Creating Community: International ESL Graduate Students on the U.S. Academic Job Market

 March 21, 2018

ESL Academic Job Search Workshop

Searching for a job in the U.S. academic job market is a great challenge for any Ph.D. student. However, if English is not your native language and the United States is not the country where you were raised, the obstacles you encounter along the path multiply. Thanks to The Graduate School’s Professional Development Grant, a group of international students in the Romance Studies department was able to create and participate in a series of writing workshops designed to improve our academic job application materials.

In our meetings, we discussed the different sorts of documents required by most institutions as well as the best strategies to adopt when crafting these materials, considering differences in area of expertise, teaching experience, and advancement toward the degree. We considered questions such as, “What is a diversity statement? How do you write a teaching philosophy emphasizing second language acquisition pedagogies? How should my Spanish ‘licenciatura’ degree be listed on my CV?”

Thanks to the writing community fostered by the format, we supported and encouraged each other in the process of honing our job application materials. Prior to each meeting, designated students would submit their documents to the group. Then, using an online shared document, we would collectively edit our cover letters, teaching philosophies, and research statements. The feedback given was directed towards both the content and the wording used.

In addition, we collectively researched in order to answer some of the questions we were encountering in the application process. “What are the differences between a liberal arts college and a state university? Should I emphasize teaching or research in my cover letter for a regional college? What does 3/3 teaching load mean?” The funding provided by the Professional Development Grant allowed us to buy a few books on the topic of the academic job search which in turn helped us grapple with some of these issues. We found that the exchanges we had during our workshops helped us beyond the initial application process, especially during our interviews and campus visits in the spring. Moreover, a shared password-protected blog where we submitted our documents will allow future ESL writing groups to use these materials as well.

Overall, and since we all shared similar concerns about entering the academic job market as international students, these meetings allowed for a supportive space which helped us deal with the uncertainty of the job application process.  I am thus very happy to share that I will be starting a tenure track job next Fall!

Our Reading List

  • The Academic Job Search Handbook by Julia Miller Vick, Jennifer S. Furlong, and Rosanne Lurie
  • The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job by Karen Kelsky
  • The Ph.D. Handbook for the Academic Job Search: An Owner's Manual for Finding Jobs by Will Coghill-Behrends and Rebecca Anthony


Ana Ugarte
Ana Ugarte

Ph.D. candidate, Romance Studies

Ana Ugarte is a PhD candidate in the Romance Studies Department. Her research focuses in narratives of contagion, disease, and disability in the Hispanic Caribbean and the Yucatec Maya Peninsula in Mexico.