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Rehab for (recovering) academics.
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 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 07:55 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.
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 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 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.
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