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Low-residency PhD program? 
4th-May-2007 12:23 pm
Just an opinion poll of sorts. I'm considering applying for the PhD in English specializing in Rhetoric and Textual Studies at Old Dominion University. They have a low-residency option, which is very appealing to me as distance has been my primary reason for failing to begin a doctoral program. I'm already on faculty at my university. The sole reason for me to pursue this degree would be to have additional employment possibilities be opened up to me in the future, as most state universities and community colleges prefer a terminal degree these days. I have no interest in tenure track professor-ships, nor do I care about working for a "name" institution.

Do you think this degree would be regarded as "less than" a traditional residential program? The nearest program of that sort to me is nearly two hours away, and would be a serious hardship to me and my family if I were to pursue it at this time. Or should I just rest on my laurels with my MA and hope my present institution never sees fit to cancel my contract? ;)

Any insight helpful. Thanks! :)
4th-May-2007 04:52 pm (UTC)
I don't think the degree would be regarded as "less than" a traditional residential program. As long as you complete your dissertation and do a good job, all around, a disciplinary Ph.D. is a Ph.D. is a Ph.D. (well, except for some poor schmucks who really believe that it's all about the prestige name).

Just be careful to see that the program meets all your needs besides the low residency issue. Are there people there with whom you can work? Will they give you sufficient support when you're working long distance? If the answers are yes, then go for it.
4th-May-2007 06:35 pm (UTC)
Great questions to consider. Thanks! :)
4th-May-2007 04:54 pm (UTC)
it sounds like a good idea for you, but maybe you should talk to your chair or other tenured faculty at your uni to get an idea of what they think as well.
4th-May-2007 06:34 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm gauging a lot of people's opinions on this, including my fellow faculty and dean. Opinions are mixed, but nobody's quite fully castigated the idea yet. :)
4th-May-2007 04:58 pm (UTC)
textual studies has certainly changed its meaning of late.
4th-May-2007 06:33 pm (UTC)
What more classical definition would you prefer, just out of curiosity? Is it the line about "verbal, graphic, and visual texts" that's bothersome?

I'm not looking for an argument, I just honestly would like to know what you mean. :)
4th-May-2007 06:48 pm (UTC)
I think of textual criticism, i.e. the emendation and constitution of texts. This program sounds like new criticism with a literary theory overlay and a gesture towards producing composition teachers.

If anything was bothersome, it was this line: "Emphasis is placed on how texts are composed, constructed, produced, as well as how they function within and promote the formation of (inter)personal, social, cultural, and political sites."
4th-May-2007 07:16 pm (UTC)
This program sounds like new criticism with a literary theory overlay and a gesture towards producing composition teachers.

I see what you mean, yeah. It's not that kind of textual criticism, so it's unfortunate that they didn't chose a different term. The program's aim to produce composition teachers is my overall career goal here, so that's not problematic to me in the least. What you've italicized, though, is admittedly a little bit odd in terms of phrasing and seems overly vague.
4th-May-2007 07:20 pm (UTC)
Oh, please do not misunderstand me. I am not criticizing the goals of the program, but commenting on the language in current use. Imagine what a program in rhetoric and textual studies would do 50 years ago!
4th-May-2007 08:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, I'm not. I agree that interpretations have certainly changed over the years!
4th-May-2007 10:36 pm (UTC)
That is not exactly what I meant, but it is, of course, true too.
4th-May-2007 07:08 pm (UTC)
I (and anyone I've ever talked to) certainly do see a Ph.D. with low residency or no residency requirement program as "less than" a residential program. I'm likely to be biased because I'm in a full-time residency required program.

That doesn't mean that this program can't work for you. It seems like it may fit your needs/desires, but it's just not true that the two types of Ph.D. programs would be viewed as equal.
4th-May-2007 07:17 pm (UTC)
Even though I have no aspirations toward a tenure-track position? I appreciate your honesty, but I'm also not trying to "steal" a position from someone who went to Harvard or something. ;)
4th-May-2007 07:23 pm (UTC)
Don't get me wrong. I think the program could be great, especially given your situation.

But academia in general is very hierarchical.
4th-May-2007 08:16 pm (UTC)
But academia in general is very hierarchical.

Which is literally the one and only thing that bugs me about it. It's a little too much like cafeteria tables in high school. ;)
4th-May-2007 07:55 pm (UTC)
The first question I have is whether this low-residency degree would actually be helpful to you for future employment. If you're sincere about not pursuing a "tenure-track" position, then you've ruled out most positions except part-time or full-time adjunct, which pay crap, and I don't know that having a Ph.D. over an M.A. would be helpful for that. I teach at a small undergraduate only branch campus, and we would never consider someone with a low-residency Ph.D. Are you interested in teaching at community college? It's my understanding that most community colleges just require an M.A. for teaching full time and getting tenured. The other thing is that it seems to me that teaching opportunities would be limited in a low-residency program, and your teaching resume is going to be what gets you a job. So that would be a negative...

Sorry to be so chock full of optimism, but those were the things that came to mind.
4th-May-2007 08:14 pm (UTC)
part-time or full-time adjunct, which pay crap

The institution I currently teach for has non-tenture track lecturer positions which are full time. Many state universities and most community colleges have such appointments, especially for teaching composition (which I do), but increasingly with the market saturation, they "prefer" a PhD, though they only "require" an MA.

It's my understanding that most community colleges just require an M.A. for teaching full time and getting tenured.

We have several community colleges here, and the ones I'm most familiar with require an MA to teach full time in most disciplines and a PhD to acquire tenure. Although, again, I'm not interested in tenure, but I *am* interested in setting myself a little bit apart from the glut of MA-holders applying for the same jobs.

The other thing is that it seems to me that teaching opportunities would be limited in a low-residency program, and your teaching resume is going to be what gets you a job.

Yes, except the reason I want a low-residency program is that I do currently teach at a small state university. So, essentially, I already have the job I'm looking to be more qualified for. I just want to make sure that, in case I ever need to mount a job search, I would remain remotely competitive.
4th-May-2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
I admit it - I'm confused. I'm an undergrad who hasn't really started my grad school search yet, so ... what exactly is the problem with low or no residency programs? Why is there a bias against it? Are they seen as less rigorous? Etc.
4th-May-2007 08:22 pm (UTC)
I think they're seen to be less rigorous, but there's also a sense that you're not engaging with your fellow students or faculty advisors as much as someone who's doing parts of the program via distance learning. Which is kind of an antiquated view in this day and age, in my opinion, but that's what I'm trying to gauge, whether or not that perception still exists.
4th-May-2007 09:42 pm (UTC)
I am stupid too! What is low/no residency?

What does it mean?
4th-May-2007 09:42 pm (UTC)
Oh, does it mean you do the course online, etc.?
4th-May-2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
Yes, no residency is a degree done totally online or with video conferencing, sometimes even snail mail. The older term for this was a correspondance course. Low residency means that most of your coursework is done that way, but that there is a certain amount of time you do spend on campus. This particular program is low residency. There is a certain number of weeks and/or semesters that you spend on site per year, while the rest is done online.
6th-May-2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
And to add - a program with a residency requirement usually requires that you be on campus a certain amount of years. The period in residence would be while you take your coursework on the campus, whereas the non-residency period would be quals, dissertation, etc.
5th-May-2007 02:17 am (UTC)
If you're polling for opinions, I'd be dubious about a low-residency PhD. I can't imagine that you could get the same kind of education doing online assignments without interaction with classmates and professors. And while I appreciate that you can interact online to a certain extent, I don't feel like it's the same level of interaction.
5th-May-2007 05:50 am (UTC)
You mean this comm isn't the same as a seminar?
Damn, why do I put so much time into this place if I'm not even getting credit for it...?

((grumble grumble never do anything if I can't get a gold star grumble grumble...))
5th-May-2007 06:29 am (UTC)
You can have a gold star anyway, pumpkin.
5th-May-2007 06:37 am (UTC)

5th-May-2007 11:27 am (UTC)
Har har.

I have used online forum participation (not HERE, specifically) as part of hybrid composition courses before. I figured since half the class was sneaking onto MySpace anyway, why not make them talk about class stuff on there? ;)
5th-May-2007 11:24 am (UTC)
Even given that there are residency periods during the summers? It's not like you never get to meet the faculty.
5th-May-2007 11:26 am (UTC)
I'm really not trying to be an ass, but it just seems to me like PhD lite.
5th-May-2007 11:28 am (UTC)
Oh, I know you're not. I asked for opinions, didn't I? I'm waffling on this because I feel conflicted about whether or not it'd be viewed that way, so it's good for me to hear the reality that yes, some people would view it that way. No worries. :)
5th-May-2007 11:33 am (UTC)
Maybe there's different learning styles and such, but I just get a lot out of talking to my classmates (well, the ones who aren't morons) and my professors. And it's not necessarily the kind of thing that you can schedule. It's working on a project and running into someone in the hall and asking them an impromptu question or going out after class with one of your classmates to keep ranting about the book that you read or something truly moronic that someone else said during discussion.

Maybe you don't need all of that stuff -- but I certainly learn a ton from it. And I'd just look a little askance at someone with a PhD done primarily in isolation.

But, honestly, if you're mainly doing it for the qualification for future jobs (which may be a mistaken impression on my part), how much does it matter?
5th-May-2007 08:14 pm (UTC)
Good points. And I did get all that happy student/faculty interaction during my MA program, so I know how awesome that kind of thing is. Honestly, another part of the problem is that I'm teaching at the uni where I got my MA, and I LOVE it here. I'm basically sad that we don't have our own PhD program, so I'm trying to figure out any and all ways I could do this without leaving.
6th-May-2007 07:30 pm (UTC)
You wrote, "I'm basically sad that we don't have our own PhD program, so I'm trying to figure out any and all ways I could do this without leaving." I take it your uni doesn't offer an interdisciplinary PhD where you craft your own program? This can be problematic, but often is the solution for people who can't (or don't want to) go elsewhere.
7th-May-2007 02:04 am (UTC)
Yeah, the only PhDs we have are in computer science and engineering. Either that or I could go to our medical school. :/ Hardly the way to go, given my background.
7th-May-2007 02:08 am (UTC)
Snort. I wouldn't either! LOL
6th-May-2007 01:54 pm (UTC)
Also out of interest: bearing in mind that a PhD in the UK and Ireland (and, off the top of my head, most of the rest of Europe) is done in isolation and doesn't involve taking any seminar courses, do you regard non-North American PhDs in the same way?

6th-May-2007 04:40 pm (UTC)
*I* don't. But then maybe that's because American's aren't familiar enough with non-North American PhDs to know that they're done in isolation. Usually, when I see on someone's CV that their grad school was done abroad, I think of that as impressive.
6th-May-2007 04:44 pm (UTC)
I hadn't thought about that. I do regard them as different but not as lesser.

Although, to my understanding (and I only know about PhDs in History in the UK), you're not in seminar courses, but that doesn't mean that you're not interacting with colleagues and professors.
5th-May-2007 02:35 am (UTC)
If you want to get a sense of the "less than" factor of the program, ask them for some information:

How many students enter the program each year?
How many finish?
What is the average time to completion of the degree?
Where are graduates of the program currently employed?

If you have no interest in tenure track professor-ships, nor do I care about working for a "name" institution, then you shouldn't care what other people think of the degree. It wouldn't matter. If you want to do it because you want to study what they teach, then do it. If you want to do it to advance your position, then apply to the best programs you can in your field.
5th-May-2007 11:24 am (UTC)
Good questions to ask. Thanks for the input!
5th-May-2007 01:13 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. But the point is, those questions only matter if you want to use the degree to advance yourself professionally. And if that's your goal, then a low-residency degree program is certainly not the way to go.
5th-May-2007 04:18 am (UTC)
All good points to consider.

Also consider the effect of geographic location - I'm in the sparsely populated interior West, for instance, and many grad students here do partly or largely online courses because of the distance between their workplaces and uni's. It's less discriminated against, because it's more of a reality.

And certainly it varies by field as well -- engineers, for example, often do their graduate programs while fully employed and in another state (and get it paid for too, lucky devils). Teachers, ditto. I can't speak to your discipline, but possibly even within your field, there may be some -- say, those who teach composition FT already -- who aren't expected to have the luxury of spending several years in residence somewhere.

5th-May-2007 04:38 am (UTC)
Such arrangements can't match *Harvard* of course.
5th-May-2007 11:25 am (UTC)
Ah, excellent points, thanks!
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