Adjunct Professorships: No, Thanks

It’s funny how professional goals change over time. I’m nearing my 17th anniversary as an independent consultant (fair warning: There will be an admittedly self-absorbed post on that date). When I first launched Barks Communications in 1997, one of my goals was to pursue an adjunct teaching position at one of Washington, D.C.’s universities.

As time marched on, that goal never rose to the top of the priority list. After a few years, it fell off completely. Now, I have no interest whatsoever.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy teaching young people (in addition to the experienced executives that make up my client base). These days, however, I much prefer to do so as a guest lecturer. In fact, I have a guest lecture with some graduate students coming up in early October. Why this preference?

  • I can still pass along knowledge
  • Interesting discussions flowing from the perspectives of younger minds are highly insightful and refreshing
  • There is potential for mutually beneficial ongoing professional relationships (I always leave audiences with my tenet, “Once my student, always my student”)

Yup, I get jazzed from thoughtful, civil discussions. What doesn’t excite me is bureaucracy, rigid teaching strictures, and—let me lay it on the table—lots of work for a very low professional fee. If I choose to devote time and talent to a cause near and dear to me, it happens on a pro bono basis (as is the case with academic guest lectures). Otherwise, ya gotta pay. It’s how I make my living, and my family is rather fond of eating and having a roof overhead.

Maybe the landscape has changed. Maybe I’ve changed. Regardless, I’m not one for navel gazing, so I’ll chalk up my change of heart to a combination of the two.

What spurred this train of thought? An op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post by Colman McCarthy titled, “Colleges’ dirty little secret: Adjunct professors.” After reading it (nodding my head in agreement the entire time), I wondered why I ever found adjunct teaching attractive. As McCarthy points out, the pay is minuscule and there is no job security, chance for advancement, or health insurance. He goes so far as to label adjuncts “the stoop laborers of higher education.”

This post is a bit off-topic from the usual fare here on The Media Training Blog, so let me try to pull it back by leaving you with two questions:

  • What has been your experience with adjunct teaching?
  • How has it been beneficial to your long-term professional goals or those of your company?

Oh, and as for guest lecturing (caution: Blatant pitch coming), do you know of a university professor with a course in need of viewpoints on dealing with the media, delivering presentations, or testifying on Capitol Hill? If so, I just happen to know someone (ahem) with interest.


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