Reconsidering the Barometer of “Placement”

by Jonathan Sterne on May 7, 2009

A great post about what is occluded in the term “placement” over at the Edge of the American West seems really timely, given the bad job market this past year.

Mostly I just agree with it even though it’s more about history than Comm Studies. I would add that the placement statistic also reifies the idea that doctoral supervisors want all their students to become just like them — profs at research-intensive universities with grad students of their own. This has never been my philosophy as a graduate supervisor but when I am asked for placement data, I feel that such a philosophy is being projected on to me.

There is plenty of room for improvement in how professors talk to students about career options; and Universities’ (and departments’) own interests in promoting doctoral education are not usually clear to applicants or students. In an ideal world, conversations about careers are best had between mentors and mentees, since every case is different. But the problem is that such an arrangement renders a systemic problem a personal problem and it assumes that all profs are on the same page regarding these issues, when we clearly are not.

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