I received an e-mail from a reader of my blog asking for suggestions as to how she could “break in” to academia as an adjunct instructor.  Although I am far from an expert at navigating the potentially pitfall-ridden pathway to academic employment, I felt it might be helpful to relate some of my experiences so far.

Whether or not they will work for anyone else — or, to be brutally honest, me — is unclear.  However, I am a firm believer that by doing good I can do well, so here goes: Craigslist education and teaching jobs (seriously).

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I mostly use Craigslist for Los Angeles, but have also explored the sites for Ventura, Santa Barbara (which is how I found the opportunity at UC Santa Barbara Extension) and Bakersfield (which is how I found out about the opportunity at DeVry University).

I have found Craigslist to be a great source of leads for adjunct level positions and even some full time ones. In fact, with the exception of my position at Axia, every single adjunct teaching job I now have was the result of a posting on Craigslist.

I first ventured into education by teaching traffic school for nine months — and, yes, I found the job on Craigslist! Despite not being academic, teaching traffic school helped me develop my classroom management and curriculum development skills.

Mind you, I did this of my own free will (there were no court orders or community service hours involved!). I realize the mere thought of traffic school has already made some of you uncontrollably twitch and or gag, but I could not have asked for a more effective “entry level” experience.

It was a great way to test the waters of teaching — especially because those waters were full of sharks and piranhas. Think of it this way: what better way to prove that you are meant to teach than by putting yourself in the worst possible teaching situation and making a difference?

Knowing that everyone in attendance would have rather spent an afternoon making human pyramids at Abu Ghraib, I went out of my way to make the class as interesting and engaging as possible. Granted, I still had to show the requisite outdated videos about road rage, traffic safety and related topics — but I found clever ways to stay within the DMV’s guidelines while managing to have some fun.

I even managed to show a few minutes of the campy 1985 film “Moving Violations,” starring John Murray (the lesser known brother of Bill Murray), Jennifer Tilly, James Keach, Sally Kellerman, Fred Willard and Clara Peller — the octogenarian actress best known for the 1984 “Where’s the beef?” ad campaign for Wendy’s.

One of the highlights of the day happened just after lunch when, as an introduction to the curriculum about drinking and driving,  I showed mugshots of celebrities arrested for DUI to the students and had them guess who everyone was. I knew it was working when the evaluator who showed up at one of my classes unannounced after lunch was laughing!

I am extemporaneomoving-violations-signsus by nature, so a good part of my “material” was improvised based on what was discussed in class.

I found that engaging the students directly and making them a part of the program made the day more interesting for me, but (big surprise!) it actually made them more interested in the class as well.

Of course, being “interested” in traffic school is a relative term — don’t for a minute think I was recreating scenes from Stand and Deliver! That being said, it was a rewarding and (to use a “report card word”) unique experience unlike anything I could have imagined.

Since then I have taught 15 sections of asynchronous online writing and business communication courses for Axia College of University of Phoenix. I have also taught ten sections of computer, English and management courses in a hybrid classroom/asynchronous online model at DeVry University in Bakersfield.

I have also taught one section of a buying behavior course at UC Santa Barbara Extension along with one principles of marketing course and one organizational behavior class at International American University, a private school focused on providing Asian students with an American education.

As for another resource, I have to give massive applause to the members of the Chronicle of Higher Education Forums — what a wonderful resource they all are! There are threads on all sorts of topics of interest to a aspiring academic — and a good number of the members are active and emeritus professors.

Everyone is very willing to share their insights and experiences — often with an unexpected sense of humor (teachers are people too!). I’ve asked (and had answered) questions about which Ph.D. programs to pursue to how I should format my CV.

Its best to sit quietly and read many of the existing threads before jumping in head first — what until you get a flavor for the tone and temperament of the place. If you want to avoid posting threads all together and just want to go straight for raw information, check out the following threads/resources:

I also found my way to a Facebook Group sponsored by The Babb GroupMake a Living Teaching Online — it is definitely worth signing up for; even if you just lurk and read the posts made by others the information is exceptionally helpful.

Hopefully these resources are useful to those of you looking for information on how to transition into a career in academia. Certainly, my experiences are not typical, but then I suppose they are not entirely atypical.

Happy teaching!

Time flies!

On March 20, 1996 I completed my last undergraduate class at UC Santa Barbara. Notably, I finished a quarter early — thanks to a handful of advanced placement courses in high school (and by petitioning to have some classes count for several requirements — strategy!).

UC Santa Barbara: 1109 North Hall

My last class was English 40, English Literature 1800 to 1900, with Eloise Knapp Hay. Sadly, this was her last class as well: she passed away a few weeks later on April 30, 1996 of inoperable brain cancer.

None of us knew she was sick nor would we have believed it had she told us. Incidentally, the author of her obituaryFrank McConnell — another teacher I had at UCSB — died three years after her. In class we mainly studied the works of romantic poets such as William Wordsworth and William Blake — in whose honor I launched “William Blake: Cybersongs of Innocence.”

It was also the last class for another student: we completed our final exams at the same time and we lingered in the hallway just outside of the classroom. I had a large brownie and, perhaps in an act of poetic preparation, she had a small bottle of champagne.

browniesWe celebrated our achievement in a platonic way befitting the class. We shared the brownie and champagne while reminiscing about our undergraduate experiences and discussing our post-graduation plans. It was a bohemian way to finish our romantic poetry class and our undergraduate college experience.

This date is also bittersweet because, while it marks a positive milestone, it also signifies my first step towards a time in my life that was often wrought with challenges and obstacles.

Thankfully, as a result of ongoing introspection and guidance from friends and colleagues, I am now aligned with my purpose in life: educationI am grateful for the opportunities I have been presented by institutions at which I am now teaching, have taught, or one day will teach.  Each one gives me a unique perspective on teaching and allows me to work with exceptional students with bright futures.

Most importantly each one also allows me to continue learning. And so, despite my mixed feelings about the years after I graduated, I look forward to the coming years with hope and optimism.

So, I’ve got a brownie — who has the champagne?

Attached is a paper titled “Thought Leaders on Leadership” that I co-wrote while enrolled in the Pepperdine University Ed.D. program in organizational leadership with classmates Eric D. Agrusa (who has since transferred to an Ed.D. program in educational leadership at the University of Southern California), Joseph E. Craig, Jorge Martinez and Daisy Nwokorie.

The paper was published on pages 1008 to 1011 in the proceedings from the 2008 Southwest Academy of Management Conference, which was held in Houston, Texas from March 4 to 8, 2008. I also participated as a paper reviewer for this conference and looked over four papers in the “International Management, Organization & Management Theory, Management & Organizational Cognition, Management Education & Development” track.

I had originally planned to attend this conference and present the paper, but was unable to do so due to some pressing personal matters. I am hoping to attend next year’s conference and am also looking into attending the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in Anaheim, California from August 8 to 13, 2008. The abstract from the paper is as follows:

This paper examines the concept of thought leadership through interviews with eleven people who define the term. Representing business, ministry, education, media and psychology, these individuals provided answers to six questions about leadership. All interviewees are respected by their peers, are often admired by others outside their industry and have made notable contributions to their areas of expertise.  The responses from each are synthesized into sections pertaining to each question in such a way as to compare and contrast their statements to divine similarities and differences from which conclusions can be drawn.

I welcome your comments, questions and ideas!

Spring forward? Fall back? I’ve got too much time on my hands!

As of 2 a.m. this morning Daylight Saving Time (DST) is again upon us — but does it really result in the “energy saving” benefits with which it has been credited?

No, say UC Santa Barbara Assistant Professor Matthew Kotchen, PhD and PhD student Laura Grant, both of the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at UCSB. (Sorry, Ben Franklin!). The pair wrote a paper aptly titled “Does Daylight Saving Time Save Energy? Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Indiana.”

News first broke of the paper in a February 27, 2008 Wall Street Journal article titled “Daylight Saving Wastes Energy, Study Says,” and has been spreading like wildfire ever since. A March 7, 2008 posting by the Bren School summarizes the paper and explains its impact as follows:

“The study, which Kotchen presented at the National Bureau of Economic Research earlier in February, tested decades-old conventional wisdom that daylight savings time saves energy and found that, in fact, it increase energy use between 1 and  4 percent.

Kotchen and Grant conducted their study in Indiana, which created an almost ideal, yet unintended, real-world experiment. Until two years ago, only 15 of Indiana’s 92 counties ‘sprang forward’ and ‘fell back’ each year. The rest remained on standard time year round.

In 2006, however, the Indiana state legislature passed a law mandating that the whole state adopt daylight savings time consistent with the rest of the United States. Working with Duke Energy Corp, the researchers were able to obtain more than 7 million meter readings for residential electricity use in Indiana before and after the change.

After crunching the numbers, they concluded that daylight savings time had added an extra $8.6 million to residents’ electricity bills. What is more, they estimate that the social costs of increased pollution emissions in Indiana range from $1.6 to $5.3 million per year.”

I have always been confused by daylight savings time — to me it always seemed we moved the clocks in the wrong direction at the given points in the year.

Kotchen and Grant present some compelling data in their paper — of course it remains to be seen if politicians, who are not known for responding to or even understanding, factual information, will do anything about this important discovery. Clearly it is a topic worth discussing and further researching.

PS: If you are curious about what time it is in different parts of the world check out www.timeanddate.com.

The good people at Bakersfield.com — the online equivalent of the Bakersfield Californian newspaper — caught wind of my recent post, “The Long and Winding (and Occasionally Snowed In) Road of Adjunct Teaching,” and made note of it in today’s “Bakosphere” column which details blogs about Bakersfield.  I guess somebody other than me actually reads this — I better start using spell check!

California: land of surf, sun, and… snow?

I took the photos below on the morning of Wednesday, January 23, 2008 between roughly 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. as I made my way North on Interstate 5 through the Grapevine portion of the freeway (the area between Gorman, CA and Lebec, CA). This was the start of what I believe was the first major storm of the season.

By 3 p.m. that same day, the California Highway Patrol closed the 5 between Castaic and the base of the Grapevine; it remained closed through a good portion of the following day. I had planned to stay in Bakersfield that night anyway so this development didn’t immediately affect me.

However, the continued closure of the 5 the next day, Thursday, January 24, 2008, necessitated my taking the “long way” home which I normally drove on Mondays to get to my class in Palmdale: the 58 Freeway East through Tehachapi — my “favorite” drive (the topography is beautiful; I feel as if I am driving through a train set!).

Here are pictures from my journey (click the image for a larger version):

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Once I cleared the Grapevine and began the descent into the valley below (the portion of the 5 just before the 5/99 split) I saw a full rainbow! It began roughly over the freeway a few miles ahead and actually seemed to end at an IKEA distribution warehouse!

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Photo from the 5 North (the Grapevine) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I hope you enjoyed these photos — more to come soon!

A blur.

That’s what the past two months feel like. When I last posted to this blog the new year had just begun and I was a few days away from beginning several new classes at various campuses across Southern California (in addition to my continued online teaching).

The experience was both overwhelming and invigorating. I would not have traded it for the world. The schools for which I worked and the classes I taught included the following:

  • Axia College of University of Phoenix (Online): Contemporary Business Communication (COM/140), Effective Essay Writing (COM/150) and Utilizing Information in College Writing (COM/125).
  • DeVry University (Bakersfield): Composition (ENGL-112), Critical Thinking and Problem Solving (COLL-148), PC Hardware and Software (COMP-129), Project Management (MGMT-404).
  • International American University (Palmdale): Marketing (BUS-505) and one class of Organizational Behavior (BUS-525).
  • UC Santa Barbara Extension (Goleta): Buying Behavior (BUSAD X409.47).

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Most surprisingly was the number of miles I found myself driving each week. In the first week alone I logged 950.6 miles (across six days)! Initially I was scheduled to make the round trip from Santa Clarita to Bakersfield on Interstate 5 five days a week with one return trip through Palmdale (via the 58 Freeway) where I teach an additional class on Mondays. I also spent five consecutive weekends making a round trip to and from Santa Barbara for my class at UCSB Extension.

Fortunately I was able to revise my schedule and cut out a round trip to Bakersfield, reducing my total days of driving from six to five. However, this  only marginally reduced my total miles to 842.2 miles the following week. Overall I wound up averaging between 700 and 800 miles weekly — and had my oil changed twice!

In total, from January 1st through February 29th I estimate that I drove a total of 6,212.80 miles! Granted this is not exact (and it could be over or under by a 100 to 200 miles), but suffice it to say I enjoyed some serious quality time with my car!

To alleviate the strain of constant travel, I stayed a total of seven nights in Bakersfield (on Wednesdays when I had a late night class followed by an early one the following morning — plus one additional night on a Tuesday).

I made the mistake of spending the first night in a Motel 6 for the bargain price of $35. I knew I was in for a treat when my room had no working television, the heater was stuck on and the thermostat was missing all of its buttons. Plus the shower closely resembled the “Orgasmatron” from the Woody Allen movie “Sleeper!”

The next week I discovered the Vagabond Inn (Bakersfield South) — a veritable palace compared with the Motel 6, and with their Internet rate — was only $5 more! All of the rooms offered a mini-fridge, microwave and coffee maker — in addition to free wireless Internet (which was unfortunately unreliable — good thing I have a Sprint Mobile Broadband account!).

I was unable to get from Santa Clarita to Bakersfield three times in a row during the two month span. The first time, the last Monday in January, was due to a personal matter and then two days later, on Wednesday, Mother Nature stepped in and blasted the Grapevine with a snowstorm, resulting in the closure of Interstate 5.

After traveling no more than one mile, I was stuck on the 5 in Castaic for an hour after the CHP closed the freeway and forced everyone off at the Hasley Canyon exit. Humbled, I retreated home and admitted defeat.

I then missed the very next Monday, which was the first one in February and also the day after the New England Patriot’s heartbreaking loss to the New York Giants in Superbowl XLII (I was born in Boston and was avidly following the team’s amazing season — now the “perfectly imperfect season” as I like to call it).

Still in a state of shock and cycling through the stages of grief, I decided I would make a valliant effort to circumvent the snowed-in Grapevine.

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So, I drove all the way to Palmdale on the 14 Freeway, intending to make my way West to Bakersfield on the 58 Freeway (the reverse course I normally took on Mondays to get to Palmdale for my afternoon class). Unfortunately, by the time I got there, the storm had moved East and the 58 was closed too!

For a brief slice of time the freeway re-opened, and I got as far as Tehachapi until the CHP, concerned with the weather once more, began escorting traffic, which resulted in a three to five mile backup. Drained, I admitted defeat and realized I was stuck and would not get to Bakersfield that day. I also missed my Palmdale class. What a day!

And now, slightly more than two months later, I have embarked on another session of classes with DeVry, completed my class at UC Santa Barbara Extension and cycled through to new blocks of classes at Axia. I am also now facilitating a new course online: Written Communication (COM/215).

Despite these various changes, one thing has become clear: I thoroughly enjoy teaching and, even though I realize I have a long way to go to refine my craft, I am very grateful for these opportunities to do so. What is also glaringly apparent is that it has been far too long since I updated this blog. It isn’t as if I didn’t think about it, however.

Every few days I kept thinking that I really needed to post something new — a quick update, a brief note, a random picture or two — but every day I was overwhelmingly busy just being busy. I found that there were some small points I wanted to make but that I felt compelled to explain the bigger ones first, thereby resulting in a back log.

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Ironically, I used this blog as a launching point for assignments in two of my classes: English 112 (Composition) at DeVry and BUSAD X409.47 (Buying Behavior) at UC Santa Barbara Extension.  My students had mixed reactions to the experience, but, all things considered it was an engaging experience for each of them that I think (well, at least hope), provided some helpful hands-on exposure to blogging.

Despite the fact that I did not add anything to this blog for some time, I did take several photos of my various trips to and from the many locations at which I was teaching. I will post them separately in a few days along with several new posts I have been waiting to make. Thanks for your patience and, to whoever out there reads this blog, your interest!