Job Search Red Flags

Given the traditional academic hiring cycle, interview season will soon be upon us. I thought both novice and veteran job seekers might find this Harvard Business Review article on interview red flags to be helpful.

A few personal examples of bullets dodged and not dodged:

When individually meeting each member of department during one campus visit, one said about another, “He’s been trying to sabotage my career since I got here.”

During the same routine at another university, it wasn’t until talking privately at the end of the day with the interim chair — a dean — that I learned that the department was in receivership because of interpersonal conflict.

A position was advertised three years in a row. I applied the first time the ad appeared, never even received a rejection notice, and assumed “oh well, someone else got the job.” Applied a second time when the same ad appeared the following year. Several months later, I received a strange email stating that “some” applications had mysteriously disappeared from a locked office and that the search had been halted. The ad appeared again. I applied a third time, interviewed, and received an offer, which I accepted. My probationary contract was not renewed mid-way through my second year on the job, after I had unknowingly helped interview the person who became my replacement.

An interview at a small university included a meeting with the president and vice president for academic affairs. The latter struck me as having the personality of an old-timey small town banker — cautious, conservative, honest. The former seemed like a used car salesman. Less than two months after I had started the job, the president became embroiled in a scandal that received national media coverage. He was eventually forced to resign because of the bad publicity, but not until several other people quit or were fired.

Call for Proposals: In-Class Active Learning Exercises

The editorial team behind the recently-published Simulations in the Political Science Classroom:  Games without Frontiers are seeking chapter proposals for a new volume on in-class games and activities that are useful for teaching any subfield of political science. This book is intended to be a catalog of dozens of active learning exercises that an instructor can select from to teach a particular topic in less than a single class period. Ideally, the activities should be flexibly applicable to high school classrooms or introductory, upper level university, or perhaps even graduate courses.

If you are interested in submitting a chapter proposal, the editors need your name, institutional affiliation, potential chapter title, the subfield and subject, and a description of the activity that is 150 words or less. Because the editors want to include a variety of exercises that cover a breadth of subfields, multiple submissions on different activities by the same author are welcome.

The deadline for proposals is October 15, 2022.

To submit a proposal or get additional information, please contact one of the book proposal’s editors:

Mark Harvey: mark [dot] harvey [at] stmary [dot] edu.

James Fielder: james [dot] fielder [at] colostate [dot] edu.

Ryan Gibb: Ryan [dot] Gibb [at] bakeru [dot] edu.

Derek Glasgow: derek [dot] john [dot] glasgow [at]

The More Things Change . . .

The 2022 TLC @ APSA is in the can, to use an early 20th century metaphor about a now-obsolete analog technology. Because of the pandemic, I had not attended an in-person conference since the Albuquerque TLC in February 2020. I was hoping for something new and perhaps revitalizing after the hiatus.

I got something new, but not in a good way.

conference attendee

No one wants to sit through a 15 minute recitation of comments from student evaluations, especially when those comments are simultaneously displayed on a projector screen as part of a 45 minute presentation that was actually supposed to run for only 20 minutes. In our work as teachers, we hold students to certain standards and demonstrate how they can meet those standards. This was a numbing example of “do as I say not as I do” that ran completely counter to effective pedagogical practice. It was also disrespectful to the audience and other panelists.

The problem was compounded by a moderator who failed to properly execute the duties of the role, and not just by letting one presenter consume half of the session’s allotted time. The moderator incorrectly assumed that most of the presenters scheduled for the subsequent panel were absent. He unilaterally decided that people who no longer had time to present in the panel that was in session could do so in next one. He announced this decision more than an hour into the session, which prompted exclamations from the audience of “But I’m here and part of the next panel!” and “What’s going on?”

I contrast the above events with what I witnessed in Montreal’s Time Out Market while eating lunch earlier in the day: a clown making balloon animals for a cavernous room full of rapt children. He’s the one to learn from.

Recommendation Letter Requests: The Standardized Email Reply

If you are like me, you regularly receive recommendation letter requests from current or prior students. I’ve created a standardized reply to such requests, and it has simplified my work life. I’ve pasted the text below. Feel free to copy, alter , or ignore it.


I can usually provide a recommendation or reference letter under the following conditions:

  • The deadline for me to submit the letter is at least two weeks from the time I receive the information requested below.
  • You were a student in at least one of my courses or interacted with me in some other significant academic capacity.
  • You have waived your right to view the letter that I submit. If you do not believe that I will write an accurate letter of recommendation, you should not be asking me for one.

For me to write an effective letter, I need you to provide me with the following information:

  • What is the letter for, how do I send it, and to whom do I send it?
  • Copies of your resume and cover letter/personal statement essay that explains how this opportunity fits into your academic/career goals and the benefits you expect to gain from it.
  • A brief description of two or three experiences that were especially meaningful to you in the course(s) you took with me.

Once I have the information listed above, I will try to email you within two business days to let you know if I can write the letter. Please send a second email if you don’t hear back from me after two business days.

Follow-up To Another Note On Graduate Education

Continuing a topic that I wrote about a few weeks ago . . .

APSA has built a repository of working papers that discuss strategies for “navigating graduate school and beyond.” Subjects include concerns for first-generation graduate students, internships, and adjunct/visiting positions. Several of the papers contain information that I wish I had received when I was a doctoral student. But so far, there is only one that discusses the scarcity of full-time faculty positions and career opportunities outside of academia.*

The paper notes that graduate school can be an opportunity to learn how to synthesize large amounts of information, evaluate arguments, conduct research, communicate to non-specialist audiences, and manage projects. Similarly, as mentioned in an online discussion I recently read, graduate students can learn how to work with people of different backgrounds and develop solutions to important social problems.

The problem with this argument? None of these skills require a Ph.D.

As I’ve written before, the working environment for many people in academia has been deteriorating for much longer than the coronavirus pandemic. Eighteen years ago, before the current crop of undergraduates had even entered kindergarten, Frank Donoghue concluded in The Last Professors that tenure-track faculty no longer had a place in the USA’s system of higher education.

In sum, doctoral programs in the humanities and social sciences are built on training people for careers that either no longer exist or that have an insufficient return on investment. These programs need to completely retool to credential people in skills that can’t be learned more efficiently elsewhere. If they don’t, they will eventually disappear.

*”Pushing the Boundaries of Your PhD: Exploring Careers Outside of the Ivory Tower,” by Danielle Gilbert, S.G. Gubitz, Jennifer Kavanaugh, and Kelly Piazza.

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A tip about using Perusall:

For a fall semester course assignment, I scanned a book chapter and uploaded the resulting pdf to Perusall. I discovered that I could not accurately highlight any portion of the pdf using Perusall’s Annotate Text tool. I could, however, highlight rectangular areas of text using the Annotate Figure tool, shown below with the green underline. Apparently Perusall reads the pdf of the scanned document as an image file. I created a note in the assignment to inform students about which annotation tool they would need to use.

Previous posts in this series:


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Comparing Apples to Apples?

Long-time readers of this blog might remember my 2016 post about the death of for-profit universities in the USA, when an advisory panel recommended that the U.S. Department of Education terminate its recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). This action would render the for-profits accredited by ACICS ineligible for federally-supplied student financial aid. Six years later, the Department of Education finally decided to terminate its recognition of ACICS. While many of the for-profits, like ITT Educational Services, have already gone bankrupt, there are still twenty-seven colleges and universities accredited by ACICS. Those schools have a year and a half to find a new accreditor or close.

How does this relate to me, current or hopeful future political science professor, you ask? While for-profits represent the bottom of the U.S. higher education barrel — institutions that rely on recruiting gullible students to spend money they don’t have on worthless credentials — there are many non-profit schools with similarly poor returns on investment. Do you work at one? If so, your employer’s future is not good. Eventually not enough potential students will be fooled enough of the time.

You can get a broad picture of where your employer stands in the higher ed marketplace by using College Scorecard to compare graduation and retention rates and typical alumni earnings against those of nearby competitors. If your institution’s numbers are at the bottom, you’ve got a problem.

APSA Montreal Travel Requirements

Non-Canadians planning to attend the APSA annual meeting in Montreal next month are subject to some additional entry requirements related to the coronavirus pandemic. First and foremost, you have to meet the criteria for “fully vaccinated.” Visitors must provide evidence of vaccination status at their point of entry using the Canadian government’s ArriveCAN app. Full instructions on this process are here.

For people in the USA who plan on driving to Montreal: in the past, cellular reception has been spotty near the border, so I plan on having paper copies of the ArriveCAN information as a back-up.

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A brief note about Perusall course settings:

I put Perusall assignments into an online graduate course that I’m currently teaching. For the course’s first two weeks, students’ assignment scores were not syncing with the Canvas gradebook, nor were they visible to students in Perusall, until after the assignment deadline had passed. I had to manually release scores for each assignment. Perusall was not functioning as it had with my undergraduate courses in the spring semester, when assignment scores were always visible to students and were updated continuously in real time.

I eventually found the cause of the problem. I had not selected when to release scores to students in the settings page of the instructor’s dashboard:

Either this setting’s default had changed after the spring semester from “immediately, as students submit work” to one of the other options, or I had forgotten that I needed to change it when I was building the course on Perusall. Either way, the problem was easily solved. To this absent-minded professor, it was another demonstration of how easy Perusall is to use.

Previous posts in this series:


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Perusall 3

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Team Champ

As promised, here is the prompt for the collaborative portion of the forecasting project in my upcoming Middle East course. There are two of these team deliverables — a draft report due after students have submitted the first three of their individual CHAMP assignments, and a final version (shown below) due at the end of the semester. In terms of contribution to course grade, the draft and final versions together are worth only a third of what the five individual assignments are worth. Also, a portion of the course grade will come from teammate evaluations.

Your team is interviewing for a job with Eurasia Group. The interview process requires that your team submit a jointly-written report on your team’s Forecasting Project topic using the CHAMP framework:

  • Comparisons
  • Historical Trends
  • Average Opinion
  • Mathematical Models
  • Predictable Biases

Your team’s final report should apply all five components of the CHAMP framework in a forecast that is no more than five pages of double-spaced 11- or 12-point font text. Do not use quotations of sources in the report. Reference source material using footnotes. See the list of syllabus readings for proper bibliographic format. Footnotes can be in 10-point font. 

Only one member of your team needs to submit the document for this assignment.

Your team’s work will be assessed using the rubric below.

Now I just need to create rubrics for the project’s individual and team assignments . . .