Burdine Chronicles – April 2014 Letter from the Chair

Dear Alumni and Friends,

When I last wrote to you, I noted excitement and optimism about forging ahead as I transitioned into the chairmanship. I am happy to report that the momentum continues. First, we are very happy that Maurizio Viroli has made it to campus, teaching his first courses this semester. Recruited as one of our transformative hires, Maurizio is going to add tremendously to our intellectual community, and I hope you join me in welcoming him. We are also very excited that Michael Rivera has agreed to fill our Latino Politics search, as part of a joint hire with the Center for Mexican American Studies. Finally, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that we have filled our longstanding need for a China specialist with the hire of Xiaobo Lü. Xiaobo comes to us from the Bush School and, if you know me, you know I am happy just to beat A&M at anything. Fortunately, Xiaobo is also a young scholar of the highest quality, a specialist in the distributive politics of development and Chinese politics, and international and comparative political economy more broadly. We could not be more excited.

Which brings me to my main point, which goes without saying and is nothing you have not known for some time: The job market is excruciatingly competitive. In our comparative politics assistant professor search, our top 19 candidates had, on average, four peer-reviewed publications, with others under review and/or in R&R. Many of these were in top journals. We are in one heck of a bind. Increasingly, we measure our success solely through our ability to place our graduate students in good, tenure-track jobs. But while we seemingly are on a continuous upward trajectory on other metrics — such as quality of publications, external fellowships won — and are recruiting stronger and stronger candidates, the job market remains a serious obstacle. That is not to say we do not have victories. This year, for example, Austin Hart accepted a tenure-track position at American University, Adam Myers did the same at Providence College, Rachel Sternfeld has a tenure-track offer at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Kody Cooper has a postdoc at Princeton. These are significant placements, and most of our graduates wind up with, at a minimum, respectable positions in academia. But we are never satisfied, and there never seem to be enough jobs to go around.

With Dan Brinks the new graduate advisor, and Wendy Hunter taking over as placement director and pouring her energy into that position, we have a renewed focus on placement throughout the program. But we need your help, to whatever extent possible. We have many talented and energetic new Ph.Ds who are looking for academic jobs. If your department still needs to hire for next year — even for a one-year position — please think of your fellow alumni as a possibility.

We have already had some great participation from some of you. Through Skype, Nicole Mellow participated in one of our job market panels earlier this year; Nicole focused on the job search specific to liberal arts colleges. Some of you also shared samples of your job market cover letters that our students are now able to read through and use as templates if they choose. These are all priceless contributions, and we value them as much as actual offers of employment. We hope we can engage more of you in the coming years, and please come forward with any ideas for how you might get involved. We are also interested in non-academic career paths. For any leads about job opportunities or “soft” contributions, please contact Wendy Hunter at wendyhunter@austin.utexas.edu.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge our hard-working faculty, who continue garnering accolades for their teaching. Just this week the Graduate School announced Tom Pangle as this year’s recipient of the university-wide Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award. Earlier this year, Eric McDaniel and Bruce Buchanan received Silver Spurs Teaching Fellowships. And Sean Theirault was named by the Texas Exes as a 2014 Top Ten best and most inspiring professor, which came on the heels of Theriault’s appointment as a Provost Teaching Fellow. Congratulations to my most-deserving colleagues!


Robert G. Moser
Professor and Chair