1st Edition

Navigating Academic Life How the System Works

By Steven M. Cahn Copyright 2021
    146 Pages
    by Routledge

    146 Pages
    by Routledge

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    This engaging collection of recent essays reveals how a professorial career involves not only pursuit of a scholarly discipline but also such unwelcome features as the tribulations of graduate school, the trials of teaching, and the tensions that develop from membership in a department. The author, who enjoyed a distinguished career as a professor of philosophy and senior university administrator, draws on his extensive experience to offer candid advice about handling the frustrations of academic life. Combining philosophical principles, practical concerns, and personal observations, this book serves as a reliable guide for both new and veteran academics as well as for anyone seeking to understand the inner workings of colleges and universities.

    Part I: Graduate School;   1. Orientation;   2. Choosing a Dissertation Topic;   3. The Hidden Curriculum;   4. Preparing Graduate Students to Teach;   5. Why Graduate Schools Don’t Have Reunions;   Part II: Teaching;   6. Caring about Students;   7. Teaching All the Students;   8. How Teachers Succeed;   9. Teaching and Testing;   10. Teaching and Grading;   11. Improving Teaching;   12. Evaluating Teaching;   PART III: Departments;   13. Departmental Life;   14. Faculty Appointments;   15. The Ambiguities of Affirmative Action;   16. Departmental Voting;   17. Interviewing Candidates;   18. Tenure and Academic Freedom;   Finale;   19. Expressing Gratitude;   20. My Early Years in Academia



    Steven M. Cahn is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the City University of New York Graduate Center, where he served for nearly a decade as Provost and Vice President for Academia Affairs, then as Acting President.

    In this slender volume, Steven Cahn unlocks several mysteries of academia, from choosing a dissertation topic and improving one’s teaching to navigating the hazards of department life and conducting faculty searches. Cahn’s insight, wit, and devotion to students shine throughout. This book should be required reading for anyone pursuing or building an academic career.

    Robert B. Talisse

    W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University

    Steven Cahn’s illustrious career spans over 50 years, during which time he has served in a plethora of academic roles, ranging from professor and administrator to foundation director. Throughout this monograph, Professor Cahn utilizes his vast experiential base to provide an abundance of sage advice to any graduate student entering or currently immersed in the academy. His critique of normative academic processes will also benefit all guiding the next generation of scholars. Professor Cahn admirably underscores the importance of effective pedagogy, ethics and transparency as key attributes for a successful career. I enthusiastically recommend this work to all."

    David L. Levinson, Ph.D.

    Connecticut State Colleges and Universities


    Written in a clear and engaging style, Navigating Academic Life is a superb guide. Steven Cahn knows the highways and byways well, given his distinguished career as a teacher, researcher and administrator. His compass is sensitive to the values of higher education and the ethical obligations of professors. As a result, Navigating offers both sound advice for graduate students on such points as choosing a dissertation topic and wise counsel for all academics on the ethical dimensions of a truly good professional life. Even readers who disagree with Cahn will gain much from engaging with his views.

    Peter J. Markie

    Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus, Philosophy Department, University of Missouri


    Perhaps no philosopher has argued as vigorously as Steven Cahn that the primary objective of higher education is -- well, educating. Cahn’s pointed and cogent reminders that teaching matters and not only scholarship, and that good pedagogy requires dedication, training, and hard work, should be warmly welcomed and heeded. Cahn also imparts wise and provocative insights into the dynamics of academic departments and the challenges facing graduate students. This is a crisp, clear and incisive volume well deserving of a reflective reading.

    David Shatz

    Ronald P. Stanton University Professor of Philosophy, Ethics, And Religious Thought, Yeshiva University