I teach at Austin College, and we’re currently in the middle of a job search for a tenure track position in Media Studies.  As a Small Liberal Arts College (SLAC), there are many things we do somewhat differently here than elsewhere in higher education.

A friend from graduate school recently contacted me about what aspects specific to Austin College an applicant for the position might want to consider in that regard, and I thought reposting an anonymized version of that exchange might be helpful to anyone else interested in the position who wanted to know more about it.  I imagine it could also be useful in a general way to folks thinking about working at a SLAC. (I should note in passing that I’m indebted to Jason Mittell for posting an exemplar of this kind of transparency on his blog two years ago.)

COLLEAGUE:

Hey Brett,

I’m writing my cover letter for the Media Studies position. Any suggestions?

how’s Sherman?

ME:

Sure. We need to know what your teaching experience and interests are, how you approach teaching, working with students, etc. Research experience and interests are important, but secondary.

Sherman is definitely a small town — about 35k residents, of which the faculty and staff of AC make up only a few hundred. However, it is about an hour from Dallas, and larger suburbs like Plano and McKinney can be reached in as little as 30 minutes.

COLLEAGUE:

…thanks for the advice – I tend to focus on my experience and qualifications in these cover letters, but as you point out, I better put more of my attitude and approach towards teaching/students in there. By the way, how would you compare your students to [the major public university where we received our degrees]?

ME:

Compared to [that public university], I’d say our students are brighter, more involved with activities around campus (meaning their time is spread more thinly), and more determined to have access to you (as their professor). This isn’t a place where you can really just be around for your classes and your two hours a week of office hours and be successful. The PR-speak these days is “high touch,” and AC is most definitely that.

Just some thoughts that might not have come through from the position description.  As I did with my friend here, I’d be happy to respond to questions you have about the position, AC, and Sherman — just post a Comment below.

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