- Note from the Editor1
I distinctly remember the anxiety I felt when appointed Director of Graduate Studies at Tufts University three years ago. The position entails overseeing admission and recruitment of incoming graduate students, serving as an academic advisor to roughly two dozen students from their first year to completion, determining research and teaching positions, setting curricular goals for the program, and ensuring that our burgeoning scholars effectively navigate the labyrinthine hierarchies of power that exist within the university. The most daunting task, however, is working with students to help them make successful transitions from graduate school to their professional careers. In order to take on this role, I wanted to learn what trends were emerging from academic job postings, what institutions were doing the best at getting their students hired, and whether there were any commonalities among the programs that demonstrated repeated success in placing their students into tenure-track positions. I began my study of the job market by drawing on historical insight and accumulating data about tenure-track placement for theatre historians. What I found is that this crisis of academic job precarity is not a recent problem, but one that dates back decades.
Forty years ago, Professor Theodore Shank wrote “Theatre Research as an Academic Discipline in the U.S.A.” In his essay, he described US doctoral programs in theatre and performance studies to European readers, depicting a profession that was already facing concerns about the academic job market and fears about the shortage of academic positions.2 Graduate directors of PhD and MFA programs will read these concerns and feel acutely aware that conditions have not changed considerably. However, these discussions felt anecdotal, and I wanted to create data that would give us a more precise understanding of the academic job market for PhDs.
Working with graduate students Reza Mirsajadi and Emma Futhey, I developed a longitudinal study to determine where graduates of PhD programs are finding employment, how long it takes students to find academic positions or leave the academy, what programs can do to better position their doctoral candidates for the academic job market, and what search committees are looking for based on recent hires in the field. Using ProQuest’s dissertation database and other digitized searches, I have learned about the career paths of over 98 percent of the graduates of US-based doctoral programs in theatre and performance studies from 2011 to 2017.
My assistants and I found that among the graduates of theatre and performance studies PhD programs during the period studied, 38 percent hold tenured or tenure-track positions at colleges and universities across the world; 25 percent hold contingent positions that range from full-time visiting assistant professorships and lectureships to multiple adjunct positions; 16 percent of our graduates work outside of academia in a wide range of career sectors; 13 percent identify as independent artists and scholars; 6 percent work within university administrations; and the final 2 percent of doctorates produced by our programs are unknown, both to me and to the directors of PhD programs whom I contacted in order to find further information about these individuals. My assistants and I can also comfortably determine that the field is annually producing approximately ninety PhDs and fifty-five or so tenure-stream positions, many of which will lead to failed searches or to assistant professors making lateral moves. I would like readers to think about how we can use our programs’ resources to make graduate students more competitive within the academic marketplace and also encourage those newly minted doctors who cannot find academic positions to develop skills that may serve them as they venture into careers beyond the academy.
This is labor that no graduate program has to take on by itself. Recent efforts from the Consortium on Doctoral Programs in Theatre and Performance Studies, ASTR’s New Paradigms in Graduate Education, and ATHE’s Professional Development Committee are empowered to develop [End Page ix] agile and proactive responses to the shifting professional landscape within and beyond the academy. However, there must be continued collaboration, and these explorations must expand to include the hundreds of MFA and MA programs that exist across the...