The Business of Academia
April 2013 (perspective of a postdoc)
(This article is adapted from excerpts of Reflections on my tenure-track assistant professor job search.)
The most practical pieces of knowledge I gained from talking with a hundred professors and almost a dozen deans throughout my faculty job interview season were all related to the business of academia.
Modern academia isn't an Ivory Tower where people just dream up cool ideas and pontificate while sipping cappuccinos; it's a business just like any other, where individuals and institutions need money to advance their own interests. The stakeholders here include funding agency directors and program managers, university administrators, deans, department chairs and heads, students, support staff, and professors of all levels of seniority.
As an assistant professor, you are part of this ecosystem and expected to perform a set of duties—grant fundraising, publishing, student advising, professional service, teaching—to earn tenure.
I mention all of this not to sound cynical, but rather because I feel that only by acknowledging these realities can it become possible to focus on the creative and fulfilling work that attracted me to this job. The most successful and happiest professors I know all intimately understand the business of academia and find ways to thrive within the system.