I have been teaching as an adjunct at The Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC) since I completed my Masters at The Catholic University of America (CUA) two years ago. As such, I am not automatically issued business cards and this does not help me network in academia, among high schools or in the realm of public history (although, I recently learned that I can request them from CCBC’s printing office). Utilizing LinkedIn, I plum through old contacts and try to keep up with groups and other contacts. On Twitter, I share articles, updates and blogs that are relevant to the people and organizations I want to reach. I attend academic conferences, visit historical sites, museums and research libraries and try to make contacts, regardless of whether or not I want to work there.
A good business card is a handy thing. If nothing else, it tells the potential contact what I take seriously. I don’t actually want a CCBC business card, because I don’t want to be limited to that institution and its job requirements. So, through my buddy Tony Veloz, budding photographer extraordinaire, I was introduced to Moo.com and its nifty approach to printing customized business cards. I uploaded as many pictures as I wanted from my personal collection (based on the number of cards I was printing) and submitted my details for the other side. The result is a wonderfully personalized business card that always generates a response from the recipients and a brief conversation that reassures me they will remember me if I contact them later.
I uploaded photos from my travels and visits covering everything from the Walters Gallery’s Mesopotamian exhibit to Roman/Greek Ephesus in Turkey, from Parliament and Big Ben photographed from the Thames to the Benedictine monastery Montserrat, from Fort McHenry to the Library of Congress. As a historian, I have can tailor my connection to the audience based on the era or venue that best fits the impression I want to make. At the conference on Washington D.C. history, I attended a workshop entitled, “African-American Activism in DC”, and handed out business cards with photos from my visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, featuring the sit-in lunch counter from the Woolworth’s and the exhibit featuring Harlem’s Apollo Theater. It made more sense than handing out the card with the monastery from Barcelona (which I gave to Mayke De Jong!) or the Roman road in Ephesus. Speaking to someone in public history warrants an American site, while a medievalist will be more interested in the medieval manuscript with the monkeys at the bottom playing “Ring-around-the Rosy.”
At some point, I would love to add some “action shots” from an archaeological dig or a teaching gig. It offers huge flexibility and creativity for someone seeking the next big step in my career!
Just some thoughts for folks who might make use of it!!
In Maryland’s community college world, the most you can make is $775 per credit hour per semester with a maximum of 9 hours–and, making that much is rare! Over the last two decades adjunct faculty has become a popular solution for colleges and universities, particularly after a host of tenured baby-boomers retired. The system has some merits, but is ultimately fraught with problems.
What do the institutions gain? Cheap labor. Adjuncts are part-timers (that’s why there is a limit on the hours permitted) who do not get benefits (and, who cannot pay off student loans). They teach introductory classes–which is the bulk of courses offered at the community college level–and institutions vary on what qualifications they require of their adjuncts. No office space is required for adjuncts and other than books and copying facilities nothing else must be provided. Some institutions offer workshops for their adjuncts, but this depends on the administration.
What do the students gain? More class selections. Beyond that, it depends on the individual who is teaching. I have heard many complaints from both students and other faculty about other adjuncts teaching. In some cases, these are Doctoral students getting experience and a pay check while they finish their research, in other cases they are people picking up some extra coin while they work elsewhere. And, others, like me, are teaching as an adjunct looking to eventually fill a full-time slot. Among all three categories both the knowledge and teaching skills vary considerably, with any deficiencies often further exasperated by poor textbooks.
What does the adjunct gain? Experience and part-time employment. Again, given the different types of people who take on these roles the benefit may be greater or lesser. For many grad students this is a great opportunity. For many professionals this is a little extra pay and way to add something different (and hopefully interesting) to their routine. For folks in my case this is often a frustrating place to be, because while one is gaining more experience, one is also working for meager pay and no benefits. In addition, there is something of an expiration date that causes future prospective employers to wonder why the adjunct could not managed to get a full-time position–even in difficult times (i.e. a recession), it suggests that the candidate is ultimately sub par. Still, teaching as adjunct is still better than not working or working at McDonald’s hoping to eventually teach, assuming one can make ends meet, of course.
From the perspective of parents and students visiting schools for college, it is worth asking how many classes are taught by adjuncts. This is reflective of the overall quality of the program. Professors doing cutting edge research, but not teaching students does not contribute to the overall strength of the students’ education unless they have a graduate student who can take advantage of research being done at the institution and the instruction. Some adjuncts are already professionals in their field and thus provide practical experience in their instruction, but these are not teaching at the university level unless they have a higher degrees–many teach at adult education programs at universities and community colleges.