Monday, May 20, 2013

Would You Hire Your Graduates?

I was reading a blog post by a university professor on the subject of adjunct faculty (Tenure-track’s untouchables) when I can across the statement that “the university has a disinclination to hire their own graduates.” This seemed weird to me. I teach at a high school that has a good number of their own alumni on the faculty. On a recent visit my my university alma mater I noted that there were a good number of graduates who had returned to teach there as well. I always saw this as a good thing.

I struggled to think of why a university would have this sort of disinclination and the only thing I could think of was a fear of becoming “in breed” in some way. The flip side of that is that it can also contribute to maintaining a mission, culture and environment. Maybe if you don’t like your mission, culture or environment you’d want to go outside for faculty but in general I’d think a mix of “old” and “new” would be closer to ideal.

The cynic in me wanted to ask “are the students you are turning out not good enough to teach at your school?” What does not wanting to hire your own graduates say about your program? After a bit of this sort of non-productive thinking I refocused on myself and my own teaching. If I were starting a new company or hiring for an existing company would I want to hire my former students? Am I preparing my students for the world they are entering after graduation?

Teaching high school I think mostly about if I am preparing them to succeed in university. I’m frankly less interested in what school they attend next as I am that they are prepared for what they find when there get there. I am also concerned about their ability to perform in industry jobs. Oh I know, I know. I hear it all the time No one gets a job in computer science right out of high school.

Bah, not true at all. Most do not of course but I have had a good number of students get great summer internships and even year round jobs while still in high school over the years. They have done well enough that the companies that hired them have returned with the question “any more like so and so?” It does happen.

So would I hire my graduates? Not all of them. At least not out of high school. But some of them? In a heart beat. I can think of several I would want to hire me if I were leaving the classroom again. While I wouldn’t think of taking full credit (or in some cases any credit other than not screwing things up) I like to think I have helped prepare a few students pretty well.

The goal should be to give students the knowledge and skills they need at a level were you would feel comfortable either hiring them yourself or at least giving them a strong recommendation for someone else to hire them. It’s not about passing time or giving them the minimum to get by but giving them, at least the opportunity to acquire, the knowledge to succeed either in industry or academia. If you would not recommend a student for an appropriate  job/university you should be able to answer the question “Did they not work hard enough or did you not give them enough opportunity to learn the right things?”

Yes, I want to turn out graduates I would like to hire.


Unknown said...

The whole not hiring your own grads thing is a weird aspect of University culture. It's not true everywhere, but it's generally true. My in-laws could not understand why my husband could not stay at the same University he'd gotten his BS, MS and PH.D. at. In his case, it made sense. It's good for grads to experience the world a little. But even those who get just their Ph.D. there are usually not hired immediately. They have to go off and prove themselves a bit and then maybe they can come back. Weird, but common.

Garth said...

Univ of Montana does not hire their own grads. When I applied their explanation was diversity. Makes sense but I sure wish they would find diversity from the US or at least spoke English.

Alfred Thompson said...

I can understand wanting to have some diversity. That's a very good thing. But a complete lack of willingness to hire grads seems like a bad idea from the stand point of maintaining what is good about a school's culture.

Jeff said...

At a research university, not hiring your own graduates makes a lot of sense in terms of generating new sparks of ideas that drive innovation.

The research side of the equation needs creativity and new innovation, which has the potential to become stale if the same research groups continue to hire their own grads onto the faculty. A spark from the outside is needed to bring new ideas into the research space (new "genes" into the innovation pool).

I wanted to stay at the school where I received my PhD, and made it in the application process to the Dean's level, who shot my application down. That was actually the best thing he could have done for me - it forced me to get out of the umbrella of my advisors and establish my own group.

I do not think it is about the quality issue regarding whether you should hire your own students, but more about the infusion of new ideas that is needed to spark new research directions.

Classof1 said...

That's an interesting thought. It corresponds to the fact that if you would not buy your own product then it's unfair to expect that your neighbor would.