do that, I wouldn’t want to work at. As to blogging, well, it has been found to be hazardous to one’s job applications in a number of fields.

  44. Gavin Guillaume on March 8, 2007 at 12:59 am

    Four thoughts:

    1. I attended BYU for three reasons: (a) it has one of the best undergraduate computer science programs in the country, (b) for a school of their stature, they offered the most scholarship money, and (c) after growing up in an environment where we had VERY FEW active Mormon kids, I wanted to actually be able to date LDS girls. Call it a cynical decision, but my other university options would not have yielded me the same opportunity to find a spouse. So I went to BYU, got a bride, got a kick-butt undergraduate degree with some reputation, and parlayed that into a MS (and soon PhD) at a institution with a research budget, and a rewarding career. Plus, for people who live OUTSIDE Utah, it has, again, a great reputation.

    It’s funny how here in the south, people see UofUtah has being one of those “athletics-first, academics-last” schools and BYU as being a prominent academic school — who happens to also play great football.

    2. My brother teaches at BYU now. Post-PhD, he turned down some very interesting opportunities to return to BYU (both academic and in industry and in government), where he was once the “rock-star” Masters student and his advisor was a bigwig. Plus, my SIL is from Utah and wanted to move home. I still think he made a curious decision, but he’s happy, and at the end of the day, you’ve got to be happy.

    3. Another SIL tried to get a job at BYU in a department rife with controversy. It was a *horrible* fit for her and for BYU. Her name figures in one BYU conspiracy theory, but at the end of the day, it was the best decision for BYU to make.

    4. I really have to wonder about those people who think you have to turn off your brain to go to BYU. What did you major in? When I was double-majoring in the sciences and humanities, I had classes where our discussions were open, wide-ranging, and opinionated. We discussed feminism, religious persecution, religious dissidents, oppression, privacy, evolution, sexuality, orthodoxy, etc. And it was out in the open and taught by prominent members of departments. And in some cases, we actually held these discussions in *English* (though, not always).

  45. Seraphine on March 8, 2007 at 1:07 am

    Sonnet, that’s cool that you’re working on affect/sensation. If you go to our blog, you will find my e-mail address (seraphine at zelophehadsdaughters.com). You can write me there if you want!

  46. MSG on March 8, 2007 at 2:09 am

    I echo comment #42. It\’s discrimination;it\’s illegal and it\’s wrong.
    To remain silent and register no complaint, means that it will remain okay in society to be \”anti-Mormon\”. It was once quite normal in society to be anti-Semitic and because Jews stood up and made themselves heard, people know isn\’t all right.
    There are consequences. It\’s high time Mormons learned from them. BTW The Jewish Anti-Defamation League stands to protect everyone from discrimination, not just Jews. Anyone can contact them for counsel.

    I also have a question. In general, do BYU graduates often find that they are discriminated in the workplace because they went to BYU?

  47. MSG on March 8, 2007 at 2:40 am

    Let me rephrase that. In general, do many BYU graduates think they are at a disadvantage or are discriminated against in the world
    because their college degree labels them as being “Mormon”?
    Or do most find it advantageous or not an issue at all?

  48. Chris Grant on March 8, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Re #41 through #43:

    It is, of course, illegal for most schools to discriminate against Mormons in hiring, but it happens, as people who’ve been present in the relevant hiring meetings have informed me. I can’t imagine that any school for which such discrimination is illegal would be stupid enough to put their discrimination in writing, so I’m guessing the 3 letters were from religious schools, for whom such discrimination is *not* illegal. As to not wanting to work at religious schools who discriminate on the basis of religion in hiring: well, BYU is one of those schools. (As to the extent of that discrimination, the statement attributed to Don Abel in the Daily Universe: “The only difference [in the hiring procedure] is that if qualifications are equal, the member is hired.” is simply false.)

  49. Jonathan Green on March 8, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Chris, in the cases of you know, what kinds of schools were they? In what part of the country? I don’t think that kind of thing is common, but what’s more impression?

  50. Eric on March 8, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    RayB and M — One of my sons graduated from a small non-LDS private liberal-arts college and my daughter is currently attending one. Both of them would probably agree with you two. There were some people in our ward who were concerned about my son, as they had seen others go away from home to similar schools and end up going inactive. But this academically oriented school was an excellent fit for my son, and he prospered. Despite some resistance from one faculty member, he did his undergraduate thesis on an aspect of Church history. In a very low-key way, and not intentionally by any means, he spread the message that it\’s possible to be LDS while also being intelligent and \”normal.\” I think he would have felt stifled at BYU.

    When I read about polls that say a large percentage of people would never vote for a Mormon, I have to wonder how many people have even known one. My daughter, who lives according to Church standards and is very good about being nonjudgmental toward others, says many of her friends have been surprised when finding out that she\’s LDS, because she\’s such a \”normal\” person. Getting to know people outside of our faith tradition has to be a positive thing, both for us and for them. And while I certainly think that BYU is an excellent fit for many students and would be happy to see my other children go there if they so choose, I also think it\’s a shame that many LDS students and their parents don\’t seriously consider other alternatives.

  51. Chris Grant on March 8, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    Re #49: The one I was told about by a person present at the meeting was at Utah State University. There are several similar stories about the University of Utah, but I haven’t heard them first-hand.

  52. JC on March 12, 2007 at 7:18 pm

    I\’m currently surfing the net in an effort to avoid my master\’s thesis, so I guess I can join in. I\’m finishing a master\’s degree from one of the language departments at BYU, so between undergrad and grad work I\’ve been in school here for nearly ten years. Overall, I\’ve enjoyed it. I mainly came to BYU because I had very few Mormon friends growing up and I wanted to be in that kind of environment. I stayed here for my master\’s because our department has a very strong program and it\’s actually quite well respected among PhD programs around the country (for what it\’s worth, I\’ve worked teaching undergrads here; BYU saves money by having grad students teach all the beginning foreign language courses as freshman English).

    In response to Seraphine–I took a class last year on Early Modern Europen Women from a professor in my department. We talked about all kinds of feminist theory; I\’ve discovered that in the classrooom many of my professors have been much more liberal than official policy would have you believe. BYU even provided us with funds so four of us grad students from that class could attend a conference last year that focused on women authors and feminism. Apparently having \”feminist discourse\” in my paper title didn\’t scare them off.

    My point is, I think BYU is a good, quality school and I feel like I\’ve received an excellent education there that has prepared me well for a PhD program and/or other future employment. That being said, I also don\’t think that it\’s the right place for everyone, as a student or professor. I\’m also uncomfortable with the fact that your church standing affects your employability. I had a friend who recently applied for a job in the humanities department and was told by the dean that they discouraged professors from publishing in Sunstone or even Dialogue (that surprised me). I\’m not sure if I\’ll come back to teach or not, and I think it\’s a good idea for Mormon scholars to spread outward more. But I still have enjoyed my experience at BYU and would not discourage my own children from attending here.