Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lecture inquiry

A couple days ago, I suggested that I might contact some of the schools who had sent me encouraging rejection letters to see if they would be interested in having me give a talk in their deparment, in order to broaden my exposure and experience in presenting my work to diverse audiences. If these departments truly see value in my research, but simply couldn't see fitting me into their immediate needs, there seems to be a possibility they might accept my offer.

Of course this is tricky. I might wind up calling their bluffs, or pissing people off with my boldness. But then, if they're really not interested in my work, what have I got to lose? I have heard that sometimes search committees go to the trouble of sending out differently worded rejection letters at different points in the review process (cf. Ahistoricality's comment on the "one I quoted" link below). All I have to go on then is my attempt to read something positive or negative into the spare words that were sent me. I figure what I have to gain outweighs the risks, so here goes.

I looked over the rejection letters that I have on my desk (I actually cleaned it up this week, YEA!) Many I toss straight into the recycle bin, because it's not always useful or pleasant to keep them around. Though sometimes I think it's good to keep them in the archives for reference down the road (when, I hope, I'll be in a position to be writing them). Maybe reminders of what I got will help me maintain professional courtesy and compassion, which these letters don't always exhibit. Among those however there's only the one I quoted a couple days ago, which seems a likely candidate.

Here's what I drafted up and emailed out this morning [identifying features altered or removed]

Dear Professor [NAME of Search Committee Chair],

Thank you for your kind note of [Recent Date], regarding the successful completion of the faculty search at [Big State School, Flagship]. I do not envy search committees their task of weeding through a mass of highly qualified applicants to select the one or two to be offered positions.

It is a tight market, leaving many of us falling through the cracks. I recognize that my work is unusual, and outside the mainstream of scholarship these days. However, I remain convinced that it is both accessible and relevant. It is nice therefore to receive encouraging words, even if the particular post does not fit my candidacy.

I would like to inquire as to whether there is any chance to present my work in your department. I know that many [Field] departments these days hold a regular lecture series, or research colloquium for faculty and graduate students, which serve as appropriate venues for the presentation of new ideas. Please let me know if such an opportunity could be arranged. Depending upon the interests of your department, I could prepare a talk either on [Focus of my Dissertation], or on [Field 1] & [Field 2] studies more broadly. I would be happy to discuss options and details with you at your convenience.

Thank you again for your courtesy and consideration,

[My First Name]
[Contact Information]


Ahistoricality said...

It never hurts to ask, as long as you're prepared for rejection or negligence. It might well work: if there were people who really were interested in your work, having a chance to hear more without the pressure of an interview could work pretty well. Also it would be a great chance for you to hone the "job talk" if you haven't done a lot of presentations.

ArticulateDad said...

Thanks, Ahistoricality. My thoughts exactly. These days rejection and silence are old hat. I've done a decent amount of presentations (8 conference papers, and 5 invited lectures--though I don't know how that compares to other newly minted PhDs), but each audience is different. So, I welcome each opportunity as something new.

Dr. Mon said...

I think your letter sounds great and it feels like a good idea. I know at my institution, colluquia are often difficult to put together so it would likely be a help to have a name they could call on quickly to fill in a week. I say go for it!

ArticulateDad said...

Thanks, Dr. Mon. We'll see how it goes. I'll be sure to post about it.

BrightStar said...

very interesting idea! I agree that sometimes places are interested in filling colloquium slots, so this note could be very well received. Maybe it matters as to whether or not you have to fly into town or if the university is within driving distance. Definitely keep us posted.