Getting hired as an adjunct after a break?
January 7, 2013 4:26 PM   Subscribe

I have written a ton of cover letters applying to tenure track jobs, but every adjunct class I ever taught I obtained through referrals and word of mouth. I now find myself wanting to ONLY adjunct after an extended break, and have no idea how to write an inquiry letter. And I know just the folks to ask. . .

I used to be a tenure track art professor (7 years of adjuncting, 3 years of TT). 2.5 years ago, little dirtmonster was born and Slothrop (Mr. Dirtmonster) got hired at a different university, so we moved several states away and I decided to stay home with little dirtmonster for a while.

I am now ready to teach again - no desire to head back in to the tenure track at all, but I'd love one class a semester, and Slothrop and I think we can make it work pretty effectively schedule-wise. But here's the trick - how do I write the letter that might land me said gig? I'm going to start off in Slothrop's department (they routinely hire spouses), but there are 6 universities in our area where I should probably also send out feelers.

I know I need to address the absence, but I can't quite figure out the wording. Also, do I let my CV listing of courses taught speak for itself, do I gently refer to the list, or do I just straight up say "look, I can teach a lot of stuff - let me list it for you"? I also need to address the need to have some flexibility of scheduling - I would prefer a night class, which may be all they need to hear. . .but maybe I need to be more specific?

Thank you for your suggestions!
posted by dirtmonster to Work & Money (4 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It probably depends where you are (the more competition, the more formal you may need to be) -- but here in my art department at a midwestern state school, we hire adjuncts by looking at each other and saying "does anyone know anyone who might teach this?" If the dept head has received a cv attached to an email expressing interest and courses the person is qualified to teach, then s/he circulates that to the relevant faculty along with a list of available courses and we all agree whether/what to offer.

So what I'm saying is, an email that states *briefly* what you can teach, when you can teach (we actually hurt for daytime classes around here), and a cv that focuses on what you've taught before, will get you put into a file that gets pulled out whenever adjuncts are needed.
posted by obliquicity at 4:36 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, the golden ticket (which I didn't mention at first because maybe it is obvious?): getting to know people in person. Do they have gallery openings? Artist orgs you could join? (Faculty participation in the latter will vary, but when we need an adjunct we cast a wide net, and personal recs always win.) Feel free to be really obvious about your motivations when meeting people, too -- new people in town make appointments with our dept head all the time.
posted by obliquicity at 4:39 PM on January 7, 2013

Universities often have an office that helps the spouses of faculty find work, either in or outside academia. They probably won't bend over backwards if your husband isn't a new hire, but they should be able to make introduction. HR or your husband's dean may be able to point you in the right direction.

As for your other questions:You took time off to raise a child. That explain the gap in your teaching history and is not unusual in academia.

Definitely put together a CV of courses taught and make a portfolio with all your old teaching evaluations. Since you're pursuing an adjunct teaching job, demonstrating teaching effectiveness is more important than anything else you could put on a CV.
posted by eisenkr at 6:54 PM on January 7, 2013

Others have talked about how to address the gap and network... I'll just add that for your cover letter / email, you should find the online catalog of the university, or a detailed course listing on the department website, and list the courses you're qualified to teach by name and number, e.g.:
As you can see in my CV, I have taught courses very similar to:
- UBW101: 'An Introduction to Underwater Basket-Weaving'
- UBW150: 'Underwater Basket-Weaving for Fun and Profit'
- UBW320: 'Advanced Techniques in Aquatic Basket-Weaving.'
and would be prepared to teach any of these courses next term.

Although I have not yet taught a course on this topic, my PhD research was on Henrietta Flugglehorf-Swanson, so I would welcome the opportunity to teach UBW215: 'Women and Underwater Basket-Weaving, 1800-present.'
posted by BrashTech at 4:56 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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